I admit I sunk my teeth into the Mac very early on — in 1991, in Switzerland. In 1990, I was given a test drive on an old Apple (pre-Mac!) machine, where I completed this oddly-named course called Type to Learn. I was the first-ever student in the whole class to finish it in that year, which kind of made my Chinese parents happy (since the Chinese, Asians etc were supposed to be best in class, yotta yotta yotta…).
I remembered from very early on that this in essence gave me a “licence” to test-drive the Mac much earlier. I’m talking about the pre-Mac OS era: back in the day this was System 6.0.7. If you could imagine a compact, all-in-one Mac in greyish-platinum, capable of running only one app at a time in black and white, this was it.
The Swiss had some kind of nationwide obsession with the Mac, it seemed, even though Apple Switzerland (as in the office) wasn’t reality until 1995. It wasn’t like that made any difference, though: before the Wallisellen office was set up, the nation was already engulfed in Mac mania. I was invited in 1995 to an office which was completely run by Macs. ▶
You know, I’m on no account bashing the iPhone 5. It’s got a fair bit of technical improvements, and that’s always good when something neat gets better. But there’s a problem: the consumerism.
I mean, seriously, go into any mall in and around Beijing — it’s now more European than a Swiss mall — like the country’s largest, the Glatt Centre just outside of Zurich. I know it has a few weird-looking bars or cafés, but oh well…
When you take a look at it, Chinese consumers — Chinsumers — are just totally mad on every last new thing. Look at the extents folks will go just get their paws on an iPhone — kidneys on sale, tyres swapped for hard, solid cash — and I’m sure we’ve not even seen the tip of the iceberg yet. This is just outright outrageous crass consumerism that makes the US go green with envy. It’s capitalism on steroids. It’s getting out of control. ▶
As a Mac user since 1991, I go by one of the Mac community’s most frequently-seen slogans — Don’t imitate, innovate! The Swiss have come out with some of the best fonts (although as a world-ready citizen I’ll be switching to a more “international” font soon — but that font is also used at Zürich Airport). Things like Helvetica, Frutiger, Univers and Avenir.
Think about it: When SWISS International Air Lines first started, they couldn’t wean off their own Swiss font, Univers. Swiss roads and motorways are making a much-needed switch to Frutiger (in private, I predicted this would happen as early as 1998). Swiss TV is (used to be) a Helvetica fanboy, with the font now over 50 (but that font is by no means “senile”!). And then you have Starbucks, which is gradually making the switch over to Adrian Frutiger’s Avenir.
For the longest time, these were the most iconic fonts in the — well, “fontosphere”. But in the past decades, something awful has started to happen. ▶
It happened again: total hell broke out as the iPhone 4S went on sale. Angered touts who didn’t get their phone pelted eggs at the Apple Store.
The problem: The whole system.
As of late, the world’s largest “migration” of sorts — the Spring Travel Peak Travel Season — is in full swing. Thankfully, photo ID is required to get a ticket. This means that those with legitimate needs can get around with a valid ticket. High speed rail has been doing exceptionally well this year, helping get riders to destinations faster and packing in far more riders than regular rail.
Apple needs a similar “real ID” system for at least select new products such as the iPhone. It needs to set up a blacklist (similar to that at the railways) of touts, and deny iPhones to them. It needs to give iPhones out to end users, not touts. Only a “real ID” system would work here. ▶
As a Mac guy since 1991, I’ve seen a lot of weird and wonderful things happen in the Mac world. Believe it or not, we Mac users had Mac clones as well — back in the mid-1990s until when the Steve gave it the quits in late 1997. And then there was the iMac in 1998…
Hold it there… Forced landing, emergency brake… the 1990s. Believe it or not, Apple wanted to get into the phone business (software phones) back in the 1990s! Turns out that this revolutionary cellphone could be… “the same old same old”, only rehashed? ▶
Beige drives a few people insane. Take, for example, Mac users. Oh sure, back in 1984, we swooned over our Mac 128Ks covered in beige, but Apple soon switched on over to platinum. Apple did change course a little over these years: the 1990s saw a jet-black Macintosh TV and another jet-black Mac Performa at the top of the range. (Pity the Mac newbies, who must know little about this… that’s what we do at our BeiMac group, by the way… Mac-educate people…) And, of course, could we ever forget that immortal 20th Anniversary Mac… Sure, the Steve wasn’t really back in the driver’s seat for this, but it came out — and although not selling well at the start, became a gradual collector’s item.
But I digress. As I said, beige drives a few people insane. And that few people become quite a crowd of people — the crowd at Everyone’s Favorite Fruit Company, who came up with the iMac G3. Suddenly, Macs came out in Bondi Blue. This was something big in the computer world back then — when ordinary PCs came in nothing more than beige. The Steve would continue to shock the world in 1999, when he revealed iMacs in what must seem like one trillion and one colors — I’m not even gonna start with this: key lime, tangerine, blueberry, even Flower Power and Blue Dalmatian. The iBooks came out for the joyride not all too long: the first iBooks came out in tangerine and blueberry, with a graphite and indigo one coming a tad later. Even the pro Macs — the Power Macs — came out in dark aqua and blue and white.
The rest of the world fell for Apple. Semi-transparent, semi-Bondi Blue USB hubs were suddenly everywhere. My headset microphone would have covers in five iMac colors. Internet Explorer (yes, by the unliberated MS folks no less) would start coming in different color variants — PowerBook Black, Bondi Blue, Graphite — you name it. Even Mac OS X came in two basic variants — Graphite and Aqua.
Then, Apple went colorless in 2002. iBooks and iMacs became all-white, and the same went for the short-lived eMac. The PowerBooks and Power Macs became a grey-only affair. And we started thinking about the days gone by — the all-too colorful days. ▶
Sometimes, a conversation that starts online continues offline. And lots of miles can be involved in this.
This happened to me yesterday, when I spoke to the East Bay Macintosh User Group (EBMUG). It’s obviously not your Mac user group next door, this being on in America, and not China, but I thought if I made it all the way to San Francisco, I’d might as well check EBMUG out and give a talk there as well.
We went through a bit of the I-80 and passed through parts with iPod ads before getting there — attendance was pretty good at around 20 or so people. My talk, of course, was about Apple and the Macintosh in China, and I showed them the Chinese Mac world, featuring ads, Apple Authorized Retailers, and much more. Thankfully, my 17-inch PowerBook G4 was “big enough” so at least those in the front row could catch a quick glimpse. ▶
Yesterday, I was the “question master” at the MacFans 2002 party, which was held at Jade Palace Hotel, not far from Zhongguancun, the heart of IT and computers in Beijing.
I had been taking part in their BBS forums for some time. In fact, when we co-founded the Beijing Macintosh User Group in March 2002, it took place at the same time as a MacFans club meeting, also in Zhongguancun.
It was my job to run around quizzing people, on all aspects of the Mac, both well-known and obscure. We did have a few errors here and there, but overall, it was a very exciting party to be a part of. ▶