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Twenty years of Macintosh
November 6, 2006 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Twenty years of Macintosh - a well done retrospect about the Apple Macintosh presented in a series of posters, annotated with excellent topical links for further reading.
posted by loquacious (32 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Q. How many Macintosh Division employees Mac fanboys do you need to change a lightbulb? A. One. He holds the bulb up and lets the universe revolve around him.

*hugs Tibook*
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 11:51 AM on November 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


Twenty years of Macintosh

Or five and early parole if you're a model convert.
posted by hal9k at 11:53 AM on November 6, 2006


This sentence.
That, however, was one of its just a few flaws.
It keeps staring at me. It's English, but it's also complete gibberish.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 11:54 AM on November 6, 2006


Clement Mok's design work at Apple in the 80s.
posted by hal9k at 12:05 PM on November 6, 2006


The poster designs are nicely evocative of Apple's original print guidelines.

By your description I thought it was a compilation of the promotional posters that Apple had released over the years. I would love to see one. In the 80s, for some reason, Apple steadily issued dozens, maybe hundreds, of posters about the Mac, its software, and its owners-club culture. They range from factsheets on the Mac II to a Life in Hell cartoon.

I used to have one which was a grid of nonsequitur images and a slogan about Hypercard's capacity for free association. Subtly brilliant; Most computer companies wouldn't deliberately publish something that few people would understand.

Maybe that's part of why Microsoft stole their lunch money for years.
posted by ardgedee at 12:06 PM on November 6, 2006


The more I read of this, the more I wish the writer had a proofreader. I get the feeling English isn't their first language.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 12:10 PM on November 6, 2006


But the mac turned twenty two years ago!
posted by mrnutty at 12:40 PM on November 6, 2006


Assorted quotes and comments:

The whole machine was a tribute to simplicity (it had less chips than the text video card for IBM PC alone), which allowed to drop the price and increase reliability.

Ok, I'll grant the first, but drop the price? Apple? They've gotten a lot better lately, but back in the day, they charged super-premium prices for their stuff. Always did.

This design didn't help you very much, because the price didn't go down. I'm sure it had an effect on reliability -- less to go wrong -- but it was about Apple's profit margins more than anything.

Maybe not all is lost, though. The function keys are slowly being phased out on both Macintosh and PC platforms, and after twenty years we are finally saying goodbye to such relicts of time, as Scroll Lock or Pause/Break keys. Additionally, the designers of new Mac keyboards resisted the urge of putting dozens of useless multimedia keys just for the sake of it.

Apparently this guy took a hit off the crack pipe immediately before this gem. Function keys are still an absolute staple. The higher-numbered function keys are used for Expose on OS X, even. F12 brings up Dashboard, and HOLDING F12 ejects the CD. And instead of including media keys on the keyboard, the smaller Macs come with a remote control... pretty much the same thing. You're supposed to keep track of your remote control and reach over and press play on that, instead of just hitting play on your keyboard? Sheesh. Yes, I realize that the remote control is easier than the keyboard if you're trying to hit play remotely.... but it's essentially the same thing. They just made the extra keys detachable. It's bad if it's on the keyboard, but good on a remote control?

This was and remains one of the most controversial Mac issues and not a year comes by without some Macintosh fans asking, demanding or simply wishing for even just one more button. But Apple still sticks to the original premise, and their 21st century mice went even further, with no visible button and the whole upper body of the mouse acting as one.

True, but it's worth pointing out that OSX has full support for up to 16 mouse buttons, so you can plug in any arbitrarily complex mouse and use it. It very nicely handles my Logitech MX1000, which has six buttons and a scrollwheel.

Sadly, due to Macintosh’s ease of use, the users rarely looked at it, but Apple continued the tradition of accompanying each of their products with excellent leaflets, booklets or manuals.

He also talks at some length about the out-of-box-experience. I've bought several Apple products, and while the iPod and Mini were well packed, the Mac Pro was just... a big black box, whoopee. And not one of those products had a particularly good manual. The $2500 Mac Pro comes with less documentation than some CD liner notes.

One magazine stated that “the Macintosh is the only machine in recent history to be offered without a programming language” – this might be natural these days, but back in 1984 was considered a very bold move.

It's interesting how that has changed completely. Apple now ships a development environment with every Mac. It's not in the default install, but it's on the system disks. Much of that, of course, is the fact that it's a pretty IDE wrapped around gcc, the freeware C compiler.

Back in the day when everyone was expected to write their own programs, Apple didn't include BASIC. Now that programs are too complex for most mortals to write, they include a full development kit. They get points for inconsistency. :)

The whole “hit and miss” approach to marketing became Apple’s recurring theme, with some great and influential campaigns interleaved with real media disasters. However, it can’t be denied that Apple was one of the first computer companies to understand the power of marketing.

