Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Easy is Hard

As the #myFirstMac stories start to spread on Twitter, I think back to my first Mac. It wasn't mine at all. It belonged to a boyfriend in college. We mostly played this great interactive (!) game called Déjà Vu (Winchester Cathedral!) and I typed my research papers on it. I still have the invitation to my graduation that I made out of those little icons from the Cairo font.

A year later, in 1987, I decided to go to Barcelona. Lost in an office building on the way to an interview, I found a bulletin board with a tiny ad: "If you know the Mac and are a native English speaker, call us." I did, and got a job in one of the first companies in Spain who cared about Apple. They distributed and translated Macintosh software like PageMaker (1.2!), and they had written an OCR program called TextScan that they hoped to translate into English and sell in the US.

The office was filled with Mac Pluses and SEs. Those of us with two drives were the lucky ones as we could save our files without having to eject the system disk (remember that?) and swap them back and forth. While I waited for them to finish TextScan, I helped lay out the entire manual for PageMaker 2 on a 9 inch screen and learned the foundation of my future profession.

Around 1990, a guy from Apple Spain invited me to work on a magazine for the University called Ruedas para la imaginación (Wheels for the mind). One of Apple's brilliant strategies was to make it easy for college kids to get their hands on a Mac. The guy (now a friend!) handed me The Macintosh Bible, written by Arthur Naiman. It embodied the Macintosh spirit for me: This is the Mac. It's supposed to be different.

The second commandment was Easy is hard. That is the essence of Apple. They do the work behind the scenes so that it works the way you imagine it should.

I started a new company in order to translate The Macintosh Bible into Spanish. It was one of the first books ever published in Spanish about the Mac. I remember when we bought these huge $200 20Mb hard drives for the incredibly fast Mac II fx. I had a color screen and started going online (with Gopher and Compuserve) with a 300 baud modem.

Steve, I have spent my life helping people use the things that you have dreamed up, first to design publications, then to create web sites, and now to publish books. You have helped us all communicate and share our thoughts with the rest of the world.

One of the things that I always heard about you was that you had incredibly high standards and a very bad temper. You made it clear that it's not enough to have an idea. You have to work really hard to bring it to life.

I am honored to be a tiny part of your story. And I thank you so much for being such a big part of mine.


  1. Amen. I'm finishing an iBook made with Apple software and for an iBook reader that has elements that as of now won't work on any other reader. When many of us push the envelope, we seem to do it with your tools. Rest in peace Steve.

  2. Liz, I hadn't thought of switching out system disks for many years. Thanks for the memories. Yes, in many ways Steve Jobs was the man who invented the 21st century, as I saw in an article today.

  3. It is amazing how profoundly one person can touch so many.

    I love the quote "easy is hard." That couldn't be more true.


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