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Welcome to Macintosh – 20 years later

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Lisa and the Mac

I haven’t touched an Apple Macintosh in more than 20 years.  I’m no stranger to the Mac (or even the Lisa).  I laid my hands on the Apple Lisa in college.  At a price tag of about $10,000 with its 5MB hard drive no real person could afford this computer.  At the time, a PC cost about $3,000.  But, the Lisa, what a wonder.  What we saw was the graphical user interface.  This was the first time people saw a mouse, and icons, and all the rest of what we take for grated now.  I remember, watching people play with the Lisa for the first time, they would throw the clock icon into the trash icon just to see what would happen.  Computers with pictures?  Icons?

Then there was the Mac – a computer for the Rest Of Us.  There was the Mac, the Fat Mac, the Mac Plus, the Mac SE, the Mac II, and all the rest.  At that time, if I remember correctly, a Mac for the Rest of Us was about $2,500.

At the time, the Mac was still more costly than a PC.  People would say, why should I get a Mac when I can get a PC for 30% less?  They didn’t get it.  If you got it, you got it.  And if you didn’t get it, no one could explain it to you.  I remember a PC person telling me, when they found out I had a Mac, “Oh, you’re not smart enough to use a PC – you have a Mac.”.  Ok, DMA’s, IRQ’s, jumpers.  Why should anyone have to mess with any of this stuff if all they wan to do is add a CD-ROM drive, or hard drive, or sound card, or video card?

Can only technicians have computers?  If so, what would they do with them?  Compute?  Crunch numbers?  Is there more that can be accomplished if computers were put in the hands of photographers, artists, musicians, and other non technical people?  It was a paradigm shift beyond technology for the sake and end purpose of technology and traditional computing as understood in the context of corporate computing migrated to the desktop.  Apple saw potential that IBM could not see.


Then there was the NeXT Cube.  I had one and it was a beautiful piece of design and software engineering.  This was the second entrepreneurial adventure of Steve Jobs – after he got fired from Apple.  At $6,000 for the NeXT Cube it wasn’t quite for the Rest of Us.  But only for Some of Us.  The NeXT was too expensive, very few applications, and targeted primarily to the educational market.  Long live the Cube.

So, skip about 20 years and my hiatus from Apple by using nothing but Windows.  In most of the business world of Fortune 500 companies all you will find is a sea of  commodity PC’s (servers and desktops) and very few Mac’s.  It’s mostly about cost, standardization, and simply the momentum of PC’s in the business world.

Welcome to Macintosh

So, for no real reason, I thought I would get a Mac.  Macintosh, where have you been in the past 20 years?

I took a trip to the Apple Store to take a look around.  Of course, the first thing that strikes you about Apple is that the machines are beautiful works of design.  This is one of the points of differentiation of Apple across the entire line of Apple products.  This idea of design is something that people like Henry Ford and other mass market commodity folks that understand only “the utility” and “cost efficiency” of things will never understand.

This idea the people wanted more than utility and more than the most cost efficient product was part of the success of General Motors over Ford.  Henry Ford could not see this and Ford was late to the game in appealing to customers who would buy based on reasons other than the utility and cost of the thing.

Long story short, I bought a Mac Mini.  At $664 it is about 30% more expensive than an equivalent PC as measured by computing power.  But that 30% premium makes all the difference in the world.

Here are a few observations

  1. The Mac Mini is small.  It’s smaller than any micro-mini PC that I have seen so far.
  2. The Mac Mini is unibody aluminum and its beautiful.
  3. You won’t be embarrassed to have any of the Apple products in your home in a living area.  The Macs are not a stamped out piece of metal shaped into a box like a PC.  The Mac’s design is elegant.  Show them off.
  4. It  has a fan and it’s as quiet as quiet can be
  5. It boots and shuts down faster than any Windows PC I have
  6. HDMI output and Apple includes a HDMI to DVI adapter.
  7. Built in wireless, speakers, and power supply.  All self-contained in one unit.
  8. Bring your own keyboard and mouse.  Or, buy the apple keyboard and mouse
  9. No annoying trial software like what is installed like on new PC’s
  10. Includes restore disks.  No wasted space like on PC’s with hidden restore partitions
  11. The Mac is now nearly seamlessly integrated with the Apple Store (see below)
  12. And yes, if you must, the Mac Mini will boot a Windows 7 partition.

The Mac Mini came with Max OS X Snow Leopard pre-installed.  I initially had mixed feelings about Mac OS X which I know is based on UNIX and X windows.  This is an operating system that is 50 years old.  But, the NeXT was also based on UNIX – the Mach kernel.  The NeXT operating system was NeXTStep and it was beautiful.  I have used a lot of UNIX/Linux distributions and was not impresses with any of them.  But, Mac OS X Snow Leopard takes these free LINUX distributions to a new level of usability.  Still, there are remnants of the Mac OS X heritage.  Apple gives you full access (Terminal /Shell ) to the underlying operating system.  So that is good and bad.  It’s bad because some of the Rest Of Us could get in serious trouble.  The original Mac protected you from yourself.  And I think that was a good thing.  Really, the underpinnings of the OS should be hidden.  We should not need to know this stuff.

On the path to convergence – Apple iPad and Macintosh with the Apple Store

I won’t say too much about Mac OS X.  But what is new and I think significant is the Apple Store for Macintosh.

If you use the App Store for Apple iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad you know that this integration of a device and a software store is really a game changer.  If you have an Apple iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch you all know that finding, purchasing, installing, and maintaining software is near effortless.  It is frictionless commerce.  Additionally, software is vetted by Apple before it gets into the Apple Store so you have some confidence that it has past Apple scrutiny.

My Apple Mac Mini came with Mac OS X Snow Leopard pre-installed.  Updates were available from Apple.  When I did the update (effortless) I found I had the Apple Store as an icon in the application doc.

The Apple Store for Macintosh works just like the App Store for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.  Software is priced from free on up.  I picked a free application and clicked on it.  The software installed automatically and an icon appeared in the doc.  It was exactly like purchasing and installing content from the App Store for Apple’s hand-held devices.

Apple was the first to have this Store concept that integrates a device with a catalog of software that was vetted, integrated with a frictionless payment system, easy to install, and automatically maintained for you.  The Store provides an entry point for just about any developer to offer software for sale and share revenue without the need for marketing or distribution on the part of the developer.  Good for developers, for Apple, and the Rest of Us.

Bottom line,  After 20 years, I am back.  Welcome (back) to Macintosh.  It’s good to be back.


What’s inside the Mac Mini –

Some Apple history from the Woz himself –

Apple history and timeline –

Some history on NeXT –

Written by frrl

May 29, 2011 at 5:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

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