I’m no stranger to Macs. For the past 40 years I’ve used Macs in off mode, and about five years ago I ported my music production to the platform. But until recently, email, writing, spreadsheet, and everything else was done in Windows.
However, thanks to one application, I was finally able to shake off the pride and joy of the Redmond giant. My Mac is my everyday computer, and it took me about four decades to get here. As I look back at my Mac trip, it was a long and strange one, and I thought I’d document it here. My journey began long ago, in the age of the original Apple computer… [queue the time travel effects].
1970s: An early bite of an apple
Yes, I said A native The Apple computer, not the Apple II, is a fruit-branded computer that most people with similar experience would imagine. It’s my first experience with a computer. I can still remember entering a darkened room with an Apple motherboard resting on a workbench, outputting to a naked CRT. I thought it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.
Fairlight CMI (Early Computer Directed Music), Commodore PET, IMSAI, Altair and even IBM punch cards also shaped my experiences in those years, but they are not closely related. This means that my first experience with Apple was a long time ago.
The 80s: More affordable options
The beginning of this decade saw new computers emerge as ubiquitous as every company wanted in a booming market, and IBM hasn’t usurped the acronym “personal computer” just yet. The Apple II was one of the dominant devices in the market by this time, although it wasn’t the biggest player in terms of sales volume.
Yes, the Apple II was actually launched in 1977. I was selling it and associated software in 1981 when the Apple II really gained traction. (I also sold compatible Eagle Computers!) Besides, what most people today think of as the ’80s actually started in the late ’70s. Find it with Dennis Barnhart.
Since the Apple II / IIe were expensive and there were a lot of affordable, albeit less expandable (the Apple II had card slots!) or versatile options, I didn’t personally think of one. I moved from the Atari 800, to the Commodore 64, to the Atari ST and Amiga, mostly because they were cheaper, but also because they had pretty much the same features and in some cases even better. Especially in regards to gaming – yes, I once indulged.
Music was the real reason I got involved with computers early on. The Atari ST, which had real competition with Apple in the music community, was one of the best music PCs ever – the ST had MIDI ports, for goodness sake. I sold one to Robin Williams to his kids while bartering my time for the show at my local Atari store. Not kidding.
Aside: In a demonstration of the DEC PDP-1 at the Computer History Museum, Steve Russell, programmer for Spacewar! He conveyed the fact that the first thing programmers ever did with every computer was “teach” it to play music and chess. My music/computer love affair is not unique.
When they appeared, Lisa and Macintosh were a convincing harbinger of the future. However, in what will be a recurring theme throughout this narrative, the choices were not financially realistic. I’ve also had issues with Apple’s behavior – more on that later.
Feelings aside, I was about to buy a Macintosh to port my Atari/Amiga ear training program (note) to it. If there wasn’t already a similar product available for a platform called Listen, I would. With one small exception, listening was the best general education program and I had reached a programming depletion stage. I am not stupid. Close, but no cigar.
The nineties: the computer world
My position in this decade was much the same. Apple was expensive, very limited in available applications and, to be honest, stumped and full of fatigue until Steve Jobs returned in 1997. IBM computers were in full bloom and Microsoft was ramping up Windows into desktop dominance, in fact, it seemed At some point it’s as if Apple might go the way of the dodo. Few remember that things were actually terrible for the company. she was.
Mac clones in 1994 made an impression, again in large part due to lower costs. However, they, like many other products that have tried to imitate Apple, lack this certainty Something. If you will give up je ne sais quoiyou’d better save a lot of cash, but the savings were fairly moderate.
I paid little attention to the Mac until the late decade (1998) when the faster iMac and iBook towers and G4/G5 Mac towers came out. Jobs and Apple’s Mojo are back, but I was still eh — again, the price. Also, there was a very small flavor to many of Apple’s new offerings that didn’t appeal to me very much.
All this time, I’ve been backing up my Macs to PCWorld’s arts department, so I’m well educated in Mac OS (soon to be OS X, and now macOS). And yes, PCWorld is published using Macs. Adobe ruled those days, and all creatives wanted their Macs to run Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. It was that simple.
2000s: Intel, Retina, Core audio
When Apple switched to Intel, and Boot Camp was announced, the idea of a more elegant dual-booting Mac started spinning around in my head. I’ve now been a Windows guy for a long time, if not particularly excited. Then the first modern aluminum iMacs hit the streets in 2008 and the idea started to emerge.
Apple also understands the romantic/computer/ relationship you’ve been a part of for a long time. Corporate Audio makes it easy to add and assemble audio interfaces and MIDI devices. Also attractive is the Logic Pro X, which Apple offers at a laughably low price compared to similarly powerful DAW devices. Not to mention GarageBand, which is free!
