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Tuesday
Jan212014

The Apple Beat: Happy 30th Anniversary Macintosh


By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

It’s been 30 years since Steve Jobs unveiled the first Macintosh on January 24, 1984. That iconic all-in-one computer became a landmark product which ushered in the age of the personal computer as well as the graphical user interface, use of icons, and the mouse. I take a personal trip down memory lane with Apple’s first revolutionary product.


I was about nine or 10 when my aunt enrolled me in a summer computer programming class, mostly to keep me out of trouble.  Back then, we learned on Apple II’s and we were taught to write basic programs as well as play games like Karateka. While I disliked math, I somehow developed an affinity for computers, even if they were expensive and what you could do with them was somewhat limited. 

When the Macintosh came out, it changed everything we knew about personal computers. It was compact, relatively powerful and intuitive. It didn't look or feel like office machinery, it was friendly and even quirky. 

The most important thing about the Mac was that it got technology out of the way and made it easy users to get busy writing, designing, drawing and creating. You didn't need volumes of instructions to get things done, you just got things done.

Macintosh computers were extremely expensive and rather rare in the Philippines in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I would go to the showroom of DPSI (Distributed Processing Systems Inc.) in Makati City where they had the new PowerPC desktops on display.

These were mainly for sale to graphic design and advertising firms as desktop publishing was starting to take hold. I would stare at these monolithic white boxes and the demos running on their screens for hours.  

In high school and university, we used IBM PC clones and laboured over our reports in WordPress as well as integrated applications like FrameWork 3 which were openly pirated at the time and came preloaded in any PC you bought. Even then, we experienced viruses and malware on the IBM clones, while these early programs were mostly annoying pranks, they were absent from the Mac ecosystem.

It was only when I was a cub reporter for the Philippine Star, a national newspaper, that my affinity for Macs was rekindled. 

Back then, the Star's newsroom ran on networked Mac SE’s that were connected to a few Apple LaserWriters. We used Aldus Pagemaker to layout text and size columns even if these were printed and then physically cut and pasted onto the proofs that were going to be photographed for printing. 


I received a second hand PowerBook 170 from my father, he had bought it from my uncle and had given it to me as a tool for my work as a journalist.

I loved that PowerBook, with its precise trackball and shiny new System 7 OS and of course Microsoft Word which has since been my de facto word processing application of choice.

Owning a Mac back then in Manila was tough. There were very limited places to buy accessories, extra batteries and programs and if you did find them, the price was exorbitant.

The few Mac users I did know did form a MUG (Mac User Group) and when the Internet started to become popular many of us organized and met in order to exchange information, get help trouble-shooting our machines and have show and tell sessions when someone traveled and bought a new Mac.

This was just right after the first iMacs and iBooks started selling and years before the iPod and iTunes. Apple was a small player in a market dominated by Intel and Windows (Ironically, the once mortal enemy IBM, was now making PowerPC processors for Macs together with Motorola). 


Fast forward to 2014 and not only has the Mac endured waves and generations of PC competition, it still exists to push the boundaries of personal computing to new levels while ushering cutting edge technologies. It's popularity and use is growing even as the PC industry as a whole is undergoing one of the toughest periods of plummeting sales. Macs don't just run the most advanced Apple operating systems, they can run Microsoft Windows and even Linux as well as any PC.

Go to any Starbucks, airport lounge or classrooom and you will be met by dozens of backlit Apple logos from Macbooks. Walk into any Apple Retail Store and these are some of the most popular items for sale, even if the iPhones and iPads are the hot commodities.

The iMac, and to a greater extent, the new Mac Pro (stay tuned for our full review) are unlike anything the world has ever seen. The iMac is really the produc that continues in the same vein and spirit as the 1984 Macintosh. It is an all-in-one computer, simple to use and learn and because of the latest innovations, it is both surprisingly thin and exceedingly powerful for a consumer desktop.

Through products like the iPod, the iPhone and iPad, Apple’s importance and relevance to the industries it represents has grown exponentially and each new product reveal opens new possibilities in personal computing and communication.

This spirit of innovation is in Apple’s DNA, you can trace it back 30 years when the Mac was created and even before that when the first Apple computers were being built out of Steve Jobs’ garage. 

Each Mac brings an extra something, an intangible sense that a lot of careful planning and care for the end user went into the product. It's a feeling you get the moment you unbox your new Mac and one that lasts with you throughout the time that you use and own it. 

------

Recommended reading: 

Revolution In the Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac was Made by Andy Hertzfeld - Amazon

Steve Jobs: The Journey is the Reward by Jeffrey Young - Amazon


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