In 2001, I bought my first Mac—a Power Mac G4 ‘Quicksilver’ 733mhz. It ran Mac OS X 10.0.4, which was still considered something of a ‘beta’ so the machine booted by default into the ‘classic’ Mac OS 9. Previously I had been running a Compaq with Windows 98, and as resident ‘tech support’ on my floor in the dorms I had plenty of unpleasant experience with 98 and its successor, Windows Me. I longed for a usable alternative to Windows, and found it in Mac OS X. Beta or not, it was clear that Apple was on to something great.
I was something of an early adopter back in ’01. Some people, including my freshman-year roommate, had been dedicated Mac users all through the platform’s dark ages in the mid-1990’s, but most techies and nerds had eschewed the ‘classic’ Mac platform during this time. Mac OS X—a powerful, Unix-based platform imbued with the Mac’s easy usability—changed that. During and after my ‘switcher’ period, lots and lots of my fellow techies switched too. But I still remember very, very clearly how few Macs there were in 2001. Even on a college campus, Apple’s traditional bastion, we were a tiny minority.
I was a dedicated Mac user for ten years. I switched back to Windows just over a year ago because Microsoft has improved their system enough that, in my humble opinion, Macs no longer warrant anything close to their fifty-percent-or-more price premium. But I still have a soft-spot for Mac OS X and its easy pairing of power and ease-of-use.
This weekend I have been attending a conference here in Northern Virginia, and I’ve seen first-hand more clearly than ever before just how drastically things have changed for Apple. Every single presenter at every session I’ve been to so far has been presenting from a MacBook Pro. The conference loans out iPads pre-loaded with a conference app instead of the old-fashioned conference binders. Among attendees who have been taking notes on their own equipment during sessions, I’d ballpark that upwards of fifty percent have been using MacBooks or iPads. And this isn’t even a vaguely Apple-related event; it’s focused primarily on Java application servers and general web development. Even so, the whole place is positively awash in MacBooks, iPads, and iPhones.
Of course there are notebooks, tablets, and phones from HP, Dell, Asus, Lenovo, Motorola, HTC, Samsung, and Nokia at the conference too. Get a bunch of techies together and you’ll get a whole mix of equipment on display. I even saw one guy holding an absurdly over-sized Samsung Galaxy Note phone (tablet?) with its 5.3″ display to his ear. But the single largest hardware presence is clearly and undeniably Apple, even if we don’t count the conference-provided iPads. This is noteworthy on its own, but when you consider that these are a bunch of Java and web developers in the notoriously stodgy government-dominated DC-area market, it’s downright incredible.
Oh, how times have changed.