Here's part of "The Secret Guide to Computers," copyright by Russ Walter, 27th edition. For newer info, read the 30th edition at www.SecretFun.com.

 

Apple’s influence

What’s the most important computer company? IBM? Microsoft?

No! The most important computer company is actually Apple. That’s the company that’s had the greatest influence on how we deal with computers today.

Apple was the first computer manufacturer to popularize these ideas successfully:

screens showing colors (instead of just black-and-white)

3½-inch floppy disks (instead of 5¼-inch, which are flimsy and less reliable)

CD-ROM disks (instead of just floppy disks, which hold less data)

using a mouse (instead of just the keyboard’s arrow keys and TAB keys)

using pictures (called icons) instead of just words

pull-down menus (coming down from a menu bar, which is at the screen’s top)

laser printers (instead of just dot-matrix printers, which print in an ugly way)

desktop publishing (instead of word processing, which can’t handle beauty)

pretty fonts (instead of typewriter-style fonts, which are monospaced and ugly)

paint & draw programs (so you can create graphics easily, without math)

Apple didn’t invent any of those ideas, but Apple was the first company to popularize them, make people want them, and thereby change our idea of what a computer should do.

3½-inch disks were invented by Sony. The first mouse was invented by the Stanford Research Institute. The first good mouse software was invented by Xerox. The first personal laser printers were invented by Hewlett-Packard. The first modern desktop-publishing program was invented by a software company, Aldus. But it was Apple’s further product development and marketing that made those products desirable.

Though just 4% of the computers sold today are made by Apple, we all owe a big debt to Apple for how that company improved our world.

Here’s how Apple arose and changed our lives.…


Original Apple

The original Apple computer was invented by Steve Wozniak, who was an engineer at Hewlett-Packard. In 1975, he offered the plans to his boss at Hewlett-Packard, but his boss said Steve’s computer didn’t fit into Hewlett-Packard’s marketing plan. His boss suggested that Steve start his own company. Steve did.

He worked with his friend, Steve Jobs. Steve Wozniak was the engineer; Steve Jobs was the businessman. Both were young: Steve Wozniak was 22; Steve Jobs was 19. Both were college drop-outs. They’d worked together before: when high-school students, they’d built and sold blue boxes (boxes that people attached to telephones to illegally make long-distance calls free). Steve & Steve had sold 200 blue boxes at $80 each, giving them a total of $16,000 in illegal money.

To begin Apple Computer Company, Steve & Steve invested just $1300, which they got by selling a used Volkswagen Micro Bus and a used calculator.

They built the first Apple computer in their garage. They sold it by word of mouth, then later by ads. The advertised price was just $666.60.

Like all computers of that era, the first Apple computer was primitive: it had none of the features for which Apple is now famous. (No color, no 3½-inch floppy disks, no CD-ROM disks, no mouse, no icons, no pull-down menus, no laser printers, no desktop publishing, no pretty fonts, no paint & draw programs.)

 

Apple 2

The original Apple computer looked pathetic. But in 1977, Steve & Steve invented a slicker version, called the Apple 2. Unlike the original Apple, the Apple 2 included a keyboard and displayed graphics in color. It cost $970.

The Apple 2 became a smashing success, because it was the first computer for under $1000 that could display colors on a TV. It was the only such computer for many years, until Commodore finally invented the Vic, which was even cheaper (under $300).

At first, folks used the Apple 2 just to play games and didn’t take it seriously. But two surprise events changed the world’s feelings about Apple.

MECC

The first surprise was that the Minnesota state government decided to buy lots of Apple 2 computers, put them in Minnesota schools, and write programs for them. That state agency, called the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC), then distributed the programs free to other schools across America.


Soon, schools across America discovered that personal computers could be useful in education. Since the only good educational programs came from Minnesota and required Apples, schools across America bought Apples — and then wrote more programs for the Apples they’d bought. Apple became the “standard” computer for education — just because of the chain reaction that started with a chance event in Minnesota. The chain reaction spread fast, as teachers fell in love with the Apple’s color graphics.

