Do You Have a Dream Macintosh?

July 5th, 2007

I have to tell you that I’ve purchased quite a few Macs for myself over the years. No, I didn’t own the original compact models, although I used them at various workplaces in those days. I actually waited several years before bringing one home with me, and that was a IIcx in 1989, along with the famous LaserWriter IINT and the 12-inch Apple color display.

Indeed, I thought I was in computing heaven in those days; that is, until I encountered my first genuine Mac virus a short time later, and had to erase and reinstall everything to set things right. So anyone who believes that Macs are immune to viruses is living in an alternate universe. We’ve just been lucky with Mac OS X; that’s all.

I might have had otherwise fond memories of that computer had I not discovered the IIci a few months later. Well, no sense lusting after something I couldn’t acquire. I made a deal with my employer to have one sent my way the next time they ordered new equipment, at the same time selling my IIcx to some lucky soul who never owned a personal computer before.

Over the years, I did own some Macs that were notable in terms of performance or being the first of their kind. I was particularly pleased with the Quadra 800. No, not upgrading memory, which was an utterly painful process owing to some incredibly foolish design decisions. But it was fast and stable and, in that respect, had an advantage over the flaky if innovative Quadra 840AV, which incorporated technology that Apple never, ever, used again. Thank heavens!

The next Mac I purchased was one of the first PowerPC models, the 8100/80. It used the same case as the Quadra 800, but I was otherwise disappointed. Performance actually seemed worse, partly because Apple had not completely moved its operating system to the PowerPC platform, so a great deal ran sluggishly under emulation. That, and the lack of native software, left me with an expensive box that was no faster than the IIci. It took a couple of years for things to sort themselves out.

If you think dealing with Rosetta emulation on an Intel-based Mac seemed agonizing, let me tell you that this particular processor migration was done with a lot more finesse, not to mention months ahead of schedule, of course. And, over time, Rosetta has gotten better and better in the various Tiger updates, as the MacIntels have gotten faster. There will be a magical point of convergence before long where emulation will ultimately exceed the performance of the real thing.

Today, my favorite Mac is probably my 17-inch MacBook Pro. I always thought Mac note-books were notoriously underpowered, compared to desktop computers. Application launches were almost always terribly slow, and the simple things that seemed to take seconds on a G4 or G5 desktop cause a PowerBook to protest, even if it was maxed out with memory.

Not so with the MacBook Pro, and you can well understand why two-thirds of all new Macs sold are note-books and Apple garners over 14% of the U.S. retail market in this category.

As you may realize once you spend a long amount of face time with these babies, an Intel-based Mac note-book will match and often exceed the performance of almost any G5 you can name. Why? Well, it does seem that Tiger was meant to run on the Intel processor all along. Take the oft-criticized Finder, for example. It isn’t perfect, but seems less prone to hangups on the Intel platform.

The most important thing to me, however, is that I no longer feel I’m giving up a substantial amount of performance on a Mac note-book. No, I’m not about to give up on desktop computers, as so many of you have done. Although I’ve finally become accustomed to a note-book keyboard and trackpad, it’s still far from perfect. I much prefer that Microsoft Comfort Keyboard that graces my desktop and the accompanying wireless mouse that seems to fit my right hand like a glove.

Sure, I can use those input devices on a note-book too, but that would present an awkward situation, having to sit in bed with added appendages. That works against the purpose of having a slim, trim computer at my beck and call, don’t you think?

Some day, though, I imagine there will be no such thing as a desktop computer. You’ll have one that’s probably no larger than today’s iPhone, and it’ll probably respond seemlessly to voice commands. But that’s then and this is now.

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7 Responses to “Do You Have a Dream Macintosh?”

  1. Ryan says:

    I do think we will see a shift away from a mouse to more multi-touch type devices. The form factor may be a single screen like the iMac, but on an inclined plane-type stand around 45 degrees, raised to a level that will minimize neck strain and hunched backs. There will still be support for a keyboard on this "TouchMac" until voice recognition improves or tactile feedback is somehow integrated into the touch screen.

  2. Steve says:

    Interestingly, I started my Mac experience with the IIci, shortly after your first. 
    Last Christmas we acquired the MacBook Pro 2.16.  After extensive testing for the types of things I do that require much processing time (transcoding video, running databases, primarily), I found that the MacBook Pro just about equaled the performance of my aging Dual 2.5 G5 for the video stuff, but still lacks on DB performance – faster HDDs seem to be the main reason.  For individual tasks, the G5 is faster on some things, the MacBook Pro on others.  I'm sure that the latest upgrades and faster processors give the edge to the MacBook Pros.  Interestingly enough, I still prefer to sit in front of my G5 as it still has more RAM, HDD storage etc.
    My G5 was my dream Mac, and it's still the best overall computing experience I've had, but dreams change, and I'll be waiting for the new Penryn based quads at, hopefully, somewhere above 3.5 GHz.  Now that's worth dreaming about!!

  3. J K Lassitter says:

    What I'd like is a 24" iMac with dual 500-Gb hard drives; where one is used exclusively for automatic backups (and is bootable if necessary).  100% of harddrives will fail eventually; it's just a matter of time.  There seems to be more than enough real estate in a 24" iMac to accommodate dual drives.  I'd much rather have an extra built-in hard drive than an external strap on in order to reduce top-of-desk clutter.

  4. Dana Sutton says:

    Let's begin by making a distinction between producers and consumers. People who just passively consume Web content and other media output created by others may eventually be better served by the kind of computer Gene envisions. But I'm not sure that's so appropriate for people who create the content might be a lot more reluctant to move from the kind of gear they are using right now. So far, both groups have shared a single computer (at least conceptually speaking), but eventually we may come to a fork in the road where computer-as-entertainment-device and computer-as-productive-tool (which would probably need to be able to mimic the former, but might be very different in terms of interface, input technology, and much much else) might start evolving along very different paths.

  5. Aaron says:

    My idea of a Dream Macintosh, well it is more of a system than a one particular model with different centers of operation on being at home and another for mobility:

    Desktop Model: Lots of Expansion (RAM, PCIe)More Video Card Options, Dual Quad Core or more
    Network Appliance: Home Based Xserver with two+full size Hardrives (a Device to feed the AppleTV)
    Portable Model: Flash Based UMPC (bigger than an iPhone, Smaller than a MacBook, with Firewire support.

    Not to much to ask! Personally I think Apple needs to expand there current product line. Now that they are attracting a larger Audience with there switch to the Intel Platform.

  6. Dana Sutton says:

    You have to make a distinction between consumers and producers: between people who passively consume content created by others and those who create the content. The kind of ideal Macs you guys are imagining would perhaps suit the former group, but I think most of us in the latter one would prefer sticking to something far more like our present gear. So far both groups have coexisted using a single kind of machine (conceptually, I mean), but maybe we are coming to a fork in the road where the needs of the two camps become so different that the machines built for them will start going down different evolutionary paths.

  7. A 24-inch iMac running Leopard with the soon to be released new versions of iWork and iLife.

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