Home Tech Apple The Apple Mac at 40 and the birth of Macfilos

The Apple Mac at 40 and the birth of Macfilos

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The Apple Mac at 40. This week in 1984, Steve Jobs unveiled the Macintosh computer. Twenty years ago, I bought my first Mac. Three years later, I had started Macfilos, which owes the first part of its title to Steve Jobs’s little computer. The Macintosh was indeed revolutionary, although it took at least twenty years before it became a serious competitor for Microsoft, especially in the general business word outside the design studio.

The original Macintosh, 1984. Copyright by Saliko, published under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unreported licence.

This is why it took twenty years for me to pluck up the courage to change from Windows to macOS. In early 2005, I bought a Mac mini for £299 given that I could try it and return it the next week if I didn’t like it. I was immediately impressed with the London Apple Store when I went to collect the mini, and I realised that this was a wholly different experience to the one provided by the average computer shop of the time. It was truly a new world and, subsequently, I really wanted to like the system.

In love

I plugged in a keyboard, mouse and old monitor and within days I was in love. Far from returning the Mac mini, it took me just seven days to return to the London Apple Store and buy a PowerBook G4. I still have it, boxed and in perfect condition, although I haven’t powered it up for some years. I keep it for old time’s sake and as a constant reminder of the wisdom of changing over from Windows when I did.

Windows and, before that, MS-DOS and, earlier, CP/M had dominated my office life. It wasn’t until I left work that I had the opportunity to look through the windows and appreciate the Mac alternative.

Times, they are a changing… Mike’s first Mac, the 2004 PowerBook G4 “widescreen display”, still alive and kicking.

No Macfilos

It’s probably true to say that if I had not taken those first steps into the Apple world, I would not have bought an iPhone and I would most likely have never started a blog. In a way, both the Mac and iPhone led the way to our current favourite topic of photography. When I started to write about Leica and photography in general, I already had Macfilos.com up and running, and it was an easy transition. Over the first years, technology moved to the back row and the focus was on Leica.

Over the years, as the initial nerdiness of Apple has worn off, to be replaced by the one-to-all image of the company, my technical interest has waned. While I still love the world of Apple, the photography aspect has taken pride of place.

So, a tip of the hat to Steve and his revolutionary little computer. Thank you, Steve, for starting me on the road to computing bliss, and for unconsciously paving the way for the Macfilos blog.


MacStories: The Mac at 40

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26 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t know exactly, but it must also be about twenty years now that I switched to the Mac for my personal work. I entered the Apple world with an iPod that I still own (the display is half broken now) and was intrigued by the idea that a computer might work in a similar way. The MacBook with its white vinyl case and a Motorola processor was the answer. Since then, two iMacs followed, the last running twelve long years without any problems. In my job, I use Windows computers, and I have to say, Windows has improved a lot over the years, but the seamless hardware/software integration of the Apple world is unrivaled.

    BTW, Macfilos entered my life much later than the Mac and via the interest in Leica. I first wondered where the unusual name of the blog came from but soon stopped thinking about it. Only if I tell friends about the blog I am occasionally writing for I have to give a short explanation. And, of course, we are proud that Macfilos has become something of a brand. The growth in both popularity and quality we recently reported on makes of proud of course, but we owe all this to our fantastic readers and especially their wonderful, knowledgeable and polite contributions and comments.

    Jörg-Peter

    • The iPod was probably the defining product in bringing Macs to the general public. It was so successful that it became a Trojan horse, encouraging users to consider a Mac for the first time. Then the iPod turned into the iPhone and that proved to be the real launchpad for the Apple system that we know today.

  2. I built my first Mac using an Orange printed circuit board and soldered all the parts onto the board. I then sourced a power supply from somebody selling from their home. I cannot remember who supplied the case. This was in the early 80s timeframe. I eventually purchased a real Mac.

        • Now that makes sense — my spouse used to be an electronics tech, back in the day when you could troubleshoot and replace a resistor or capacitor. She was very good at what she did, but certainly could never design the circuits!

