Blog Brainstorms

The Saint in the Machine, Cookies from Heaven, and Other Stories

October 14, 2011

As we Apple fanatics mused over the fact that the big new toy didn’t happen last week, that Apple’s new CEO Tim Cook unveiled not much more than an updated version of a wife (don’t forget to call your mother on her birthday!), Steve Jobs was ushered into sainthood.  There is no iPhone 5.  At least this week.  And Jobs has moved on to another arena.

Sometimes, it’s a better idea not to just jump in. Wait and see what develops.

This is fine, because it is healthy to learn to wait.  After all, isn’t waiting what makes what you end up with worthwhile? Personally, I believe this is the lesson Mr. Jobs most wished to teach.  At our house, whatever the Apple Guru said, we followed religiously, if not blindly.

There are limits to devoted adherence, which I believe Steve Jobs would have respected.  It means there are elements of rational thought involved.  We’ve only owned the iPhone 3, 3S and 4 versions, because although Dr. K is a devout follower, he is also a cynic to the nth degree. Before we were allowed to have more than a brief tactile relationship with a smartphone, in full public view in an Apple store, before he was willing to take the plunge and switch allegiance from our longtime cell provider, Verizon, to the Evil One, AT&T, known dropper-of-calls, Dr. K wanted evidence that the phone was worth it. So, we waited.  Through the first version, which was pestilential. Then the second, which still may have had a couple of cockroaches in it.  “That’s okay,” the three of us pleaded with him.  “We’ll get an Apple pesticide.” Unlike Eve, he didn’t bite.  You see, Steve Jobs may have been the Apple Guru, but Dr. K reigns supreme on the Kemme Geek Squad as Top Geek.

I’ve been dealing with him for quite awhile now on the topic of technology, and I knew the mountain wouldn’t move.  Back in the early ’80’s when we were in college, everyone typed their term papers on hummers. Remember those?  The IBM typewriters that went “hhhmmmmmm” when you flipped the little black switch? It was a sort of welcome growl, not much different from my dog Mopsy, who groans and hums at me every morning before she grabs me lovingly by the wrist with her teeth.  She thinks she’s saying, “hello” and most likely she is, but it does remind me of the electric typewriter getting warmed up.

Anyway, other than once in awhile successfully whining to my mother so that she would appreciate how overworked I was, so that she’d offer to type a paper, we got by on IBM mode in those days.  It was feasible, probably because the high from the Wite-Out kept us going late into the night.

Then along came Law School, and with it much longer papers, which lawyers label “briefs.”  Funny.

Dr. K (who at that time was merely D.K. because he had yet to earn his “r”) made the executive decision that we were going to pool our savings, earned penny by penny over four years of college, and invest in a computer.  It couldn’t be any old computer, though.  It had to be an expensive one, tabbing in at an exorbitant $2500 in 1984.  That was our first Apple, the 128K; since then, every computer we’ve purchased has cost the same price.  That in and of itself was reason enough for me to vote “yes” for Jobs’ sainthood.  It’s all about planning.

Our first baby.

My husband managed to talk my best friend into buying one, too.  The fact that Cynthia, a fellow CU-Boulder Law school torturee, owned another 128K, turned out to be a boon, of sorts, when we were paired second semester of our first year, to prepare an Appellate Brief.  These documents are guaranteed to strike fear in the hearts of full-blown lawyers, and they have secretaries to type the damned things.  Imagine what emotions they engender in first year law students.

We each took an issue to argue, and researched it thoroughly, meticulously citing supporting case law as decreed by The Bluebook, the “definitive style guide for legal citation in the United States. . .,” which even The Book acknowledges is intimidating.  However, the consequences of improper citation were nothing in comparison to the fear factor generated by two little beige boxes, roughly 2 feet square, embedded with that cute little rainbow apple on their faces.  Aw.  So sweet. Until you turned the boxes on.  For starters, the 128K’s never hummed.  They were too good for that.

In those days, sharing files wasn’t all that simple.  You couldn’t just email your Pages file to your buddy, she’d make edits in a different color than did you, copy and paste, accept all changes and insta-Appellate Brief. Both halves of the oyster fitting together nicely.