This is true, in spades. They are, in my opinion, one of the best marketing companies in the world. They're far better than Microsoft has ever been, and Microsoft was considered by many to be primarily a marketing company. I'm a little worried, in fact, that marketing is taking over Apple to TOO great a degree... many of the interface and OS decisions of late have seemed to be driven my the marketroids more than the techies. We'll see what happens with the next OSX, but the current iteration felt like chrome and glitz, rather than a real advance over the prior offering.

Overall, as you can see, I disagree with individual points, but this is a good article. It'd be interesting to see what he thinks of the Intel switch. In the mid 1990s, if you'd told me that Apple would someday be selling Intel computers and yet, somehow, would remain distinct and different from PCs, I'd have called your intelligence into question. :)
posted by Malor at 12:41 PM on November 6, 2006


<3 mac
posted by keswick at 12:50 PM on November 6, 2006


Brace yourself for the anti-mac-fanboy snarkitude.

But me? I'm digging this! Thanks for being braver than I!
posted by fenriq at 12:56 PM on November 6, 2006


Yessss Malor. Give in to the hate! Let it course through you! It will only make you stronger!!

Note, I'm not an Apple fanboy. I've never actually owned a Mac. I just like nerdporn.
posted by loquacious at 1:08 PM on November 6, 2006


And the Emperor Palpatine impression is just a joke. Well said, Malor.
posted by loquacious at 1:51 PM on November 6, 2006


Apple continued the tradition of accompanying each of their products with excellent leaflets, booklets or manuals.

Bull. Apple hasn't published the source code for interger BASIC for years, and they havn't shipped a book with the schematic for years either.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:51 PM on November 6, 2006


Apple is so successful at inspiring people to create fan sites. All over town I see Apple bumper stickers on cars. There aren't too many giant corporations out there whose customers voluntarily post corporate logos on their cars and build homage websites. In fact, I can't really think of any off the top of my head. Pretty remarkable.

I think I'm going to start a General Electric blog and maybe find some Exxon bumper stickers.
posted by technical at 3:01 PM on November 6, 2006


are professional sports teams and leagues corporations?
posted by troybob at 3:23 PM on November 6, 2006


Yeah, this is, uhh, 2 years late.
posted by blastrid at 3:26 PM on November 6, 2006


malor: Exactly right.

Apple's marketing is second to none. Is there another brand that inspires such cult like loyalty? Nintendo is popular, but doesn't come close in terms of the cult like adoration that so many Mac users have.

Microsoft is pretty much the anti-Apple, it inspires dislike and hatred even by the millions of people who benefit from their products every day. True Microsoft fan boys may be rarer than Apple fan boys.
posted by sien at 3:38 PM on November 6, 2006


No digg! Doesn't run on my PC.
posted by glycolized at 4:12 PM on November 6, 2006


We used a Mac to make the first nationally broadcast TV spots produced on a come computer.
posted by jfrancis at 4:13 PM on November 6, 2006


That was an awesome typo. :)
posted by loquacious at 4:22 PM on November 6, 2006


And that's an awesome link, too.
posted by loquacious at 4:23 PM on November 6, 2006


I don't think people are swayed too much by Apple's marketing, I would say it's the elegance, simplicity and user-friendliness of their products that wins people over. Their success is rooted in practical design, not just chic looking products that piss off the DOS dweebs. Most companies can't design a good product; they fall short in styling, useability and/or build quality. Apple gets it right on all three. People will pay a premium for it, just like a Porsche.
posted by disgruntled at 4:30 PM on November 6, 2006


No, it'd be two years late if it was a news item, but this is Metafilter where it is best of the web for which there is no statute of limitations.
posted by mendel at 4:40 PM on November 6, 2006


However, he was also the person advocating having just one button on the mouse. (“So it’s extremely difficult to push the wrong button,” to quote the aforementioned brochure again.)

I still think that's one of the most negative contributions Apple has done for user interfaces. Because of their relying on one mouse button they had to come up with the "kludge" of double-clicking, which is just as confusing (if not more so) for new users as two mouse buttons. I've seen many relatives who double-click links in web browsers because that's how they learned to use a mouse. Some further arguments here: Double-Click must die. Personally I'd like to see the double-click completely abandoned so that everything worked "like the web" and like all those AJAX apps.
posted by bobo123 at 5:11 PM on November 6, 2006


There aren't too many giant corporations out there whose customers voluntarily post corporate logos on their cars and build homage websites. In fact, I can't really think of any off the top of my head. Pretty remarkable.

Well, part of the reason is apple's putting a couple of stickers in every boxed item they sell.

As for other corporation logos, I see northface stickers quite a bit, and the nike logo is everywhere, cars, tshirts, etc. So I don't think it's all that rare.
posted by justgary at 5:20 PM on November 6, 2006


disgruntled: Do you perchance have a Mac?

(disclaimer - I have an ipod, got a Mac for my parents but run Windows XP and Linux)

You may have a point now, but there have been times when Macs were badly engineered and people still liked them. Until OSX came along each program on a Mac didn't have it's own address space. That was a pretty big flaw.

