Surfing the Barkings! blog written by the people at Vermont Apple reseller Small Dog Electronics reminded me that the Mac turned 27 recently. It’s a great post and they reflect on the enormous leap forward in computing power and reducing cost that technology changes through those 27 years have brought.
Indeed even your humble iPhone has several times more computing power and memory than the first Macintosh. They invited people to reflect on their Mac memories and here are mine.
My first Mac was a SE. I used to run warehouse parties and events in night clubs. The bromide proofs for poster artwork and flyers were expensive. I heard that I could proof the work on screen with this Mac computer.
I bought the computer and the software and it paid for itself in 5 months.
When I went back to college in the mid-1990s I bought a PowerBook 165 which had 16 shades of greyscale and powered a Stylewriter II printer. The computer was a big and the battery lasted under two hours. But I was able to connect it to the college internet network and browse the web with Mosiac. I completed all my college assignments in ClarisWorks and still miss the Oscar the Grouch trashcan application that all Mac users used to have on their machine back then.
I kept on with a portable Mac through the late 1990s, but the next big turn my experience was owning a white Apple iBook running the early versions of OSX which were a revelation and getting dial-up internet when I bought my own home.
This machine also served as a portable entertainment system, playing DVDs until I was able to get a multi-region DVD machine and listening to internet radio through iTunes. I used to rip my CD music collection to MP3 via iTunes and make MP3 CD-Rs on a Sony Sports Discman that supported the format, since a few discs would give me 30 albums of music.
The next big difference was broadband rather than the Mac as a platform. At this time I also started using mobile email and Apple’s early provision of an IMAP email service that was divorced from your ISP subscription was a key driver for me to go mobile. This also meant that when I was cash strapped and the logic board on my iBook died I went out and bought a Mac Mini using that for a while until I could afford a 15″ MacBook Pro.
Wi-Fi and the rise of mobile dongles together with a more consultative role around social media meant that this was my first real ‘road-warrior’ machine. It went around the world with me to France, Germany, the US, Cyprus and Hong Kong. Having a spare screen from the Mac Mini meant that I started to working across two screens as a norm and this changed the way I handled my computing in a subtle but important way with one screen acting as a work screen and the other one acting as a ‘real-time’ dashboard.
Eventually this machine failed and I currently use a 13″ MacBook Pro (called Toshiro after Mifune Toshirō) as my ‘road-warrior’ machine. I also moved my mobile email to an Apple iPhone 3GS, mainly because other devices made such a mess syncing with my address book.
All this progress hasn’t meant constant improvement.
Apple is often praised for its industrial design but this also has had retrograde steps; one thing the PowerBook 165 did have which my current MacBook Pro doesn’t was little legs that tipped the keyboard up at an ergonomic 11 degrees which I tend to feel the effects of after doing a lot of typing.
Part of the reason why Apple computers have become cheaper in real terms is because they have skimped on the costs in other areas. The keyboard on its modern laptops and its desktop computers have less travel and a less precise feedback than older keyboard because Apple doesn’t want to use ALPS switches; which is the reason why Matias reinvented the original Apple extended keyboard with the ‘Tactile Pro‘.