January 28, 2004

Mac Turns 20

Has it really been 20 years?

I've been a Mac fan from the beginning. As anyone who has read my bio knows, my first really real job was with a magazine related to all things Mac. But even before then, I spent many a long afternoon playing Wizardry and Radical Castle with my friend Mike (the guy over there in the sidebar who fantasizes about hitting robots up side the head with a baseball bat) on his Macintosh 512e (the e stood for enhanced) which was the top of the line at the time. The graphics were astounding; there had never been anything like it before. It's amazing to think about the hours we spent staring into that tiny little screen. But we were a lot younger then. And unemployed.

Oh, I mean students.

The Mac Plus — sporting an entire megabyte of RAM — came along a while later. Then came the SE and the Mac II, followed by the Netwon, the PowerBook, some kinda questionable stuff, some kind of crappy stuff, yada yada yada, the triumphant return of Steve Jobs, the iMac, and on into the future. I bought the SpecuSpouse a sweet desktop OS X job for her last birthday. It's the first time I've had a Mac in the house in about ten years, and it feels pretty good. Even if it isn't mine.

The last Mac I used regularly was a PowerPC, and I mostly hated it. But that might have been due to the fact that I had to run Windows on it, and that was a long, painful transition for me. For me — as for a lot of folks, I suppose — Macintosh was much more than just a computer. It was a philosophy, a way of life. A creed. It was the computer for the rest of us, not those losers. Us. We were going to make sure 1984 wouldn't be like 1984.

I remember reading about John Sculley's interview with Steve Jobs before being hired on as CEO. Jobs told Sculley (who was at the time the head of Pepsi Cola) that he could spend the rest of his life selling sugar water, or he could come work for Apple and change the world.

I don't know if we Mac users — or Mac alumni like myself — ever got around to changing the world. I suppose we did, or at least the Mac did. These days it's hard to imagine working on a personal computer without a GUI and a mouse. But we were the ones who got there first, at least on a big scale. I got a handwritten note from Bill Gates in 1987 chastising me for not giving Excel its due in my write-up in the magazine. (Like Word, Excel appeared on the Mac long before it was even possible for it to run on a PC.)

Did I bother to hang on to that note? Of course not. It was of no particular significance, one of the Rest of Us setting another one of the Rest of Us straight. Bill Gates wasn't all that famous at the time, although he was greatly admired by the "Change the World" crowd. After all, he was the little guy, the guy who would dare to take on WordPerfect and Lotus 123 with his little graphical software programs.

It was a magical time. Anything seemed possible.

Posted by Phil at 12:01 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack