Apple to the core

Pismo

The elder statesman among computers in the DogHaus: a 500 MHz G3 "Pismo" PowerBook, circa 2000.

Steve Jobs made my life a whole lot easier.

Back in the day, when I was still full-time at The New Mexican and free-lancing cartoons and the occasional race report to VeloNews, it was all about hard copy. I’d FedEx the ’toons and fax the stories.

It was an imperfect system. VN was supposed to return my original art, but often did not, and a whole bunch of original work got lost during an office cleanup that shall forever live in infamy.

Then I got a Mac SE, a Hayes 1200-baud modem and accounts with AOL and CompuServe. Holy Mary, Mother of God — que milagro!

Suddenly we stringers could upload copy directly to the VeloNews BBS. ’Toons and photos still had to take the long way to press, but that would change, too, with the advent of more powerful Macs, faster modems and digital scanners. That little old country lane called the Internet suddenly was the Infobahn, and shipping a 1MB ’toon was no more difficult than sending an e-mail. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the World Wide Web, but he sure made it easy to navigate.

Little Al

The 12-inch 1.5 GHz G4 PowerBook was the ultimate in MacPortability until the MacBook Air came along.

Two decades later I can look around my home office and see multiple examples of Steve Jobs’ vision come to life. I’m posting this on a 21.5-inch 3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo iMac. On my drawing board sits an iPhone 3GS, charging. Next to the board squats a hot-rodded G4 AGP Graphics Power Mac that I use to digitize ’toons and store stuff. Behind me is a venerable G3 500 MHz “Pismo” Powerbook, one of my all-time favorite laptops.

In the living room you’ll find a 2.66 GHz Mini delivering streaming video to our TV, along with a 12-inch G4 1.5 GHz Powerbook and two MacBooks — my black 2006 Intel Core Duo and Herself’s white 2007 Intel Core Duo 2. My iPad 2 is in there, too. Herself’s is downstairs. Our iPod Touches are in the bedroom.

Last but not least, somewhere around here is a 12-inch G3 800 MHz iBook — it was my kitchen computer for a while until Herself spirited it away (she despises clutter).

MacBook

My primary road machine is a first-gen' Intel MacBook — like everything else around here, it's a little long in the tooth but still gets the job done.

And you know what? They all work, every last one of them. Burglars could clean me out of everything save the Pismo and I could still earn my little bit of living with that elderly laptop. Hell, the second Mac I ever owned, a Quadra 650, still worked when I finally caved to the anti-clutter lobby and sent it off for recycling last year.

“But Patrick,” you say, “you could have done your business on Windows machines just as easily.” Maybe so, but I doubt it.

Macs were made for people like me, non-geeks who wanted to think about the work, not the tool. The Apple GUI has always been simple and intuitive, and the hardware reliable and fairly simple to work on if you decided that you just had to peek under the hood.

Plus I always found Apple’s industrial design more pleasing to the eye. Windows machines looked cheap, mass-produced and blocky, like Soviet-era apartment buildings. Apple’s devices had graceful, swooping lines, odd color schemes and that cheery “Happy Mac” that once appeared at bootup but preceded its creator in death a while back.

Maybe that’s why I have such a hard time parting with them.

But I notice there are about 15 bikes in the garage and a half-dozen Canon cameras lying around the house, and it wasn’t all that long ago that there were four Toyota trucks parked in my driveway. So maybe I’m just a hoarder.

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12 Responses to “Apple to the core”

  1. BenS Says:

    Thank you Patrick. Your thoughts and experience match mine exactly. My first was a Mac SE 20 via the software company. That’s in my basement along with an original Mac, a Mac Plus and a bunch of others. They all still work.

    Life currently is augmented by a host of newer stuff for the spouse and I. (She’d never be on line in a windows world).

    Jobs’ vision worked for me in 1987 and it still works for me in 2011. I consider the iPhone the perfect cycling tool. Lost, touch maps or call for a ride. Need the weather no problem and best of all need an espresso it’s all right there.

    My concern is without Jobs the company’s product sense will drift away from such a good fit with my needs and desires. The world sucks enough that having one place that fits without hassle is just comforting.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Ben, the iPhone is truly a great velo-companion. Take a picture, track and upload your ride to Strava, check your mail to see whether anyone who pays you has something needs doing … and everything is big enough to be seen with 57-year-old eyes. What’s not to like?

      And yeah, I wonder how the company will go forward without its visionary. In recent years Apple has taken steps I didn’t like — like making batteries impossible for a consumer to replace and transforming simple mechanical tasks into pricey trips to the Genius Bar.

      But then I watch someone swearing like a pirate while chasing a multitude of cooties and/or fatal-error messages out of their Windoze machines and I smile.

