Oct 5, 2011

How Steve Jobs Changed The World

AT&T, aka the Bell System, aka "Ma Bell"  was the high priest of high tech for many years. High technology at Ma Bell business offices in the late 1970's and early 1980's was state of the art. Bell System "state of the art" at the time varied from paper customer records, called "c-cards", to microfiche readers.  As a service representative for Pacific Northwest Bell in those "we don't care, we don't have to" days, I can say from personal experience that it was all cumbersome, slow to use, and frustrating.

In 1979 or 1980,  computer CRT terminals replaced the paper records and microfiche readers in Ma Bell customer business offices. We got actual computer terminals and keyboards! But the promise of reading and typing customer records, notes, etc was soon replaced with the reality of the computer technology of the day.

You had to memorize several text commands to successfully navigate the mainframe computer programs. And  sure, we had  access to several mainframe computer applications. But we could use only one at a time, because we had to sign off one mainframe application in order to log in to another. Which could take minutes. And minutes were an eternity when you had an angry customer on the line. Oh well, we were the Bell System! We didn't care. We didn't have to.

Then one morning in 1984, there was a new machine at the office clerk's desk. An Apple Macintosh. You know the feeling when your eyes are opened for the first time to the future? The Macintosh had GUI. Wow! You could click on that thing called a mouse and open an application! You could have more than one application running at once!  You didn't have to type in text commands!

When we saw the Macintosh, we all thought the same thing: Hey, wait a minute. We work for the Bell System! The most technologically advanced company the world had ever seen! Why don't we have GUI for our customer applications? Why can't WE use more than one computer program at the same time? BAM. Just like that, our expectations changed, and our world changed with it.

The Bell System went the way of the dinosaur and the dial telephone. But the technology of Steve Jobs lives on. Thank you, Steve Jobs, for rocking our technological world.


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