Happy 30th Birthday Mac! My history with the game changing computer

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Date: Monday, January 27th, 2014, 09:04
Category: Apple, Article, Consumer Electronics, Desktop Mac, Mac, Software

retouchphoto_apple_macintosh_1984_high_res_clean1-580x386So, Friday was the 30th anniversary of the day Steve Jobs unveiled the Macintosh. That iconic “hello” ushered in the era of the personal computer. I knew I’d have to do the ubiquitous anniversary article, but I didn’t realize how difficult it would be, and how many hours I’d loose strolling down memory lane on Google. Where to even begin?! When the Macintosh was introduced on January 24th, 1984, I was in the second half of my junior year at high school (well great, now I’ve dated myself). I had experience with only two computers in my life at that time, the Apple IIe at school, and my own Commodore 64. At the time, I didn’t know anything about Apple or the fact that there was an event occurring that would end up determining much of the course of my life. The first time I was able to get my hands on a Mac was during my second year of college. Ironically, the lab there had a number of NeXT computers and one lonely Mac (SE I think) in the corner. I remember sitting down at it to see what it was all about and leaving shortly thereafter unimpressed. I still lived in the text-based computing world where the majority of college workstations were running UNIX. At that time, all I knew about was Elm (email), piping, directories, FTP, bulletin boards, 300 baud modems, and word processing (and using language similar to HTML within my text documents to tell the dot-matrix printer to print the word in bold). The Mac didn’t appear to offer me anything I needed. It seemed like a toy, a very expensive $2,495 toy at that.

Then it happened. In 1992, my sixth year in college (don’t judge, I had trouble picking a major), I participated in a one year study abroad program in England, and THAT is when I really “met” the Macintosh. This was the first time I had seen a lab devoted entirely to Macs, and among them was a Macintosh IIfx, which was the 2013 Mac Pro of its day. This Mac was a graphics workhorse running at 40 MHz (that was freaking fast in 1992), with internal codenames like Stealth, Blackbird, and F-16; and had a starting price of $9,900. I’ll let that sink in…ok. Calculating inflation, that works out to be around $16,000 today. Ok, I’ll let that sink in too……..alright. It was also running the brand new System 7 operating system!

By the way, as a side note, a Mac IIfx was used by Industrial Light + Magic’s “Rebel Mac” team (put together by John Knoll, who with his brother Thomas created Photoshop) to computer render the feather that falls and then later blows away in the movie Forrest Gump. Yep, that feather is completely CGI. The chocolate was real.

Adobe-Photoshop-2

Let’s speed this up…so everyone in the design school was using the Macs for every aspect of their projects. Engineering drawings were done in ClarisCAD, project briefs were done in Word (before it was all bloaty), concept photos were done with Photoshop 1.0, and 3D modeling and animating was done with StrataVision 3D (if I remember correctly). Suffice to say, I was blown away. I didn’t know computers could do all that! Once I got back home and started my last year, first thing I did was save up to buy a Mac IIci, which was the predecessor of the IIfx (so I got it cheaper -wink-) but still pretty powerful. Thus began my personal love affair with the Mac. As it happens, the IIci is almost the only one of my former computers that I’ve, regrettably, sold off. However I did so to buy my first laptop (used of course), the Macintosh Powerbook 180c, the first Mac laptop to have a color screen…a whopping 256 colors! I had that as my sole machine, hooked up to an external monitor, for a couple of years (wish I’d known the Duo was coming) until I bought my Macintosh 7500. This was during Apple’s “beige” period and also when their stock plummeted to around $15 a share (god oh god why didn’t I buy 100 shares >.<) and they were going through CEOs like used socks. That was another model that because of its expandability, lasted me a few years, even acting as my only television by using an A/V tuner card.

It was now 1993 and I had just graduated college, and began looking for a job in my field of industrial design. While looking, I took on some part-time jobs to pay the bills, one of which was for a small art studio. This was probably the turning point in what would become my career for the next 15+ years. The art studio sold made-to-order vinyl signs. The machine that cut out all the letters for the sign was controlled by a Mac. As it happened, they began having problems and asked if anyone knew anything about computers. Naturally I volunteered to have a look at it, which was essentially my first technical support job. As the world was pretty much computer illiterate at this time, knowing how a computer worked was a hot commodity I discovered, so I began selling my support services and have been doing so ever since. There was no getting away from the Mac now.

