Sunday, February 01, 2004

Pass The Kool Aid

Oh yeah, it's another rambly, über-geeky post!

I'm feeling better about the money I've been spending on my technology/Apple fetish.

The current issue of MacWorld has a timeline in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Mac, and they've thoughtfully included original prices for things. The first Apple LaserWriter printer cost $7,000 in 1985 (I got a Personal LW 5 years later for about $300). The first Mac cost $2,495 and had 128K of RAM and no hard drive (400K floppy, baby!). The suitcase-sized Macintosh "Portable," with a 40 megabyte hard drive (my iPod, by comparison, is 40 gigabytes) cost $6,500 in 1989. And so on.

I realize that these things were state-of-the-art at the time, and that a top-of-the-line G5 will run about $5,000 now. But I take some comfort in thinking that the technology I use in my day-to-day life isn't going to change nearly as fast as it did in the 80s and 90s. I wouldn't complain if my iBook (which, incidentally, cost much less than the first Powerbook 100 did in 1990, and for my purposes is barely distinguishable performance-wise from the higher-end models) got lighter, but if it got any smaller it just wouldn't be practical for the eyes or the fingers. I'd have to nearly double my already sizeable CD collection to fill my iPod. I could do with some more disk space, I suppose, but I can't imagine anytime soon thinking that 80 GB is laughable the way 4 MB is now.

Even if I'm totally wrong about all that, since new technology is also getting cheaper, and since I don't do the sort of work that requires me to have the absolute best machine (My Precious aside), I think I'm well protected from those kinds of prices.

I also enjoyed a little of the gloating that MacWorld did in this article. I've never been one of those Mac users who's rabidly anti-Windows (or, back in the day, my Apple IIe vs. DOS). Having to work on Windows machines and with Windows users are simple facts of my life, and shady corporate practices aside, MS Office for Mac is a pretty kick-ass product, and it lets me safely share documents with other people (freelancers all, with no in-office standard). Still, I find it oddly gratifying to learn that PowerPoint for Mac came out 3 years before the Windows version. PageMaker, FileMaker and Photoshop were all Mac firsts too. Windows itself, of course, was a year behind the first Mac and its graphical interface. It's just nice to know that we're always a wee bit ahead of the game.

That said, I've been a little disenchanted with Apple lately, which I think added to my financial angst. In the rush to bring out OSX and its related components, Apple seemed to be in more of a hurry to say, "Look! We've got our own versions of everything! Join the cult!" than to actually make that software really good. Which was probably fine for the new users (particularly computer novices) they were trying to court, but those of us who were already in the cult but happily using third party applications like AOL Instant Messenger and Palm Desktop had little incentive to switch to Apple apps that were inferior in may ways. The worst part about it was that the Apple stuff (as always) looked so damn good. I certainly wanted the fully integrated system and the pretty windows and all that, but not at the expense of basic functionality.

Well, Apple has apparently been listening (and others have apparently shared my exact concerns, as I'm too lazy to ever write in about these things). The Panther Addressbook fixed every problem I had with the Jaguar version. The new iPhoto does the same. Yesterday, while I was hijacking wireless Internet at the theater, AIM started acting up so I launched iChat (which I've always hated) just to see if it would be more stable. I hadn't even realized I'd gotten an upgrade on it with Panther (the latest version of the OS), and lo and behold, everything I didn't like about it was fixed. I audio-chatted with Erik (who, as the biggest Mac geek I know who happened to be online when I needed him, gets special thanks for playing with me even though we've never actually met in person) and Faustus, which is the third coolest thing ever (the second coolest would be if any of us had cameras and could video-chat, and the coolest is still the iPod). Then I geeked out and figured out how to get it to use the AIM sound set (slamming doors, happy plings, etc.) and I'm hooked. Clearly, my new Airport card is working like a dream and after only two days I don't know how I ever lived without it. Technology is good. Money is overrated. The world is continuing to revolve around me.

I've used the word "cult" a few times in this post. Just the other day I read a post on Upside-Down Hippo debunking the notion of Apple as a cult, and as a life-long member I'd like to avoid thinking of it that way myself. But while I avoided cleaning my apartment today I checked out the Job Opportunities page of the Soho Apple Store's website. When faced with job descriptions like this, what can one really say??

Are you as passionate about customer service as you are about the latest Mac OS? Does the thought of switching PC users, and closing an Apple sale, make you tingle even more than those three seconds right after a sneeze? Do you have retail sales coupled with leadership or management experience and can’t imagine a more rewarding place to utilize those skills than an Apple Store? If so, you might have what it takes to become a Key Holder.

Oh well. Key Holder, lead me to the Gate Keeper and pass the Kool Aid.

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