Visicalc

The next surprise was that a graduate student at the Harvard Business School and his friend at M.I.T. got together and wrote the first spreadsheet program, called Visicalc. They wrote it for the Apple 2 computer, because it was the only low-cost computer that had a reliable disk operating system.

(Commodore’s computers didn’t have disks yet, and Radio Shack’s disk operating system was buggy until the following year. Apple’s success was due to Steve Wozniak’s brilliance: he invented a disk-controller card that was amazingly cheap and reliable.)

The Visicalc spreadsheet program was so wonderful that accountants and business managers all over the country bought it — and therefore had to buy Apple computers to run it on.

Visicalc was more nifty than any accounting program that had been invented on even the largest IBM maxicomputers. Visicalc proved that little Apples could be more convenient than even the most gigantic IBM.

Eventually, Visicalc became available for other computers; but at first, Visicalc required an Apple, and Visicalc’s success led to the success of Apple.

In a typical large corporation, the corporate accountant wanted to buy an Apple with Visicalc. Since the corporation’s data-processing director liked big computers and refused to buy microcomputers, the accountant who wanted Visicalc resorted to an old business trick: he lied. He pretended to spend $2000 for “typewriters” but bought an Apple instead. He snuck it into the company and plopped it on his desk. That happened all across America, so all large corporations had thousands of Apples sitting on the desks of accountants and managers but disguised as “typewriters” or “word processors”.

Yes, Apple computers infiltrated American corporations by subversion. It was an underground movement that annoyed IBM so much that IBM eventually decided to invent a personal computer of its own.


Apple 2+

In 1979, Apple Computer Corporation began shipping an improved Apple 2, called the Apple 2+.

Its main improvement was that its ROM chips contained a better version of BASIC, called Applesoft BASIC, which could handle decimals. (The version of BASIC in the old Apple 2’s ROM chips handled just integers.)

Another improvement was how the RESET key acted.

On the old Apple 2, pressing the RESET key would abort a program, so the program would stop running. Too many consumers pressed the RESET key accidentally and got upset. On the Apple 2+, pressing the RESET key aborted a program just if you simultaneously held down the CONTROL key.

Slots

In the Apple 2+ and its predecessors, the motherboard contained eight slots, numbered from 0 to 7. Each slot could hold a printed-circuit card.

Slot 0 was for a memory card (containing extra RAM).

Slot 1 was for a printer card (containing a parallel printer port).

Slot 2 was for an internal modem (for attaching to a phone).

Slot 3 was for an 80-column card (to make the screen display 80 characters per line instead of 40).

Slot 6 was for a disk controller.

Cards in slots 4, 5, and 7 were more exotic.

Apple 2e

In 1983, Apple began shipping a further improvement, called the Apple 2 extended, expanded, enhanced (Apple 2e). Most programs written for the Apple 1, 2, and 2+ also ran on the Apple 2e.

Keyboard To improve on the Apple 2+ keyboard (which contained just 52 keys), the Apple 2e keyboard contained 11 extra keys, making a total of 63. The extra keys helped you type lowercase letters, type special symbols, edit your writing, and control your programs.

For example, the Apple 2e keyboard contained all four arrow keys (, , , and ), so you could easily move around the screen in all four directions. (The and keys were missing from the Apple 2+ keyboard.)

The Apple 2e keyboard contained a DELETE key, so you could easily delete an error from the middle of your writing. (The DELETE key was missing from the Apple 2+ keyboard.)

Slot 0 Unlike its predecessors, the Apple 2e omitted slot 0, because the Apple 2e didn’t need a RAM card: the Apple 2e’s motherboard already contained lots of RAM (64K).

Slot 3A The Apple 2e contained an extra slot, called slot 3A. It resembled slot 3 but held a more modern kind of video card that came in two versions: the plain version let your Apple display 80 characters per line; the fancy version did the same but also included a row of 64K RAM chips, so that your Apple contains 128K of RAM altogether.

Apple 2e versus IBM clones The Apple 2e was invented in 1983 — the same year as the IBM XT. Which was better?

