A Decade of MyMac.com Part 3 – 1997 – 1998
If you haven’t read any of the other articles in this series, you can find them here and here. For those who don’t want to go back and read them, let me first say that MyMac.com originally started as simply My Mac Magazine, before hardly anyone had a website, and few actually had access to the internet. But MyMac.com and My Mac Magazine are one and the same, so if you see reference one way or the other throughout this retrospective, know that they are the same creature.
This time around, we look at our third year of both My Mac Magazine and MyMac.com.
Our twenty-fifth issue came out in May, 1997, sporting one of my favorite covers of all time. (That’s it to the right) Created by Alan Dingman, it was a conductor with a Macintosh monitor face. The words came from the internal designation Apple was giving their operating systems at the time, Tempo, Allegro, and Sonata. Today, they use Panther and Tiger, big cats, but back in the day it was all about music. Come to think of it, what with the popularity of iTMS and the iPod, one would think that the old naming scheme would actually work better today, no?
The reason for the fill-in cover from Alan was that our regular cover artist, Mike Gorman, was busy getting married. That means, of course, that Mike is coming up on his eight-year anniversary. Hope he remembers!
In that May 1997 issue, we reported an interesting fact: 64% of all web sites at the time were created using a Macintosh. Not sure what the percentage is today, but I would hazard a guess that it is probably in the single digits.
Fenton Jones did a review of Netscape Navigator 3.0 that month. Did you know at the time, Netscape wanted $50 for the full version? That’s right, $50! No wonder Microsoft saw such an excellent opportunity to move in and make Internet Explorer (or Exploder, as it would be called for a while when it was first released due to stability problems) a free program, all but taking over the web browsing market. That and IE was simply a better browser once it reached version 3.0.
I am a big history buff, or at least I fancy myself as such. So I personally get a kick going back into the archives and looking at “lists” from yesteryear. In the May 1997 issue, Shay Fulton compiled a bunch of categories and gave out some “awards.” Looking back, it’s obvious how far we’ve come. “Most Useful Piece of Hardware that is under $300” was the Iomega Zip Drive. This “marvel” of the time held a whopping 100MB of data on removable disks. Back in 1997, that seemed like a lot. Today it’s almost impossible to backup your data using 650MB CD-ROMs. Heck, one iMovie project cannot even fit on one CD-ROM, let alone Zip disks.
Another was: “The winner of the “Busy Signals Galore” category must go to America Online, which currently has over a trillion members and a total of three access numbers for all of them to use.”
Hard to believe, but Mike Wallinga proved he was way ahead of the curve when he said Apple needs a Tiger. And here we are, eight years later, and Apple is about to release Tiger! Of course, Mike was speaking about signing a more popular Tiger, of the Woods variety, to an endorsement deal. Today we have Bono and the rest of U2 pimping the iPod.
June 1997, our 26th issue, was a milestone for us. It was the first published article for MyMac.com by John Nemerovski! John had come to us from what I considered the best digital magazine of the time, Macsense, where he wrote one of my favorite monthly articles, Brave New World. In his first article, ATTention, please!, John wrote some about the TMUG, or Tucson Mac Users Group. John is still very actively involved in the user group to this day, a commitment to the Mac that few people have had for as long as John has. His dedication to both MyMac.com and TMUG, where he regularly helps other Mac users with problems and questions, shows what a great person he really is. Of course, way back then, I had no idea that John would become a regular writer for us, nor that he would prove to be one of the longest lasting. To this day, only Russ, Adam, and myself have been here longer, and beside myself, none have continuously contributed more content to the site than John.
John officially joined the MyMac.com ranks in our 27th issue.
Adam Karneboge kept us out in front of the competition once again in June 1997 by showcasing an exciting preview of Mac OS 8.0, code named Tempo. With screen shots and many details, Adam was far ahead of the curve in reporting on the next major Mac OS releases, as he had done with both systems 7.5 and 7.6.
I get a lot of email, but one of the most popular questions I get (to this day!) is all due to one review in that issue. The review was by Shay Fulton of the game A-10 Cuba, a flight simulator/combat game I never even played. But still, to this day, I get email from Mac users wanting to know if I can tell them where to buy this game, or if I can send them a copy. (No and no, sorry).
To really see how far Macs have come, Brian Koponen’s Networks article stated “While the arcane machinations of a network may seem foreign to most people, the fact is that networks are in wide use by a good number of Mac users. When you bought your computer, you might have read about network capabilities. Many people pass this off as useless information and go about their business.”
