Steve Jobs & the Gestalt of Mac

With the tragic news of the passing of the revered, brilliant and passionate Steve Jobs I find myself reflecting on the influence of Apple on those like myself who are involved in architecture and the arts. Recent products produced by the company are indeed iconic and revolutionary, but it is the products of Apple’s early period that I think of first.

I once saw the exotic Lisa in a store display, but my first real introduction to Apple computers came when I was taken to a computer lab by a friend of the family and left there for the day with a Mac Plus. It was a totally different experience from the command-line based machine we had at home, whose use seemed about as natural as entering nuclear launch codes.

Fast-forward a few years to architecture school: when I had the opportunity to choose a computer for my own use, I chose an Apple Macintosh Powerbook 160 laptop computer. It was a little workhorse and never let me down. I gleefully rolled its shiny grey track-marble great distances and into the wee hours of the night as I created 3D models for my architectural thesis.

Back then, the Macintosh operating system was like a perfect self-contained ecosystem, created with elegant functionality and a pure simplicity of design. Working within it was like being in a living, breathing world in which all the parts were in harmony and balance. It was a virtual dojo for the creative-minded.

Today I use Macs at work and at home, and I keep up to date on Windows as well. Each has some pros and cons and either will get the job done, but Mac is a wonderful place to be for anyone who appreciates design. If you could go back in time, it might be like taking a trip on the 20th Century Limited of the 1930’s in which not only the styling of the locomotive but every interior detail down to the typeface on the menu in the club car was the product of the Henry Dreyfuss industrial design office.

The most successful Apple products are not only good design, but also a curatorial tour de force. That which is excluded is just as significant as that which is provided; the bowerbirds would surely approve. In the internet age, Mac has engaged the chaotic outside world but the fundamental elegance and cohesiveness remains. Mac still manages to be open to new possibilities while defending us from the barbarians at the gate.

Let us hope that the gestalt of Mac has a life of it’s own, and that it will continue to evolve and transform in ways yet unimagined. Thank You Steve Jobs, and Godspeed.

Image: Apple Macintosh Powerbook 160, detail

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