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ATPM 7.06
June 2001


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Apple Cider: Random Squeezings From a Mac User

by Tom Iovino,

Don’t Panic: Bidding Farewell to the Hitchhiker

I have always loved to read.

Growing up with two brothers—one who loved fast cars and the other who played every sport known to man—made this a difficult hobby to pursue. More often than not, I would be nose deep in a book when one of these guys would come barging in, looking for someone who could either help him bleed brake lines or serve as the quarterback in a game of backyard tackle football. Of course, Mom would tell me that getting out of the house was good for me, so I usually had to break out the trusty bookmark and put in my time helping out my brothers—ready to return to the pages as soon as possible.

Reading for me was such an escape. I think the first time I got the bug was when my third grade teacher read a chapter of J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit to us every day for a month or so. I had no idea that books without pictures could open your mind and transport you to far away places.

I started to read as much as possible after that. Granted, the Lord of the Rings trilogy was a little over my head so young, but I plowed on, undeterred.

In my freshman year of high school, one of my friends who also liked to read asked me if I had ever read this great new book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. No, I hadn’t, but the way he described the book made me want to go out and get a copy.

Since I didn’t have a job at the time, I figured that the best way to get a copy was to wait until Christmas. So, sure enough, on Christmas morning I headed downstairs to see, amidst the pile of other goodies, a copy of Hitchhiker’s Guide.

I spent the rest of the day firmly entranced as I devoured the book, pausing only to laugh out loud, spend time with the relatives, and give the other gifts a look-see. Soon, the names Ford Prefect, Arthur Dent, and Zaphod Beeblebrox were ingrained in my mind, and the wild antics they participated in had me chuckling.

Just as I was getting that sad feeling as I came to the end of that book, I was happy to hear that there were three more books in his four-part-trilogy.

In less than a week and a half, I had plowed through The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Life, The Universe and Everything, and So Long, and Thanks For All The Fish. Each left me in stitches and with the knowledge I needed to join in with some pretty intense and funny conversations when I went on to college.

Later on in life, after I had graduated college and moved out into the real world, I found myself re-reading these books for a laugh, and for some practical advice. My Don’t Panic pin was at my desk for years at work, until one day someone I had met—a big Douglas Adams fan herself—asked if I could part with it. I gave it to her, because it wasn’t anywhere as useful as a towel.

Just before I started writing for ATPM, I spent a lot of time surfing at the Apple Web site, when I noticed Douglas Adams was an advocate for Macintosh. In fact, Douglas was one of a select group of those who Think Different—the Apple Masters.

The Apple Masters are high-profile people from many disciplines who have discovered and come to appreciate the ease of use, flexibility and power of the Macintosh platform. This list of Apple Masters reads like a Who’s Who of World Culture.

Actors such as Lauren Bacall, Harrison Ford, and Richard Dreyfuss grace this list. Musicians such as Bryan Adams, Herbie Hancock, and Peter Gabriel are there, too. Notables of the scientific community such as physicist Dr. Donald Glaser, Astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, and Paleontologist Dr. Meave Leakey are on the list right next to authors Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton, and Douglas Adams.

These high-profile Mac enthusiasts have done more than just champion the Macintosh platform: they have all achieved great things in their lives by thinking a little outside the box. And, the creation of the Hitchhiker’s series and his other books and games could only come from the innovative mind of Douglas Adams.

The partnership between Adams and Apple was an undying love at first sight. According to Adams:

I’d tried out a variety of early computers—an Apricot, a DEC Rainbow and then one day towards the end of 1983 I was at the offices of Infocom, laying plans for the text-adventure game of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” when someone said to me, “We’ve got something in the next room that might interest you. It just arrived…” It was a Macintosh. It was love at first sight. They couldn’t drag me away from it. It was the first time I came across a computer that seemed to be designed by someone with a creative imagination.

Since that fateful day in 1983, the Macintosh played a pivotal role in his career. When asked how the Macintosh had inspired him, his remarks were telling:

Just by being a joy to use. There are certain key things in life—I’d include pens, cars, cameras, restaurants, saws, shoes and beds—which you just need to feel comfortable and at home with if you’re going to do your best work. It’s the same with the Mac. You can talk all you like about chip architectures, bus speeds, software/hardware integration and interface issues—all of these are very important—but the most important thing is how they come together. I’ve been using the Mac since 1984 and I use it for everything other than cleaning my teeth.

When I opened my newspaper on the 12th of May, I was stunned to see that Adams had passed away from a heart attack the day earlier. At a way-too-young age of 49.

Busy and creative to the end, he had been working with Disney on the movie version of the popular Hitchhiker series, and receiving accolades for the computer game Starship Titanic, which recently won a Codie Award for Best New Adventure/Role-Playing Software Game.

Some of the best lessons we can learn come from following the example of a life well lived. Checking around the Internet, I have seen hundreds of heart-felt tributes to Adams. For each of these people—and thousands of others like them—he reached out with his creativity, humor, and talent to affect their lives in a positive way. One quote from Adams I came across can serve as an inspiration to many:

The single most important thing we can do in our lifetimes is to educate our children well.

It’s my hope that each of you who found his writing entertaining and inspirational can take these words to heart, and create something which can touch many from your talents.

Doug—here’s your towel. It’s about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.


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Reader Comments (3)

Tom Ross · June 9, 2001 - 22:26 EST #1
I still can't believe he's gone. Thank you for an excellent article.
Layla Hall · January 11, 2005 - 15:41 EST #2
I agree with you. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was a great book. I could hardly put it down. I haven't read the other books but I really want to. I can't wait for the movie to come out even though it will conflict with the reader's imagination. Great article by the way. I also think that Douglas Adams is a genius.
Tom Iovino (ATPM Staff) · January 11, 2005 - 15:43 EST #3
Layla -

Indeed! I know a place where you can borrow the books for a spell - for cheap! ;-)

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