Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Insanely Great

My introduction to Apple Computers was not dramatic. I returned to teaching in 1983, and there was a classroom in the basement of our high school, with a lab of Apple II computers. A class was taught in that room, "Computer Math," and since I have no gift for math, I shrugged and went back to teaching literature and grammar. Later, as computers began to replace other office machines, I took a class on the Apple II, then I took one on DOS, which was the language being used by personal computers manufactured by IBM. Only when my yearbook program inherited a Mac did I really begin to embrace computing, and before long, I became a fan of Apple. Computers have changed our society, and many of the best ideas in computing have come from Apple.

Since those days of beige boxes and green screens with yellow cursors, Apple has introduced some products which have either changed the way we live, or at least made engineers think of a better way to perform tasks. The Newton was a commercial flop, but it paved the way for Palm PDAs (and I still use one of those) and the iPhone, which has put the smartphone into the hands of regular people.

The first really powerful notebook computers were the Powerbooks introduced in 1991. I'm typing this entry on a MacBook Pro, which is merely a later, somewhat greater, Powerbook. Within a few years, the iMac dumped the floppy drive in favor of internet capability; now no one uses a computer which is not online. Increasing the usefulness of online communications was the goal when Apple led the way in home and small business wireless (Airport) a decade ago. I'm still using my second generation Airport, which was installed years before PC users finally adopted the technology they call WiFi.

Apple also acknowledged that people don't want to buy CDs; they want to pick and choose the songs they listen to, and the iPod and iTunes have been wildly successful because the folks at Apple understood that simple fact. While it hasn't been as successful as some of the iWhatever products, Apple TV also acknowledges that televisions in the future will not rely on cable or satellites, but content will come via the net. Just as land line phone users have dumped them for cell phones, online video content is the future.

I'm a fan of ebooks, and I have watched the parade of devices for reading them march into the marketplace, beginning with the desktop computer, then PDAs, and more recently, various readers including the Rocketbook, the Sony eReader, and Amazon's Kindle. My PDA is nearly five years old, and I've not purchased any of these interm devices, because none of them have the elegance of design and function that Apple brings to its products. Today, I just read that Apple has introduced the iPad, a device which blends together a fabulous portable computer with a screen which might make the Kindle obsolete.

Sometimes Apple is first; sometimes Apple is just better; and often, Apple manages both. As Steve Jobs says of his company's products, "Insanely great!"

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