Surprise! Apple Listens!!

What a month! A power user becomes an iMac evangelist, new iMacs in six colors redefine computing and Apple astounds us by seeming to listen when Mac lovers speak.

“You got a what? But Chris, you’re a Power User! You eat benchmarks for breakfast! Whatever are you going to do with an iMac? Oh,” I say. “I see. It’s tangerine.”

It was late August and my son, working as a media consultant for a local university, had recently moved into his grandmother’s home to be a part-time chef, chauffeur, and companion. Grandmother would get the care she needed and Chris would set up his Mac studio in her comfortable basement family room.

Unfortunately, there was no way to get Cable into the basement without major remodeling. And as he and the university often corresponded by cable modem (a necessity for sending large graphic files back and forth), the breakfast nook soon disappeared beneath the 8600, two monitors, a scanner, printer, Zip, small TV and all the paraphernalia associated with a primary work station.

Using an iMac as his Internet connection would not only save space and allow the primary work machines to spread out across the basement (as well as freeing them to render 24 hours a day when needed), it would even match the wallpaper. Grandmother was delighted.

But not nearly as delighted as Chris, when he found what a dynamo his new iMac, entry level or not, turned out to be. After upgrading the RAM to 196, it ran rings around the Umax S900 and even put the 8600/300 with its full 1 MB cache to shame.

He wrote: “This second generation iMac is truly a power-user machine! I installed Painter 5.0 on it and it’s like a whole new program. It’s snappier than I’ve ever seen it. Photoshop, too, is a speed demon. I’ve been running side-by-side plug-in ‘races’ between the iMac and 8600, and the 8600 has yet to win. Not bad for a little 18 inch entry-level box!”

There were problems of course. Without a serial port, LightWave and AfterEffects, both of which require a dongle, were unusable. And with his main computers in the basement, transferring files without a floppy, SCSI, or Internet connection was impossible. By the end of of September the iMac had sprouted a USB Zip, a USB-ADB adapter for hooking up dongles and 100 feet of cable snaking from kitchen to laundry and down the stairs to the studio. The small dinette table was filling up as quickly as Chris’ bank account was being depleted.

But the iMac was now networked in as a true member of the graphics team. Being a Mac, all three hard drives showed up on each machine. And from any machine, Chris could drag and drop large files onto the Internet icon and send them, via cable, to the university. He was more productive than he had ever imagined.

He wrote: “BTW: I have a ftp site at the university now and when I sent the first batch of videos over, my data transfer speed was 487k per sec. It turns out the same server that the Wichita Cable Service uses is used by WSU also. This means I can configure my net boot system to function just like it was on campus. I don’t have to go to the media center for video clips anymore–I just load them directly into my applications as if they were a locally mounted disk! I can see this cable modem was certainly worth the wait!!!”

The little tangerine box had just settled into place when, on the fifth of October, Apple announced iMac, phase three. Not only were prices dropping to new lows, there would be a power user version in graphite black. (Sorry Grandma, eat your heart out… but guys really go for graphite.)

He wrote: “You gotta go to Apple’s site and look up the specs on the new iMacs. Unbelievable! And it’s not just the machines or the prices that are unbelievable… It’s Apple. When I filled out my online registration, the very last question was ‘Is there anything you would like to see in the iMacs that is not there?’ So, I said More RAM, Better speakers, Video in, DVD drive, SCSI support (or better yet, Firewire) and MAKE IT EVEN FASTER!

“Well whaddaya know! It’s ALL there. They’ve even made the RAM more accessible. No more voiding the warranty to upgrade it yourself. WOW! Could it be that Apple actually listens???”

If Apple has truly learned to listen to the rest of us, just think what wonderful things could lie ahead. (Wonder where they would be if they’d listened all along?)

It is important to note, however, that current iMac owners, when considering upgrading to the new versions, should be aware that the RAM is not compatible. You can’t take it with you. And sadly, even the top of the line graphite model has only a 512 KB cache. Both of those factors cooled Chris’ initial excitement in spite of the 400 MHz processor, the dual Firewire ports, the 128 MB-base RAM and the 13GB drive in the DV Special Edition. Which is just as well as his August iMac has scarcely had time to accumulate dust.

On the other hand, his sister has long wanted a small tangerine Mac to match her own kitchen. And at only a few hundred $$$ more than last month’s standard five-flavored iMac, that graphite DV is awfully tempting. If he can sweet talk Sis into some kind of deal, I wouldn’t be surprised to find Grandma sporting a speedy, FireWired little black box in the breakfast nook before YK2 overtakes the Windows world.

Susan Howerter

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