So, by this point, it’s somewhere around 1995 for me, and the Macintosh is on its 11th year in the computer world. The World Wide Web, as it was being called, was still mostly text based and not terribly interesting, possibly because nobody was sure what to do with it. Apple innovates again by creating eWorld, a graphical interface for accessing online services. The service was launched in June of 1994 and the WWW was about to get interesting. While eWorld, as short lived as it was, would make a lasting impact, a game changer was being introduced at the same time that would transform the online world forever, NCSA Mosaic, the first web browser. Mosaic was developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, which as it happens is my alma mater. Development of Mosaic began the year I was in England and was discovering the Mac. Spooky eh? More trivia…the computer HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey “became operational” in Urbana, IL in 1992, the same year development on Mosaic began. While not stated, it is assumed HALs systems were created at the NCSA.

eWorld_Apple

Unfortunately eWorld was shut down in 1996 after only 2 years of operation, but it helped move the Web away from a text-based interface to a graphical one, along with America Online. It also may have been the first instance in the computer world of the now common practice of capitalizing the second letter in a name rather than the first. If I recall correctly, I had tried eWorld (I still have the disks), but could not afford the relatively high monthly cost, so instead I used a dial-in connection provided by the University of Illinois which “technically” I was not supposed to be able to use. Because of that, however, I had full access to the web using Mosaic and began getting curious about how web pages were built, thus I began learning HTML and constructing web pages.

After moving to San Francisco, my next Mac would be a used Mac Cube and 17″ Studio Display. Say what you will about the Cube, but it looked awesome! There were actually some unauthorized upgrades you could do, so I eeked out as much life as I could out of it. More trivia…if you’re a Star Trek fan, you may be interested to know that for the series Star Trek: Enterprise, most of the display screens you saw on set were run by 16 Mac Cubes. And let’s not forget when Scotty used an early Macintosh Plus to sort out the formula for Transparent Aluminum.

 Enterprise_G4_Cubes copy

ScottyTalksToMac copy

MacintoshPlus copy

Ok, so we need to pick up the pace, we’re only up to 2001! I’ll tell you what, why don’t I just list out the rest of the products I’ve used or collected from Apple;

  • Mac TV – the only black Macintosh ever made and sold in the US, and you could hook up your VCR to it. I just HAD to have a black Mac.
  • 20th Anniversary Mac, or TAM for short – believe it or not Jony Ive designed this little work of art way before the iMac. Mine sits out kind of like a sculpture. I bought it cheap from a coworker that didn’t have room for it anymore. Lucky me!
  • Powerbook Duo and dock station – super versatile, all the benefits of a laptop and a desktop. Not sure why it didn’t do that well. I believe one model of the Duo was the first Powerbook to sport a trackpad instead of a trackball. Personally, I still prefer the trackball, but hard to get one of those in a Macbook Air.
  • Several other Powerbooks, MacBooks (the toilet seat), titanium, aluminum, you name it. Currently I’m sporting an 11″ MacBook Air.
  • A G5 tower, the “cheese grater” – worst computer in the world if you were in IT. REALLY heavy and the handles cut into your hands. Frankly, I’m glad the behemoth is retired.
  • Newton 130 – I never really got to use the Newton. Apple was phasing it out and there was this hot new thing called a Palm Pilot, and that became my first serious PDA. My first smartphone would be a Palm Treo.
  • Newton 2000 – I still love the Newton. Sorry Steve.
  • QuickTake 200 digital camera – took really low resolution photos, but it was my first digital camera.
  • Mac mini – used it to learn how to run OS X Server
  • Apple TV, both the original and the current “hockey puck”. Hobby? Give us a break Apple.
  • Personal laser printer – YES, Apple used to make printers! Go figure.
  • Studio Display, Cinema Display
  • …aaaaaaand a few iMacs
  • iPhone – I’ve owned every model of iPhone except the iPhone 3G. Two of them were stolen prompting premature upgrades. I originally didn’t think I would go the iPhone route, but eventually the Apple fanboy in me and the coolness factor won me over.
  • iPad 2
  • Retina iPad mini

I’m sure I missed something, but here is a couple of pictures of part of my motley crew.

