Are You Ready for 30 Years of Macs?

January 14th, 2014

That 1984 commercial for the Apple Macintosh, directed by Ridley Scott and influenced by George Orwell’s “1984,” has become the stuff of legend. To some, it was the greatest TV spot ever. It may also be that Apple never, ever, scaled those heights again when it came to advertising, and that includes the original “Think Different” campaign.

But to many people in those days, the Mac was simply a toy. Real people used command lines to interface with PCs, so where did Apple get off with this silly point and click stuff anyway?

However, that didn’t stop Microsoft from moving full steam towards creating Windows, using technology acquired from Apple in a foolish move where CEO John Scully gave away the store, more or less. Despite what some myth makers state, the Mac never had a majority share of the market, although it had a loyal following of creative professionals early on.

I remember, for example, a New York-based music producer, someone with whom my wife was working on some new material, who said he planned to outfit a home studio with a Mac. That didn’t happen until a couple of years later, but the setup allowed him to record multitrack recordings without paying huge sums to a professional studio. Well, maybe all of the high-end sound enhancement and mixing capabilities weren’t there yet, but a solid demo was within the realm of possibility on a “mere” tabletop computer.

When my employer, a prepress studio in New York City, discovered the Mac, it become the platform of choice for desktop publishing. Traditional typesetting soon went on life support. So I soon became proficient in QuarkXPress which, at the time, was a Mac-only application. Output was done on a network consisting of the LaserWriter II laser printer and an Agfa Compugraphic high resolution output device that used traditional typesetting paper and film.

When I finally brought the Mac into my home, I had been working with an office colleague, a PC user, in trying to do an online texting session. This was way before wireless phone companies made a big texting push. In the old days, it was all about establishing a personal terminal session, using a telephone modem and some special software, or using the same tools to connect to an expensive online service, such as CompuServe.

With My Mac, I was able to begin the session in a few minutes using an app known as Microphone. My comrade kept telling me over the next few days that he was working on creating a shell on his PC, but it never seemed to happen. He continued to extol the virtues of the PC over the Mac, but I wonder what he would have said about the uselessness of graphical interfaces after Microsoft more or less perfected Windows.

The irony today is that the Mac, which made a huge success of point and click, now offers a rich set of command line tools to manage the underbelly of OS X. Curious indeed!

Now being a Mac user in a world that had embraced MS-DOS from Microsoft, I was an orphan whenever I visited a computer store. On the few occasions when Mac software was around, it was usually old and dusty and not always the latest version. I was told over and over again that I had to use Microsoft’s OS and a traditional PC to embrace the real world, but I still managed to make a decent living on a Mac.

Even when I departed that prepress studio, I carved out a home-based business with my Mac, handling desktop publishing and writing chores for an audio equipment manufacturer and a small publisher. After becoming active in the Mac support forums on AOL, they actually decided to hire me as a paid forum leader, which meant a decent side income for a few years. Writing gigs with tech publications and a number of  book deals followed.

Even in the old days, when Macs were relegated to niche status and Apple was subjected to periodic death watches, I persevered. I had plenty of opportunity to try Windows and found it wanting. Every few years, I acquired a new Mac, migrating the files from the older machines. Indeed, there are still some files that are over 20 years old on my Mac, although I wonder whether any of my current software can actually open those documents. Several were created in QuarkXPress, and recent versions won’t open those documents, but there’s nothing unusual about that. App publishers usually aren’t concerned about such niceties as being able to actually read older files.

Now over the next few weeks, you’ll see a number of articles about the Mac experience, but probably not from Apple, which seldom looks back. The critics will be at it again, claiming Apple has lost its way. They will cite chapter and verse on what needs to be done to right the sinking ship.

But I’ve lived for nearly three decades with the claim that I had made the wrong decision in choosing Mac. Through thick and thin, my Macs have helped me earn a living while seldom causing any serious trouble. That’s a pretty good batting average.

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