Computers, you see, they are like bikes. A tenuous link you may think. Typical delusion from a man who considers world events through the prism of “how will this affect my riding of a bicycle“.
And while I may be King of the Tortured Metaphor*, there is a little more to this than “they both have metal bits in them“. That ^^ picture is painting a thousand words which include “Mac, Windows PC, Android Tablet, Kindle, Android Phone, iChisel(tm) Phone**” and “Why?”
Soon an explaination. First tho, a little history. I’m of such ancient stock that hazy memories remain of the first “computer showrooms“. Airy Galleries filled with back-lit technical magic – a silicon soup of diversity with survival of the fastest at its core.
Anarchy of design ruled; of chipsets, operating systems, programming languages and even physical form. Tiny units like the Oric-1 running Prologue, sprite based gamers including the VIC-20 and the Dragon 32. The first “luggable” sized similar to a suitcase with a 4inch screen. The Osborne-1 was very brave and way ahead of its’ time. Which easily explains why there was no Osborne-2.
And within these niches and crossovers stood three machines stamped with the desirable tag. The ZX Spectrum, the BBC Micro and the Apple II. For those of a certain age, the ZX-81 with its wobbly ram pack and tape drive marked the first age of personal computing. It’s successor with a keyboard that acutally moved then created the first computing Jihad.
If you were a “Speccy” you couldn’t be a BBC’r. Fights would break out over perceived slights and feature inflation. “Pah Basic, that’s not a proper language, and your processor is shit, and you’ve got no graphics memory and yes, actually, I DO ENJOY typing in nine pages of 101101 mnemomics and NO I don’t mind if the box overheats and explodes before I can save it”
They were rubbish fights of course, geeks being of the pipe cleaner physicue and NHS glasses genome, but there passion could not be questioned. Logic, Yes. Obsession, Very Probably. Inability to relate to anyone without a working knowledge of the Z80 processor, a sign of autism I’d accept.
The Apple II was something else with TWO 90k disk drives which seemed profligate in the extreme. What could possibly fill a vast storage system that today would encode nearly 4 seconds of an MP3 track. In marketing unrecognisable to Apple today, it was a bit confused – caught between business computer and personal plaything. Furthermore, it was boxy, expensive and lacked the coolness of other brands. Yes, this is Apple we are talking about.
This was back in the days when the extent of pervasive technology was the video recorder. If the geeks were to inherit the world, it’d take a while for anyone to notice – hunched up as they were over sweaty keyboards waiting for someone to take them seriously.
And in a move never repeated, someone did. IBM launched the Personal Computer to a sceptical audience and sold millions. And having cornered the market in hardware, they made the terrible mistake of believing PCs were like Mainframes with the mantra that“nobody got fired for buying IBM“. They didn’t need to, IBM fired themselves.
By licensing the hardware and giving up on the software, they not only backed the wrong horse, they knobbled it, fed it a sleeping pill before taking it out and shooting it in a mercy killing. A decision analogous to the record exec explaining “no one is interested in guitar music anymore” before dismissing the beatles from his presence.
So everyone was landed with a PC on their desk and more than a few bought one for home. Apple discovered its coolness with the iMac but for every one sold, Microsoft shipped 999 copies of windows on generic PC hardware.
Deciding that being cool and broke wasn’t a business model, Apple finally wised up and dumped their propriatory chipsets which pissed off their oh-so-hipster fanboi’s, but cheered the shareholders. Even so, the market saw PCs as safe, boring and for business while the Mac was fine for designers and publishers, but it’s not a real computer eh?
Then came the iPhone and everything changed. More of that next time, there’s only so much geekery even a man so steeped in the information age can take.
* or possibly “first amongst equals” or “Hedgmonically Priviledged” or even “Guardian of the Idea Pool“. Metaphors you see, it’s like verbal colouring in for people who aren’t allowed crayons.
** Picture taken after iSlate returned to IT department in flat trajectory by man dancing an embarrassing jig while shouting “HAH RING NOW, GO ON THAT CALL YOU RECEIVED ABOUT AN HOUR AGO, I DON’T CARE”. Forgot to include the Kindle in the pic as well. Maybe we could start a “spot the device” competition where I’d hand out re-cycled Palm Treo to the lucky winner.