Being Noah Tesfaye #42: Apple: The Brand that Shaped My Childhood

June 24th, 2010. It was a warm, breezy Friday afternoon on University Avenue in Palo Alto. I was excited all day because I knew that after our weekly Friday night dinner, I’d finally get to go to a very important teal store. That’s what it looked like then, before it moved down the street and had echo problems. After watching the keynote, and being the avid Steve Jobs fan I was, I could not wait. That evening, the day the iPhone 4 launched, was moment I became an Apple fan.

At around seven, the line still wrapped around the back of the store. I nearly sprinted into the front door of the store, and waited, and waited, and waited. Then, I finally got my chance to hold one. It was unlike anything I had ever knew was possible. It was glass on both sides, slippery and shatter-prone. Nonetheless, I wanted one. I begged to get anyone around me to buy one, just so I could get a chance to have access to it everyday. I couldn’t even see the pixels on the screen! It was so crispy, before I even knew what the term meant.

Over the past eight years, I’ve watched every single Apple keynote, and in many respects, I do it out of the same excitement I had when Steve launched the iPhone 4 or the original iPad. I became so invested in his work that the second the two most important biographies on him released, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, I devoured both 400 page plus books. He apparently had kids that went to one of my old schools, and I wish still to this day that I had the chance to at least say how much I appreciated what he did for the world. He still to this day inspires the way I do presentations: less is and always will be better than more.

I won’t deny the fact that Apple has pretty much influenced everything I do. Being in Silicon Valley, and just fifteen minutes away from Apple Park, I have been indoctrinated with Apple fandom. The first computers I ever used were Macs. My mom had one of the first white plastic MacBooks, and my dad had the Cinema Display with a seventeen inch MacBook Pro. At school, we all used those newer plastic MacBooks, and every single thing we did at school had an Apple logo tacked onto it. Every Prius I saw at one point in the late 2000s had an Apple sticker on it. Every coffee shop you’d walk into, would have no one talking to each other, but there were still glowing Apple logos that faced you as you’d walk by. Apple was everywhere and used in almost every single digital activity, especially at school.

Back in first grade, I remember using the original iMac. It was one of the teal ones, and even though it was over five years old the day I first used it, something about it fascinated me. It’s design, which was dated, still seemed to be iconic. I didn’t know much about it at the time, but I knew it was special. Little did I know that that computer was one of the ones that was given to the school by Steve himself (to my best recollection). Everywhere I looked, there was a Mac. And when the iPhone came out, I slowly saw people carry those around everywhere. Heck, I see the people who developed all of these gadgets at Baskin Robbins or school events at times. They may blend in for most, but I always recognized HairForceOne or Eddy Cue for their contributions to technology in our daily lives.

It was during fifth or sixth grade that I saw kids begin to get iPhones. I begged my parents constantly and nagged them to buy me one. I thought I was the cool kid who had bought himself one of the new iPod Touch models, but I couldn’t make phone calls or text anyone. I was about as jealous as any other kid in Silicon Valley without one. It was on my 13th birthday that I got that first iPhone: the 5C. Was I disappointed? Absolutely. The Apple fanboy in me was angry I got the “kids” version. I saw my other classmates with the 5S who didn’t even know how to use half of it’s features, and it made me angry. I knew everything there was to these phones, and yet in my head, I felt like I wasn’t as cool because I didn’t have the one that I talked to everyone about for months. Nonetheless, I was grateful that I got any phone at all, and I made sure to use every single feature I could on that blue gadget.

What I slowly began to realize that what was a hobby and a passion for me personally was a status symbol for others. I hadn’t realized that, beyond those around me who all carried iPhones as if it was merely their car keys, Apple was a brand that made you feel like you were wealthy. Not surprisingly, this is very much a true proxy, and it was proven in a paper recently by the National Bureau of Economic Research. I didn’t see it at home, but whenever I would go back to Ethiopia, I saw the status of the phone, the brand play out. Only those who were wealthy compared to everyone else had iPhones, and that was only because you either went to the US and bought one, or paid the ludicrous up-charge by resellers in Addis. With that, I quickly began to be much more aware of the privilege I had of being to afford a gadget I just thought of as an essential.

Ever since I would say about 2011, I’ve gone through to understand this fact. I’ve gone through an iPhone 5C, 6S, and now I’m currently using the 8 Plus as my daily phone. As for my laptop, it’s the last good Retina MacBook Pro 15 Inch, the one with ALL the ports (2.5, 16GB RAM, 256GB). It’s the tool that I depend on to do everything, from working on homework to video editing to writing these blog posts. There have been many points at which I’ve wanted to stop using a Mac, to just switch over to Windows, and possibly pick up a Dell XPS 15, or switch to Android and get a Pixel or a OnePlus. But I haven’t, and I probably won’t. Apple fanboy, Apple fanatic, Apple nerd, whatever you may want to call me, I’m fine with that. But I’ve always gone with Apple maybe most of all out of sentimental reasons. It was the company that I associate my childhood with, as many do with brands like McDonalds, Disney, or Xbox. So I’m going to continue to type away, click away, and take pictures with things with an Apple logo on the back for the rest of my life. Thanks Steve.

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One Reply to “Being Noah Tesfaye #42: Apple: The Brand that Shaped My Childhood”

  1. Story has it that you had your hands on the Job’s Autobiography from your school’s library, slurped it over the weekend and returned it back…..

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