Itzik Parnafes: Farewell, Capitan

Steve Jobs is gone. The media will be talking for days and weeks about the premature loss of a one-of-a-kind genius, one who had a magic-like insight into what people wanted even before they themselves knew it, to spur passion into dull pieces of electronics, to redefine fashion and style.

For us here at Battery Ventures, Steve Jobs and Apple meant a lot to us individually when we were teenagers and young adults growing up in the ‘80s.

For many of us, Apple II was the first computer we owned. I taught myself programming on the sticky keyboard Sinclair Spectrum, which I bummed from a friend for summer vacation. My life sure changed for good soon after, once I convinced my parents to buy the Apple II.

I can still imagine it, glowing in monochrome green in my bedroom. Block cursor blinking on the BASIC input line. My brother and I were fascinated as I wrote my very first program: 10 PRINT “Shai is a jerk” 20 GOTO 10. And then a brawl ensued, as the lines scrolled past the 24 line screen.

Some of us got to enjoy the exotic media of audio tapes, and actually hearing the bits feeding into the computer. One of us used to tune the crystal with a screwdriver to adjust it to “imported” tapes from other friends’ tapes.

One of us amassed a huge collection of pirated computer games. On floppy disks, of course. Can you recall the grueling sound of a floppy drive chewing up a disk it didn’t like? The absolute sound of misery. You could almost read the ruined bits off the magnetic surface wrapped by a piece of paper.

What was your favorite Apple computer game? For many, it was Castle Wolfenstein, with tiny SS guards yelling “Achtung!” clueing you that the end was near. I loved the flight-simulator, a good one that ran at about 1 frame per second. I’m telling you, it was really hard landing that Piper with that control-loop.

For another, all the rage was hacking into the original Sid Meier’s Civilization save files, equipping their Stone Age civ with nukes. The poor ballistae didn’t know what hit them. The combat types loved Karateka; hugging the princess, lifting her foot so suggestively to kiss you after you beat the evil guards… pure delight.

The young pups around here at Battery started their Apple diet with the early Macs. This is only because the Lisa had such a short life. I remember how amazed I was that the notion of bugs bricking a computer just didn’t occur to Lisa’s designers, who never thought to equip it with a hard power button.

Just about all of us owned an Apple product of some sort ever since these early beginnings. It’s a testament to the power of an exceptional individual to so deeply affect our psyche, transform our lives, redefine how we treat these semi-animated objects that we can’t imagine living without.

Itzik Parnafes is a partner in the Israeli office of Battery Ventures. He joined the firm in 2009 and focuses on investments in industrial technologies, advanced materials, semiconductors and innovative hardware/communications products. He sits on the boards of Panaya and XtremIO, and is a board observer for ZeRTO. Parnafes co-authors www.thewholestack.com, a blog focused on infrastructure IT. He can be reached at izk@battery.com.