An Apple 2e was generally worse than an IBM XT or an IBM XT clone. For example, the Apple 2e system had less RAM (128K instead of 640K), fewer keys on the keyboard (63 instead of 83), inferior disk drives (writing just 140K on the disk instead of 360K), and a crippled version of BASIC (understanding just 114 words instead of 178).

Though worse than an IBM XT, the Apple 2e became quite popular in 1983, because more educational programs and games were available for the Apple 2e than for any other computer. That’s because the Apple 2e still ran thousands of programs that were invented years earlier for its predecessors: the Apple 1, 2, and 2+. Fewer educational programs and games were being written for the IBM XT and clones, because the IBM XT cost more than schools and kids could afford. Although the IBM XT became the standard computer for business, the Apple 2e became the standard computer for schools and kids.


Apple 2c

In 1984, Apple created a shrunken Apple 2e called the Apple 2 compact (Apple 2c). Besides being smaller and lighter than the Apple 2e, it cost less. It also consumed less electricity.

But advanced hobbyists spurned the 2c — and stayed with the 2e instead — because the 2c didn’t have any slots for adding cards; it wasn’t expandable.

The typical consumer didn’t need extra cards anyway, since the 2c’s motherboard included everything a beginner wanted: 128K of RAM, 80-character-per-line video circuitry, a disk controller, and two serial ports. You could run cables from the back of the 2c to a serial printer, modem, second disk drive, and joystick.

When the 2c first came out, its ROM was fancier than the 2e’s, so that the 2c could handle BASIC and a mouse better than the 2e. But in February 1985, Apple began putting the fancy ROM chips in the 2e also, so that every new 2e handles BASIC and a mouse as well as the 2c.

Apple 2c+ Apple invented an improved Apple 2c, called the Apple 2c+, whose disk drive was 3½-inch instead of 5¼-inch. Apple’s 3½-inch drive was technologically superior to Apple’s 5¼-inch drive; but unfortunately, most educational software still came on 5¼-inch disks and was not available on 3½-inch disks yet.

Apple 2GS

In 1986, Apple created an improved version of the Apple 2e and called it the Apple 2 with amazing graphics & sound (Apple 2GS).

Its graphics were fairly good (better than EGA, though not as good as VGA).

Its musical abilities were amazing. They arose from Apple’s Ensoniq chip, which could produce 32 musical voices simultaneously!

The computer contained an extra-fast CPU (the 65816), 128k of ROM, 256K of general-purpose RAM, and 64K of RAM for the sound synthesizer.

To run the popular 2GS programs, you needed add an extra 256K of RAM, to bring the total RAM up to 512K. Many folks went further and bought 1M of RAM.

Discount dealers sold the 2GS with 1M RAM for $800. That price did not include a monitor or any disk drives. To run the popular programs well, you had to buy a color monitor and two disk drives.

Apple 2 family

All those computers resembled each other, so that most programs written for the Apple 2 also worked on the Apple 2+, 2e, 2c, 2c+, and 2GS.

Apple has stopped marketing all those computers, but you can still buy them as “used computers” from your neighbors.

Clones

Instead of buying computers built by Apple, some folks bought imitations, such as the Pineapple, the Orange, the Pear, and the Franklin. Such imitations were popular in the United States, Hong Kong, and especially the Soviet Union. Apple sued most of those companies (because they illegally copied Apple’s ROM) and made them stop building clones.

Laser 128 Apple permitted one clone to remain: the Laser 128, because that clone’s designer imitated the functions of Apple’s ROM without exactly copying it.

The Laser 128 imitated the Apple 2c. Like the Apple 2c, the Laser 128 included 128K of RAM, a disk drive, and a serial port. In three ways, it was better than an Apple 2c: it included a parallel printer port (so you could attach a greater variety of printers), a numeric keypad (so you could enter data into spreadsheets more easily), and a slot (so you could add an Apple 2e expansion card). It ran most Apple 2c programs perfectly. (Just 5% of the popular Apple 2c programs were incompatible with the Laser 128.)

A souped-up version, called the Laser 128EX, went three times as fast.

The Laser 128 and 128EX were built by the Laser Computer division of VTech, the same company that made IBM clones.


