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Posted on 2010-02-02, by Tom
I had never been a real fan of Apple until the iPod was released a few years back. Before that my opinion was that only artsy people use Macs, people who only care about the cover and who can only use a computer if it has a graphical interface and only one mouse button. I was a dyed in the wool PC person and I was not afraid of a blinking terminal! I was at that time in the market for an mp3 player and got a Nano. I used it every day back and forth to work. I liked it, it was not an mp3 player, it was an iPod. There was and still is a difference, small but significant.
And then the Im a Mac, Im a PC commercials are just hilarious. Even if I am, or was, a PC.
I have used PC computers since I was about 7 years old. We had an Amstrad 8086 PC with two 5.25 inch floppy disk drives but no hard drive. Do you remember the 5.25 inch disks, the ones that were actually floppy? I learnt basic english at that age from Leisure Suite Larry and Kings Quest. And California Games. For those who were not around to play those great games, I can tell you that I played Larry in monochrome and that I had to type commands in order to get the avatar to do things. Like open door. Or, take ring. Or, drink beer. I also taught myself some Basic programming. Mom and I actually used to go to the library to lend books about programming.
Then the 90s came and with it the 386SX 25MHz to the household. With an extra 387 33MHz math co-processor basically turning it into a 386DX. In those days everything above 640KB internal memory was called extended memory. I do not remember if I had 2MB or 4MB of total RAM. And dad had brought me a Sound Blaster Pro from the USA which we installed in the PC. I remember specifically that it was a hassle to put the Sound Blaster into the computer as the motherboard flexed - a lot - when the card was forced into the slot. And then I remember that the IRQ setting was static and set by a jumper on the card. IRQ 7 if I remember correctly. Wolfenstein 3D was my absolute favorite game on the 386, I had never seen anything like it before.
I got a 486DX2 66MHz some time in the 90s. Doom had been released in 1993 and I first played it on my 386 (in the smallest possible field of view), so the 486 must have been brought into the family around 1994-5. Still running the Sound Blaster Pro and playing full screen Doom. Good times!
Then Quake was released in 1996. I tried to play it on the 486, with about as much success as playing Doom on the 386. With the smallest possible field of view it was possible. Quake meant that computer playing went into the 3rd dimension for real and with it came graphics acceleration. I had at this time started programming in C and was in high-school.
Sometime around here I got a Pentium. I do not remember that much from this Pentium period of computing and although Quake was quite amazing, the player experience did not improve that much as it did the moment you first saw Wolfenstein 3D.
Since then the computing timeline has been a blur for me. I learnt C programming, C++, write HTML code, got online in 1996 with a modem (of course), learnt to code for databases.
Between 2000 and 2010 I would say that computers have moved from being a hobby to becoming tools. The computer itself is no longer important. That is, I use the PC to sync my iPod and iPhone. I use it to write computer programs that I need. I use it to connect to the internet, to email, etc. The fascination of the computer itself has been replaced by a fascination of what can be done with it. It is all on the internet now.
That means that I am no longer bond to a specific brand of computer or technology/architecture. My emails are as reachable from my phone as they are from work or from at home. The same inbox, the same emails. The computer has become a transparent tool.
Today I am a happy owner of a MacBook. It is gorgeously white. It was packaged so neatly in the box when I got it that I was really impressed. And there is an air of quality around it. It runs BSD. I can write iPhone apps, I can code my own programs in a range of different languages supplied by default. I can do most, if not all, of the things that I did on my Linux laptop - and the Mac even has the nice and proper UNIX terminal that I expect to find in a proper computer. I have a trackpad that can handle up to four fingers simultaneously, two for scrolling up and down, three to go back and forth between pages in documents. Amazing.
Part of my point here is to consider why I have, a previously dyed in the wool PC user, bought a Mac?
I would say it is because the computer has become a tool, an utility. The actual hobby of computing has moved from into the abstract world beyond the hardware. The hardware does not matter anymore. Writing a program today anyway demands platform independence or else you are considered lazy.
And, absurdly, at the same time that the specific technology became a thing of the past, looks and packaging have become more important. The feel of the PC. How long it runs without crashing. How long it runs before I need to recharge it. Internet brought platform independence, platform independence moved the focus from the technology to the look and feel.
What this means to Windows and standard PCs manufacturers, I will leave as an exercise for Microsoft, DELL, HP, Lenovo and the likes to consider.
But a new era has truly begun...
Last modified on 2010-02-02 at 18:58:43