The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree

I turned twelve years old on the day of Super Bowl XVIII. I don’t remember who played in that game, but I do remember Apple’s “1984” ad for the Macintosh computer. I immediately wanted one. I asked my parents if they could return my birthday presents and get me a Mac instead. They seemed amused by my offer and informed me that they weren’t spending $2,000 for a toy. If I wanted a computer, they said, I’d have to earn the money myself.

For a twelve-year-old, $2,000 was an insane amount of money in 1984. My princely allowance of $1 per week wasn’t going to do the trick. Even if I saved every penny, it was going to take me nearly forty years to save the money. There was no way I was going to wait until middle-age to get a computer.

In 1984, there weren’t a lot of employment opportunities for a twelve-year-old. The Internet wasn’t yet open for commercial activity, and child labor laws prohibited me from working in the coal mines. I thought of joining the circus, but I did not know how to juggle. And I had serious doubts that my parents would sign the necessary forms that would allow me to run away with the circus. I needed a plan, and I needed one fast.

Though modeled after George Orwell’s novel about a dystopian future, the ad made me think of the Bible.

At the time, I used a manual typewriter for my school essays and reports. Correcting mistakes and typos was a laborious and painful process. The Apple computer offered the promise of unimaginable possibilities. I could easily correct my mistakes. And we could use the computer for so much more. When my parents said that they wouldn’t buy an Apple for me, it became the forbidden fruit that I had to taste. And I would be damned if I was going to allow financial obstacles to stand in my way.

One night at dinner, when I had taken a brief respite from pleading with my parents for a computer, my father expressed exasperation at the state of the part-time business my parents ran. He said that we may not be able to take the two-week vacation the business had been paying for each year.

As my father spoke, I could hear the pain in his voice. He was a hard-working man, and he took great pride in providing for his family. It was clear that he felt like he was letting his family down. But a family isn’t about one person carrying the entire burden. It’s about everyone working together for everyone’s mutual benefit.

I didn’t sleep that night. I studied the brochures on the Macintosh that I had picked up at the mall. I thought, and I wrote. I tore up pages and started over.

When my father arrived in the kitchen the next morning, I was waiting for him with three pages of handwritten notes. I didn’t know what I had done, but I had written a crude business plan. I had outlined a way to use the computer to improve the business. We could use the Macintosh for accounting, marketing, and many other business functions.

As I poured my father a cup of coffee, I handed him my notes. “Dad,” I said, “we can use the computer to make the business better.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was suggesting a capital investment that would quickly pay for itself. My father read my notes while he sipped his coffee. It was the first time I ever saw my father cry.

My father took a vacation day, and we bought a computer that morning. Six months later, we took a three week vacation. We had earned it.

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