Being a Mac user today in late 2010 is a vastly different experience than it was in 2003 when I first started with Macs. When I first started as a Mac user there was one other person in my entire circle of friends and family that had a Mac – my younger sister had a blue iBook (I don’t remember what the actual model was, but it was one of those colorful looking jobbers that looked so futuristic at the time) that ran OS 9. That made me the only person in that circle that was using OS X. I was a bit of a loner for a few months before my circle started to catch on.
Today the landscape is much different than it was then, I sit in a coffee shop right now where there are seven people in here on computers, only two are PCs. College was ruled by Dells, and the occasional Sony Viao. It wasn’t until near the end of my Senior year that it was common place to see a Mac on campus, and when the Macs came, they came in force. Today, five years later, the Mac train is still picking up steam and driving home full force. For the life of me I never want it to be 2003 again1 because as any long time Mac user will tell you, trying to troubleshoot a problem back then was annoying – to say the least.
In 2003 if there was a computer problem, be it network, email, document related it was ALWAYS the Mac users fault – that was the go to excuse of many IT people. Here’s a typical scenario:
I email a paper to a professor, for some reason none of which being my fault can’t open the file. He emails me to tell me of the problem opening it. I tell him that I saved it correctly. He asked what program I am using and gives specific instructions on how to save it in that program. I tell him that I am using the Mac version of Word, not the Windows version and the commands are different, but I am sure I saved it and attached it correctly.
He responds: “Well the problem is that you are using a Mac.”
The problem was never that I had a Mac, and rarely was even my fault – that though never mattered. I always ended up schlepping a CD or thumb drive to that professors office to give them a file.
That was the Price
That was the price you paid for using a better operating system, no PC users took Macs seriously. A website doesn’t work because you don’t have IE? Too bad, you shouldn’t have bought a Mac. Imagine someone trying to get away with that asinine logic today.
Let’s not forget all those times we had to “bum” a computer from a friend because the course we were taking had a Windows only application that we had to use to pass the class. It was a prejudiced time marked by the Monopoly and utter dominance that was Microsoft. Google was just a cute little Internet company back then, and Apple was just the chimp in the room with the 800lb gorilla.
As with most things in life there were many payoffs to being in the minority Mac users, that made it just an utter joy to be a Mac user back when no one ‘knew’3 about Macs.
Here are just a few things that I remember loving about those good old days:
- Not having to help PC users. Once I got a Mac and “saw the light” I started to tell my PC using friends that needed a little IT love: “Sorry I use a Mac, not a PC – I don’t know what’s wrong with your computer.”
- Not having a computer that weighed half a metric ton.4
- Having a computer with 3-4 hours of battery life, those silly PC users only got 2 hours if they were lucky!
- Not having to worry about “locking” your computer – even if friends wanted to do something simple like change the background they could never figure out how to do it. How frustrated people used to get playing practical jokes was awesome.
- No worries about people wanting to ‘borrow your computer to check email’ any more. People saw that you had a Mac and moved on to the next closest Dell that they could find.
- Putting my computer in a normal messenger bag and not having to carry a fancy Targus bag due to the fact that it was the bigger than anything else a student could carry.5
- Belonging to an elite club. Not just any club, but a club of Mac users. Mac users back then, and still mostly today, were so very polite and helpful to other Mac users. Have a problem? Simple just stroll through the library until you find another Mac user and see if they know the solution – often they did or knew who to talk to about it. I never had a problem with this, and am always happy to help fellow Mac users.
- Being able to ignore virus warnings. I love when a website has one of those stupid pop-ups that warn you a virus has been detected in your ‘My Documents’ folder. Made me lol every time.
Something rather strange, or perhaps unexpected happened between 2005 and now – Macs became popular. Really popular. They became something that IT departments needed to support, not something that was simply nice to support. Any Mac user that comes from the ‘dark times’ when a site would say “IE 5.0+ required” really meant that Safari would not work, will tell you how odd it is that Macs are now so widely accepted.
This is of course good, it has solidified Apple’s finances and insures that the company we love and cherish will be around for some time to come. However, this increased popularity has brought forth a new set of challenges, ones that we won’t know the full impact of for a few years at least – there are however a few things that we can see right off the bat.
It used to be that Macs costed a lot more than than their PC counterparts (let’s leave bundled software, and performance advantages aside) now though that is a tough argument to make. Over the past five years the costs of Macs and every other Apple device has dropped precipitously. Think about the machine that I am typing this on now, the top of the line 13” MacBook Air which cost me $1799+tax, while the first generation of MacBook Airs cost a user (for a top of the line model) $3098 in Jan of 2008. The price has dropped almost 50% while getting faster and better on all fronts.
This of course has to do with components becoming cheaper over time, but it is also a factor of Apples buying power. As Apple sells more and more it can buy more in bulk, and as all we know from Costco buying in bulk can save you a lot of money.
Apple is widely reported to be the largest buyer of flash based memory in the world, and the largest buyer of anything gets taken care of. That trickles down to all Apple customers and right about now it is feeling pretty damn good.
Lastly and perhaps most importantly more and more it seems that companies have begun to realize that they need to make their tools platform agnostic. Rarely does it matter whether you use a Mac or Windows or Linux machine, most of the time if you have a web browser then that is all you need.
I am not so naive as to say that we are all the way there, that in no case does it matter if you have a Mac or PC – but it has come a long way in recent years. It is now truly to the point where you should never have to worry if you are a Mac user, it never used to be that way.
To the Future and Beyond
The crazy part of everything is that we occasionally get to see a glimpse of where technology is heading. Things that I dreamt about as a kid have become a reality for most Americans. Things like having a communicator like they used on Star Trek, perhaps better known now as a cellphone. Having the ability to find out anything in seconds from just about anywhere, thanks to the Internet and the vast amount of information culled by services like Google.
Looking forward we can see the trend of astonishingly better battery life, smaller and faster devices. Pricing reductions and generally accepted wide spread use of technology.
For all the grief I give TSA about their overreaching policies you have to admit that it is impressive how fast they adopt new technologies. Same can be said of so many other organizations, just scroll through our iOS apps and think about some of the big name companies that have made iOS apps – astonishing. Then think about the money that publishers have poured into the iPad – long before there were any rivals on the market. At any point a better tablet could come along and negate all the work these large corporations have done, yet knowing that they still embraced the device from the outset.
I look forward to where we are heading and you should too.
Save for the fact that we didn’t have the Porno Scanners back then. ↩
Except the one that I had that was a long time Mac user. ↩
In the sense that they knew Macs existed and were different, both to use and from a design and price stand point, but practically didn’t know anything else about them. ↩
I remember carrying a 15” Dell Inspiron that thing did weigh a ton. ↩
No offense to those that still carry those, but there are better options out there. ↩