This actually isn’t an article on Steve Jobs specifically. But after reading a Time Magazine article on Steve this morning, it struck me just how important Apple and especially the Mac have been at least to this author.
For years, I had been doing home recording with a variety of systems; starting with dedicated recording systems such as my hand-me-down Roland 880EX. Frustrated by the unintuitiveness of that and similar units, I turned to the PC since it was a device of which I knew intimately. So I assembled my own PC with the latest hardware, super-fast graphics processor, Dolby 7.1 surround system (I was also into gaming), and got a DigiDesign MBox2 that came with ProTools. That system was incredible! Unlike other Windows-based machines I’d had in the past, this monster booted up in less then 30 seconds; graphics displayed in dizzying high-resolution with – at least to me – 30+ frames per second consistently; sound quality was mesmerizing with my surround-sound system; and even doing complex programming operations were blindingly fast. It was became practically useless to me as a recording system.
The reason for my frustration with the machine as a recording system wasn’t because of the machine itself. It was ProTools. ProTools these days seems to be the standard in professional recording. Even the base configuration with the default plug-ins provides you with a plethora of tools and recording capability. But that’s the problem. I got into PC-based recording because I was tired of sifting through the confusion of menus of a 3 X 2 LCD screen. With ProTools, I now had confusion once again – but on a larger visual scale.
Mind you, this isn’t a knock on ProTools. Almost all recording studios use it, and for good reason: It is amazingly powerful. But you really need to be a sound engineer to take advantage of all the features it has to offer. My frustration lay in that the fact that I was spending more time learning how to properly operate ProTools than doing what I needed to do most: Get my song ideas down. So I gave up home recording for awhile, and went back to writing up lyrics and chord charts and banking on my memory to regurgitate the melodies – fat chance. I knew how to use ProTools at a rudimentary level, but I was so disenchanted with the whole process that I just said, “Screw it.”
Then in 2007, I got an iMac and a Macbook Pro for work and discovered GarageBand. When I first opened it up, I thought GarageBand was just a little toy after my ordeal with ProTools. But I hooked up my MBox 2 and my Mac luckily recognized it, then started playing around. After a couple of hours, I had recorded an entire song, with all the instrumentation I wanted. Granted, the sound quality wasn’t nearly as good as what I could achieve out of ProTools. But I knew then and there that GarageBand would change my life forever!
It wasn’t supposed to be this easy. But it was. I had to practically pinch myself to prove that taking the musical ideas in my head were actually becoming reality. I was cranking out songs like nobody’s business! I finally had a way to not only put my songs down, I could create demos for my church band so they could understand my vision behind how a particular song should be performed. It also helped with this blog that I started about the same time I got my Macbook Pro. I could provide demos of the stuff I was testing.
Circling back to the crux of this entry, that kind of usability is Steve Jobs’ legacy. Call him what you will, but his keen sense of how things should work are undeniable and reflected in the products that Apple has produced during his reign. He wasn’t an inventor. He was a super-innovator. And if you look at Apple products – both hardware and software – there seems to always be this recurring theme: “We need to make people continually exclaim, ‘It’s not supposed to be this easy!'”
But it is, people. It really is…