Apple 3

Back in 1980, shortly after the Apple 2+ was invented, Apple began selling the Apple 3. It was much fancier than the Apple 2+. Unfortunately, it was ridiculously expensive (it listed for $4995, plus a monitor and hard drive), it couldn’t run some of the Apple 2+ software, and the first ones off the assembly line were defective. Few people bought it.

When the IBM PC came out and consumers realized the PC was better and cheaper than the Apple 3, interest in the Apple 3 vanished. Apple gave up trying to sell the Apple 3 but incorporated the Apple 3’s best features into later, cheaper Apples: the Apple 2e and the Apple 2GS.

 

Lisa

Back in 1963, when Steve & Steve were just kids in elementary school, Doug Engelbart invented the world’s first computer mouse. He was at the Stanford Research Institute. During the 1970’s, researchers at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (Xerox PARC) used his mouse as the basis of a fancy computer system, called the Alto. Xerox considered the Alto too big and expensive to sell well but invited the world to see it.

In 1979, Apple employees nudged Steve Jobs to go to Xerox and see the Alto. Steve was impressed by the Alto and decided to invent a smaller, cheaper version, which he called the Lisa, because that was his daughter’s name.

The Lisa changed the computer world forever. Before the Lisa, personal computers were awkward to use. The Lisa was the first affordable personal computer that made good use of a mouse, icons, horizontal menus, and pull-down menus.

The Lisa’s screen displayed cute little drawings, called icons. Some of the icons stood for activities. To make the Lisa perform an activity, you looked on the screen for the activity’s icon. (For example, to make the computer delete a file, you began by looking for a picture of a garbage can.) When you pointed at the icon by using a mouse, and clicked the mouse’s button, the Lisa performed the icon’s activity.

The Lisa also used horizontal menus and pull-down menus. (A horizontal menu is a list of topics printed across the top line of the screen. If you choose one of those general topics by using the mouse, a column of more specific choices appears underneath that topic; that column of specific activities is called a pull-down menu. You then look at the pull-down menu, find the specific activity you’re interested in, click at it by using the mouse, and the computer immediately starts performing that activity.)

Pointing at icons, horizontal menus, and pull-down menus is much easier to learn than using the kinds of computer systems other manufacturers had developed before. It’s also fun! Yes, the Lisa was the first computer whose business programs were truly fun to run. And because it was so easy to learn to use, customers could start using it without reading the manuals. Everybody praised the Lisa and called it a new breakthrough in software technology.

Though the Lisa was “affordable”, it was affordable by just the rich: it cost nearly $10,000. For the Lisa, Apple invented some special business programs that were fun and easy to use; but the Lisa could not run Apple 2 programs, since the Lisa had a completely different CPU.

Independent programmers had difficulty developing their own programs for the Lisa, since Apple didn’t supply enough programming tools. Apple never invented a version of BASIC, delayed introducing a version of PASCAL, and didn’t make detailed manuals available to the average programmer. And though icons and pull-down menus are easy to use, they’re difficult for programmers to invent.

Apple gradually lowered the Lisa’s price.


Macs

In January 1984, Apple introduced the Macintosh (Mac), which was a stripped-down Lisa. Like the original Lisa, the Mac uses a mouse, icons, horizontal menus, and pull-down menus. The Mac’s price is low enough to make it popular.

The Mac is even more fun and easy than the Lisa! It appeals to beginners scared of computers. Advanced computerists like it also, because it feels ultra-modern, handles graphics quickly, and passes data from one program to another simply.

The original version of the Mac ran too slowly, but the newest versions run faster. They’re priced nearly as low as IBM clones.

Since the Mac’s so easy to use and priced nearly as low as IBM clones, many people have bought it. Lots of software’s been developed for it — much more than for the Lisa.

To run Mac software well, you must buy a Mac. Since popular Mac software does not run well on the Lisa, Apple has stopped selling the Lisa and stopped selling a compromise called the Mac XL.

The first Macs

Apple began selling the Mac for $2495. The Mac’s original version consisted of three parts: the mouse, the keyboard, and the system unit.

