by Vonda N. McIntyre
I didn’t particularly enjoy the movie Jobs, a biopic about Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Computers. The only likeable character in the entire thing was Steve Wozniak. The movie was filmed in Extreme Jumpycam, which I thoroughly dislike. I’m susceptible to neither motion sickness nor (since I fled screaming from grad school more than forty years ago) migraines, but at the moment I feel like I might develop both, and I’m sure I would have if I hadn’t closed my eyes during most of the movie and pretended it was a radio play.
Come to think of it, it was written like a radio play: “Bla bla bla STEVE,” “Yes, MIKE, bla bla bla,” “I don’t want to talk to you now, WOZ.” “STEVE, dude!” “Awesome, STEVE!” (By the way, nobody said “dude” or “awesome” in 1980.)
We’ll skip right over the fact that no amount of instantly-recognizeable Dylan music can make soldering interesting.
But what really struck me about the movie was that it completely missed the excitement of having and working with a personal computer in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I wrote recently about my first computer, the Osborne I, and I can still remember how amazing it was to type a few words and see them appear on the Osborne’s tiny little screen, and find that I could backspace over them, or overtype them, correct errors, rearrange sentences and paragraphs and chapters, check the spelling, without having to retype the whole page or the whole manuscript.
And I already had a Correcting Selectric, which up till then was the epitome of typing, and am a pretty good typist and an excellent speller. Nevertheless, getting a computer was world-changing for my writing life.
I wrote in the Osborne essay about the reaction of the clerks at The Phone Company when they realized how much drudgery SuperCalc would overcome in their jobs.
There’s nothing about this in the movie. You see nothing of what the personal computer could do — you see a few lines of random alphanumeric type on a CRT. Several times. Windows gets as much screen time (a few seconds) as the Apple interface. People play games, but not on an Apple computer.
If you lived in a world without personal computers, you would have no idea what anybody would do with them or why anyone would want them.
If you grew up with computers, you would have no idea, from this movie, why they made such an incredible difference.