Apparently January 2014 marks the 30th anniversary of the release of the Apple Macintosh computer. One thing that completely annoys me is the way the current day media talks at length about ‘digital natives’ and how much the millennials and their subsequent generations know about technology. I beg to differ because I doubt they would be able to pass a basic computer skills course, especially if it involved punched cards or calculations in hexadecimal. I know the common analogy is that you don’t need to know how an internal combustion engine works in order to drive a car, but a general lack of technology concepts is why we end up with regrettable selfies that go viral. But I digress.
The Apple Macintosh was a very interesting animal (or fruit, I guess) when it came out. Instead of a command line interface, it dealt in icons. Instead of opening an application to create a document you simply started typing. I spent most of my early career in the bizarre world of the IBM universe, where it was considered normal to have to tell the mainframe computer how much space you would need before being able to create a new file (and really, how would you not be able to do a quick calculation of the number of zeros and ones you would generate by typing a memo?). So you would imagine that with my lack of math aptitude and an entire degree in logic, I would think that a Macintosh was the best thing since sliced bread. That would be wrong.
I was somewhat late to the game of first encounter with the Mac. I think it was around 1990 when I came on board a consulting firm that had just started having computers on desks (no matter that if we were going to maintain our employment status weren’t in the office very frequently). But these were IBM desktops. The Mac was in the corner of the room designated as the ‘library’. It was there for exclusive use for creating ‘graphics’, such as the diagrams we used to illustrate why the neck bone was not connected to the thigh bone, at least not without spending a lot of money on architecture.
For some reason you may be smarter than me to have anticipated, I volunteered to be in charge of the monthly staff newsletter. This was particularly important in the pre-internet days of working remotely from the office. This also gave me the keys to the Mac. Or in reality, the combination lock to the Mac with all of the High School trauma of forgetting the number sequence required to open your locker whenever there was a gap in attendance of two days or more. The Mac was how we created a ‘professional’ looking newsletter, with two columns and a jazzy logo and other cut and paste graphics I MacGyver’d with great sweat and tears at the declining moments of my self-imposed publication deadline.
Anyhow, all matters of the Mac ended up defeating me, from the incomprehensible smiley face guy who looked kind of like the computer but did nothing to explain his function, to the evil time bomb that seemed to show up whenever I was trying to figure out how to find my previous month’s newsletter document. I never did figure out how to turn the thing off or save anything with any degree of confidence. As far as I’m concerned, the Mac did nothing to further the computer interface, especially for those of us who are icon dyslexic. iPhone, I’m talking to you.