The system unit contained a 9-inch black-and-white screen (whose resolution was 512 by 384), a 3½-inch floppy disk drive, and a motherboard. On the motherboard sat an 8-megahertz 68000 CPU, two ROM chips (containing most of the operating system and many routines for drawing graphics), rows of RAM chips, a disk controller, and two serial ports (for attaching a printer and a modem).

That Mac was called the original 128K Mac because it includes 128K of RAM (plus 64K of ROM).

Then Apple invented an improvement called the 512K Mac because it included 512K of RAM. (It used two rows of 256K chips instead of two rows of 64K chips.) Apple wanted to call it the “Big Mac” but feared that customers would think it was a hamburger.

In January 1986, Apple began selling a new, improved Mac, called the Mac Plus. It surpassed the 512K Mac in several ways:

It contains a bigger RAM (1 megabyte instead of 512K), a bigger ROM (128K instead of 64K), a better disk drive (double-sided instead of single-sided), a bigger keyboard (which contains extra keys), and a port that let you add a hard-disk drive more easily. The improved ROM, RAM, disk drive, keyboard, and port all served the same goal: they provided hardware and software tricks that let Mac programs run faster.

Like the 128K and 512K Macs, the Mac Plus included one floppy drive.

Mac SE

In 1987, Apple introduced an even fancier Mac, called the Mac SE. It ran software 15% faster than the Mac Plus because it contains a cleverer ROM (256K instead of 128K) and fancier support chips. It was also more expandable: it let you insert extra circuitry more easily. The keyboard cost extra: you could buy the standard keyboard (which had 81 keys) or the extended keyboard (which had 105 keys and cost more).

Mac 2

When Apple introduced the Mac SE, Apple also introduced a luxury model, called the Mac 2. It contains a faster CPU (a 16-megahertz 68020) and 6 slots for inserting printed-circuit cards.

Instead of sticking you with a 9-inch black-and-white monitor, it let you use any kind of monitor you wish: you could choose big or small; you could choose black-and-white or gray-scale or color. The monitor cost extra; so did the keyboard (standard or extended) and video card (which you put into a slot and attached the monitor to).

Since the Mac 2 let you choose your own monitor, the Mac 2 was called a modular Mac. When buying a modular Mac, remember that the monitor costs extra!

Performas vs. Quadras

In 1990, Apple stopped selling all the Macs that I’ve mentioned so far — the 128K Mac, 512K Mac, Mac Plus, Mac SE, and Mac 2. Apple switched to Macs that are more modern.

Apple’s first great modern Mac came in 1991. It was called the Quadra. It contained a 68040 CPU. It was called the Quadra because of the “4” in “68040”. The Quadra was intended for folks smart enough to know that “quadra” is the Latin word for “4”. It was intended to be sold by expert salespeople to expert customers.

In 1992, Apple invented a “simplified Quadra”, called the Performa, for beginners. It was intended to be sold by idiotic salespeople to idiotic customers, who think the word “performer” should be pronounced “performa”.

Then customers could choose between the Performa (for beginners) and the Quadra (which was still available, for experts).

Performa computers were sold mainly by idiots in office-supply stores (such as Staples & Office Max).

Quadra computers were sold just by computer experts from computer stores (such as Comp USA).

A Performa’s price included lots of software — especially games and tutorials for beginners.

A Quadra’s price included very little software. You bought your own — or invented it yourself!

For help with a Performa computer, you phoned “babysitters” at Apple’s headquarters (800-sos-Apple).

To repair a Quadra, you phoned the computer technicians at the computer store where you bought it.

A Performa’s price was simple: it included a keyboard, monitor, & fax/modem; no surcharges or choices!

For a Quadra, you had to decide which keyboard, monitor, and fax/modem you wanted; they cost extra.

Though Performas were idiotic, they were the best values: you got more hardware and software per dollar when you bought a Performa than when you bought a Quadra. The Quadras were just for annoyingly fussy nerds who insisted on customizing the computers, making their own decisions about which keyboard, monitor, and fax/modem to use.

