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Returning to Apple after Nine Years

As I happily type these notes on a new 11-inch MacBook Air, after installing some Mac OS X applications, I am reminded of the good old days of nine years ago. That was when I stopped using my Power Mac G3 (Yosemite). Why? A job in banking made me switch to Windows XP, and later to Windows Vista.

I was a huge Macintosh fan from the beginning of my computer career. I started using System 6 on my Atari ST’s Macintosh emulator, but my first actual Macintosh was a used Macintosh Portable—I got it for a bargain when the first PowerBooks came out. Later, I had a Macintosh IIci, followed by various Power Macs. My dad had a PowerBook 170, and my first PowerBook was a 3400c that I really loved. While at university, I worked as an Apple promoter, helping promote the first iMac, and later as Microsoft Macintosh software promoter. At the same time, I was also a hard-core Newton fan with a MessagePad 120 and, later, a 130. (In fact, alpha Small Dog Don Mayer’s review of the Newton MessagePad is still on my hard disk, and amusingly, it
still reads pretty reasonably if you change “Newton” to “iPad.”)

Yesterday I purchased a current print issue of Macworld and had to smile as I traveled back down memory lane, remembering super-thick issues of Macworld and MacUser. I recalled scouting for the best price for a 21-inch gray-scale monitor among all the mail-order Macintosh resellers and winnowing the choices down to Microtech or eMachines. I remembered the ads for Now Menus, Claris FileMaker, and StuffIt Deluxe, and for 3rd-party PowerBook Duo SCSI adapters.

But, once I switched to Windows, did I miss the Mac and its operating system? Not so much. Because my job was unrelated to graphics, design, or multimedia, I became a typical Windows corporate drone. At first I had a Dell notebook, then another Dell Latitude notebook, then HP and Nokia netbooks, and, for the last two years, a Sony Vaio that I still use with Windows Vista. I also had lots of mobile devices, including several Palms, a Treo running Windows Mobile (what a piece of garbage!), the Sony PRS-505 ebook reader, and, of course, lots of BlackBerries. Nothing syncs so well as a BlackBerry connected to a Windows PC running Outlook or a RIM server! I was happy and smiled when people pulled out their Macs, while inside I had tears…
no, not really, my friends: that’s wishful thinking! When I approach new things, like Windows, I dig into them and commit myself. BBEdit was soon replaced with TextEdit Pro, and GraphicConverter became IrfanView, and so on. Computers were not, and still aren’t, that important in my life: I want a working system, not to be part of a cult.

But the cult of Mac has a secret weapon, and it is called the iPhone. I had never stopped using iTunes to sync the various iPods I owned over the years (my favorite being the iPod shuffle). I always liked the iPod, even though sometimes my Dell notebook would not start up with one attached—syncing music to an iPod is like getting email on your BlackBerry: it works well as long as you don’t change the server settings. However, iTunes and the iPod weren’t enough to make me want to switch back to the Mac.

Anyway, in October 2009 I approached T-Mobile to renew my mobile phone contract. Interestingly, the iPhone cost less than the latest BlackBerry. So I decided to give the iPhone 3GS a try, since I knew several happy iPhone 3G users. I kept my old BlackBerry Bold as a backup, just in case! Initially I was not that impressed with the iPhone: what, my email messages would show up only every 15 minutes instead of instantly? And typing a message seriously sucked.

But I was lured ever deeper into the iOS ecosystem by the thousands of apps. I think my first app was GoodReader; it was followed by many more. (My top-five apps are the word processor iA Writer, the file manager iFiles, the Twitter client Ofsoora, the contact accelerator Dialvetica, and the task manager OmniFocus.)

Because of my interest in keeping my data synced, I switched to MobileMe shortly after buying the iPhone. I felt bad when everybody else was using Google Calendar for syncing, but I wanted MobileMe’s remote-lock option for my iPhone. When I made the switch back to Mac OS X, I was impressed by how fast my MobileMe settings, including calendar and contacts, were transferred to my new computer. I also use Dropbox for sharing files, and it’s extremely helpful to have access to the same files on my Mac and iPhone. I use Dropbox with about 10 people, and it has totally changed the way I conduct business.

The iPhone 3GS revived my interest in Apple. I started to follow announcements and read reviews of interesting accessories—though not to the point of reading rumor sites every day. Still, I followed Apple news and became excited when the iPad was announced. Suddenly, in August 2010, I became an iPad addict (the iPad arrived in Austria many weeks later than it did in the United States). Late October found me using my iPad, the Apple wireless keyboard, and the Griffin A-Stand on a two-week business trip covering four U.S. states. On my last day in Las Vegas, the Apple Store received its first batch of the new MacBook Air laptops, and I fell in love with the 11-inch model,
largely due to its instant-on capabilities, the first I’ve seen in a computer with a full operating system.

The MacBook Air is truly a fascinating machine: it is the absolute minimum a portable computer needs to be without compromising on speed or design. Battery door? None, because there is no removable battery. Truth is, I never needed a second battery for a device that lasts between four and seven hours. Want more memory? Trade up to the 13-inch model. Go ahead and joke about the missing SuperDrive, but when was the last time you bought packaged software or even music on CD? (Obviously, I’m exaggerating, but anyone who relies on major packages like Adobe Creative Suite or who buys a lot of music on CD will either have another computer or will spring for Apple’s USB SuperDrive.) If you look at the MacBook Air, it is everything the
PowerBook 100 was in its time: a light and truly portable computer with the best technology available at the time.

I love being back and, hey, I don’t miss the 3.5-inch floppy disk!

[Lorenz Szabo is a business development consultant living in Vienna, Austria. Read more of his thoughts on his blog.]

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