The fight for survival of the Macintosh
Comment from E-mail
Sorry to add to the likely incredible spate of email you are likely getting after the Biography special, but I just really didin’t think I could NOT drop you a line, even if it is getting awfully late here. I just thought I should take the opportunity to thank you, and to ask your advice. You can ignore the rest of the message from here on if you want to, and I will not be (too) :hurt, since its not your job to be an advice columnist.
First of all, thanks for the Apple II and all its progeny. Its had a major impact on my life. In 1978, I was eight years old when my dad introduced me to the first Apple II that the University of Saskatchewan ever bought. He was (and is) a prof in Educational Technology at the U of S, so I always got to play with the newest and coolest technologies when I was young. I’ve been an Apple person ever since (I’m writing this from my G4 400 at home). I’m a user support person at the U of S now, supporting Mac users in the Health Sciences at our university. So, I make a comfortable living off those ideas you had so long ago (in computer years, of course). But, you know (and you prabably do, from what they said about you in the Biography special), its more than that, more than just a way to make a living. Its (to me at least) a philosophy, a dream almost. Apple was always the company that helped people do things, to solve problems and to do it in a way that was friendly and understandable and different from the conventional. I have always tried to keep to that philosophy in my work life, and I think I have been relatively successful over the past 12 years.
That dream is threatened for me now, as it has been for some time. The writing is on the wall at my institution as far as I can tell. Macs are on the way out at the U of S, to be replaced in due time by (what else,) a Microsoft-dominated solution. Some small, rational part of my brain tells me that this is no big deal, they are only computers, I have skills that are applicable no matter what computer platform or group of people I am working with. But there is another part of me, deeply ingrained, that hates to see the dream die at my institution. I hate to see people say “Oh, we are getting rid of our Macs because everybody else has PCs, and we need to be compatible. It’s too much work to keep the Macs.” I hate to see the machines that I have always associated with “nice guys” (like yourself) be replaced by machines powered by a company that seems to win by forcing everyone to conform to its standards and crushing anyone that does not conform. The two companies were started by people with dreams, but from my point of view they are vastly different dreams.
My question for you (oh wise one :>) is, since you are the original dreamer who started us all down this path, what should I do? Should I listen to that rational part of my brain? If I had already, I would not be writing this email. Should I give up the fight? That is essentially what it has become, a fight for survival of the Macintosh, both in my local situation and on a global scale. It isn’t supposed to be a fight, I suspect you are thinking, and you never intended for it to be [and its not really your responsibility, and why the heck do people email you and ask you these kind of questions anyway? :>]. But I am really kinda stumped here, and I am hoping you have maybe faced this type of question before in your personal life.
And maybe you could do me a really big favor. If you still have any contact with the other Steve, and let him know that there are people out here in this kind of situation (more than one in this town at least). Ask him what he is going to do for all the people like me that have subscribed to what is essentially (as I see it) your dream (Besides telling us all that we need serious psychiatric help :>. That’s that little rational part of my brain butting in again!). He needs to be very careful, because the next year or so is going to make or break Apple(even if people have been saying that from 1982 on, this time it may really be true), and there is only so long that us “Mac Faithful” can remain that way (By the way, moving to fee for incident service on the Apple help line may make financial good sense, but it is suicide for Apple’s rapport with its users, particularly when in many cases when people like me call the support personnel at Apple learn new things as well).
If you have read this far, thanks for listening, and I am really glad to know that a nice guy can once in a while finish first. Maybe there’s hope for me yet! :>
I understand your anxiety and frustrations and sadness because I live them every day of my life. I have the same fears as you.
There was a time, perhaps between 1984 and 1993, when the Macintosh alone stood for a new humanistic world of computers. The Macintosh dreams included concepts like software that was so clear that you could intuitively figure out what to do. If you made mistakes, the computer gently told you what you’d done and guessed what you wanted to do and told you how to do it or offered to do it for you. Error messages were understandable and complete. Everything was plug and play and nothing went wrong. The GUI world needs little explanation.
The PC world in this time frame lived with less human concepts of computing and claimed that their way was correct and better for serious work. The Macintosh approaches for normal people (humans) made it too weak a machine for real work. We Macintosh users knew how much baloney this was and we held onto our good and correct dreams for humanity.
Now all computers have a GUI. But they all fail in the areas of what I call the Macintosh dreams. Software is crap wherever you look. Layouts aren’t standard enough to follow. Messages are incomprehensible. Dialogs and menus lead you to wrong choices and unintended errors. Software crashes too much. It loses data. Files get corrupted. Checkboxes are used when radio buttons are called for. Operations become deactivated at particular times for no reason, other than that you might have hit some key in a particular hundredth of a second.
Both Microsoft and Apple are monopolies. Mostly, dedicated Macintosh users buy Macintoshes and they won’t likely buy a PC. The number of Macintoshes sold does not depend on how much quality is in the software. The dreams are nearly dead. With no incentive to create intuitive and modeless software, like Control Panels for instance, that actually work, why should any company try to make them better for humans to use? The emphasis is always on some new product and the broken and non-working crap that’s around just sits forever. I’m amazed at how many times I see software that takes steps backwards from great things that were done more correctly and humanly before.
Technology and the money of big corporations has become much more important than human beings. That was not the original intent of personal computers. They were to put more power in the individual’s hand. As we store our data and apps on the internet, our computing world becomes a big corporate entity that makes individuals less and less important in the process. The era of truly personal computers is fading in many ways. The computer platform we use is becoming less and less important. This may be a boon to Apple, but there are many forces working against it, all for the sake of money. Apple has to be very different than all the others in terms of what it’s products symbolize to buyers. Right now, it’s the “think different” campaign. Some of us will make sacrifices to be included in that category.
A lot has been lost. Apple is not the only example.