At first, the rule was simple: Quadras were sold just at computer stores; Performas were sold just at general stores. At the end of 1994, Apple began letting computer stores sell both kinds of computers (Quadras and Performas), to handle both kinds of customers (experts and idiots). Non-computer stores (such as Staples) were still restricted to selling to idiots: they sold just Performas, no Quadras.

Performas came in several varieties: you could choose a normal CPU (a 68030), a faster CPU (a 68040), or an even faster CPU (a Power PC chip).

Power Macs

After watching the Performa-versus-Quadra war, Apple decided on a compromise: all new Macs include a keyboard (Performa won that battle!), but you can typically choose your own monitor (Quadra won that battle!).

In 1994, Apple began selling powerful Macs, called Power Macs. Each contains a fast CPU chip, called the Power PC.


The newest kind of Power Mac is the Power Mac G4, invented in August 1999. In July 2000 it improved slightly, so its base price of $1599 includes:

mouse, keyboard, DVD drive, tower case (graphite gray front, silver gray sides, clear handles)

16M video RAM

400-megahertz CPU (add $600 for a pair of 450-megahertz, $900 for a pair of 500-megahertz)

64M RAM (add $150 for 128M, $450 for 256M, $750 for 384M, $1050 for 512M, $1650 for 768M)

20G hard drive (add $150 for 30G, $250 for 40G)

56K fax/modem (or else subtract $50)

That price does not include a monitor. For a 17-inch monitor (having a 16-inch viewable image size), Apple charges $499.

The price does not include a floppy-disk drive. To handle floppy disks, most Mac buyers pay $135 for a SuperDisk Drive (which can handle traditional 3½-inch 1.4-megabyte floppy disks and also 120-megabyte LS-120 SuperDisks).

Your total starting cost is therefore $1599 (for the base system) + $499 (for a 17-inch monitor) + $135 (for a SuperDisk Drive), which adds up to $2233. (You’ll also want to add a printer.)

You can buy directly from Apple (at 800-MY-APPLE) or from your local Apple dealer. Many dealers offer rebates and include extra RAM.

iMac

In August 1998, Apple began selling simplified Macs, to help beginners use the Internet. Each simplified Mac is called an Internet Mac (iMac).

The original version cost $1299:

It was a 38-pound sort-of-luggable Mac that included a built-in 15-inch monitor, 24X CD-ROM drive, 56K fax/modem, stereo speakers, 4-gigabyte hard drive, 2-megabyte video RAM, fast CPU (a PowerPC G3 chip running at 233-megahertz), and a 32-megabyte main RAM. The price also included a keyboard and mouse.

Afterwards, Apple switched to better versions and also dropped the price:

Month invented CPU         Main RAM  Hard drive Video RAM       What it cost

August      1998     233 MHz  32M             4 gigabytes   2M                  $1299

January     1999     266 MHz  32M             6 gigabytes   6M                  $1199

April         1999     333 MHz  32M             6 gigabytes   6M                  $1199

October    1999     350 MHz  64M             6 gigabytes   8M                    $999

September 2000     350 MHz  64M             7 gigabytes   8M                    $799

The iMac looks out-of-this-world!

It looks like an airplane’s nose cone — or an ostrich egg from outer space. It’s translucent — which means you can almost see through it, like trying to look through a frosted shower-stall door to see the sexy woman inside. Intriguing! Every reviewer who’s seen the iMac loves it, and so do Apple’s customers. I bought one myself. It’s great!

Instead of being old-fashioned white or beige, the iMac comes in eye-popping colors.

The 233MHz iMac is a blue-green aqua called Bondi blue, to honor the ocean waters of Bondi beach (which is near Sidney, Australia). The 266MHz and 333MHz iMacs come in five fruit colors instead: choose blueberry, strawberry, grape, lime, or tangerine. The 350 MHz iMac comes in blueberry for the October 1999 model, indigo blue for the September 2000 model.

Apple has been praised by designers for making the world more colorful, a rebellion from the old drab world of white, beige, and black. (Inspired by that praise, Apple changed the Power Mac’s color too, from white to blue!)

To publicize the iMac, Apple invented many hip slogans, such as “I think, therefore iMac.”

The iMac is a good deal, if you’re satisfied with its small screen (15-inch instead of 17-inch). If you need a bigger screen, get a standard Power Mac instead.