Music is a selling point for me and others like me, as composing and recording using computers is such an integral part of our existence. Just in case you weren’t aware, a modern computer can produce results that exceed the best analog gear you once recorded. Including in the major studios, which themselves have long gone digital.
When iMacs with shallow shells came out in 2012, I was really starting to deal with a bad case of jealousy. I think they are simply the best computers ever produced. Even when counting the new color iMacs. Tastes vary. When the Retina screens came out, I somehow knew I was going to end up owning one. But buying a new one from Apple isn’t always easy for a stingy person like me.
2022: The App That Turned the Balance
While I’ve always liked macOS, a more cohesive experience, I’ve never preferred it over Windows 7, 8 or 10 (11 is much better, more Mac-like) which I still run with. I value the crisp screen fonts in Windows more than the WYSIWYG fonts of macOS, but other than that, I now find macOS more compelling. I really dig the cleaner, spacious design. But there is still one hindrance to navigating through the entire day-to-day workflow.
The application that kept me anchored in my everyday Windows was the Microsoft Access database (née FoxPro), which I use for my invoicing system. While Microsoft ported most of its office suite of software to Mac OS / OS X / macOS a long time ago, Access is the notable exception.
There was nothing initially on the Mac that could match Access, and the extravagant FileMaker was no liking to me, even after it came out. Then I found a $35 Ninox. I won’t go into great detail about it here, but you can read more about it in my review. I’ve switched to it full time and love it. I even transfer IDG storage test data to it.
Ninox is the kind of app that you can only find on Windows. It is very fast, especially compared to Access on Windows, which has recently become very slow. As I wrote in my review, “Imports, scrolling, dragging and dropping, and uploading images were all very, very fast – like a quick blink of an eye.” Finally, I have a good database application like Access, and the last barrier to switching has been cleared
It’s not Apple’s base pricing that bothers me. In fact, Windows PCs with similar components cost the same or more when you take into account the Thunderbolt and high DPI Retina displays that come with Macs. These monitors aren’t cheap and I haven’t seen anything in the Windows world (USB and HDMI) that matches them. (Similar LG UltraFines are Thunderbolt only and are not a viable option for most Windows users.)
What really bothers my consumer sensitivity is that Apple is charging several times the cost of upgrades they could/should cost. The premium is understandable, but is charged two to three times the current price? Automakers would be proud. Then there is the art of overselling through strategic feature placement, planned obsolescence, and most recently, the complete lack of upgradeability and user fixability.
There’s also the company’s controversial past (Digital Research sued over Gem Windows OS that used the same XParc technology that Apple “inspired”), work practices, and carpal tunnel invoking a one-button mouse…I can go on. In short, Apple has a lot of us form-conscious nether regions, and it knows it, and it capitalizes on the fact. At least buy me a drink first, for goodness sake.
All that said, I have an insane respect for the people who design and work on the products, as well as the products themselves. As of the switch to ARM, the best things ever are.
My morally bankrupt solution to the money issue? A couple of years ago I got a second-hand 27-inch Core i5 iMac with 8GB or RAM and a Fusion drive for a relative song. Then, after voiding the warranty and taking a chance on getting the unit, I upgraded it myself to the Core i7-6700, 32GB, 2TB NVMe/4TB SATA SSD I’m writing this article on. Total coin: $1400 (I already had an SSD), just $200 more than a 5K screen would cost me.
Personally, my Pet Project is almost as fast as any newer Mac. In fact, almost any processor from the past decade will seem quick for everyday work if you pair it with a solid-state drive. Ask any of the dozens of friends you’ve had this upgrade for.
But I can’t finish the story without reiterating the factors that skewed my moral compass and put me under the influence of an Apple like Svengali. Without a particular order, and unaware of importance or repetition:
High DPI Retina Displays
Uncompromisingly elegant material design
Insanely high quality build
macOS’s roomy and clean look and great stability
Basic Audio makes it easy to install most music equipment
Embedded screenshot (with audio once the BlackHole recovery tool is installed)
Network quick count
The ability to annotate PDF files and edit JPG files from within the Preview app
User-definable keyboard shortcuts without third-party software
Easy to install and remove apps
Free and specialized office applications
Customizable Finder Toolbar
Only one thing in macOS that bothers me is the lack of MTP support. MTP, which is present in Windows, is what allows you to pull files from your Android phone without resorting to a third-party utility. This sounds like a deliberate oversight to me. Like Apple you really need help selling iPhones.
But I enjoy getting macOS out. It’s sleek where everyone goes, great for music production, and my iMac looks top-notch on my desk. If my conscience clicks on me once in a while, well…don’t say never.