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As Apple grew, so did an entire generation

Tampa’s Josh Szponar is an Apple baby. He was born on March 5, 1984, about a month and a half after Steve Jobs unveiled the Mac. This photo of Szponar was made Thursday using an iPhone.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

Tampa’s Josh Szponar is an Apple baby. He was born on March 5, 1984, about a month and a half after Steve Jobs unveiled the Mac. This photo of Szponar was made Thursday using an iPhone.

TAMPA

On Jan. 24, 1984, Steve Jobs introduced Apple's Macintosh desktop, maybe history's most important personal computer. It weighed a third of its IBM counterpart at the time. Some six weeks later, at this city's Humana Women's Hospital, Josh Szponar was born. He checked in at not quite 8 pounds.

Szponar in retrospect could be called an Apple baby. He and others his age have grown up in a world Jobs helped create. Szponar pegs key moments in his own maturation to the evolution of devices Jobs envisioned, from the Mac to the iPod, from the iPod to the iPhone, to where now kids touch screens the way the rest of us once turned knobs.

Back in the late '80s, growing up in Carrollwood, Szponar didn't know the name Steve Jobs, but he knew he liked playing California Games and Perry Mason on the Apple IIGS he shared with his older brother. He typed in prompts. SEARCH BEDROOM FOR CLUES. The pixeled detective did what he was told.

In middle school, he learned to type in the computer lab at the Academy of the Holy Names, and the kids scurried for the distinctive, rectangular Macs. "Don't run!" the teachers yelled.

Toy Story came out in November 1995, a product of Pixar, led then by Jobs, and it was a revelation for the animation and the movie industries, and also for 11-year-olds who liked to sit and draw. Szponar watched in awe.

Apple, though, without Jobs as boss, had stumbled. When Szponar started high school, at Jesuit, the computer lab had mostly PCs. Szponar had a Gateway at home. Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 in an attempt to fix the company he had started. The first iMacs came out a year later.

Szponar was a gangly adolescent with size-13 feet. He begged his mother for rides around town, trying to figure out how to get from one place to the next, and on the occasional Friday night he stood against the walls of the Jesuit cafeteria at socials with girls from Holy Names, "literally standing on the other side of the dance floor, not knowing how to communicate with these people."

Apple introduced the iPod in 2001. Szponar, who had amassed hundreds of CDs, was a high school senior. He and his classmates wanted their clothes to be from Abercrombie, and now they wanted their Red Hot Chili Peppers, too, on this new thing Jobs had built.

Szponar went to Florida State the next year. He majored in residential science with an emphasis on construction and urban planning. Maybe he would build homes. Or maybe he wouldn't.

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward," Jobs told Stanford graduates in 2005. "You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future."

Keep thinking. Keep working.

Szponar graduated in 2007, the same year Jobs introduced the iPhone, and Szponar had to have it. Your music, your mail, your Internet, your computer, he thought. It was everything.

He's 27. He lives in South Tampa. He works downtown in the Regions building as a recruiter for Randstad Finance and Accounting.

On Wednesday evening, when word came from Cupertino, Calif., of Jobs' too-soon passing, dead at 56 from pancreatic cancer, Szponar's older brother with whom he shared the Apple IIGS saw the news on the screen of his MacBook. Matt Szponar called Josh Szponar. One iPhone to another.

Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8751. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelkruse.

As Apple grew, so did an entire generation 10/06/11 [Last modified: Thursday, October 6, 2011 10:40pm]
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