The iMac’s price does not include a floppy-disk drive.

To handle floppy disks, most iMac buyers pay $135 for a SuperDisk Drive (which can handle traditional 3½-inch 1.4-megabyte floppy disks and also 120-megabyte LS-120 SuperDisks). That brings the total cost to $799+$135, which is $934.

The original iMac’s mouse was circular, so it looked like a hockey puck or yo-yo. It was cute but confused beginners who couldn’t tell which way to turn it. The September 2000 iMac’s mouse is oblong and more practical; it’s called the Apple Pro Mouse.

Your iMac normally comes with a “1-year warranty”, which says Apple will fix the hardware if it breaks during the first year. Your iMac normally comes with just “3 months of tech support”, which means Apple will give you free help about hardware and the operating system for just 3 months.

If you buy Apple’s support contract, called AppleCare, which costs $149, your warranty and tech support are extended, so they last for 3 years. AppleCare covers just Apple’s hardware and the operating system: it does not cover other hardware and software. I recommend you do not buy AppleCare: instead, pay consultants and repair shops when necessary.

iMac DV

In October 1999, Apple invented a souped-up iMac, fancy enough to edit movies made with a digital video camera. That iMac was called the iMac Digital Video (iMac DV). At the same time, Apple invented an even fancier iMac, called the iMac DV Special Edition (iMac DV SE). Here are the specs:


Name          CPU         Main RAM  Drive              Color                 What it cost

iMac DV      400 MHz    64M           10 gigabytes    5 fruits            $1299

iMac DV SE 400 MHz  128M           13 gigabytes    graphite gray   $1499

Each includes an 8M video RAM, a DVD drive (instead of a CD-ROM drive), iMovie (a movie-editing program) and two FireWire ports (so you can attach your Mac to two high-speed devices, such as digital video cameras).

In July 2000, Apple switched to these improved versions:

Name          CPU         Main RAM  Drive              Color                                                  Price

iMac DV      400 MHz    64M           10 gigabytes    indigo blue or ruby red                         $999

iMac DV+    450 MHz  128M           20 gigabytes    indigo blue, ruby red, or sage green $1299

iMac DV SE 500 MHz  128M           30 gigabytes    graphite gray or snow white              $1499

The $999 version includes a CD-ROM drive; the other versions include DVD.

If you want a new iMac DV but don’t have $999 in your pocket, no problem!

Apple offers loans for a new iMac DV: no down payment, no payments for 4 months, after which you pay about $24 per month for about 5½ years, bringing your total cost to about $1600.

PowerBooks

Back in 1991, Apple began selling notebook computers, called PowerBooks. In 1997, Apple began selling an improved version, called the PowerBook G3.

The newest Powerbook is the PowerBook G3. It includes a built-in keyboard, touchpad (which Apple calls a “trackpad”), 56K modem, and lithium battery. It comes in three versions.

The cheapest version, which is inspired by the iMac and called the iBook, costs just $1599. It comes in two colors: choose blueberry or tangerine. It includes a good screen (12.1-inch 800-by-600 active-matrix color with 4M video RAM), 300-megahertz CPU, 64M RAM, 6G hard drive, and 24X CD-ROM drive.

The next version, the iBook Special Edition, goes slightly faster (333 megahertz), comes in a more businesslike color (graphite gray), and costs $200 more ($1799). It’s just for rich assholes who are willing to blow $200 for a slight increase in speed and a hoity-toity color.

The fanciest, most traditional version, costs $2499. It’s black. It includes a fancy screen (14.1-inch 1024-by-768 active-matrix color with 8M video RAM), DVD drive, 400-megahertz CPU (add $500 for 500-megahertz), 64M main RAM (add $200 for 128M, $400 for 192M, and $600 for 256M), and 6G hard drive (add $300 for 12G, $600 for 18G). It’s just for the super-rich who demand the ultimate power.

Since no floppy drive is included, add $135 for a SuperDisk Drive.

Clones

In 1995, Apple’s executives began letting other companies make clones of Macs.

