Segments: Slices from the Macintosh Life
Thanks For All the Fish
The revolution is over and we, the people, have won.
In two dramatic decades, the computer that was created for the rest of us has become the best computer for the best of us.
It may take some time for the significance of the Mac OS, now unleashed on x86 for the world market, to permeate through the consciousness of mainstream pundits, but for those of us in the Mac community who have stuck through thick and thin over the years, riding the roller-coaster that is Apple Computer, the bells are already pealing.
Many will say it is too early to sound the trumpets of victory, but I don’t think so. The Macintosh megashift will happen sooner than most people realize. This is it, folks. Like the fairy tale that Silicon Valley really is, the company and the personalities who truly sparked the personal computer revolution for the masses have poetically and valiantly emerged triumphant in the end, despite attempts by some other companies and people to rewrite history.
A number of massively significant things have come about in the past couple of years, culminating in the watershed moment that was Steve Jobs’s keynote of January 10, 2006. We are now at the edge of a chapter in history. As the page turns, in the next few years we will see an incredible transformation take place all over the world. The Macintosh platform will begin to replace, on a massive scale, the dinosaur operating systems that have been holding back humanity. Nobody knew it back in 1984, but the sledgehammer had a name: “Tiger.”
Hollywood often partitions its feature films in three-act structures: the beginning, middle, and end. Popular culture also associates grand epics in trilogies: Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings. In my mind’s eye, I see the Apple II and the earliest days of Macintosh set the stage. The dramatic middle comes with Steve Jobs being kicked out of the company and John Sculley giving carte blanche to Bill Gates to reproduce the GUI “look and feel.” There is this “interim” period of uncertainty, as the audience wonders what Jobs will do with NeXT, even when he returns to the Apple fold, caught in the midst of a worldwide Windows market share explosion. The subplot of an antitrust case and a global phenomenon called “The Internet Boom” momentarily distract us with misdirection, but we’re soon abruptly jarred back into the main story, with Jobs returning to the helm, launching the iMac, the iBook, OS X. The iPod. The climatic ending just finished up this month. Mac OS on x86 is no longer vaporware. It’s shipping, on real iron.
Boys and girls, it’s time to take down your pirate flags.
I don’t know the exact manner in which the Mac will conquer the world. It could be through the study room, with more people buying Macs as home computers. It could be through the living room, with a Mac Mini–based digital home entertainment station. It could be via the office, as CIOs finally decide to bring the platform they’re using at home to work just because it’s a heck of a lot cheaper in the long run, and because it’s actually politically safer to buy Mac and have the option to run any major desktop operating system in the world, than to be caught speechless when the CEO and board of directors ask why the Macintosh option isn’t being explored.
But, like in Star Trek, all good things must come to an end. The subversive subculture that has been the Macintosh community might be in for a reluctant transformation. I envision it to be akin to the rude introduction of the commercial Internet. Previously idyllic havens of thought, the public newsgroups were suddenly flooded by newbie posts and blatant commercial advertising. E-mail, hitherto a bastion of privacy, suffered the onslaught of spam, a new kind of electronic abuse that the fundamental technology was unprepared to deal with. Likewise, I surmise the old guard in the Mac world will soon encounter a vast army of newcomers to whom Clarus, BHA, and even Woz mean nothing.
On the other hand, like Star Trek, the user community, both new and old, could undergo a transformation, morphing into something else entirely, something even better and more wonderful. After all, Apple has given new tools to the masses. The powerful combo-punch of iLife should not be underestimated. To consider iLife anything less than a potent mixture of electronic wizardry is to think of the new-new Internet as nothing more than just better snail mail. iLife is fully a political platform. The ease with which people can communicate ideas and leverage emerging, cutting-edge vehicles of expression—such as the blog and the podcast—will be a megacatalyst. After all, it’s only just the entire world that will be watching. Any day now, we will see high-definition video of the next über-news event imported, edited, and beamed to the world by Mac. Subversion has never had it so good. (Sure, you can also do these things on Windows, just as when the printing press became available you could also scrawl carefully on pages of papyrus.)
I remember an early Business 2.0 ad that said “Yahoo gets it” and “Amazon gets it.” Those two companies are still in business, post–Dot Com. I submit that the Mac community has always “gotten it” and that even Apple management dropped the ball for a couple of years, but not the community. We never wrote to NASA to get space shuttles named after our favorite machines, but don’t let anyone ever say we didn’t carry Apple when all the naysayers on Wall Street and the popular computing publications were writing it off.
Sure, the mainstream analysts are talking about Apple again (even though if we were in the middle of a doughnut revolution they would be writing about Krispy Kreme) but I say for the Mac fans: don’t wait for them to start the music. It’s been a long road, getting from there to here. The 30th anniversary of Apple Computer is coming up, and I can think of no better date than April 1, 2006, for our long-awaited worldwide party.
What a ride, baby!