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The Steve Jobs Meme

I love exploring the history of technology and I especially enjoy reflecting on the history of the personal computer industry. Or more specifically, the history of Apple Computer (circa 1970s) and its place in Silicon Valley lore. Apple's origin story has a mythical place in Silicon Valley's history and has been told and re-told so many times that scholars in the far future millennium will predictively argue that its facts morphed from storyteller to storyteller like Homer's epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. So I must confess that I'm a storyteller of imperfect memory and not possessing total recall when it comes to my own Apple history. Which means there is the tinge of embellishment that comes from reforming the memories to both entertain as well as refresh the emotional connection of things past. Storytelling around the campfire offers room for imperfections but still serves the same purpose; to share experiences.

The reason I'm sharing a little piece of my past Apple history now is to come full circle as to why outliner software matters so much to me personally and very likely, also matters a lot more to our user community. In fact, I will go as far as to state that outliner software is so fundamentally useful and natural in the digital sense, that the act of outlining is imprinted in our collective community of digital tools for thinking. It is a natural extension of the human mind almost perfectly and wholly amplified by its duality of purpose; think and visualize thoughts or visualize and think thoughts. Outlining can be both a conversation as a single mind appearing on the screen yet it can talk back as a reflection of what is in one's own head. A mirror of the thought process at work. What's on your mind? Let's outline it to see what you're thinking about.

We'd likely agree that this same cognitive duality can be just as easily achieved using note paper or a whiteboard but the digital outline offers more magic tricks. It's a unique form that can be easily folded, expanded, collapsed and even cloned. Maybe our brains crave outlines because they are memory retrieval mechanisms that allow us to walk up and down a tree structure looking for a unique branch and its leaves. There you have it, nature's first information indexer, the tree and its branches. No wonder Newton was always near a tree.

So I start to connect the dots about why we love our digital tools like NoteTaker and then it hits me. I've been here before. Many of us have been here before. Where is here? Here (no, here) is the place in our collective memory palace of the early Apple Computer (sic) when a younger Steve Jobs fashioned in classic torn Levi's, dashing about from Bandley Drive buildings to his next media interview appearing with his spectacled eyes and bearded face like the anti-establishment hero Hart from the movie The Paper Chase.

The meme is in my mind. Steve's prodigious intellect has nailed it. The human species excels because we make and use tools. What did he just say? The Apple // personal computer is a bicycle for the human mind. It is IA not AI. Our human intellect is amplified by using a personal computer.

The early Steve that I remember, positioned Apple Computer (Apple) as the source of all personal computing nirvana. It was simply brilliant marketing for its time. The newly minted, IPO start-up begins running full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal proclaiming that the creation of the personal computer revolution is an Apple Computer invention. Steve has triumphed in making the insightful leap from locomotion studies (published in Scientific American) to proclaiming Apple Computer's celebration of personal computer technology as the ultimate tool for accelerating human intellect. The "Steve Jobs meme" as brilliant young, Silicon Valley entrepreneur has fully arrived in the public's mind.

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