I recently interviewed Stephen Hackett, producer of 512 Pixels.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Well, I’m 26 and from Memphis, TN. It’s my hometown, but I’ve never been in to Elvis that much. I do however, have an accent, drive a truck and like BBQ.
I’ve been married five years to my high-school sweetheart. We have two kids, the oldest who has brain cancer (but is doing very well).
What was your first job growing up?
My first job was cutting grass for people in the neighborhood. I made enough money when I was 15 to buy a car with cash when I turned 16. I learned about being responsible, taking care of my belongings and how to be respectful to customers.
Also, I learned that if you hit a frog with an edger by accident it’s messy as hell.
What was it like working at the Apple Store?
Hectic is probably the best word for it. I started out on the sales floor (the “Red Zone”), but quickly became a Mac Genius, then later, the Lead Genius.
For all the craziness that customers see out on the floor or behind the bar, there’s a similar amount of work happening behind the scenes. From repairs to conference calls to inventory control and HR issues and customer support disasters, there is a lot that happens behind closed doors.
That said, most days, it was pretty fun. Getting to surprise and delight customers never got old.
I’ve been in to see a Genius a few times myself and have always had amazing experiences. They’ve often fixed or replaced things for me long after the warranty ran out, however I have friends and co-workers that have had different experiences with them. What kind of flexibility does each Genius have in regards to customer service?
Well, I left Retail back in late 2008, so I can’t speak to anything since then, but in my day, we had pretty decent freedom to take care of someone. Sometimes that meant taking care of something days out of warranty or meeting a customer halfway on the cost of a repair.
Tell us about 512 Pixels. How long have you been publishing the blog, and what sparked its creation?
I started the site when I left Apple, so it’s about three and a half years old. This fall, I rebranded it as 512 Pixels — the original name was Forkbombr. A lot went in to the name change, but I think it was for the better.
I started writing out of a frustration with current Apple, and a desire to talk more about the way Apple was in the old days. I’m a romantic for anything Woz was involved with, I suppose.
How’s the membership thing going?
First of all, I’d like to thank those who have joined. It means I can keep shuffling my way towards making 512 Pixels my full-time gig.
That said, the number of members compared the number of readers is depressingly small. I hope to see it grow!
Who has been influential to your writing career? Your branding work?
I’m not sure I have many surprises here. Guys like John Gruber and Shawn Blanc should be looked up to by anyone writing on the web. My high school newspaper teacher taught me AP style, and I still write (mostly) in it today.
As far as branding work, there are two guys locally whose work I love, PJ McCormick and Carl Fox. Both guys have done work for the site. When I re-launched, I hired Aaron Mahnke for the logo and branding work. He’s freaking awesome.
You seem to have a mix of engineering/technical with a creative/sales background. Is one line of work more natural for you? Which do you prefer?
I love both equally. It’s like asking if I love my son or daughter more. I love the same, but maybe in slightly different ways.
When you’re not writing, what are you reading?
I read a lot less tech news than I used to. I read about space, and enjoy science fiction. Anything by C.S. Lewis is probably on my bookshelf as well.
What’s your hardware/software setup look like?
My main machine is a work-supplied Core i7 13-inch MacBook Pro. (Being the head of the IT/Multimedia Department has perks.) I basically use it a personal machine. I type in nvALT and TextMate, run Lion and like Safari more than Chrome.
My wife and I have a Core i5 Mac mini at home, but I don’t use it much. I’ve got an iPhone 4S and iPad 2.
What have you failed at in life, and how have you learned from the experience?
Long-time readers of my site will know my toddler has a brain tumor. He was six months old when it was discovered. He’s doing well (after lots of chemo and several operations), but will never be “out of the woods.”
It hit me harder than I realized. I spent a long time severely depressed, but didn’t do anything about it until 11 months ago, when I came home and told my wife to drive me to the doctor or I was going to kill myself. She did, and now, I’m working on getting better. It’s a process, but I’ve come along.
I should have told her — or someone — before it got to that point, but I didn’t think I was worth the bother. Since then, I’ve learned to ask for help when I need it.
If you could spend a few hours over dinner with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
My wife, without worrying about kids, the house or the cars. I miss dating her the way we used to.
Why doesn’t your cat have a car?
He’s getting old, and his eyesight isn’t very good anymore.
Lastly, if you could do anything with your time (if money was no object), what would it be?
I would write. Maybe buy a hammock and write in it.