Apple, Inc. is celebrating 30 years of the Macintosh personal computer platform. Growing up in the 80’s I guess I will always have a special place in my heart for Apple. I think it’s enough to think of Apple as an American entrepreneurial success story, with a couple of crazy guy’s dreaming to change the world in part. However, living the technology as it was developed, manufactured, marketed, and used was an amazing experience. Probably the closest experience since has been the adoption of the smartphone, although those took off like wild fire in comparison to the first consumer branded computers. Indeed, personal computing began as a hobbyist’s interest for those cut from the same cloth as the Heathkit enthusiasts and amateur radio operators. PC’s soon gained the acclaim of business professionals with the introduction of word processing (Word Star Software for DOS) and Lotus 123; electronic spreadsheet.
I credit my father for taking an interest in the notion of personal computers, which he probably developed from being employed in the aerospace industry. My dad purchased the first family computer out of the back of a magazine. The Timex Sinclair 1000, had 2k of memory (there are 8 bits in 1 byte and 1,000 bytes = 1 Kilobyte or 1k) and used a cassette tape recorder to save and retrieve data. This was 1981-2, about the same time the first Sony Walkman was introduced.
By this time the personal computer technology race was on, Apple Computer Inc. having already rolled out the Apple II, Apple IIe, was on to their third iteration, the Apple III which included a built in floppy disk drive. International Business Machines had its IBM PC model 5150 on the market. Microsoft was in the background writing code which led to a licensing partnership with IBM for the DOS operating system establishing their seemingly monopoly in the PC OS space. There were a few other players including Radio Shack’s Tandy computer lineup as well as the Commodore, which came along in short order. For our family, it was an upgrade to an Apple IIe clone known as the Franklin Ace 1000 that changed the game.
I recall the deliberation that went into purchasing that computer. Yes it was a knockoff, but the cost with the required peripherals ran nearly $3,000 in 1983 and was sold by an independent, boutique style computer store. Before long, these personal computer stores were popping up all over the country and retail chains like Egghead took off with over 200 stores nationwide. Every shopping center with a frozen yogurt shop had a computer store it seemed.
As I recall, the biggest leap in personal computing did in fact begin after the introduction of the Macintosh (Mac). Apple was one of the first computer companies to take the graphical user interface (GUI) and incorporate into a PC designed for the average user. It did not take long for others to leverage the use of the GUI including, of course, Microsoft. As a testament to history and the market struggle between Apple and Microsoft, interesting enough my first GUI PC experience was on a DOS based machine. It was an early version of Microsoft Windows that was nothing more than the DOS file system portrayed in a graphical hierarchy that included some clicks and drags. After that it was Windows 286, 386, and then 3.0 which received the hype and media attention only to the likes of the launch of Pac-Man for the Atari gaming counsel.
I remained a loyal DOS and Windows user for about the next 20 years as the battle for the better GUI ragged on. I recall installing the newest version of Windows at every turn including one of Microsoft’s final shipments of the operating system on 3.5″ floppy disks. All together, the program consumed no less then about 20 of those 1.44mb disks and took nearly the entire day to install. It was on one of those same massive installations, that a disk near the end of the install was defective and failed. This was one of Microsoft’s flag-star releases and I was devastated. I will never forget the feeling when I heard the sound of sudden death from the floppy drive; chaeehh, chaeehh, chaeehh, chaeehh….
I was reintroduced to Apple in the form of the MacBook Pro in 2008. This was at a time when Microsoft had begun to lose their way and the availability of high quality notebooks was slim pickings. Of course I was intrigue by the look of the full aluminum body and the slick look and feel of the Machine. I think what really sold me was not the well refined operating system that Apple had developed, but the fact that I could now run Microsoft windows on the Mac. In fact, when I purchased my first MacBook Pro, I deleted Apple’s OSX and installed what was highly regarded as the dog of all Windows versions, Vista. Funny enough, Vista ran like a fine tuned watch on that Mac. It was truly impressive. Over the course of the next year I slowly began to adopt to OSX, integrating more and more of my applications as time went on. Today, the Mac is like another member of the family running nearly 100% of my personal and business applications. The journey of the Apple and their 30 year old Mac is a long one, full of all the ups and downs that went with the day and the life of the tech industry. If you are a fully rehabilitated personal computer user like me, you can’t help but look at that Mac and say, you turned out pretty damn good. So Happy Birthday Mac!