      • SteveO Says:

        On the other hand, three times we’ve gone to the Genuis Bar and they’ve paid us. 80 gig hard-drive fried, 2 years out of warranty … and they replaced it for free with a 160. 8 gig iPhone 3G died, and they replaced it with a 16 gig 3GS. Good people, at least at the Denver shop.

  2. SteveO Says:

    If you need a laptop, I think the magnetic power cord, magnetic latch, and absence of corners to catch on your messenger bag are worth the price of admission. Any Windoze machine reminds me of the old pilots joke. If your plane is going down and you don’t have a parachute, grab an extension cord and jump, ‘cuz you know it’ll catch on something. Whenever I see a six month old Dell, there’s always a corner cracked, port cover that’s popped off, or broken latch.

  3. High Plains Drifters Says:

    I used an Apple II way back in high school but had moved on to no-name machines in college, and then PeeCees in the Army. My wife brought me back to Macs, and the way she sold me on them still resonates. I was used to a two-button Windoze mouse, and her Mac’s mouse only had one button. When I commented on it, she flashed a rye grin and said, with no apparent irony, “Yep … it’s half as simple that way.”

  4. James Says:

    I wouldn’t worry about the vision of Cupertino, guys. I think Jobs has been handing it over for the past few years. That being said there were the years when he was not at the helm (1988 – 96?) and they floundered a bit – but look what they have done since! Holy cow!! I don’t think it was all in his mind’s eye – at least I hope not.

    The only computers I have ever owned have been Apples. First an Apple II which took me through the first forays into BASIC programming. Then an II GS for college where it was outclassed by the PCs but still held it’s own for the tasks at hand. And then a iBook from 10 years ago (there being a significant gap in my computer ownage) which amazingly still booted up last week when I went to retrieve some old e-mails. To my current MacBook from the past few years; a truly awesome machine! All I can say is that they are awesome, well thought out, intuitive and simple. Sort of like a good, custom-made bicycle!!

    Here is hoping that the future of Apple is not lost because of Steve Jobs’ passing.

  5. Larry T. Says:

    My wife sez about half of the kids in her classes have Macs while the other half use PC’s. She reports no shortage of “the computer ate my paper” excuses from either crowd and it seems the number of these things that end up in the computer “hospital” on campus is roughly equal between the two. Finally I can’t count the number of times Mac folks have been frustrated as hell when their gizmos wouldn’t pick up the WIFI signal at an Italian hotel while the PC folks were connecting easily. Jobs was a visionary genius and his competitors would likely never have reached their heights except to challenge him, but I’ll stop short of any sort of worship of the guy. What did he do with all his money? Billy Gates has been pretty public with his distribution to charity of some of the profits of his evil empire, what about Jobs?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Larry, here’s a partial answer from The Washington Post. I agree, Bill and Melinda Gates have been much more high-profile in their charity work — Herself even benefited from their largesse as she pursued her master’s degree at DU.

    • James Says:

      Seriously Larry? Who cares what Jobs did/does with his fortune? It was/is his money to burn, spend, give away, toss at the local whorehouse, etc. For all I know he did all of those things and more but I really don’t care about how he chose to spend his money.

      Moreover for a guy who was reportedly paid $1 a year to run one of the most successful companies that this country may ever see – I think that is all that we can ask of him: how did he choose to spend his stipend?

      Now I might sound like a Kool-Aid drinking Apple junkie but this belief also holds true to Bill Gates. How he chooses to spend his income is his choice, why would he have to answer to anyone on how, when, why and most importantly, where he spends it?

      Both Jobs and Gates (plus a few other high profile billionaires) have every right to spend it however they so choose. Maybe the question to be asked is: why is it any of your business to know?

      It really is not. So why even mention it? I personally could care less than zero about how anyone chooses to spend their money. That is there choice and one that they have to live with. As a wise man once said: “Let it Be.”

  6. Boz Says:

    I must be in the minority here, not ever owning an Apple product. But, there’s always a but, Job’s influence is everywhere. Rare, but we have three HP pc’s that work flawlessly, a “Worshowski” mp3 player, and I recently went from my old Blackberry to a Google Droid phone. All off-shoots of Apple’s creativity. Thanks, SJ.

  7. Charley Says:

    Long live hoarders! I am cleaning out out a storage shed and it is killing me. It is necessary to do ; but, it hurts.

  8. gmknobl Says:

    Indeed, these things looked great and os/x is a nifty piece of software. Even the System 7 (or 6 or whenever) were good for their time period. However, I feel you’ve been lucky on the hardware side for anything since 2005 onward. Their hardware quality is lacking and they have higher than normal repair records since I’ve dealt with them.

    IMO the hardware is in need of stricter regulation so they don’t break so often, Apple’s warranty needs improving so they cover items they don’t now, like screens breaking for no appreciable reason and they need to create an altogether new OS.

    That said, RIP Mr. Jobs, indeed. You did change some of my world.

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