Friday, October 7, 2011

From one Boomer to Steve Jobs: You Changed Our Lives

Dear Steve Jobs,

We all know you were one of us, a Baby Boomer. Of course, you were a bit different from the beginning. You thought different. Well, even though your ad campaign said
“Think Different” I’ve always been partial to “Think Differently.” Either way, as one Baby Boomer to another I want to thank you for giving us the iPod, iTunes, the iPhone and the iPad. Each in its own way has changed the lives of many Baby Boomers. 

Here are some examples. The iPod changed my travel life. Before the iPod, whenever my husband and I would travel, we would take along an extra bag for all of his CDs and his CD player. He never had enough jazz with him. When the iPod came along, he was reluctant to try it. He said he would never be able to get the quality of his CDs on this device. Some time went by and we were planning a particularly long trip, so he figured out how to transfer his music to the iPod using Apple Lossless audio compression. It was just what he needed. He hasn’t used a CD player since, except perhaps to upload to his computer. When we go on vacation, no more do we have to take a suitcase for the CDs. 

You gave us the iTunes store and that changed how I bought music.  You don’t hear much about this store as an invention, but it was an invention none the less. Not only could I now download individual songs and “albums” to my computers and transfer them to my iPod, I could research music easily here. While the music industry said you ruined their business by letting people sample and buy piecemeal, consumers loved it. A lot of people were angry about your proprietary format, too. But that doesn’t change the fact that this was an amazing invention. The iTunes store today includes much more than music. People buy TV episodes and movies there. They can buy a documentary to take with them on the go. Steve, for better or for worse, you revolutionized the way people buy music and other media, and we Boomers were the beneficiaries.

I also remember when I had a phone that was just a phone. It couldn’t help me find my way around, or help me look up something on Google. Nor could it record important meetings or take impromptu color pictures. I remember when it was a struggle to text, so much so that I didn’t do it and I wondered why all the “kids” were texting so much. Now I have an iPhone, and for better or for worse, I am never without my email or a book to read. Now I send text messages often, and I text to other Boomers, not just my kids. 

Everyone who reads Tech and the Baby Boomer knows how excited I was about the iPhone when I got my first one. Travel apps took me to destinations I could only imagine. Brain games kept me sharp. It really was the first phone that was easy enough for the technologically challenged to use, and so it was an good choice for the Baby Boomer generation, especially when we had some disposable income to spare.

And then, the iPad came along. You said it was magical and you were not far from the truth. How many devices out there can let you see a slide show of your entire photo library and also let you program your digital recorder? How many devices let you read a book, draw a picture and open your locked car? On how many devices can you play board games with others and watch a movie?

I know I sound like a commercial but the iPad was an amazing invention and I know many Baby Boomers who use it every single day. Steve, I know that you had this idea about tablets well before anyone else. I remember the Newton way back in 1993, your failed tablet computer. The Newton was an idea before its time. The iPad was an excellent execution of an idea whose time had come.

I know that there are many Baby Boomers who swear by their Apple computers, whether it was a MAC or today’s more advanced models. I was a PC user myself. However, I understand. When Microsoft was always breaking down, Apple’s operating systems were sturdy and rarely needed repair. Graphics artists loved them. Schools loved them. An Apple computer was probably the first computing device many children ever used, and most of them used them in their schools.

So I end my posthumous letter to you. You were a Baby Boomer who changed the world. You were a a computer genius, but you were cool. You were one of us and your products transformed us. Thank you.

Esther Surden


Philip J. said...


We just launched a program that aims to connect seniors with younger generations through the use of today's tech-- like the iPad 2 and the iPhone. We are currently on our pilot program tour and experiencing amazing reception from almost all the seniors we've met along the way. Would love to chat with you. Check out our site and photos.

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