Astrogator's Logs

New Words, New Worlds
Artist, Heather Oliver             

Kalos Kaghathos

(classical Hellenic: beautiful and good)

When I started dealing with computers, I learned FORTRAN for a crystallography project (this was still the era of perforated cards), then VMS, a UNIX cousin. I got used to bulky cuboids the color of chewed gum, trailing wires like tentacles of beached jellyfish. The language within them matched their appeareance – one made by and for computer geeks (though the alphanumeric version of Rogue was terrific). Late in my postdoctoral stint, however, these sleek, fast apparitions started appearing in the lab: the first Macintoshes, with such exotic capabilities as point-n-click and drag-n-drop.

Ever since then, I and almost all the scientists I know (with exceptions dictated by specific demands) have cleaved to our Apples. The machines were ahead of their time when they first came out, and have been worth every extra penny. They work flawlessly, install and run new applications seamlessly, never crash or munge data – and, yes, they’re beautiful, a feast for the senses. In short, they’re for people who want well-crafted precision instruments and don’t have the time and stamina to endlessly reboot Windows. I’m not starry-eyed about Apple’s business practices but I’m glad they stand against the Microsoft monolith, an alternative to the monoculture that threatens to get humanity conditioned willy-nilly to cynically shoddy work.

Steve Jobs was my age – I turn 56 today. A reminder that we have finite time to realize our aspirations, though he started early and did spectacularly. Few people are as fused to their work as he was to Apple, to the point where people worry about the company’s future after his death. He deserves the tributes that are pouring in and I’m grateful he persevered in his vision of excellence, not just cobble together something that lurches around sort of getting the job done. Although I feel obliged to point out that a woman with his idiosyncrasies, no matter how inspired, driven and charismatic, would have lasted all of half an hour – in Apple or anywhere else.

For my birthday present, I got one of those elegant iMacs that have the CPU incorporated in the back of their slightly curving screen and look like a starship control console. Like Steve Jobs, I too have been checked by cancer – but for as long as I can travel, his Apples will be companions on my journey.

Images: Apple logo modified by Cory Cole; Apple-inspired Eve of Wall-E (from Pixar, another visionary move by Jobs)

12 Responses to “Kalos Kaghathos”

  1. green_knight says:

    (err, hi. Found your blog linked on livejournal, have been reading the feed/archives for a bit.)

    Much as I mourn Steve Jobs’ death, I feel heartened by the tributes that have rolled in, from the President of the United States to people from all walks of life: Macs have been an essential part of my life since 1990 – I owe them several jobs, my Master’s dissertation, my writing, and a lot of friends – and it’s good to see how loved they are. There were times when I was afraid for Apple’s survival, when admitting that one had a Mac invited ridicule; but that has changed. Steve Jobs might have left us, but his dream lives on, and that is something to celebrate.

    I hope you have a happy birthday!

  2. Athena says:

    Yes, your handle rings a bell. Thank you for the birthday wishes! I agree, the vision is something to celebrate and it will stay with us. I was always proud to be a Macniac.

  3. Caliban says:

    Happy birthday! May there be many more, both happy and good.

  4. Athena says:

    Thanku! I’m definitely lucky in my friends… *smile*

  5. intrigued_scribe says:

    Though it’s belated, happy birthday, and I wish you many joyous returns.

    This is truly a beautiful tribute.

  6. Athena says:

    Thank you, dear Heather — for everything!

  7. Walden2 says:

    A very Happy Birthday to you, Athena! Sorry it is a bit late.

  8. Athena says:

    No worries, Larry, all of October is my birthday month — till Halloween comes, the Celtic New Year when the boundaries between worlds become thin!

  9. Adam says:

    Happy Birth-Month Athena! Hard to think of either you or Steve Jobs as 56. But then I really don’t feel the wrong side of 41 either.

    My first exposure to a home computer was an Apple II, but my first was a VIC20. I remember being impressed by the colour and graphics of the first Amiga, while doing work experience in a Computer store, back in 1985. Never did the Apple thing until the iPhone/iPad meme invasion… Now I prefer them. Hopefully Steve’s ghost steers them straight for a bit longer. The rate the non-traditional computer options are advancing, we might see the fall of Microsoft yet.

  10. Athena says:

    Thank you, Adam! As for Microsoft, they’re really a firm of lawyers first, software engineers a distant second.

  11. Asakiyume says:

    Glad to see in your response to Larry that you consider all October your birthday month–it’s a good month for a birthday, and it means I can give you belated birthday wishes as well. Happy Birthday!

    We are a Mac household too, and we were sad when Steve Jobs died, even though we knew it was coming.

    I’m very, very glad you beat back your cancer. I wish you many productive and fulfilling years ahead.

  12. Athena says:

    Thank you for the lovely wishes, Francesca! I agree, October is a beautiful birthday month, especially in this part of the world. I’m glad I beat my cancer, too, despite the severe fibromyalgia it left behind.