James Wallis levels with you

Tartes aux pommes

My first experience with Apple came in 1984. Someone in my school had a Mac. It was pretty nifty. I was allowed to wiggle the mouse and watch the cursor move on screen. Ideas for games flooded into my mind. The Mac failed to become any kind of games powerhouse.

1992, I did a postgraduate course in periodical journalism at the London College of Printing (now the LCC). Part of that was a layout module, using some flavour of Mac and the latest release of Quark Xpress, probably 3.0 or 3.1. It crashed quite often and we lost a lot of work. By then I’d been running Ventura Publisher under Gem (an early PC windowing environment, a little clunky but very stable) on my home machine for a couple of years, and it seemed that the extra features of the Mac OS and Quark weren’t worth the trade-off in reliability. I stuck with PCs.

1996, I joined the launch team of Bizarre magazine at John Brown Publishing, a Mac house. I was initially given a PowerMac, which was replaced a few months later with something slightly better after we got ram-raided and had all our hardware nicked. Both machines ran Quark 3.3 and a word-processor from a company that had closed down a couple of years before, and which created files that didn’t import cleanly into Quark. I never understood that. Anyway, both were unstable as hell and fell over a lot—usually Quark would run out of memory and collapse without warning, taking the rest of the system and all unsaved data with it. If it wasn’t that it was the network.

At the time I was running a Windows network in my home (originally under 3.11 for Workgroups, later upgraded to Win95 and later Win98, slinging big publishing files around) using out-of-the-box Dell hardware and keeping it up for days at a time. Even though they tried, the Mac zealots at work were unable to persuade me that I should switch.

In 1999 I went to work for a small magazine company to create Crazynet, a UK sister-title to the French Micro Dingo. I had been promised a full-spec G3 with a big monitor, so imagine my delight on my first day when I found a low-end iMac on my desk. Even with the RAM jacked up to the maximum and every autosave feature turned on, it was a hideously unstable piece of shit that crashed several times a day and cost me literally weeks of lost work. I loathed it with a passion. Also, it had a puck mouse. Awful. I wrote more articles for Crazynet on my Psion 5 than I did on the iMac. The only time that Psion 5 ever lost data was when a waitress at a cafe accidentally poured water over it.

2003, I was senior writer at a film publicity company. The writers’ department was the only part of the company using Macs—round-base iMacs running OSX and, once again, a word-processor that wasn’t made any more and didn’t save to any standard file-formats except RTF. (Is my experience there unique or are there a lot of Mac shops where obsolete, unreliable text editors are mandatory?)  The keyboard was missing at least one character we used quite a lot: I kept one on a sticky on my desktop so I could cut-and-paste it into documents as required. The iMac didn’t fall over as much as the Macs I’d used previously, but it still fell over and needed to be restarted a lot more often than the Toshiba laptop and Dell desktop I had at home. Being OSX-based, complete system failures were rare, but the regular discovery that the word-processor had mysteriously terminated with no warning or autosave brought a warm nostalgia for all my previous experiences with Apple hardware. Warm like heartburn or a short-circuiting power cable.

And that’s the list of all the Apple products I’ve ever used for more than an hour or two, with one exception. In late 2004 I bought my girlfriend an iPod. It was the first big present of our relationship, with a cute engraved message on the back and everything. She still has it and uses it, and with every passing year it acquires more sentimental value, though it has needed to be repaired a couple of times. The last time it failed I took it to the Apple Store. They looked at it in disdain and told me I should throw it away and buy a new one. And that was the moment I decided Apple would not get another penny of my money or waste another minute of my time.

I understand that many of my friends will only buy hardware and operating systems made by Apple. I’m fine with that and do not think less of them for it.

But if I bought all my gear from Sony and wouldn’t shut up about it, you’d think I was a bit weird, right?

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  1. A last post about Steve Jobs…

    Links from good or moving writing surrounding the death of Apple CEO Steve Jobs…

  2. Tim Gray says:

    Hi James. Have you ever tried an iOS device? Only does what it does, of course… But I suspect in terms of time spent my main computer now is the iPod Touch!

  3. admin says:

    I’ve not used an iOS device for more than a few minutes. It does, as you say, what it does. My requirements for a mobile device are that it lets me enter text at speed. Apple doesn’t allow alternate keyboard software for its touch-screen devices. However Swype on Android gives me a 25-30% speed boost over a standard touch-keyboard.

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