  3. It seems that many of us began using computers for work, and I’m no different. I had a summer job in 1968; it required a bit of programming — using COBOL on an IBM 360, in the world of punch cards. Fast forward to my working days: in 1980 I received a windfall from my university, and promptly bought two kits: one to assemble a dual-drive CP/M machine, the other a monitor/keyboard. A bit later the Apple Lisa was announced, and I just had to have one — complete with a whopping 5mb hard drive and Laserwriter printer. What I recall most was the tremendous amount of swapping to hard drive: not the most efficient system. A few years later, the university in its wisdom decided mathematicians needed NeXT machines because obviously everyone knew Unix. The Lisa — well, the name conflicted with an ex-gf, so it got christened ‘1847’ and, after a makeover as a Mac, my partner (now Spouse) got it.

    Consulting work got me a MacPro (cheese grater) to run MatLab on big datasets, and a Windows machine. If I hadn’t been addicted to Mac before, the Pro would have sealed it. On retirement, I took out the hard drive and donated the Pro to charity.

    That didn’t last long: for photography, I bought a used Pro 2013 (trash can) with 64gb memory, etc, etc. And, while waiting for a 40mp Fuji to come out, I’m looking longingly at a used 2019 Pro. I doubt I’ll die clutching a Mac or a Leica, but they’ll definitely be second place.

  4. Mike,
    I bought my first Mac in 1988 a second hand 1mb Mac Plus complete with an Apple ImageWriter II dot matrix printer. It replaced a Sinclair QL which was great for what I was using it for word processing, accounts, databases but I wanted a severe upgrade. We had Macs at work and I wanted one. I was a technical illustrator and I knew the era of technical pen and the ellipse template was coming to an end and being replaced by Adobe Illustrator.
    So Mac acquired, but I soon realised that life would be a lot easier if I had a hard disc. A suitable one was a Qisk 45mb but it cost £750 !! There was no more money left and my only saleable asset was my pride and joy, a Leica M2 (976333 where are you?) complete with three lenses and a Benser bag. The whole lot was sold for roughly the price of the hard disc. I was heartbroken, I’d had the M2 since I was a student but I needed the hard disc more than the Leica, so it had to go.
    The Plus got me a really good job later on as at the time there weren’t many technical illustrators who could use Adobe Illustrator so it was a good investment. I went through a succession of Macs over the years including one the same as your first one Mike. All of which sadly ended up on a skip or the recycle bin in our local electrical shop, unlike the Leica.
    It took me another 30 years to acquire a replacement for my M2, an M4 and then a M240. Still using these two, so glad to have them back .

    Philip

    • Nice story, Philip. I remember buying a 5MB hard disk for the office, and I dread to think what it cost then (or the equivalent now). Sadly, your 45MB disk will have gone to the scrapyard years ago while, if you’d kept the M4, it would have been worth 2,000 dollars/pounds/euros. I bet you bought it for a lot less than that.

  5. Mmm – Snap! ..Tolomeo lamp, I see!

    Have I mentioned this before..? In November ’83 I was asked to go up to UK Apple HQ (it was then in Hemel Hempstead, north of London) to see something new. I signed the NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) and was shown into a small room with a beige, vertical computer, mouse and keyboard on the table (..see first photo). There was a carrying bag on the floor, with a jolly ‘Mac’-like drawing on it.

    I’d used an Apple ][ for a year or so, and I’d tried a Lisa at one of the computer fairs at London’s (cramped) Barbican Exhibition Centre.

    This new thing on the table behaved just like a Lisa, but didn’t have the big (expensive!) hard drive of the Lisa, and seemed a bit underpowered. I wasn’t keen – and told them so! – on the black-text-on-white-little-9″-screen of the Mac (..too much glare!..) and the very small, almost indistinguishable from one another, icons. And the ‘floppy’ (hard plastic) discs didn’t have much capacity: a lot of disc-swapping was involved in copying documents.

    Still.. two months later, the Mac was officially launched – with THAT advert, shot by Ridley Scott – and the world changed. And later came the iMac(s), iMovie, iWeb (which I still use!), iDVD, Pages, Garageband, the iPod, all those laptops (..well, I still use all the hardware and the Apple software). Final Cut Pro, and – eventually, though I swore I wouldn’t be seen dead with one – an Apple Watch ..or two!

    Thanks, Steve: I think of you every October 5th. RIP.

