I guess you all know what spring cleanings are, right?
It’s when your wife (or any other equivalent cohabitee) forces you to that killing liturgy which consists in rummaging in every corner of the house, dumping objects that you would have never thought you had or, should you have thought so, you would have sworn you had already dumped during the previous spring cleanings.
Typically, I have to deal with the study, where, lurking in the shadows, a solid body of perfidious nature hides: the bookshelf.
Well, I got to start somewhere, so be brave: I remove my Jules Verne's collection (dating back to my childhood), then a six kilos in-folio wrapped in Moroccan red (which, no, can’t be smoken), dodge the inevitable collapse of Borges' complete works, that were leaning a little on Verne and a little on Burroughs and... Heck! What's that? From a remote recess, a sad glossy-plasticized blue cover appears, covering a paperback of poor editorial quality; in short: a magazine! How the hell did it end up in the bookshelf?
I swiftly catch it, before it sinks again in that typographic ocean, happy to have identified the perfect sacrificial victim to offer on the altar of the spring purge and... What a surprise!
An issue of “MC Microcomputer”, dating March 1984. But… Hadn’t I already dumped it in the spring of 1985? No? Of course not. In fact, it is not just “an" issue, but “the" issue in which news of the first Macintosh ever seen was given, soon available for the modest price of 2.495 USD (do the maths yourself for the current exchange rate).
Resistance is futile: I ignore the cascade of books sadly scattered on the floor, ignore my wife who urges me not to ignore them, sit in my beloved DAX chair and begin to leaf through the pages, showing off my best serendipity smile.
Gentlemen, I am sorry for those who were not there back then, and those who were not there back then cannot understand, but leafing through those pages, and more so through those "other" pages, a forgotten awareness clearly resurfaced: the Mac was not an advanced computer, it was an alien object, and those which kept it apart from all the rest, were sidereal distances into which galaxies floated. Who was not there back then cannot know, one cannot imagine, today, how that “object” - more similar to a toaster rather than to what the rest of the planet thought a "real computer” should look like - was perceived.
And no, it was not because of the stellar performances, and neither because of the "objects oriented GUI", nor the 68000 or the 3.5" (un)floppy disk, and not even because of the mouse (all amazing things, by the way): it was precisely because it was so ”toaster", so "household appliance", so haughtily anti-tech; it was because the Mac smiled at you when switched on and exclaimed "bleah" when the disk was ejected. In fact, very soon, a vast community of computer illiterate artists and intellectuals was conquered; an elite, you may say, well, yes, perhaps, "the rest of us", after all.
But one point was immediately clear: the Mac was "different", totally different, and it was a radical diversity, an anthropological one, a diversity in style and culture. Very, very different, and very, very different from the logic of "I believed that my cores were enough until I counted yours" that today seems to be the fashionable mantra in consumer electronics.
To have my first "real" Mac I had to wait a few years (earlier, it had been the turn of the inevitable "JackIntosh", as it was called the Atari ST, which flew a few amount of money cheaper).
The Mac arrived in 1988. And I remember...
I remember when no one bought a Mac because "there are no compatible programs“, I remember the prophetic arrows that Douglas Adams shot to an Apple by then without Jobs already, I remember Guy Kawasaki who from the pages of a Mac World wanted to bomb Microsoft with a barrage of missiles having warheads loaded with lawyers BEFORE the release of Win95 instead of... you know, I remember the "veteran" users page on the first Apple web site, which had on display some of the most brilliant minds in every field of the human activities and arts (I, however, was not there... Strange!), I remember that sense of separateness, a little zen a little snob, which characterized the Mac users (huh! We were obnoxious, sure thing, we were), and I remember when you had to explain the difference between CISC and RISC, I remember ... [fading]
Well, a suspicion should have sprung to mind some 10 years ago already, when a procession of little dwarves of nine (my son's elementary school mates), paraded through my study to see "all those Apple things".
In fact, today, it is no longer needed to explain anything to anyone, neither what is a Mac, nor what is Apple (and, above all, we must no longer explain to Apple’s own management, the difference between a Mac and a Pepsi); there is no longer the risk for Apple to close its doors if Microsoft doesn’t release Office for Mac and "the rest of us" are, if anything, those who, like me, disdainfully refuse to buy an Apple Watch and want "Computers" back in the company's name.
Jobs won. He won and did it with the Olympic calm of the enlightened and the irrepressible certainty of the predestined. He won and passed away, and I’m saying this without any cloying rhetoric, because his life has been worth a good dozen of the "normal" ones and also because sooner or later, one way or another, one is supposed to do that.
Now it's up to you, Mr. Cook, and (did you notice?) it’s not an easy task: those sidereal distances are still there, in fact, but there are no longer galaxies floating into them, but a load of electronic crap, a pervasive space junk. It's up to you keeping us away from that, because, no, thank you, believe me, we don't need Venusian gold watches and straps made from hummingbird's scrotum, lets leave such things to others, to those with a mediocre imagination. What we do need, however, and with some urgency also, is someone capable of convincing us that we were ultimately wrong, because aliens do exist, for real. As in 1984.
Will you succeed?
Well, if you really wanted to know my opinion, no, you won't; I wouldn't bet one single cent on that: these are not times of "imagination in power", and even less so for a corporation that is worth more than the US public debt. Hungry? Sure! Foolish? Not!
I like to think, instead, that somewhere out there, in a favela in Rio, maybe, or in the sewer-streets of Calcutta, or in the toxic suburbs of Shanghai, the new Jobs is already born, and is already looking around, and has already begun getting an idea, all of his own, of the world of tomorrow.
But, hey!, don't mind me and, at least, do try.
Season greetings Mr. Cook.
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