Roughly Drafted and My Journey to the Mac, PC, and Back
If you’re a fan of the company formerly known as Apple Computer, you hate Microsoft, or are somewhere in between, I highly recommend you point your web browser or RSS reader at Roughly Drafted. Daniel Eran posts some very insightful analysis of Apple with respect to Microsoft and the rest of the computer industry. His posts can be quite long at times, but it includes pretty graphs and amusing pictures to go along with it. A large chunk of my RSS backlog can be attributed to this site.
One of the things Daniel Eran goes over frequently is Apple and Microsoft’s history. One thing that particularly sticks out in my mind was the early 1990s when Apple started floundering and Microsoft finally started getting their act together with the release of Windows 95. This reminded me of my own computing history.
My computer history goes back to the Apple II days, which I can thank my step-father for introducing to me in the late 1970s. When I eventually moved in with him, the Mac was a big thing. I naturally became a Mac person as a result. My first Mac was a Fat Mac (512k) that got a third-party expansion board so it was basically a Mac Plus. Somewhere along the way, I traded up for an SE/30, which served me well through college. It eventually got a color video card which turned the internal screen from black and white to greyscale, which was an improvement. I also, eventually, plugged in a color monitor into it. I also somehow lucked into a Mac IIfx, which was a nice fast machine for its time, but had a lot of compatibility problems.
At the end of college, I was in decent financial shape. I had actually managed to get a real job as a systems administrator while still going to school. While the job only lasted three weeks, the money I made with that job was just enough to pay off a lot of the credit card debt I had managed to run up in college. It wasn't a ton of money, but I could afford to spend some.
It was clear I was entering the world of Information Technology. Enough though I hacked on a lot of Unix stuff, a chunk of the IT world revolved around Microsoft DOS and Windows 3.1 (at the time). While I had been reading computer magazines for several years and kind of understood PCs ruled the roost, it didn't really set in until I saw that at my first "real world" job. But I did not have a lot of real experience with this environment.
So here I am with a chunk of money, I'm jonesing for a computer. I knew a guy that was friends with my mom and step-father who could get me set up with a decent PC for a couple of grand--which at the time was pretty good--and a comparable Mac was going to run me a lot more than that. So what do I do? Buy the PC. A little while after buying that PC, I actually remember going out and buying Windows 95 retail. How scary is that?
The Macs were eventually sold off, as was the Apple II, and I went hole-hog PC, though of course I longed for a Mac. And every time I would look at Mac hardware in the late 1990s, I would think I can’t afford that. Macs were upgradeable only to a point, using a lot of custom hardware. PCs were infinite upgradeable with off-the-shelf parts. I ended up acquiring multiple PCs, mostly as a series of parts.
I had always kind of watched Apple from afar as things developed. In 2001, I happened to be at my friend Rob’s house when Mac OSX arrived at his house (one of the first versions). We, of course, installed it on his machine. Sweeeeet. Unix inside. Mac GUI. Niiiiice. Hardware was still too expensive, though.
Meanwhile, my personal frustration with Windows and all of the issues led me down the rabbithole of using Linux on the desktop–for about two years. And while I was able to make it work for the most part, it just wasn’t able to do the kinds of things that were just easier on the PC.
In 2005, I managed to get a Mac for work–a Mac Mini. Had to support a Mac-based product we sold, and the only way I could do that was to have a Mac. So my boss bought a cheap Mac Mini–which wasn’t a whole lot more expensive than a low-end PC–which of course I also used for other things. Mac OSX 10.4 was quite a nice OS. Things worked for the most part. But because it wasn’t my Mac, and it was very underpowered, I didn’t go whole hog into it.
Meanwhile, Apple had announced they were going Intel for their processors. A lot of speculation about what this meant followed, of course. When the new Intel machines came out, I knew I had to have one. And last year, on my birthday, I got one. A white MacBook. A Mac of my very own.
The saying “once you go Mac, you never go back” for me, at least, wasn’t true in the 1990s. I was Mac, but because Apple was what it was back then, I turned away. When it became what I needed again–a little bit of sex appeal doesn’t hurt either–I went back. Will I ever go back? Let’s just say I won’t say never. Apple has to keep out-innovating and continue to meet my needs. As long as it does that, I’ll stay, else I’ll move on to the next thing, whatever that is.