krpalmer: (apple)
[personal profile] krpalmer
Five years ago, I marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the introduction of the first Macintosh by breaking the intervening time into five-year chunks and setting down my impression of "the state of the Mac" at each point. That, of course, makes right now seem like a good time for an update. (So far as "time covered" goes, though, I'm aware of how I marked the thirtieth anniversary of Star Wars, and 1977 also happened to be the year the Apple II was introduced along with the Commodore PET and Radio Shack TRS-80, preassembled computers with BASIC built in, but still some distance from where computing was at the beginning of 1984...)

The ups and downs of Apple's first two decades do seem to leave a good many people in the perpetual expectation something will have to go wrong again sooner or later. I closed five years ago mentioning the uncertainty of "an Apple without Steve Jobs," and even if that advanced from barbed speculation to sad fact before those five years were up, there's at least a first "not right away, anyway" answer now. For the Macintosh itself, though, there has been some concern its nemesis "lies within."

The introduction of the iPad led to much rhetoric about "the post-PC era," and the subtle concern seemed to be the Macintosh itself would be made to follow what had become a success and be "locked down," stuck with anodyne approved applications. I guess I was aware enough of that that before at last upgrading my current computer (approaching four years of service now) to system 10.8 "Mountain Lion," I followed a magazine article and installed a distribution of Linux on my old iMac (revitalized after a hard drive replacement and just about at the eight-year mark now) "just in case." Then, though, I couldn't figure out how to get Linux to recognise the iMac's wireless hardware, which made it more cumbersome to start experimenting with, and after that came to think that since I don't know a lot about installing Linux software from scratch I seemed more reliant on the built-in program installer than I was with the "Mac App Store." It added up to my not really booting that iMac into Linux these days, stuck wondering if the "obvious" choice of Ubuntu would have been better than the article's suggestion of Linux Mint, but also noticing a new and still developing distribution with at least a bit more "Macintosh" look built in to start with. In any case, upgrading to system 10.9 "Mavericks" seems to have gone well for my own singular case. On my first few restarts the "Finder toolbar" would switch back on for certain low-level windows, which did concern me, but that seemed to clear up without my quite understanding why. Where that's being "old-fashioned," though, I've fully adapted to fadeaway scroll bars and scrolling on a trackpad the same way you do on an iPad screen.

Beyond those obvious concerns, I do wonder if a different slice of Apple's history has become embedded in the minds of some people, namely how the Apple II, after its own ups and downs in the company (and, as some people will keep reminding you, having paid the bills for the first tentative years of the Macintosh) was left in the end to dry up where it could presumably have been further enhanced. In this case, though, I do muse a little on how where the different models of the Apple II were at least less expensive than the early Macintoshes, almost all current Macintoshes are more expensive than most of the range of iPads. The measure of integration between the platforms that left people concerned about the Macintosh becoming "too much like" its touch-screen companions may also help convince me the historical analogy might not apply.

In noticing third-party remembrances begin to pop up, I had imagined contrasting that to how you can't run "PowerPC" software compiled before 2006 on a Macintosh running the current operating system. Then, though, Apple put up an interesting anniversary tribute on its home page, and some people working at it even downplayed the thought of "too much convergence" in an interview. In supposing we couldn't imagine what another five years would produce, I might not have thought of the possibility of a few days making things feel a bit different.

October 2017

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