Newtons copy

Maccollection1 copy

 

So there you have it, my life as seen through my relationship with my Apple products from the last 30 years…well, a big chunk of it anyway. In your many, or few, years using Apple products, which was your favorite or most unique? I’m not sure I can pick, but I might lean towards the G4 Cube. Relate a story of you and your Mac history in the comments.

 

 

I’m back! Did you miss me? Reviewing last week.

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Date: Tuesday, January 21st, 2014, 08:37
Category: Apple, Article, Consumer Electronics, Google, News, Opinion

newspaperI was sick for most of last week, which accounted for the crickets you might of heard when you loaded up the PowerPage. While I get back up to speed on all the current tech news, I thought I’d provide a short list of key articles from last week by other tech sites to get you caught up in case you missed them.

Target data hack only the beginning of massive, sophisticated attack – BGR.com

This is one story that hit close to home. Because of the breach, my credit card company is reissuing my credit card with a new account number which means I get to spend a day or so updating ALL of my automatic billing accounts. Have you noticed this sort of thing seems to be happening more frequently lately? Frankly, I’m starting to consider switching to stuffing my mattress with cash.

Google’s smart contact lens tracks glucose levels for diabetics – AppleInsider.com

Wow, Google really wants to do do stuff with your eyes. While I applaud the clever idea of “always on” monitoring of glucose levels, I have to question why this tech needs to be stuck in your eye. While tears can provide this information, blood is actually the better source for it. Current glucose meters already require regular calibration and a margin of error, partly due to variations in blood. How are you going to do this with a contact lens? And how do you account for the many people who can’t or won’t wear contact lenses, and adding prescriptions to them for people who do wear them? Wouldn’t it be better to have a sensor imbedded under the skin, that anyone could use and didn’t have to be constantly cleaned, removed, replaced, etc.? Eyes are already responsible for a lot of data, do we need to be sticking more things in them?!

Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules – MacObserver.com

If you aren’t familiar with the battle for net neutrality, you should start educating yourself because this won’t go away for some time, and if people aren’t paying attention, they could just get royally screwed by large corporations that are fighting it. The “net” part refers to the Internet and in a nutshell, without net neutrality, everything you do on the internet (which IS practically everything) will cost you more, especially your connection to it. This ruling is kind of a drop in the bucket, but it is a minor setback in the fight to maintain neutrality and keep the greedy profit-seeking providers from gouging everyone just to watch a movie or read an email.

Beware of this Apple ID phishing scam – TUAW.com

I think people on the whole have been getting better about detecting phishing scams, where unscrupulous types attempt to sucker innocent people into willingly handing over their account information by posing as an email from a service they use. Now someone is trying this with an email that looks like a security warning from Apple. Read the details in the article and remember to ALWAYS be cautious with these kinds of requests and make sure the messages are actually coming from where they say they are.

Box overhauls iOS apps and offers 50GB of free storage for life – Macworld.com

Now THIS is a hot tip, and one I took advantage of myself. I’ve had a Box account for some time, but never really used it because the default, free account only provided 5 GB of storage and I have quite a bit more available to me over at their competitor, Dropbox (Oooo…I should write an article about how I did that.). Also, at the time, Box wasn’t as slick and well integrated with the Mac and iDevices as Dropbox. Well, now Box is throwing down the gauntlet and offering 50 GB of storage to users that create (or have) an account and download the iPhone and/or iPad apps, for the next 3 weeks or so at least. Plus, the new iApps have been overhauled and look pretty spiffy. I won’t give up Dropbox, but I’m sure going to find a use for that 50 GB. Can you say “online backup”?

Google acquires smart thermostat maker Nest for $3.2 billion in cash, Father of iPod now Google employee – 9to5Mac.com

This was kind of a surprise, but with wearable computing and home automation being the hot topics at CES this year, it seems to make sense. Perhaps I’m more surprised Apple didn’t acquire them given its pedigree and Apple-like design. While I was kind of disappointed to see another successful company swallowed up by a big fish, I wasn’t as paranoid as a lot of people who felt the proper response was to rip the device off the wall and put it on CraigsList. This one’s a two-fer since it’s a perfect lead in for Apple marketing chief Schiller unfollows Nest & Tony Fadell on Twitter following Google deal.

