25 years of the Mac

The Macintosh computer just turned 25 Johnny Got His Gun move . I bought one of the original 128K Macs not long after they came out. I remember being reluctation to shell out $50 for a box of 10 400k floppy disks (these were the the 3.5″ type that weren’t actually floppy, and became standard on IBM PCs quite a few years later). I thought I was unlikely ever to need 4 megabytes of storage, so I got the store to sell me what was left in a box they’d already opened. And I was pretty dubious that anyone could really use the 512K of RAM offered in w the top-of-the-line “Fat Mac” which came out soon afterwards. It didn’t take me long to discover my error and upgrade.

I’ve owned just about every model since then**, and Macs have been a huge part of my life. I’d find it hard to estimate the increase in my productivity* associated with using Macs instead of typewriters or command-line computers back in the 1980s and early 1990s. This question was the subject of long-running religious wars which persisted until quite recently, but after the emergence of Windows it became pretty clear that the Mac style of computing was the only serious option, and that people who didn’t want to use Apple Macs for one reason or another would only have to wait a few years for the MS knockoff (next instalment, Windows 7).

For a while in the 90s, it seemed likely that Windows would prevail, but the return of Steve Jobs to Apple changed all that. Now, there’s a lot of talk that minimal net-based computers will take over, but such talk has been round many times before (smart terminals, thin clients and so on) and never gone anywhere. At this point in my life, I’m pretty confident Macs will be around as long as I am.

* That was before blogs which soaked up an awful lot of that excess productivity, though with lots of compensating benefits.

** Though not, IIRC, the Mac SE/30, listed here as the best Mac ever. At the time it came out, I was using a Mac II at work, and a much-upgraded original Mac at home.

35 thoughts on “25 years of the Mac

  1. Joe#22 I once got a job as a branch accountant even though I had never seen the general ledger, done any journal entries, and didnt have any qualifications other than knowledge of excel on the first desktop macs in the 1980s (was it a 1o megabyte hard drive?). We arranged a swap so that they would teach me the general ledger if I would teach their accounts department to move from paper roll calculators (I forget what they called those small machines) and paper based systems to excel on macs. It didnt reduce paper or produce the paperless office as touted at the time though.

  2. I will say this though, the old paper accounts systems were very very tight. There were always two strips of added calculations on paper batch of cash receipt or cash payment transactions, done and signed off by at least two different people with separate roles. Then a third addition and sign off was done by the one who walked to the bank with the receipts (yes walked).

  3. Arguing about Mac vs Win is a bit like arguing over VHS vs Beta during the DVD age. Its all going online. The UI will look the same on a Mac or PC, just like the UI I am typing into now looks the same on Mac or PC.

    From now on the UI will be designed by the developer of the online service.

  4. productivity and efficiency always have an underlying ‘for whom’. I remember doing a pay audit at a large company in the 70s (worked as a junior for Coopers and Lybrand for a bit). If you started on Thursday you got a day’s cash on Friday. Post computing how long does it take? Who benefits from that delay?

  5. The operating systems on both Mac and PC I find to be the weak link, I understand that they are designed as software to make upgrades possible and to be a cash cow for computer companies, but it comes at such a high cost in terms of reliabilty. I remember the Commodore Amiga 20 years ago with a built in Windows style ROM operating system, it never crashed and couldn’t get viruses since it was read only it also booted instantly. Considering a computer usually gets upgraded as often as the operating system, why am I still paying Microsoft for software?

  6. My own Mac history parallels your own almost exactly, Prof Q. Wrote my PhD thesis on an original 128K model successively upgraded to a 1MB version before it shuffled off its mortal coil (well, motherboard) one 40 degree day. I then had the fabled SE30, but its hard disk died too… after about 4 more years. I still have them all (8 in all) in a Mac museum my partner moans about occupying too much space in the spare room.

    There is so much I could say about why I remain loyal, but the main reason is that so much of how they work is just intuitive, something the IBM/MS world computers can never be accused of. I’m still somewhat miffed though by the policy shift brought in by the corporate types that ran Apple in the 90s not to offer upgrade paths for existing users when new models are introduced.

  7. “For a while in the 90s, it seemed likely that Windows would prevail”

    It did – 90% or so of all computer users have Windows

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