Now, of course, networking your Macintosh is as common as anything done with computers. But back in 1997, Apple was far behind in network technology, leaving Mac users to fiddle around with AppleTalk, RJ11 jacks, and Terminating resistors to get their computers to talk to each other. Today, if you are on a high-speed connection such as a Cable Modem, you are on a network. If you have two or more Macs connected to a router, you have a network. In fact, networks today are so far advanced from 1997, we have wireless networks that take almost no time to setup. Simply connect an Apple Airport Base Station and any Mac with a wireless network card will automatically see and use it. We can share our digital music libraries wirelessly, and soon, I am sure, sync our iPods with our iTunes library without the need for wires or cables.
While much has changed in the world of computing, some things have not. One such thing that should change but hasn’t? Mac users flaming writers who dare say anything negative in the mainstream press about Apple or the Mac. It was July 1997 when I wrote about the negative influence of Guy Kawasaki’s EvangeList newsletter. Guy used it to call attention to articles that were either false in nature or downright biased against the Mac or Apple, and his legions of readers would then bombard the offending writer of the article.
While it was nice to have someone pointing out the falsehoods in the mainstream press about Apple, the way in which Mac users would then send thousands of nasty emails was not. If anything, it proved to be counterproductive, making those writers view all Mac users as overzealous nut jobs, and helped cement the term “Mac Zealot” in the public mind. Unfortunately, the practice is still active today, with the same negative end results. Well-reasoned and polite rebuttal articles and emails go much further in swaying opinions or educating the ignorant.
After I wrote my article, I forwarded a copy onto Guy before I published it. He wrote a rebuttal, which we also published on the very next page. While I agreed with many of the points he made, I still felt my original article was a needed splash of cold water on the harm the Zealots were doing in the name of all Mac and Apple supporters.
How long has MyMac.com been publishing? Consider the article Brain Koponen wrote for that July 1997 issue titled “DVD.” Afterwards, many, many people emailed thanking us for that article and introducing them to this new disc format.
In the sweltering heat of August 1997, three major events happened in the Mac world. First, we released out 28th issue! Okay, perhaps that does not count as a major event. It was for us, though. More importantly for Mac users, and eventually the entire computer industry, there was a major shake-up at Apple Computers. CEO Gil Amelio was fired, soon to be replaced by Steve Jobs. At the time we went “to press” with our August issue, there was rampant speculation on who would and should succeed as Apple CEO. The candidates seem to include Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison (CEO of Oracle), Jim Barksdale (CEO of Netscape), Ellen Hancock (who had been chief technology officer under departing Gil Amelio), and even Guy Kawasaki.
Also that month, the real major news for the Mac faithful was the release of Mac OS 8. This was a major release of the Mac OS, not the least of which brought a new form of stability to the flaky and crash-prone OS 7.X system. While Mac OS 7 was a much more significant update to the previous Mac OS, Mac OS 8 moved the Mac closer to the promise of a modern-day operating system. At the time, Mac users were still two-and-a-half years away from our first glimpse of Mac OS X.
The summer of 1997 was really the turning point for Apple Computer. While the mainstream press was all but announcing the imminent collapse of the company and death of the company, behind the scenes things were happening that are still being felt today. Mac OS X was under development. Steve Jobs was consolidating his power at Apple and plans for the iMac were getting started.
Another momentous event for MyMac.com took place in that 28th issue as well: John Nemo’s first Book Byes was unleashed. In the eight years since, Book Bytes has reviewed more Mac related books than any other site on the Internet, save Amazon.com, and I don’t think they count. Month after month, John and other writers (including myself) would read and sifted through the pile of newly released books that Mac users were likely to want to buy. Good, bad, and ugly were all reviewed. It’s a tradition that continues to this day.
September, 1997 pretty much signaled the end of the Macintosh clone computer makers as Apple purchased the “core assets” of Power Computing. While many Mac users were understandably upset at the time, the decision (made largely by Steve Jobs, still not the official CEO) was the right one. Rather than grow the Macintosh market share, all Power Computing did was cannibalize the high-end Mac sales with faster and cheaper machines than Apple was able to release. (It helps when you don’t have to actually develop or pay for the creation of the operating system.)
Also that month, a writer named Susan Howerter joined us, though her first article “Deux ex machina” was published under our “The Readers Voice” column. It was the following month that Susan would become a regular writer, at one point actually contributing two monthly articles. Susan was one of the best writers I had read, and I was ecstatic to have her aboard. Unfortunately for all of us, Susan would pass away in June 2000, less than three years from the month she started writing for us.
The Boston Macworld Expo was a shocker that year. Steve Jobs had assumed the roll of CEO, later taking the moniker iCEO after Dennis Sellers coined the phrase at MacCentral.com. A new board of directors was seated at Apple, which included (not surprisingly) Larry Ellison. After Apple’s $740 million dollar second quarter loss, things were about to go from doom and gloom to strange and scary.
