Rewriting History

March 27th, 2014

So most of you know that the 30th anniversary of the Mac was observed on January 24 of this year. Unlike in previous years, Apple actually paid attention to the event, and had some videos and other information honoring the anniversary on their site. Certainly those of us who were interested in such things in 1984 no doubt have enjoyed a little reminiscing.

To be sure, the two major Mac magazines, Macworld and Mac|Life, published stories on the subject. The February 2014 issue of the latter ran a piece entitled “30 Years of Mac,” in which they had capsule reports on 30 key developments in the history of the platform.

So far so good.

Now I didn’t read the article right away. I lived this history and thus gave it a lower priority than other stories in that issue. But when I did finally look it over the other day, I was shocked to find so many errors. Some were careless, some no doubt the result of trying to save space, but others simply made no sense.

Was there no fact-checker?

I know when I was writing articles for major tech publications, I always received feedback from editors about this, that, or the other thing. While perfection is impossible, these publications at least made a strong effort to be as factually accurate as possible.

It would take too much space to cover all the errors, so I’ll just focus on a few highlights.

So in item number four, which focuses on the Macintosh Portable, it states that its successor was the PowerBook 170. But item number 6, “By the Book,” reports that “the entry-level PowerBook 100 had mostly the same specs as the behemoth it replaced,” and I’m sure you can see the mistake.

Item number 8, “Powering Up,” invents a non-existent PowerPC upgrade card that was supposedly available before Apple released the first Macintosh sporting the processor in 1994. I suppose they confused the fact that the first chip containing the processor, the PowerPC 601, was released in 1992. It was supposed to end up in computers from IBM, but they never actually shipped.

The next item, “Send in the Clones,” assumes that “Mac clones didn’t make a very big splash,” but that’s not true. The intent of the clones was to expand the Mac marketplace. Instead, such cloners as Power Computing went with a vengeance after Apple’s core market of content creators with cheaper boxes and faster processors. All right, they were assembled with the same rough-and-ready lack of style as a standard PC box, but it was still a real Mac. I even owned a couple.

If the folks at Mac|Life had really checked the history, they’d see that Steve Jobs pulled the plug on the cloning program not because it wasn’t successful, but because it was successful in a way that hurt Apple.

Speaking of Jobs, item 11, “The Return of Steve Jobs,” merely reports that he “initially returned to Apple in 1996 as an ‘informal advisor.’ But the reason for his return is wiped away, since it was the result of Apple’s purchase of Steve Jobs’ company, NeXT for $400 million. The purchase was announced on December 20 of that year, and it brought with it the OS that eventually morphed into OS X. How soon they forget.

One the sillier mistakes is found in item number 12, “Introducing Bill Gates,” where they report on the deal Apple made with Microsoft involving the latter’s $150 million investment. As part of this transaction, according to Mac|Life, it was revealed “that Microsoft would be bringing Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office, and Java to the Mac.”

Java? Java has nothing to do with Microsoft.

Besides, Internet Explorer and Office were already available on the Mac. The agreement called for Microsoft’s browser to become the default on the platform, and for Office development to continue for the next five years.

From the amnesia department, item 17, “X Marks the Spot” heralds the arrival of OS X in a buggy, feature-bare public beta in September, 2000. But nothing is said how that related to the 1996 purchase of NeXT that made it all happen. Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose.

I could go on, but I’ll mention just a couple more.

So, under item 20, “Amazing Developments,” Mac|Life publishes a photo of Steve Jobs delivering a presentation that’s dated 2002. But if you look at the pie chart presented in the photo, you see it covers “US Mobile Browser Usage,” and mentions the iPhone, Android and RIM, based on a set of 2010 statistics from Net Applications. Need I say more?

Even the story about the “Intel Inside” transition gets a key detail wrong. Steve Jobs didn’t announce the transition from PowerPC to Intel in 2006. It happened at a Worldwide Developers Conference in 2005, although the hardware didn’t actually appear until the following year. This move was designed to give developers more time to build Intel compatible apps.

The Mac has indeed had a storied history. There are lots of anecdotes that can be told way beyond a simple recitation of key milestones. But the lack of research, and the lack of fact-checking, has made the Mac|Life article less useful for those who want to know how we went from there to here.

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5 Responses to “Rewriting History”

  1. Articles you should read (March 27) says:

    […] “Rewriting history: So most of you know that the 30th anniversary of the Mac was observed on January 24 of this year. Unlike in previous years, Apple actually paid attention to the event, and had some videos and other information honoring the anniversary on their site.” — Read the article on > […]

  2. DaveD says:

    Wow! Glad that I did not read that article at Mac|Life. Thank you for pointing out the mistakes. Mac|Life in a former life was MacAddict. I eagerly awaited for my MacAddict to arrive and still have a few old issues around. Sad to see today how the magazine has become fact challenged.

  3. Peter says:

    I didn’t know that Mac|Life used to be MacAddict. It’s funny because MacAddict was a fanboy magazine. MacWorld was the far more polished.

    Maybe they got rid of all the people who used to be at MacAddict and actually were around when these things were happening.

    • @Peter, Most of the people who stayed in the business went to Macworld. Check the roster. The original editor of MacAddict, Rik Myslewski, went to The Register. But he still does a column at Mac|Life. Rik knows better, and he didn’t know what they were doing. If he had control, I’m sure it would have been accurate.


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