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I was never a True Believer. In fact, probably the opposite.I’m not one of those guys who discovered the joy of computing with an Apple II or an original Mac, and then faithfully bought macs throughout his life. One of the fellowship of fans who kept Apple above water through the 90s. I was a PC all the way.
My grandfather, a huge computer guy, discovered computing through work and was thus a PC fan, and so I had a PC as a kid, and grew up in a PC world. I discovered computing through the DOS command line. Whenever an Apple product was mentioned in my house (quite rarely), it was to dismiss them as overpriced toys.
As a teenage geek, the joy of computers for me was the ability to open a big beige box and be able to swap out any parts I didn’t like for something else. It was about playing graphics-intensive games. (Half-Life 2!)
But, in a way, that makes me the story of Apple’s revival.
I generally disliked Apple products. I disliked the pastel designs. I disliked the underpowered, overpriced iBooks. I disliked PowerPC, and the way that only software optimised for Mac OS could run well on it. I worked in music and film in college, and saw a lot of Macs, and also saw that even for those tasks for which macs were supposed to be “better” like editing, a good Wintel tower did the job just as well. I disliked the arbitrary way in which some things were supported and others not and if you don’t like it, too bad. I disliked the way Apple made it seem like putting together photo slideshows was the apex of computing.
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It wasn’t that I was an anti-Apple zealot. Honestly, for most of my formative geek years, Apple mattered so little to the technology world that I didn’t care enough to begin with. It’s just that I made the then-reasonable determination that ceteris paribus a Mac was less useful and more expensive than a PC. And yeah, a one-button mouse was and still is the silliest idea I could think of. For me, a computer was something you build with of your own hands, like a Lego, not something that comes out of a pretty box.
And today, all of the computing devices I own are Apple devices: iPhone, iPad, MacBook.
So, what happened?
As I said, my story is the story of Apple’s revival. I didn’t change, computing changed.
I bought a 4th generation iPod because, really, there was nothing like it on the market at that time.
The laptop became the most convenient computing device, and a ThinkPad is just as impervious to swapping out RAM as a PowerBook. Computing changed.
All the applications I used ran on the web, so hardware design and overall system reliability became more important than third-party software. Computing changed.
I did change in one way: I outgrew hardcore gaming.
And I didn’t change in one way: I’m vain. Let’s face it, a Mac is just a cool device, and I wanted some of that cool to rub off on me in the classroom and in cafés.
And paradoxically for those who follow the tech industry, it was Google and Microsoft that got me to switch to a Mac. Google because it made most of the things I use run in a browser. Microsoft because it made Office for the Mac, and the Excel and Powerpoint I needed in business school (maybe I ought to thank Janet Reno for that).
The last stroke was multitouch. A laptop with multitouch is one with which I can “right-click” as easily as on a PC. And so the last gate fell, and I switched.
I bought the first multitouch MacBook Pro around Christmas 08.
I also bought the iPhone 3G because it was so obvious that it was the most disruptive and interesting thing to happen to the technology industry since the PC. (And it is a great device.)
And I bought an iPad.
There is no big story.
No story of how I built a business on the Mac’s “desktop publishing” software. No story about how I attended developer conferences. None of that.
But my story is the big story of Apple. It’s the second half of the story. It’s the story of the tens of millions of regular folks who turned Apple into the most valuable technology company in the world. First an iPod, then an iPhone, then a Mac for school, and an iPad, and now I’m hooked. I can’t even think about buying a PC now.
There was no Road to Damascus, no moment where the scales were lifted from my eyes and I Understood the Power Of The Tao Of The Design Of Steve.
Technology changed, a lot. My consumer needs evolved, a bit. Apple sometimes provoked that change, most often anticipated it, always skating where the puck is going, executed nearly flawlessly, and got tens of millions of people like me to buy one, then two, then all of their computing devices from Apple, and to talk the people around them into buying them.
It’s a small story, but at the same time, it’s the biggest story, the story of how Apple became the most important and valuable technology company in the world and, a long 30 years later, after so many twists and turns, realising the vision of one Steven P. Jobs.