Customer Driven Macs?
Post Database 20th Anniversary

By Graham K. Rogers

My biggest switch in the time that the Post Database has been running was from the PC to Mac and that was initially finance driven; but OS X and its development made the difference to how I go about my daily work; and of course brought about the eXtensions column.

Right from the start of my computing, I had used Microsoft DOS. Once you got to grips with it, it would do most of what you wanted, and if there was something not currently possible, someone would come up with an answer within a week or so.

A failed hard disk in my 386 put paid to PCs for me. I was hunting round for a replacement when a colleague offered me his Mac Quadra as he was back off to the States. We did a deal and I shipped it home in a taxi.

Running the Mac after command-line DOS was a change, but Windows was beginning to appear on some computers, so the edge began to become a little thin. I must be honest, System 7 was OK and System 8 did most of what I wanted, but we were still looking at territory similar to when the Mac appeared in 1984 (when 1984 wasn't going to be like 1984). We now had colour; we had larger screens, we had hard disks. But who didn't by the mid-90s?

The operating system was beginning to creak a little and Apple, well aware of this, seemed to be going through trial replacements as fast as they were going through chief executives. Being driven by sales and profit margins did severe damage to the profit margins and to the faithfull user base who were beginning to run out of patience: the reliability and the panache were evaporating fast.

It would be wrong to put all the subsequent success on the head of one man, but the return of Steve Jobs, when Pixar and NeXt came into the fold (and note that X), was certainly a catalyst. Style made a comeback, and that was assisted greatly by the efforts of Jon Ives, whose team were responsible for the iMacs and iPods as well as what we all use these days for hardware in Mac-dom.

That creaky operating system was beefed up a bit by System 9, but computers at that time, themselves showing some radical changes (particularly with the iMac and the Clamshell laptop) also began to be shipped with something new: OS X.

You can trace the genesis of OS X back to its NeXt roots; and that computer was a customer dream with the system and the software that came ready-loaded. What was a customer nightmare was the price. They did not sell well. Tim Berners-Lee used one to develop HTML.

The first time I started OS X on my early iMac, I was shocked. What was Apple doing? The interface was smooth and powerful, but it was not OS 9 and I rebooted back into the old system as fast as I could. I wonder now if this is how Windows users feel when they try OS X.

I tried again a few days later having convinced myself that Apple was not likely to go back to the older systems and there were sound reasons for the new developements. Over the next four years, as we have gone through Jaguar, Panther, Tiger and are looking ahead to Leopard in the next few months. The improvements have made the system easier to use and capitalised on the more powerful computers being developed.

Then, after years of using Motorola and IBM-developed processors, we were switched to Intel. Customers wanted speed, and they wanted value, and above all (although I never understand this myself) a lot of customers wanted the comfort of Windows. Now they have it: Macs can use OS X, Unix, Windows and, if you are dogged enough to desire this, Linux too.

My own choice is OS X and that has plenty of power, with none of what I see as inconvenience that comes with other systems. Drivers? What drivers? Plug a camera in and use it. Plug anything in and use it with a couple of exceptions.

What is it that most people want? People tell me all the time how expensive Macs are, but blink not when other companies offer machines that are higher priced. I have rehearsed this before: basic home machinery that is not expected to perform at a high level will be cheaper. Cheaper that is until you start to add up the cost of a card for ethernet, a card for sound, a card for input and another for output. Leave alone the quality. Want to make Lord of the Rings?

And that design: a fully finished product, with a high-powered operating system (no home versions for us), enough software to do any media task out of the box (movie, music, photos, sound recording, burning DVDs, creating a web site), plus a fistful of utilities. Although if you want a virus checker, you will have to shell out extra for that.

Made on Mac

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