posted by Thom Holwerda on Wed 5th Aug 2009 19:37 UTC
IconUsing his blue box, Steve Wozniak once called the Vatican (for free), and, imitating Henry Kissinger's voice, asked if he could speak with the pope. The pope turned out to be asleep. Wozniak pulled these pranks together with Steve Jobs, with whom he'd found Apple computer not long after. Oh, how the times have changed. How can a company with its roots in phreaking, pranks, and home-made computing end up the way it is today?

My admiration for Apple doesn't even go back that far, mostly because my interest in computers is relatively new. I'm not that old - born in December 1984 - and on top of that, computers, even PCs, were game machines to me. I was much more content playing outside than sitting behind a screen all day long.

As a result, I didn't look beyond my parents' computers - running MS-DOS, Windows 3.11, and later Windows 95 and 98 - until I bought my first very own brand new computer somewhere in 2000 or 2001, when I was 16 to 17 years old. My parents' computers had always been important for them because of their jobs, so we were always very careful not to mess them up. It was only when I got my own computer that I finally had the opportunity to start messing around with one.

From the moment I purchased my computer (a whopping fl. 2000,-), I looked beyond the realms of Windows. Linux, BeOS - that's where my interests lay. Thanks to them, I experienced a whole new world, a Pandora's Box of possibilities and ideas that Windows could not provide me with. From here on out, I became an operating systems nerd. I tried them all, tested them all, got frustrated by them all, but generally had a lot of fun.

The Mac always remained elusive, as buying a whole new computer just for an operating system didn't make an awful lot of sense to me back then. I do recall quite vividly the iMacs that were used in the Dental Surgery and Orthodontist department at the hospital in Alkmaar. Between 1997 and 2004 I had a series of surgeries performed on my lower jaw (complicated story), which forced me to wear braces as well. This meant I spent quite some time in the associated waiting room, with a good view of the desks where all the assistants and administrative employees were using iMac G3 machines.

I loved them. I couldn't play with them, obviously, but I liked the puck mice (remember: hadn't used it yet), the keyboards, and the different colours they were all in. This started somewhere around 1998 or 1999, even before I developed an interest in computing. I even bought an iMac G3 in 2006, just to have one.

It wasn't until 2004 that I finally was able to buy into the Apple world. I took a large sack of money, and bought a second-hand iMac G4 (it broke down, logic board failure). I then bought an 12.1" iBook G4, my favourite Mac. I carried it around wherever I went, and I actually loved that little machine. Even though it couldn't always measure up performance-wise, it was infinitely prettier and more portable than what others had on offer.

Many other Macs would follow.

Back then, I liked Apple because they were different. They looked at the computer world in a completely different way than other manufacturers. In all honesty, Apple was crazy. They designed and built these wacky computers that seemed to have walked right out of a slightly-but-not-completely low budget movie, they used a different architecture, and a weird operating system they wrote themselves. The iMac G3, the PowerMac G3 and G4, the clamshell iBook G3, and, of course, the pinnacle of Apple's wacky-crazy design phase: the PowerMac G4 Cube.

As weird as it may seem, those were the good times to be an Apple user - at least from my perspective. Apple's hardware was distinctive, fun, crazy, a little impractical at times, but recognisable from the next town over. The arrogance - which has always been a part of the whole Apple thing - was a playful arrogance. It was harmless.

In fact, I was kind of proud to be the sole person to raise his hand when during a lecture to 50-60 people a professor asked who had Macs. I wasn't proud because of smugness or arrogance; I was a proud Apple user because I had the courage to be different, to look beyond the horizon and use something that no else was using. I was the sheep that left the flock, and during those times (2004-2005), there weren't many sheep doing the same. Microsoft is so entrenched in my university, that the first official Linux WiFi support document didn't appear until June... 2009.

And then, Apple started losing its way. As the company gained in popularity thanks to the iPod halo effect, more and more people started buying Macs. This could've been a very good thing - more people buying Apple products means more money for Apple to create wacky and crazy hardware designs. Sadly, Apple took a different route.

Table of contents
  1. Crazy, wacky, and fun
  2. Running out of fairy dust
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