Archive for October, 2011

The Day The Music Died

Friday, October 7th, 2011
I can’t remember if I cried When I read about his widowed bride But something touched me deep inside…
Like millions of other people, I was sitting in front of a Mac with Xcode open when the news came that Steve Jobs passed away, deeply focused on the iPhone application I was working on. The day had already started off on a dark footing to say the least. Cupertino was front page, headline news already that morning.
Shareef Allman, an employee of Lehigh Hanson Cement Plant in Cupertino, began his 4am shift emptying a handgun and then an AK-47 killing three co-workers and injuring seven others. As I prepared to drive to work for a 10am start in Palo Alto from Oakland, Allman was running from police, armed and dangerous, in that area. It was a dark and rainy morning also, a major storm also hit the Bay Area overnight. Power was out in some areas, flooding, and uprooted trees caused havoc with the morning commute and I drove down 880 through intermittent cloud bursts and across the Dunbarton Bridge into Palo Alto. Allman was still at large and had even attempted to carjack an HP employee near the HP campus close to the office park I was headed to. I was wary of the situation as I arrived at work, a mere 7 miles from Steve Job’s house.
By mid afternoon, the gunman was still on the loose in the Mountain View area, and several schools had been locked down as a house to house search continued. This still mattered somewhat as I went outside the building occasionally throughout the day. But life went on at work, and I focused on the task at hand, dealing with some release / retain issues in the iPhone code I was working on, and trying to trace object ownership through several NSArrays and NSDictionaries passing between subroutines. I was kind of stuck at that moment, so I reached out for some historical perspective. This started with a thorough re-read of NSObject, and then a foray to the OpenStep timeline – Objective-C first emerged in Connecticut in the 80’s based on Smalltalk. In 1988, NeXT licensed Objective-C and used it for NextStep and then OpenStep which led to YellowBox etc and ultimately Mac OS X. Reading that lead me back to the object lifecycle discussion on, after a little biographical info on the NeXT company founding. So as Steve Jobs passed away a few miles from my desk, I was immersed about as deep as you could get into his life work. I kept checking my Android phone for the latest on the gunman’s afternoon suicide as I read all this on my MacBook, and this is why I got the news of his death almost immediately. Like so many others, the man was a giant in my life, an almost constant mental companion and inspiration for 15 years, the moment was as if a power cord had been yanked from the wall to me, I just slumped forward onto the keyboard. It was a little early to be leaving the office, but clearly my work day was done. The streets were safe, the rain had stopped, and it was time to go home.

Thanks for the inspiration Steve, it won’t be the same without you.

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011