Top 10 Software Tools for the Mac Road Warrior

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Date: Tuesday, December 19th, 2006, 11:55
Category: Article

An outstanding article over on the The Apple Blog cites 10 must-have software tools. Author Samuel Cohen brings us the best of what’s out there to make the most for the user who is “forced to make certain sacrifices in usability, power, and efficiency.”
Sidetrack: This is a free (provided you put up with the nag screen) or $15 shareware utility that adds scrolling functionality to the borders of the trackpad.
Menufela: A $5 program that makes the very most out of a smaller screen (such as a 12 or 13 inch PowerBook, iBook or iBook laptop). The application autohides the menu bar until the mouse is positioned over it in an effort to show every possible pixel to the user.
Stoplight: This is a free program that lets the user adjust the behavior of the red-yellow-green buttons at the upper left hand corner of each Mac OS X window.
Letterbox: This is a free user interface adjustment for Apple’s Mail program that switches the default view to a three-column view and helps make the most of screen real estate.
Virtue Desktops: Until Spaces arrives in Mac OS X 10.5, this will pave the way and show you just how cool multiple desktops truly are. Virtue Desktops is a freeware multiple desktop manager that helps consolidate mulltiple windows and gives the selected window the full screen while putting the others in the background to work with later.
Quicksilver: THE application launcher and one of the most useful programs ever written for the Mac. Type in a word found in a document or application name and it’ll find it, then suggest several actions that can be done with it. The program is donation-ware, so if you like it, throw a little bit their way.
CornerClick: A free program that adds programmable functionality (such as applescripts, file launches, etc.) to clicks made at the four corners of the screen.
Sidenote: A free program that acts as a miniature notepad which can be easily hidden throughout the screen and revealed by moving the mouse over its location. Items such as text, images and links can be hurled into Sidenote, which helps consolidate everything and makes the desktop more easily navigated.
fKeys: A free program that remaps the enter key (the one on the number pad of a fully sized keyboard). This allows the user to use a function-return key combination instead of having to hunt for the oddly-placed enter key.
And, finally:
Noise: A free application that makes white noise to help blend out surrounding noise or conversations.
If you have any suggestions for must-have programs you routinely use, let us know.

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Apple Shifts Pricing, Features for Refurbished MacBook and MacBook Pro Units

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Date: Wednesday, December 6th, 2006, 09:27
Category: Article

According to a report from MacNN, Apple is changing its refurbished inventory of older MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops since the company released updated units powered by Intel’s Core 2 Duo processors this fall.
The company is currently offering its 15″ 2.0 GHz MacBook Pro with 512 MB of RAM, an 80 GB hard drive and ATI Mobilitiy Radeon X1600 with 128 MB of onboard VRAM for $1,449in both standard and glossy finishes.
A higher end 17″ 2.16 GHz MacBook Pro with 1 GB of RAM, 7,200 RPM 100 GB hard drive or 5,400 RPM 120 GB hard drive and an ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics card with 256 MB of onboard VRAM available in both standard and glossy finishes is available for $2,199.
The popular 15″ 1.83 GHz MacBook Pro model, formerly $1,399 is no longer in stock.
Available refurbished MacBooks include the 1.83 GHz white model with 512 MB of RAM and a 60 GB hard drive for $849, a 2.0 GHz white model with 512 MB of RAM for $899 and the ever-cool 2.0 GHz black model with 512 MB of RAM and an 80 GB hard drive for $999. The refurbished units are based on the Intel Core Duo processor.

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WSJ: Mac’s Moment?

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Date: Tuesday, April 4th, 2006, 08:16
Category: Article

wsj.jpgAnother intreresting WSJ article is Nick Wingfield’s “Mac’s Moment?

Some companies like Aozora, though, are embracing the latest Macs, citing that they are much less susceptible to crashes, offer more functions that businesses need and are viewed as more secure in terms of viruses and spyware than PCs that run on Windows. What’s more, Apple is in the process of moving its entire line of Macs to microprocessors, or the brains of PCs, made by Intel Corp. Those chips are allowing Apple to create Macs that could appeal to more businesses — smaller, thinner machines that consume less power and perform functions faster. So with Mac OS X and the huge hardware transition under way, both Apple and analysts believe the company may have its best shot in years at expanding its tiny share of the business market.

Read the rest of “Mac’s Moment?” at WSJ.com (subscription req’d).

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