Until the release of the Core 2 duo Macs lagged in terms of performance.

But still, in all these cases Apple fans would continue buying Macs and saying how great they were.

These cases when Macs had problems and yet enthusiasts continued to buy them tend to indicate that people are buying Macs not because they are better, but rather because the Mac's marketing appeals to them.

A more accurate car analogy would be Renault, who produce some great cars on occasion, but consistently produce odd cars that some love but most don't.
posted by sien at 5:49 PM on November 6, 2006


These cases when Macs had problems and yet enthusiasts continued to buy them tend to indicate that people are buying Macs not because they are better, but rather because the Mac's marketing appeals to them.

The problems Mac's had early on weren't that bad. People still managed to get their work done, so it wasn't a big deal or enough reason to switch to Windows.

Apple's market share has always been miniscule compared to other PC brands, so it makes no sense for the marketing professionals to take the credit for the Mac's success, from a marketing point-of-view, it isn't.
posted by disgruntled at 7:03 PM on November 6, 2006


Microsoft is pretty much the anti-Apple, it inspires dislike and hatred even by the millions of people who benefit from their products every day. True Microsoft fan boys may be rarer than Apple fan boys.

There are lots of Microsoft fan boys in the tech world, and they are just as irritating, but not for the same reasons. Apple fan boys are arrogant, but Microsoft fan boys are short-sighted and incredibly stupid. It's no coincidence that Diebold's GEMS vote tabulation software is a VB app over an Access database, for example.
posted by delmoi at 7:17 PM on November 6, 2006


Until OSX came along each program on a Mac didn't have it's own address space. That was a pretty big flaw.

Until the release of the Core 2 duo Macs lagged in terms of performance.

But still, in all these cases Apple fans would continue buying Macs and saying how great they were.


hmm. let's think back:

the original mac was a 16Mhz 68000 if memory served and it was a lot faster than an AT.

The mac was the first computer with a mouse and square pixels. It has also supported at least 8 simultaneous monitors for most of 20 years.

The Mac II was the first personal computer able to display photorealistic images.

The fastest mac was consistently faster than the fastest PC model available until the Pentium shipped in, what, 1993, 94? And then the Mac and PC makers leapfrogged in performance until 96 or 97, after which the PC was faster until this year and now they are the same.

The Powerbooks, introduced in 1991 stood as the thing to beat in the market until quite recently, 2002 or so, consistently outperforming the x86 equivalents.

Also it is hard to argue that anything (except maybe blackbox/fluxbox) has ever beat the consistency and humanity of the Mac interface.

Windows had imperfect memory addressing until they adopted the NT kernel for all their oses. In retrospect win2k only beat Apple to this advancement by a year. I think that you might want to instead criticize to OS9's inferior multitasking algorithms, as that was where win95 and the later versions had big advantages, although you could say that Apple's introduction of the multifinder, what.... five years before widespread use of a multitasking windows os (3.1) might shed a different light on that comparison.

There are a lot of reasons people haven't thought the same way you have over the years and not all of them are because they are dumb.
posted by n9 at 7:49 PM on November 6, 2006


We used a Mac to make the first nationally broadcast TV spots produced on a come computer.

Wow, and did you see the quality!!! Man, add in the fact that it was an ad to try to get kids to buy shoes and you've really got something to be proud of!
posted by Pollomacho at 1:34 AM on November 7, 2006


Mac OS sucked until they replaced it with Unix. Windows still sucks.

I've had little experience with Microsoft fanboys, no doubt they are worse. But two things really struck me when I drank the coolai & made my first laptop a Mac instead of Linux:
1) Mac users are genuinely uneducated & stupid.
2) There are too many guys pushing poor quality cripple ware.

Not releasing the source makes everyone stupid.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:59 AM on November 7, 2006


the original mac was a 16Mhz 68000 if memory served and it was a lot faster than an AT.

Actually, the first Mac was 8Mhz. The AT at the time was 6Mhz, and wasn't bumped to 8Mhz until 1986. So the chip was a little faster, and had a much cleaner architecture, making it generally easier to program.

The OS, however, was doing a huge amount of work drawing all the graphics, so in practical use terms it was a LOT slower than an AT. ATs mostly just did text at the time, and an 80x24 character screen has only 1920 bytes to move for a full screen change. The Mac's 512x384 screen, which I think was just black and white (1 bit depth) would have required changing 24,576 bytes for a full redraw, and in addition would usually require a lot of computation to determine which bits on screen needed flipping. It was, in other words, very sluggish, but people mostly didn't care because you could do things that were impossible with the PC.

Macs didn't get to 16Mhz until the introduction of the Mac II, in 1987. That had a true 32-bit processor, the 68020, and was monumentally expensive. It was, however, a thoroughly lust-worthy machine. It had amazing graphics for the time, and the CPU, while probably still a little underpowered for the graphics the machine was capable of, was MUCH better than anything on the x86 side.
posted by Malor at 4:21 PM on November 7, 2006


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