Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Mac and 25 Years

There it was, the bright shiny machine that we had heard so much about. Brought about with the fanfare of the gleaming Orwellian style Superbowl commercial, we had been just jumping at the bit to get our hands on the new machine. 128k, 400k floppies and its own built in monitor. The Macintosh. That was 1984 and I was a Freshman in college.

Everyone was still enthralled by the PC and the Apple II systems, but the Mac had something that the PC and Apple II's didn't. True Type Fonts. I wanted to write a programming book as I had been teaching some of the professors and other students how to program in BASIC as I had ever since I was a 15 year old kid. It was supposed to be an easy to use book and easy to understand. The Mac facilitated this book like no machine before.

I had written hundreds of programs by that time and probably just as many documents and papers and yet that was the first time that I had an experience with a machine that was memorable. The whole thing of WYSIWYG type fonts on the screen in Mac Write was foreign to me. I was still lost in the dot commands of the Applewriter world. The whole graphical interface thing was cool but at the same time a bit disconcerting for someone who had been using system text on teletypes and CRT based terminals since 1976.

I also found that the disk swapping requirement was just as big a pain as was the Apple II and other systems of the time. This was no break through but then the size of the floppy was. 400k was a lot of space if the file was just plain text, but in using programs that were producing true type WYSIWYG type text, the disk usage was higher. I was a bit discouraged by it but then with a little prodding from my professor and a great deal of usage in the first 2 months, I began to warm up to the idea of the Mac, although I still preferred my Apple II.

In 1990, I bought a IIfx and that was the start of my love hate relationship with the Mac. I loved to hate it just because at that time, the machine was not the simple little box that I had begun to love many years before and the quality was no where near the same level. By the time I got my Quadra 840AV, I was not a happy camper and the Apple was losing its luster in my house. At one point, I even threw out all my Mac manuals and software.

But then came the new generation of machines. The iBook and MacBook series. Once again it was cool to own a Mac and the fact that it was UNIX was even better for me. I once again went back to the Mac camp and felt like it was worth the while. Its almost funny that it only took me 25 years to really feel like a Mac was worth the cost again but then that is primarily because it has taken that long for Apple to produce a truly ground breaking machine.

Now as they celebrate, so does the rest of the world. With their iPods, iPhones, MacBook Airs and other neat toys from Apple, I am sure the world is a better place because of it. Now is 2009 was just like 1984, we would all be better off.