The Mac at 25

Today the Apple Macintosh is 25 years old — quite something for the only _other_ personal computer to survive in the face of the IBM PC/ MS DOS / Windows onslaught, that saw off the Sinclair computers, the Amiga, the Atari, the Amstrad, the Sharp, the PET, and all the other that were dancing around and still going strong back in 1984.

I didn’t see my first Mac until 1990, and I was instantly smitten. Heavily used by the graphic design industry, I saw one first at a printer’s. With a 21″ screen (greyscale, in those days), and a smooth, effortless interface, it was a world away from the clunky DOS, GEM, Desqview and Windows that I was used to. While we were busy endlessly playing with IRQs and base-addresses on our PCs to make them work with a Novell network, Mac users could simply plug their machines together via LocalTalk, and have instant networking. Of course, Mac users didn’t necessarily endear themselves to the rest of us: when a printer’s boy turned up one day in our office with some leaflets, looked round, and said ‘I bet you wish you had a Mac’, I did feel like throttling him.

Nonetheless, after having spent far too long geekily trying to make various hardware combinations work under Windows, I took the plunge in 1996 and bought a second-hand Mac II ci, for about £60. A year later, we got a 4400 — a much derided machine that served us well, and is still connected to our home network, although never switched on. I persuaded my employers to buy the same machine, before progressing, at work and at home, through the G3, the G4 cube, various PowerBooks, the G5, the flat-screen iMac, and now endlessly on into the world of Intel powered machines.

I still use Windows, mind you, though generally via Remote Desktop. Having been spoiled by the sleek, consistent, and crash-proof OS X interface, I find Windows almost infinitely clunky and unreliable. This is not really Microsoft’s fault. Running Office and Windows on a PC, it runs great. It’s just when you start loading up the drivers and supplied software for various odd bits of hardware — DVD robots, printers, label makers, ID Card makers, scanners, and so on — they all start clamouring for attention, with their inconsistent and buggy interfaces, and the Windows experience starts, once again, to remind me of trying to run Desqview 286 along with Windows 3 and GEM under Novell Netware ELS I: never a winner.

For people who want to have the right to be different, and do things their way, the Mac still offers what it did all the way back in 1984, when Ridley Scott’s iconic commercial presented it as a cry for freedom.

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