The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same
My inaugural column for My Mac appeared in Issue number 9, January of 1996. Three and a half years and over 40 issues later, I find myself sitting at my computer, trying to finish this edition of my chronically late-for-deadline column. A lot has changed in three and a half years, both in my own life and in the world of Macintosh. However, I’m actually typing this column on my parents’ LC 575, the same computer that I pounded out that inaugural column on 41 issues ago, so maybe not so much has changed. But I digress…
Personally, I’ve gone from being a junior in high school to in-between my second and third years of college in the time that I’ve been on board the good ship My Mac. I’ve gone from the familiar confines of my high school and the care and resources of my parents to the new faces, strange places, unique experiences, and general independence of college life. (Of course, as you may have gathered, I still mooch off of my parents during the summer months!) But as I write this, having just completed the midway point of my college education as a computer science and mathematics double major, I have only this to say: life is good!
My computing experiences have also been varied and a little exciting. When I joined My Mac, I was using the aforementioned LC 575 and a Color StyleWriter 2400 at home, and a lab full of Power Macs in my high school. Two years ago when I moved into college, I did so with an old, underpowered original LC and an original StyleWriter printer. The campus itself provided little relief; it was virtually 100% Windows, and I soon was forced to get used to the task bar at the bottom of the screen and the icons lined up on the left side of the monitor. A little over a year ago I bought a PowerBook 1400c, the first Mac I’ve ever personally owned, which I upgraded to a 250 MHz G3 processor about nine months ago. After some friendly cajoling with my computer science professors and a little help from the campus support staff, I had my PowerBook peacefully coexisting on the campus network alongside a handful of other Macs and about a zillion Windows machines.
All in all, it’s been great–my own Mac has never been better, and it works wonders, whether it’s attached to the network or being lugged around in the library or on the road. I have become comfortable using other operating systems, too, and can now honestly say that I prefer and love the Mac OS not because it’s the only computer I’m familiar with, but because I’ve tried others and still can’t find anything else that comes close to being as good. In addition to Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 3.11, and DOS, I’ve even tried UNIX out (by force–I spent this past semester doing assembly language code on a DEC Alpha!), and am ready to begin my summer project of getting MkLinux to run on my PowerBook. Not one of them is as smooth or refined as the Mac OS, though, even if it’s only System 7.1 running on that old LC!
But enough about me; Apple has done some incredibly noteworthy things in the last forty-one months, too. Clones have come and gone, Steve Jobs is back, there are six profitable quarters in the books, and the infamous inventory problems have greatly improved. Apple’s advertising presence in print and on television is exponentially greater, and their public image has gone from that of a company knocking on death’s door to one who has surged back into prominence through impressive innovation and daring risk taking. The operating system has gone from System 7.5 all the way to Mac OS 8.6, and the incredible Mac OS X is on the horizon. Apple has totally revamped their product lines, and have amazing new machines in the iMac, Blue and White G3 desktops, and new “Lombard” PowerBooks. The bang-for-the-buck ratio has never been better for Apple, either, and Apple is providing tons of features and ground breaking performance at prices that, three years ago, I would have only expected from of one of the cheap PC makers. Peripheral vendors and software companies have recommitted to the Mac platform, and Apple is finally realizing that games are cool. (Most importantly, Madden NFL 2000 is coming to the Mac!!!!!!!!!!!!) Indeed, things are looking brighter and brighter for Apple. But if you would have predicted this scenario about eighteen months ago, no one but the most diehard Mac faithful would have ever believed you.
And that brings me back to my earlier comment that even though so many things have changed during the last three and a half years, a lot is still the same. Even though I much prefer the power, portability, increased RAM, and larger storage space that my PowerBook provides, this same LC 575 that I began my column with all the way back in issue nine is the same one that I’m using to write my column for issue fifty. My family uses this machine each and every day to write papers, surf the web, send and receive email, and play games. It has a paltry 250 meg hard drive, 8 measly megs of RAM, a 33.6 modem, and is still running System 7.5.5. The Macintosh has a longevity that is rarely seen in the Moore’s-law-ruled world of the computer industry. There are a couple of 486 PCs on campus that are similarly equipped, and they are avoided like the plague and regarded as ancient has-beens. This LC 575, though, still has plenty of miles left in it.
There’s an even more important thing in the Macintosh world that hasn’t changed in the last three and a half years. For that matter, it hasn’t changed in the last ten years, or even the last fifteen. The sense of community that Macintosh users share is incredibly unique, not only in the computer industry, but in nearly all industries in the world. How often do you have arguments over why people prefer Coke over Pepsi, or in-depth discussions concerning the newest burger at McDonald’s?
The Macintosh community feeling is evident in user group meetings, mailing lists, Usenet newsgroups, magazines, and websites. It isn’t just the end users who share in this community, either–software companies who have stuck with the Mac through it all are generally a pleasure to work with, local authorized Apple dealers are usually friendly and helpful, and the industry pundits and journalistic bigwigs are rarely so rude or too busy to reply to an email message. Owning a Mac is your membership card; not a membership into a club, but rather into a family.
It was this prevailing sentiment that convinced me to become active in the Apple community and join My Mac, way back when I was busy snatching up every e-zine that I could get my hands on while I was logged onto eWorld with my 14.4 modem. And it’s that prevailing sentiment that will keep me writing about, using, and loving my Macintosh for a long time to come. Is this unexplainable passion for a machine a little crazy? Yes. But Mac users don’t need it to be explained to them, and PC users wouldn’t understand even if it could be. Like Louis Armstrong once said, “some people, if they don’t know, you just can’t tell ‘em.”
Anyway, thanks for reading, fellow Mac users. And take heart as we continue into what hopefully will be a new golden age for the fruit company at the Infinite Loop in Cupertino, because amidst all of the changes and innovation, we’re still part of a community, and that’s something special.