24 years ago, eh? Most people know that I’m a bit of a mac fan (or victim – take your pick). Given that I spend so much of my working life at a keyboard it’s a real testament to the OS+hardware combo that I still enjoy the very processes of _using_ the computer. Apart from the dull, awful year of the late OS9 phase (think 1997-2000, when Windows NT was a more fulfilling computing experience and Windows2000 “just worked”) every day of using 5 versions of OSX have been fun. Well, nearly.
I missed the start of macdom, only coming across my first mac in early 1988. I’d just come off a “computer course” at Ernst & Young, on an aged Epson orange-screen, keyboard-clips-to-the-front machine and there, in the middle of the open plan office, was a pretty little SE (or SE/30, or something – it was a little box, anyway). It still had its antimacassar on, it was “portable” in the way that a rickshaw makes people ‘portable’, it didn’t have multifinder and the 9″ screen was a porthole, but goodness me was it lovely. Intuitive and it ‘just worked’.
Having MS Word and Excel made the machine useful, so it’d be naive to think that the OS alone could make the machine a success. Indeed, with Apple’s vanity foray into “we be for the creatives” it was nearly wholly marginalised as a business machine. Arguably its entrenched position in the publishing and design departments kept it alive (or was that the enormous software investment in Quark that was a disincentive to change?) while Jobs wandered off and did ‘pretty unix’ via NeXT.
A combination of industrial design (Ive), good UNIX underpinnings or DNA (from NeXT), flair and confidence (from the return of jobs) and an understanding of “mass affluenza”, supporting ‘design items’ and higher prices than the cost-cutting obsessives inside the megaboxshifters would have thought sensible and we have today’s Apple.
The company today has defined a new consumer electronics niche – twice. The iPod and iTunes linked hardware and a licensing business model that was new; the iPhone is a desirable phone that’s the first to make on-the-move data access really usable, while also creating a new economic model for working with telcos (the revenue-share agreements rather than subsidised handset prices).
Still – let’s not get too misty-eyed: not until we see the 10″ Macbook Superair – an iphone-style touchscreen osx-running, optionally-keyboarded datamunching ever-connected wondergizmo – the Apple Newton re-born! I’m just going to nip off and unwrap the pristine Newton 120 that Doug bought me off ebay (in generous sarcasm, I’m sure). Your time will come again, my pretty…
UPDATE: for an amusing look at Mac obsessives, check out the trailer here: http://www.macheadsthemovie.com/ Some great quotes and much at which to chuckle: whether at aging hippies who see Apple as the new revolution, tart comments about them being misguided fools or the sensible point about ‘love the community not the mac’. It has the makings of a great documentary and – whatever your view – it’s a reminder to brand owners in a global, consumerist world, about the power of connection your brand with people’s passions.