A week ago me and my best friend were sipping some coffee in a cloudy Seattle, bringing up the memories of a long-term friendship that lasted already a quarter of a century. And like what all almost-40-year old’s do, it is talking about how things are so strange these days and that back in the day, it was all far more serious. We were there, pioneers of the IT front. Settlers during the pc-goldrush. We were the geeks arriving at dawn on August 25th, 1995 for Windows95. Or better yet, we were the ones fighting over if the Commodore 64 or the PC would have the future. Nobody talked about Apple anymore.
I remember arriving in early 1993 at the academy for my test to be allowed to follow the Interaction Design study there. Back then, it was even a valid question to ask future students if they ever had worked with computers. Pah! Of course I had, we had one at home from the early ’80s. I drove my father mad with trying out different .exe or .com functions to see what they did, on his work-at-home computer (It is then that I understood what FDISK.COM did, and worse, the importance of the message ‘ARE YOU SURE? (Y/N)’ message that was not included back then).
I answered that I indeed knew how to work with computers, PC’s, Atari ST’s, Commodore 64’s. Even SGI and Avid’s. They looked at me sheepishly before they mentioned; ‘We work with Macs’.
Macs? Did they still exist? Apple was nothing anymore! But, hey, I could work with all the other computers, so why not a Mac? I actually bought one (An LC2), and worked with it, and got re-introduced with their OS (it was already OS9 at the time) and could not enjoy it too much. Not as much as when I bought, half a year later, my PC. We had bunches of games for it, while on the Mac I really had to search for them, and reach deep into the pocket to buy Indiana Jones and the Fate Of Atlantis, which put me back almost $150 at the time.
Mac was dead to me. I owned it because I needed it for the academy, but for any other kind of work, my PC was the computer to use. Even then, the Mac already looked better than the silvery-grey DX2-66 (yes, it wasn’t even the default beige anymore!), but it simply was not there yet in what it had to offer.
So weird, because although the OS was miles away from being what OSX would become, it still was easier and better to use than the Windows 3.1 at the time. And most things simply ran in DOS. Still, to this day, I feel comfortable with the command-line prompt. The black screen, the white letters, clear, simple. But even back then, the PC was not ‘easy’. It was easier for me, because I grew up with them. But for someone just starting with computers, PC’s were a disaster.
Apple understood this the best. And I think, they still do.
To be honest, I think Apple understood the best that they made products with people that didn’t want to be bothered. Drivers? Installations? That is something a user should not worry about. They buy a product, and expect it to work, just like a tv, a radio, even a Microwave.
And you know what, they are right. You don’t force someone to be a grease-monkey when they buy a new car to make it drive. It should drive, right away.
I loved tinkering with my computer, and still to this day, I don’t hesitate to get the screwdriver, pull the machine open, and just dig in. I like it. I feel young again. I have no clue what every connector does, but I can find out and make it work.
This is why I always favored Microsoft. Microsoft was not the product, it was just the glue keeping the products together. I decided what brand of parts I bought, to make my computing and gaming experience as good as possible. I still do, and making sure that the machine is balanced perfectly to what I need it for. And Windows is then slapped on it, and it makes it work. And the fact that it allows me to micromanage every bit under the hood is what I love. This is why I like Windows, and I will like Windows. Apple is too simple for my taste.
But that is my taste. With my mobile phone or tablet I simply do not want to tinker. It should work when I want it. I am not digging in, I am not fine-tuning it. It should work.
And this is where I understand Apple, and appreciate it. It is so predictable. Just like with the LC2 so long ago, you could not really grind the machine in every way possible as you could do it with a PC, and I didn’t like that. But it did what it did, and did it well. It just was a bit too ‘beige’ for me, even though it was white.
So, here I am sitting, my iPad next to me, my Windows machine in the front, and my Windows Phone next to me on the other side. In the end, I am the most excited with my phone. I think Windows Phone 8 really finds a good balance between customization and simplicity. I do understand why some people are confused with Windows 8’s start screen, but I learned to use it in no time, and have a good balance between the ‘Metro’ apps and the desktop. But that is me, I am used to adapting and make things work as they work the best for me.
My iPad? I think it is the best tuned device I have out of the box. It does almost always what I want, more than the other devices. It is also the one that has been degraded to pure reading Zite and watching a movie on the airplane. Just like my LC2, it became too simple.
Maybe that is a good thing.
It just isn’t for me.
But then… I am going towards 40, maybe I just don’t see it all from the correct perspective anymore.