Those companies paid Apple a licensing fee. The most successful of those companies was Power Computing, whose clones run much faster than Apple’s originals! Clones were also made by Radius, Motorola, and Umax.

But in 1997, Apple had a change of heart and withdrew the licenses of all the clone makers except Umax. Apple restricted Umax to making just clones that are “junk” (priced under $1000).

Should you buy a Mac?

When the Mac first came out, computer experts loved it and praised it for being easier than an IBM PC.

Then Microsoft invented Windows, which made the IBM PC resemble a Mac.

The first version of Windows was terrible, much worse than a Mac. Nobody took that version of Windows seriously. But over the years, Microsoft gradually improved Windows.

When Windows 3.0 came out, it was good enough to be useable. Though still not as nice as a Mac, it became popular because it ran on IBM PC clones, which cost much less than Macs.

When Windows 3.1 came out, some folks even liked it.

When Windows 95 came out in 1995, the Mac became doomed. Most critics agreed that Windows 95 was better than a Mac. Windows 98 was a further improvement. Moreover, an IBM PC running Windows 98 costs less than a Mac.

Now it’s Apple’s turn to play catch-up. I wish Apple well!

Apple faces a new problem: since practically everybody has switched to buying IBM clones (with Windows 98) instead of Macs, most programmers aren’t bothering to write Mac programs anymore.

If you buy a Mac, you’ll be stuck running old program versions, written years ago. Those versions aren’t as pleasant as new programs. As a result, the Mac has actually become harder to use than an IBM clone!

The big exception to Mac’s downfall is the graphics-art community.

Years ago, before Windows became good, folks in the graphics-arts community (such as ad agencies, newspapers, magazines, artists, and companies running printing presses) standardized on using Macs. They still use Macs.

Some universities standardized on Macs because Apple Computer Inc. gave those universities a discount. As the discounts expire, I expect most of those universities will shift to buying IBM clones instead.


Who runs Apple?

After being founded by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, Apple’s leadership changed.

Steve Wozniak got in an airplane crash that hurt his head and gave him amnesia, so he left the company and enrolled in college under a fake name (“Rocky Clark”). After he graduated, he returned to Apple Computer Company quietly. Steve Jobs managed the company.

Though Apple was successful, Steve Jobs’ strategies upset some computerists.

For example, Apple’s ads claimed that the Apple was the first personal computer (it was not the first!); Apple launched a big campaign to make businessmen buy Apple PASCAL (though Apple PASCAL didn’t help the average businessman at all); Apple prohibited its dealers from displaying games (though Apple later relented); and Apple prohibited authorized dealers from selling Apples by mail order.

Apple Computer Inc. donated computers to schools for three reasons: to be nice, get a tax write-off, and lure schools into buying Apples (to be compatible with the Apples that the schools received free). But if Apple were really nice, it would have lowered prices to let low-income consumers afford them. Apple sold just to the “chic”, not the poor.

Steve & Steve both left Apple and went separate ways.

Apple’s next head was John Sculley, a marketer who used to be a vice-president of Pepsi. He made Pepsi the #2 soft drink (just behind Coke) and kept Apple the #2 microcomputer company (just behind IBM).

In 1993, he had Apple invent and sell a palmtop computer called the Newton. Instead of containing a keyboard, it contained a tablet you could write on with a pen. The computer tried to read your handwritten words. But the computer couldn’t read handwriting accurately enough. Apple’s board of directors ousted him for spending too much effort on the Newton and not enough on Apple’s mainstream products.

Apple’s next head was Michael Spindler, an efficient German who dropped Apple’s costs and prices. But in 1995, Apple’s profits plunged for three reasons:

Microsoft began selling Windows 95 (which let IBM clones become nearly as pleasant as Macs).

Intel dramatically dropped prices on the Pentium chips used in IBM clones.

Spindler predicted incorrectly which Macs would sell well, so Apple got stuck with unsold inventory of some models, parts shortages for others.

In January 1996, Apple’s board of directors fired him and replaced him with Gil Amelio. To cut costs, he fired lots of employees. Then the board fired him.

Now Steve Jobs is back in charge. He’s popular.