You’re a fan of Apple and Apple’s products. Tell us about how that started.

Growing up in the 1990s, my parents had a couple of Windows PCs around the house they ran their business on. My brother and I got to play Roller Coaster Tycoon on it, but that was about it. In high school, I joined the student newspaper. It — like just about every other publication — ran on Macs. This was right in the middle of the Mac OS 9 to OS X transition, so I got to use both operating systems on a range of beige Macs and colorful iMac G3s.

 

In learning applications like Photoshop and QuarkXPress, I quickly realized that I could use these computers to turn an idea into a real, tangible thing. The Mac suddenly turned from a weird computer into a powerful toolset that allowed me to share my thoughts and creativity with the world — or at least the student body I was stuck with at the time.

 

As high school went on and I started college, I became more and more interested in the Mac itself and the stories behind it. I discovered my proclivity for troubleshooting and fixing them at the same time. Before long, I was hooked.

 

How did you become a part of the Apple fan community online?

In college, I spent a lot of time on the official Apple discussion boards, talking with other users and helping people solve problems with their Macs and iPods.

 

I started my blog, 512 Pixels, in 2008 when I quit my job in Apple Retail. It took a long time, but eventually, I worked my way into a modest readership.

What is your favorite Apple product of all time and why?

This is a really hard question. I’m pretty nostalgic, so the Titanium PowerBook G4 would be high on the list. In high school, I had a job creating multimedia for a non-profit, and the boss bought my a PowerBook to get stuff done. He let me carry it to college as if it were my personal machine, and I have one today in my office, always close at hand.

The Titanium set the stage for modern Apple notebooks. It traded in the PowerBook G3’s curvy black plastic for a metal case that still looks modern today. And to have a G4 on the go! It was mind-blowing.

What are your favorite and/or most used apps?

Like most people, I spend too much time in Tweetbot and Instagram. I’m a big fan of Overcast for listening to podcasts. Relay FM runs on Slack, so that’s always running, too.

At App Camp, we emphasize that it’s important to have interests outside of tech and to take breaks from looking at screens. What are some of your interests outside of tech? What do you do when you need to take a break from work?

I like to get outdoors when I can. The best way for me to clear my head is to go for a bike ride It’s been something I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid, and I’m working on passing that on to my kids.

Why do you support what App Camp does?

Getting into this stuff as a hobbyist can be touch; getting into programming can be downright intimidating. I strongly believe that the earlier someone discovers their passions, they deeper their enjoyment and growth in it can be. App Camp makes the world of development accessible and fun, which encourages young people to explore it in a safe environment with people who care about them.

What do you recommend to those who want to support more diversity in tech?

No matter what you do, or where you work, there are opportunities to encourage and support diversity in our field. I think the first step is just sitting back and listening to those with different backgrounds and voices. You’ll be surprised at how limited your experiences are when you start paying real attention to others.

Past that, look for chances to make real, tangible changes and don’t be afraid to jump in. I know I’ve felt helpless or nervous in the past speaking about these things, but that’s really just my own selfishness and doubt speaking. To make our field a more diverse and rich place to work and play, we all have to pay attention.

Maybe that means you should review how your company hires and promotes people. Maybe it means you should pay attention to who you add to your following list on Twitter or just getting to know someone who doesn’t look or sound like you.

How can technology be a force for good?

I could write something lofty about super computers and curing cancer, but really, I think this goes back to my realization that a computer is just a tool. You can wield it to create or destroy, to improve to to break down. Think before you tweet; pause before you reply to email. Technology, at its heart, it just a conduit for conversation and thoughts. So mind them.

You can find Stephen on Twitter, at 512 Pixels, and at Relay FM.

Katharine Nester, Ruby Receptionists
Kim Ahlberg, Spotfire Analytics