The biggest reaction of the Steve Jobs keynote from the audience was when the face of Bill Gates was shown smiling down on the Mac faithful from the mammoth projection screen on stage. (Boo’s and hisses rang out, which Jobs put a stop to). It seemed to come right out of the 1984 Macintosh ad. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs spoke of the Microsoft/Apple alliance in which the Redmond, WA, company would invest $150 million dollars in non-voting Apple stock, as well as promise to continue developing software for the Mac for five years.
Looking back at that Macworld Expo, the clone makers seemed to still be going strong, and in fact had a huge presence at the Expo itself. This was July, and by August, Apple was cleaning out the offices of Power Computing. Once Steve Jobs stated his intent not to license any future versions of the Mac OS, it spelled the doom of the clones.
The Boston Macworld Expo is really the beginning of the current era of Apple Computer. While the iMac, iPods, and the like was still far in the future, it was at this moment that the ship that is Apple was steered in the right direction after years of ineptitude and directionless sailing.
Our October 1997 issue was a first: we had advertisers! Three companies were featured in our 30th issues with advertisements, including Small Dog Electronics (Where do I know that name from?), Cyberian Outpost, and PowerTools (A Macintosh clone maker, working under the UMAX license). Of the three, only Small Dog still exists. Cyberian Outpost originally paid for their advertising, but then when we moved to their affiliate program, we never saw another dime. They told me no one had purchased anything at any time via a link from our site. Funny thing was, I physically sat down at a relatives house and clicked their link from our website and purchased a modem and a computer. Needless to say, we dropped them as an advertiser quickly. That is also why, to this day, we shy away from affiliate programs, though we do occasionally run an Amazon.com link.
That same month, we also welcomed writer Mick O’Neil. Mick had written a Macintosh monthly column for the European computer magazine Personal Computer World Magazine. An excellent writer, we felt privileged to have him move his MacFactor article from PCWM to MyMac.com. Mick, unfortunately, passed away in May 2001. A great writer, Mick would have fit in wonderfully in today’s MyMac.com.
For all the time we had a website, MyMac.com kept a fairly good Apple and Mac links page. We would link to any Macintosh resource we could find on the web, and kept it updated. But many people noticed that, starting with our December 1997 issue, our links page only went to one place: AppleLinks.com. In a paid agreement, we discontinued our links page, and sent anyone who clicked our links URL to AppleLinks.com. Back then, they were an excellent source to find all thing Apple and Macintosh. They had links galore! They also became a sponsor of the downloadable edition of My Mac Magazine.
Many people today think of the game company Bungie, now part of Microsoft, simply as the creators of Halo and Halo 2. What many people fail to remember, if they are old enough, is that before Halo, Microsoft, and the XBOX, Bungie created some of the best games on the Mac, notably Myth: The Fallen Lords. I reviewed the game in January 1998 for our thirty-third issue. At the time, we did not give scores to our reviews, but I gave the game the highest recommendation. Even today, the game holds up as an entertaining and fun game. And while Bungie is no longer the maker of Mac games, Mac game makers would do well to remember that the company started out that way. It bodes well for future game companies who create good quality games for the Mac.
One of Apple’s best television commercials aired in February 1998, and I was right out front in our March 1998 issue singing its praises. The commercial featured a slow moving slug with a Pentium II processor making its way across the screen, with the voice over “Some people think the Pentium II is the fastest processor in the world. Not quite. The chip inside every new Power Macintosh G3 is up to twice as fast.” Great stuff, and Mark Marcantonio agreed. Mark had been writing a monthly article titled My 30 Seconds in which he wrote and solicited mock Apple commercials. A great monthly read.
Starting in issue thirty-five (March 1998), Fenton “Manavesh” Jones began his thirty-part FileMaker 101 series. To this day, many people still find their way to our website when searching for help with FileMaker. The series ran until August, 2000, and provided great know-how to FileMaker users worldwide.
My PodCast co-host, Chad Perry, has a brother named Bill. Bill Perry was kind enough to use his considerable talents in 3D and drawing to create a new character for us as our official mascot. The original character was updated a few times, and can still be seen today in our logo.
Finally, in our March 1998 issue, I wrote about how MyMac.com almost became eWorld. That’s right, we almost changed our name to the then (and still) defunct Apple online service. I had a licensing agreement with Apple, signed and ready for processing, in my hands. I even had communication with Steve Jobs on the matter. All was ready to go, but in the end, I decided that after three years of growing MyMac.com and My Mac Magazine, I did not see any benefit of changing. (Or of putting Apple Computer in a role to control any of our content, which the agreement would have given them).
Next time around, year four!