My first Mac was a Mac 512K from the early 1980s, probably 1985. It replaced my Heathkit CP/M system, and when I went on business trips, that thing -- and an external hard drive, what a luxury -- traveled with me all over the country in a huge padded case.
This was before I had back surgery.
I upgraded every few years so I can't even count how many Macs I've owned, but I know the "killer app" that made the Mac so important to me: PowerPoint.
My job has always been about trying to deliver information to people, and I remember the day in 1987 when someone came in with a PowerPoint disk and we started to use it, and to realize what it meant.
No more expensive 35mm slides that took a week. No more hand-drawn transparencies and overhead projectors. PowerPoint was a tool that only existed on the Mac (at that time) and the synergy between PowerPoint and Apple's LaserWriter was a huge step forward.
Windows was an unreliable, buggy joke that didn't become usable until 1995. The Mac gave me eight years of competitive advantage to deliver all kinds of materials to all kinds of customers faster, better, and with greater agility than my Windows-bound colleagues.
Sure, they could put their computers together from scratch and marvel at the joy of multiple suppliers, interchangeable parts, and lower costs.
But the Mac was a tool for me, not a hobby, and the price difference in the long run was irrelevant. I had better tools and better connectivity than they did and that was what counted.
I took on the project to write a new edition of the MacWorld Networking Bible for IDG Books, 700 pages that I filled with AppleTalk, TCP/IP, DECnet, OSI, and even SNA (IBM mainframe) connectivity!
Apple hasn't always offered the best products. There were long years, before they figured out how to make a good laptop, when I wandered the world with a Toshiba T1000, going back-and-forth as Apple popped out yet another unusable or buggy laptop that I'd buy, try and then discard, in disgust.
For me, the biggest transition and the smartest one was the move to a Unix base with OS X. For a techie like me, this was heaven: I had a usable Unix laptop with the many tools that only worked well on Unix, and I could run Office, a good email client, and a web browser.
That was my entire day: one platform, every single task taken care of. Tech teams adopted Macs en-masse when this happened, because the Mac was the tool that could get things done. Open source tools, like Ethereal (now Wireshark), were the wave and the Mac let me ride that wave better than any other platform.
I still use Macs every day. When I need Windows - there has never been anything as good as Visio on the Mac, for example -- I have VMware Fusion to boot up a speedy guest virtual machine.
It's not a love affair; it's a tool. It may not be the right tool for everyone, but it sure has been the right tool for me.
Snyder, a Network World Test Alliance partner, is a senior partner at Opus One in Tucson, Ariz. He can be reached at Joel.Snyder@opus1.com.
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