You are not in the world all alone. Your friends are here, too. – Albert Schweitzer, upon winning the Nobel Prize
I have only had two television sets since I moved away from home.
The first one is a Sampo, oh, about a 17″ number. I took it with me when I headed off to my first bachelor pad. I still have it. It is a remote-controlled device. It had no remote control, so I had to buy a cheapo one from Walmart. At the time we bought it, it had one “advanced” feature: it has a port to which I can connect my cable-TV directly to the television.
Since I’ve gotten married, we’ve graduated to the latest model, a 32″ beauty that has a video-in port on the front, as well as left- and right sound-in ports. It’s made by Sharp. Currently, we have it connected to our stereo, VCR, and DVD/CD player.
The really wild thing is that this television cost us as much as my folks paid for the Sampo.
If this keeps up, within a few years I’ll be able buy a television that includes all of the above and may also have incorporated into it some type of internet interaction, video gaming, etc.
But what price all of this progress? Not much, if you ask me.
Past by Accident; Future by Design
For the last few months, I’ve been filling a shelf with books about Apple Computer and the Macintosh phenomenon. The latest one I’m reading isn’t necessarily about Apple and the Macintosh, but it does give insight in the company’s and the computer’s formative years – insight that gives Santayanian hints at what is to come.
The subtitle is what lured me into buying it; that and my respect for the author. It’s Robert X. Cringely’s Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can’t Get a Date. Cringely, the curmudgeonly computer-industry commentator and gossip columnist at PBS On-Line, superly weaves this narrative from his I-was-there perspective. I’m in the middle of this book – a good read, I must say – and love how it cuts incisively through the carefully crafted PR and shows us the minds of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and other industry movers and shakers.
One of the things that caught my eye (in addition to the great chapter titles) was this description of what the original Macintosh should have been:
[Jef] Raskin was an iconoclastic engineer who first came to Apple to produce user manuals for the Apple II. His vision of the future was a very basic computer that would sell for around $600 – a computer so easy to use that it would require no written instructions, no user training and no product support from Apple. The new machine would be as easy and intuitive to use as a toaster and would be sold at places like Sears and Kmart. Raskin called his computer Macintosh.
Jobs’s ambition was much grander. He wanted to lead the development of a radical and complex new computer system that featured a graphical user interface and mouse (Raskin preferred keyboards). Jobs’s vision was code-named Lisa.
Only now have these two ideas managed to reach fruition – and even now, we have further to go….
Is the Past Prologue?
The price is still too high to market the iMac as a consumer device, like our Sharp television. But I think the time is coming. Watch for future incarnations/revisions of the iMac, as it morphs into something not too different from the functionality of my television set. What I mean is a feature set that goes beyond the features we think of when we think “PC” or “Mac.”
Steve Jobs has seen the future of the personal computer – or he and the people at Apple are trying to shape it. It may not be what I have in mind. But I am sure it won’t be what the iMac currently has as its described features.
The Mac of the future will soon shed its bondi-blue swaddling clothing and rebirth, to the amazement – and approval – of consumers worldwide.
Publisher’s note: The price of the iMac never dropped to $600. The 350 MHz Summer 2000 iMac retailed for US$799, the lowest iMac price ever. The lowest priced Macs ever were the original entry-level 1.25 GHz G4 Mac mini introduced in January 2005 and the current 1.4 GHz dual-core Late 2014 Mac mini, both retailing at US$499. Dan Knight, publisher, Low End Mac.
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