The IT Assembly Line: Steve I hardly Knew Ye

(or How I Came To Be An Apple Fan Boy)

I first wrote this right after Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO (or iCEO) of Apple. After I wrote this Steve Jobs passed away on October 5th, so the title I chose is especially poignant.

As a fairly new Apple customer, feel like I came late to the party and I hope it’s not ending. I resisted Apple products for many years for a number of reasons.

I’ve been mucking about with computers since I bough my first TI-994A home computer in 1983. After Texas Instruments bailed on the home computer industry (much for the same reasons HP is bailing on the PC industry); I bailed on TI and bought an Atari 600XL, followed by an Atari 130XE a couple years later.
At the time I wasn’t that impressed with the Apple ][ since I thought my Atari had better sound and graphics and the Apple was overpriced. When the Mac came out I was impressed by it’s design but was turned off by it’s lack of colour, small screen and the fact that, it too, was overpriced. I bought my first IBM-compatible PC in 1988, A Tandy 1000 (which actually was a PC-Jr compatible).

At the time I bought it the cutting edge thing in computers was Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) or to put it more simply, windows. However for price reasons I bought the Tandy. Even though it was a DOS machine, it wasn’t radically different from the other command-line-based computers I had used before. I was initially excited by Windows 3.1 which came with the 386 PC I bought in 1992. I thought, here is a real multi-tasking, 32 bit Operating System that will take full advantage of my 386 CPU’s power. I was soon to discover that this wasn’t really the case. The next few computers I owned all ran various Microsoft OS from Windows 3.1, Windows 95, the various Windows 98s, NT Workstation, Windows 2000 professional to Windows XP.

I had battled the viruses, suffered through the service packs, been frightened by the vulnerabilities (now that I had a full-time Internet connection) but I hung in there. Then XP, apparently randomly, started to lose network connectivity. I had a home server by this time and every so often I could no longer access my file shares, or the Internet. After trying various repairs the only thing that seemed to fix it was a compete re-installation of Windows XP. I was getting fatigued by now. My job often entailed battling various Windows viruses and so coming home to continue Windows support was getting old.

In early 2003, I started checking out Linux. I had been following its development but up until the early 2000s hadn’t seen anything that was a mature as Windows. I downloaded a copy of SUSE 8.0 (which was free) and found I could run it right from the CD. So I tried it and quite liked it. It was different, it ran fast, even had free office suites available. The next time XP crapped out (I never did find out what was causing that), I went for it. I converted both my networked PCs to Linux.

My kids were initially reluctant until hey found out they could still do MS chat and most of what they were already doing on the Internet. My oldest son still wanted a dual boot for gaming and soon bought his own PC, running XP. For the next 5 years we were, mostly, a Linux household. While many trembled in fear from nimda, Code Red and several other big virus outbreaks, we were immune. It was nice. The only problems were things like; availability of new software programs (like Google Earth) which were always developed for Linux last, if ever; hardware drivers for printers and wireless devices required a lot of under-the-hood configuration. On one hand Linux was a very customizable system with an advanced graphical desktop but there was still a lot of do-it-yourself involved. Again I was fatiguing. I thought, isn’t there a system which is powerful but easy to use?

Then the light finally went on…the Mac! You see by now the Mac was running on Intel hardware (like the PCs), had wonderful colour displays and (like Linux), was from the UNIX family tree. (The Mac OSX is based on a free version of UNIX called FreeBSD). It was like Apple and I travelled different paths that converged at this point. So in 2007 I bought my first iMac. Before long I had an iPod, a MacBook Pro for my daughter and even a 13 inch unibody MacBook for me. This last spring I bought an iPhone. I still have all these machines (my daughters MacBook screen is on the way out but it was used when she bought it). I even converted my mom over to a Mac Mini a couple of years back to cut down on the long-distance support calls.

My current workstation with my Macbook and external monitor (no not an Apple) and keyboard

The point is that I feeling like my party in Apple-town is getting started. My hope is that Tim Cook, his successor, can keep the vision and energy alive better than Steve Balmer has over at Microsoft after Bill Gates’ departure.

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