    • I think you have mentioned the excellent Tolomeo lamp before — as has Thorsten von Overgaard who also has one on his desk. Thanks for the historical tour, long before I took a real interest in Apple. Although, like you, I did try out a LISA, possibly at the Barbican (although I have a suspicion it was at Earls Court.

  6. I made the switch in 2013 and lost any interest in PCs almost immediately. I still use a PC for my government job remote work, and I feel it is quite reliable, but not at all the same experience. It speaks a different language to me than my iMac. If you will, the PC is an SLR and my Mac is a Leica M.

    Which is I guess is part of the rational here.

    Ed

    • Good analogy, Ed. I always felt that Apple and Leica shared something, especially in my early days (before 2012) which most Apple users were true enthusiasts.

  7. A lovely reminder Mike.
    Not long after the launch of the Macintosh in the UK some friends invited me over and there sitting on their dining room table was the new Mac. With a short space of time I was able to do things the word processors in the office would never be able to do. Kudos to the pioneers at Xerox Parc for their innovations in GUI, WYSIWYG, and the Mouse that kickstarted the revolution.

    • Thanks, Jon, I bitterly regret not having taken up with Mac in the eighties. However, the company was too committed to Windows and I couldn’t face working with two operating systems. I remember that, even when I started in 2005, the Mac was short on good business software and transferring between the two systems was hardly seamless.

  8. My introduction to personal computers was when I worked for a small city in Georgia, USA. I started there in 1979 as a junior civil engineer. At the time, the City had two personal computers at City Hall, both Apple IIs. The Apple IIs were replaced by IBM PC-ATs in 1984, I think. I expressed a wish for one in the Engineering Department. I was given authority to purchase an IBM PC-XT, because the City Manager said “you don’t need the power of an AT” !!

    About the same time the Community Development Director was permitted to purchase an Apple Macintosh. He used it mainly for graphic arts work. I remember thinking the graphical user interface (monochrome only) and mouse were cute, but of little practical value.

    Decades later, I have only used PCs. My wife uses a Mini Mac, and seems to like it, but it is frustrating for both of us. I am quite computer-savvy (she is just the opposite), but am usually at a loss to help her because everything (almost) is so different on a Mac.

    • Martin, interesting experience. For no particularly good reason, I always assume that many Macfilos readers use Macs, so it’s good to hear the contrary view.

      • I was drawn to Macfilos by the content. It was only after many months that I wondered the origin of the name of the blog. I wondered why it was not Leicaphilos, but assumed it must have something to do with Macs.

        • Hi Martin,

          Actually, this is a rather sore point. The transition took place around 12 years ago and, at the time, I was reluctant to change the domain name. A more Leica-like name would have been ideal and, of course, the old stuff wouldn’t now matter. We all make mistakes. I’ve discussed changing the name of the blog, but we always come back to the domain. To change to a new domain now would raise all kinds of problems.

          On the other hand, perhaps I’m too close to it. Most readers just accept that the site is called Macfilos and don’t recognise the conflict. We have considered rebranding the blog as something like “Mf Photo” (playing on M and f(ocus), while retaining the macfilos.com domain name. But it is all in the air and probably isn’t worth it.

          • A number of successful brands have names that no longer make logical/literal sense, but they have brand awareness and users know what they do. To change that would be a massive investment with no proof it would put you in a better place.

          • I think we all agree. We don’t have any funds for a massive investment even if we thought it a good idea. As you say. We do have brand awareness in our specific area.

      • Just to add some interest (maybe) to the discussion of operating systems, I was one of a small market share that used (and preferred) IBM OS-2 back when Windows 3.1 was the market leader. OS-2 pioneered the use of contiguous memory space above 1 MB on PCs. Remember when PCs could only use 640 KB as user-addressable memory. Memory space above 1 MB initially could only be used as a a RAM drive or other work-arounds. OS-2 also pioneered the file addressing systems that allowed large files and long file names. Windows did not have that until Windows NT, which was really experimental. OS-2 also pioneered protected operating space for each program, so that a crash of one (common in those days) did not crash the system.

        Alas, OS-2n was ahead of it’s time and did not fare well in the marketplace. It took Microsoft a while to catch up to the features in OS-2.

        • Thanks for the additional information, Martin. I had completely forgotten about that 640 KB ceiling, but now remember that it was a big bone of contention at the time.

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