Crossing the Great Divide…

Cliqueyness, fierce brand loyalty, snobbery… all things to which I like to hope I don’t subscribe. It would seem, though, that thanks to one man, I’ve been doing all three for the past 20 years.

I’m a Mac Gal. I bought my first (second hand) Mac at the tender age of 20, and as such, am one of those rare 40 year olds who has never actually owned or even used a PC. I had one on my desk at a place I worked, but it was next to my Apple Mac G5 and just sat there looking ugly and beige and unfathomable. Just getting my email off it could get me into all kinds of trouble and invariably resulted in a call to the IT department… “Hello Sue – what’s that? You’ve touched your PC again?? *Sigh* Okay – we’re on our way up… “

My first Mac was an SE/30 (above), which looks now like a very early prototype for the iMac – tiny,  light and compact, the whole thing could be scooped up and moved around with one hand. Happily, I still have it. Its teeny-tiny screen was black and white, and it had less memory than a goldfish with early onset Alzheimers. If you planned to scroll from one side of a double page spread to another, it was advisable to pencil it into your diary. In spite of it’s shortcomings, though, I loved it: I loved the fact that the Apple face beamed reassuringly at me when I started up; I loved the cheery chime; I loved that there was one drive, right there, clearly visible on the pale grey desktop, and not 43 drives, dotted and hidden all over the place in a weird, ugly hierarchy. I loved it because everyone else had a PC, and I had a Mac.

With the advent of iPods and iPhones, it’s easy to forget that for years, Mac users were viewed with suspicion by the majority of people, hardly surprising given that they were the preserve of creative types in attention-seeking eyewear and casual footwear. And for our part, we viewed PC users with laughable contempt; these were people who had not yet Found The Way, and probably never would. I enjoyed being part of this exclusive club; I suppose I sold my soul to Apple pretty early on, possibly because it seemed like a brand that was still shooting from the hip. Gates was a geek; Jobs was a dude.

In his tribute to Jobs on the Creative Review blog Patrick Burgoyne says “We had Macs, the suits had PCs: they symbolised the great divide. They were ‘ours’ and, despite their faults, we loved them. Before iTunes and iPods, before the phones and the pads, we embraced Apple and we never let it go.”

This divide made itself rather apparent at university when I refused to do an exam on a PC and asked to be allowed to bring my Mac in. I was denied this as other students complained that this  ‘gave me an unfair advantage’ (ignoring the fact that working on an alien PC put me at a massive disadvantage).  Being a Mac person set me apart from my classmates who thought I had ideas above my station, and I can’t deny that this made me quite happy…

So I suppose I have mixed emotions today, the day that Apple founder Steve Jobs has died. Part of me is glad that he finally got the world to see what they were missing out on by not using a Mac; the other part of me feels childish and petulant and cross. I want to tell all those ninnies waving their iPhones above their heads like cigarette lighters that jumping on the bandwagon in the past 5 years doesn’t make you Mac. Some of us were there 20 years ago, scrolling painfully across a grey, 6 inch screen, and doing it gladly, because the little pixelly face smiled at us and reassured us that we were in on the secret…

Cheers, Steve; s’long.

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3 responses to “Crossing the Great Divide…

  1. I remember the Macs 20 years ago too – we had one & my children learned how to use it before they could even read or write!

  2. Glad to hear they they were given a good start in life, Jayne! That’s probably the best way to learn – I do remember struggling like mad for the first year or so… they were easy, but could be infuriating… and still can be…

  3. Brilliant – a blog close to my heart! I had an SE/30 too, worked 3 jobs to save up for it and re-trained myself to design on it. Love the cartoon – my mac would be the first thing I’d save in a fire (well, maybe after the husband & kids!)

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