Steve Jobs, You Let Me Down

No, I did not buy the iPhone4.

My disappointment with Mr. Jobs and his staff stems from an incident I had this weekend involving a PowerPoint presentation I was making at the inaugural Handmade in America Craft, Architecture & Design Expo. This two-day event held here in Asheville, NC demonstrated how architects, builders, designers, artists, artisans and homeowners could collaborate with each other to draw upon the tremendous craft resources in Western North Carolina.

My role in the weekend activities was simple: provide a one-hour presentation entitled The Artisan and the Architect: How the Arts & Crafts Movement Influenced Asheville. In it I traced the background of the Arts & Crafts movement from England to Asheville, then examined three early 20th-century Asheville architects – Richard Sharp Smith, Tony Lord and William Waldo Dodge – and explored how the Arts & Crafts philosophy shaped their work.

All sounds fine, right?

I have been among the Apple faithful since 1985 and just last month purchased the latest laptop, the MacBook Pro, on which I had created my PowerPoint presentation. I learned several years ago from the audio-visual team at the Grove Park Inn Arts & Crafts Conference that Macintosh computers need a special connecting cord, called a “Mini DVI to VGA” converter, to enable the signal from the Macintosh to be transferred to the projector which, in turn, sends the images onto a screen.

I had since owned a DVI-VGA connector and had used it with my previous laptop, simply called the MacBook. On Saturday morning, a few hours before my presentation, I checked my images to make sure they were properly loaded on my new MacBook Pro, grabbed my notes and plucked my DVI-VGA connector from my desk drawer.

I arrived at the Design Expo with time to spare, waited for the first presenter to gather her materials and exit, then began setting up my equipment. The DVI-VGA connector fit snugly onto the end of the cord leading to the projector, but when I then proceeded to plug my DVI-VGA connector into my MacBook Pro, I blanched.

There was no port for it.

The designers at Apple, for whatever reason, had changed the connection. The DVI-VGA connector which had worked just fine on my old MacBook would not work on my new MacBook Pro.

Thank you, Mr. Jobs.

I looked at the clock. I had one hour to come up with a solution. Thankfully, my iPhone did work, so I called my wife at home, had her dig out my old MacBook, and we agreed on a meeting place halfway between each other. I grabbed the laptop from her in the parking lot of a garden center, then turned around and raced back to the expo.

As the room started filling I frantically copied my large PowerPoint file onto a disk, shoved it into the old MacBook, praying it would accept and play the file. What was only a few minutes seemed like an hour, but finally the file was loaded, the DVI-VGA connector slipped snugly into the side port and my first slide appeared miraculously on the screen.

I stepped back, felt the sweat running down my back, took a long drink of water and launched into my presentation.

Eight blocks away, a driver lost control of his 1998 Toyota, veered off the road and slammed into a power pole.

As the pole hit the ground, lines snapped, sparks flew and my opening slide disappeared from the screen.

Outside, an emergency generator kicked in, restoring a few select lights in the meeting rooms and hallways, but power to the outlets – and to my projector – was lost.

Over the years I have spoken before groups as large as 1500 people and as small as 1, but this was the first time I had to deliver a fifty-minute slide presentation – with no slides.

Needless to say, it was a challenging proposal.

Fifty minutes later, as the crowd was making their way out of the room, I overheard one lady say to her friend, “Goodness, he certainly was animated.”

I pulled it off, but, Mr. Jobs, you owe me one.

Make it a DVI-VGA connector.

– Bruce Johnson