Instead, Cynthia brought her Apple 128K over for dinner to our apartment, along with assorted cables.  We made macaroni-n-cheese for both little 128K’s.  Dinner turned into a sleepover, and then breakfast.  “Linking” the two little brats together turned out to be more difficult than we’d ever imagined, and halfway through the night (oh, say about one in the morning,) both files were lost.  Irretrievably.  Luckily, Cynthia and I are both obsessive-compulsives (to this day) and we’d handwritten the whole thing on yellow legal pads.  There are times when it’s a good idea to not save trees.  We sat and re-typed the halves again, while D.K. studied for his Pharmacology final; he had to take that exam the next morning in Denver at the med school at 9 am. However, the law students trumped the med student; we were two against one, after all, and it had been his brilliant idea to craft the briefs via computer rather than paying someone else to type it, as did the rest of our classmates.  We commandeered his time to do some of the typing, and in the process, he learned more than he ever wanted to know about legal citation.  He also flunked his Pharmacology exam the next morning, but that’s another story.  Our brief earned an A.

Whenever Apple decides to release their next version, I’m ready. They’ve got me well-trained by now.

I still love Apple products.  So much so that I gladly waited nine hours in line at the Cherry Creek Mall to finally buy an iPhone.  Nine circles of hell? Possibly, but I had a great guide with me, and made it through to enjoy dinner across the street at one of our favorite sushi restaurants.  My son enjoyed the experience so much that he’s asked me if we can do it again this summer.  I guess there’s nothing like sitting on cold marble tiles, conversing with your family and other strangers.  Of course, we can only endure such an outing again if our phone contracts are up.

In the process of becoming “all Apple, all the time,” I’ve accepted the fact that the company and its founder has me on a leash.  My iPhone corrects almost everything I type.  I believe it channels my inner self.  Or possibly Steve Jobs does.

When I asked Dr. K where he was at 7pm at night, querying, “are you practicing medicine?” the phone re-evaluated what I meant, and changed it to “leaching.”  An archaic term, for sure, but as a hematologist, there is a vein of truth.

Steve Jobs did not like colloquialisms, evidently, because when I informed a friend that I was “whupped” after a long day, iPhone changed this to “whipped.”  I did feel whipped, but I thought I’d be cute.  iPhone doesn’t do cute, and will red-line you.  Nor does it allow you to swear.  It’s terribly polite.

My phone can get into my head.  I tapped “realized”, and it converted it to “trapped.” Yes, at times we are trapped by reality, but must we be reminded of this?

We go on a ski vacation with close friends once a year; we’re all intense planners, down to the very last package of cheese.  I thought I’d game the system last year, and I told my friend that I’d buy two packages of Butterkäse; iPhone changed this to “two pigs.” Possibly we were, and yet, must I submit to judgment by an inanimate object?

I do feel close to my phone; it allows me to stay connected all day with people, wherever they may be, and enables efficiency.  It’s true, the data it generates, tracking me, where I go, what I do and purchases I make, wafts an aroma of Big Brother, but I’m certain that the cookies Apple records are peanut butter scented.  I’ll take efficiency over tracking my every move any day.  It’s fine if the operating system over thinks everything I want to write.  I am human, after all, and I can backspace, and edit.

Some say Steve Jobs was a difficult person to work with, that he told it like it was, that he had no time for foolishness.  He saw what others could not.  This is the essence of genius.  He’ll go down in the annals of history, along with my two personal favorites, Mozart and Alexander Hamilton, about whom we’ll ask, “what if there could have been more?”  Or was that the plan all along?

I think we’ll still hear from Jobs.  He’s probably figured out how to send cookies from heaven.

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  • Reply Buddy January 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Call me wind because I am absolutely blown away.

  • Reply Kathy October 17, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Ah technology. I loved the story about you and Cynthia.

  • Reply Anonymous October 17, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Bought my first Mac in 1986 (a 256E!) and a laser printer and started a desktop publishing business called ‘Wordsmiths.’ Also started a love affair with all-things-Apple, similar to yours. Thanks for this homage to Steve Jobs. Made me smile through the tears.

    • Reply Emily Kemme October 17, 2011 at 5:48 pm

      I know exactly what you mean, about the tears. Every time I look at the Apple Home page these days, I get a little choked up. The photo there is simple, and succinct. Just like the rest of Apple.

  • Reply Monica October 17, 2011 at 8:09 am

    I enjoyed reminiscing your serious and fun educational history

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