August 25, 2011

The Time I Asked Steve Jobs an iPod Support Question

What would you do if you unexpectedly came face to face with Apple's world-famous CEO, Steve Jobs, who had been credited with launching or assisting with most of the major transformational events in personal computing over the last thirty years? Shake his hand? Tell him how much you love Macs? Ask to take a picture? If you're me, you try to play coy and ask if he could help you with a support question - because that's exactly what I did in my first run-in with the revered, yet reportedly mercurial Apple exec, who as you know, announced he was resigning his post as Apple CEO yesterday, moving up to the chairman of the board role.

Back in 2002, Apple was just getting started with the company's retail store initiative, and among the first stores to debut was the venue in Palo Alto on University Avenue. Living in Belmont, not too far north of the shop, I thought I would lazily take a Saturday afternoon and check out the newest Mac laptops. Like any good Mac fan, even if I wasn't exactly in the market to upgrade, I felt it my civic duty to check them out and get familiar. But when I entered the store and glanced past the display of white laptops, I spotted something much more interesting - as Steve Jobs himself was in the store, having a conversation with the store manager. From what I gathered, the pair were talking about contingency plans of what to do if the weather went bad - and how the worst thing you could do was have to shut down the store. The world has heard how Steve got involved in the little nuances of many of the company's products, so it's no surprise the retail store launch was much different.

As you can imagine, trying out new trackpads and screen resolutions on Macbooks immediately seemed less important. So I positioned myself with my back to Steve and fussed around with the closest computer's dock, clicking aimlessly while I wondered if I would get a chance to talk to Steve myself. After a few minutes, the manager parted, to the back of the store, and I turned around to talk to Steve. Not wanting to be a complete fanboy and putting him at unease, I coyly asked if he was a "Certified iPod genius"... a play on the store's Mac geniuses. Looking at me somewhat amused, knowing that I knew who he was, no doubt, he said, "As a matter of fact, I am."

I then told him how I had been one of the first to purchased the company's initial white 5 GB iPod MP3 players, and that no matter how much charging I did of the device, battery life was atrocious and had gotten to the point I was considering taking it back or getting it repaired. I asked what I should do. He said that the issue was a "known bug" and that a fix was going to be rolled out shortly. Having recently seen an iPod update that was recently recalled, I asked him if that was the one he meant, which had been "rolled back". He said yes. In the meantime, he told me that I should leave my iPod unplugged overnight until it ran down to zero, and then charge it up, and all would be well.

By this time, the store's manager had returned, and was standing nervously next to Steve. It seemed he was concerned Steve had been exposed to the common visitor and clearly couldn't wait to step in and continue their conversation. So I told Steve thanks, adding, "thanks for all you do", a knowing nod to his history without gushing about it, and I left the store. After meeting Steve, no laptop or box software could have been more fulfilling.

Steve Jobs' news yesterday is being read as the latest bad news in a series of bad news stemming from his much-discussed health issues over the last few years. His job change is by no means an obituary, but many are seeing it as the end of an era - the PC industry's elder statesman and one of the world's top visionaries and creative minds stepping further into the shadows. I once wrote that I wished Steve Jobs were immortal and that I would teach my children about Steve Jobs as they grew up. For what we have seen as users is a hero and a real legend in our lifetime who changed the world, something we can all hope to do in a very much smaller way. But the man is still with us and I hope this isn't the last we see of Steve Jobs, the legend who was humble enough to expose a smile and answer some 24 year old's iPod support question on a rainy day in Palo Alto.

Good luck, Apple, and thanks, Steve.

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