Apple and Microsoft – The Early Years, Or Why I Became a Mac User
How I first got a Mac and compared OS’s
I’ve been a computer user since the 1980s. Got my first PC in 1990 which ran DOS Shell and Windows 3. Before that, in the early to mid 80s I played around with machines that could run BASIC and LOGO. A friend of mine tried to introduce me to C and UNIX via mainframes, but I never ventured into that territory. (Little did I think at the time that UNIX would be around for decades to come…)
I used Windows/DOS PCs until 1995. In that year I won an Apple computer in a contest. Very curious indeed, I unboxed my brand new 33Mhz Mac Performa 580 with 1MB of RAM and set it right alongside my 80486 Win PC with 2 MB of RAM (on which I’d just installed Windows 95) on a big sprawling desk. It was time to pit the two competing companies against each other, and see who came out the victor.
During the first few days, I wasn’t too keen on how the Mac OS worked. I couldn’t access “under-the-hood” features such as IRQ and DMA settings. As a Windows “power user” I was quite pleased with myself for having learned how to make tweaks to Windows in order to keep it ship-shape – thereby avoiding costly time and money spent on tech support. So what was with this silly Mac OS? Why didn’t it have the same options?
But after 2 weeks of comparison, I realized something: I didn’t need to make constant tweaks to keep the Mac OS running. It ran fine, all the same. I realized that those hours and hours of configuration and adjustment and testing I did with Windows were just not necessary with the Mac – those hours could be spent being productive.
It also became apparent just how much the Mac OS was built around using a mouse, and how simple the interface was. Boot up and you’re on the Desktop. Need to move a file? Drag and drop it in that folder. Sounds silly in this day and age where we take drag-and-drop for granted, but at the time it was like a breath of fresh air. Apple had been doing it for years, and Microsoft had just begun to implement it in Windows 95.
I decided then that I’d keep the Mac and sell the Win PC.
The back histories of Apple and Microsoft are complex and interesting. It’s needless to say that both corporations are huge these days. It’s well worth your time to do a little research into their early days.
Apple in the mid-90s: saved by Jobs
When I reflect on various developments in the computer industry in the past 15 years since I became a Mac user, I realize a lot has changed for Apple – at the time I was not aware that that the company was in serious trouble due to mismanagement. A year after I made the switch, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs returned, made sweeping changes to the company and ushered in a new era – starting with the release of the very first iMac in 1998. Since that time Apple have made some amazing strides forward, introduced many new products, grown in size and scope (and profitability). It’s actually rather difficult to keep up with all of their developments.
Of course, no corporation can grow without some bumps in the road. To be sure, any company that reaches such grandiose heights is going to run into problems, and I won’t say they haven’t made their share of mistakes. But if there is one thing we must concede, it is that Apple Corp. has done some truly innovative things along the way.
Microsoft and MS-DOS
Microsoft made its name and fortune in some interesting ways. The first big leap forward came when Bill Gates bought QDOS, and used it as the basis for MS-DOS. After negotiations with IBM it was agreed that their new line of PCs would ship with MS-DOS already installed for free. The rest as they say, is history. IBM PCs were a big hit. Millions of users bought them and got to know and use MS-DOS as a result.
After some time, Microsoft began charging for MS-DOS – a risky but calculated move. Many users complained of course, but eventually conceded. MS then issued licensing fees to IBM for the right to have DOS on their PCs, and their fortune was assured.
From Command Line to GUI: DOS evolves to Windows
In the meantime, Apple Corp. was forging ahead with their mouse-driven Lisa and Macintosh computers, and Bill Gates saw the writing on the wall for DOS’s “archaic” keyboard-based command line interface. Apple’s Lisa and Macintosh OS’s were GUIs (graphical user interfaces) partially influenced by the work of Xerox. Gates rightly knew this was the future of computing. Microsoft’s attempts at emulating Apple’s work (with their initial permission) became MS Windows.
Unfortunately, Microsoft over-reached in its emulation of key features of the Mac OS. Apple took MS to court over it, but lost: the court ruled that, “Apple cannot get patent-like protection for the idea of a graphical user interface, or the idea of a desktop metaphor [under copyright law]…” in the meantime, Xerox tried to sue Apple, claiming they had infringed copyrights Xerox held on its GUIs. The Xerox case was dismissed because the three year Statute of Limitations had passed.
I will leave further information on these issues to your own sleuthing. Hopefully the links provided above will make a satisfactory jump point.
In many ways, I feel very lucky to have won that Mac computer all those years ago. I had an opportunity to pit two operating systems against each other, for free. If I had not won that contest, I may never have made the switch. But I did win, and I made a choice I’ve never regretted: I chose Mac.
Read also- Has IBM Become Irrelevant?
Years ago the technology industry was defined by IBM and the “BUNCH” (Burroughs, Univac, NCR, CDC, and Honeywell). One by one, the BUNCH slowly evaporated and have either been merged into other entities or taken a back seat to others, such as Digital, Wang, Data General, and others, all of which have also ridden off into the sunset. In the software industry, the big guns used to be Cincom, Cullinane, MSA, and Computer Associates, but it is now hard to find anyone in the business who even remembers their names.
Today, Wall Street defines the technology industry by such names as Google, Apple, Cisco, Dell, Microsoft, Priceline, Facebook, Intuit, Yahoo!, and others. Remarkably, IBM’s name rarely appears in this regards which leads me to believe they are starting to fade from view as the BUNCH did years earlier.
There was a time when you mentioned the name “IBM” it conjured up images of mainframes, midrange computers, PC’s, networks, operating systems, DBMS’ and office equipment. Today, I’m not too sure exactly what it represents. I think they still sell “big iron” but they have abdicated just about everything else to others. They talk about such things as middleware, storage devices, and file servers, which is a far cry from the comprehensive product line that once dominated the industry.
For years it was well understood in the corporate world that you could never get fired for recommending the purchase of IBM products. It was the safe bet. Now they are lucky to be even considered in the running. From a hardware point of view, I still believe they know how to engineer products. I still have some of their PC’s which, when you look under the cover, are solidly built and much better than just about anyone else’s. But IBM now finds itself in the awkward position of having to prove itself as a viable solution provider.
IBM used to be well known for strong marketing tactics, some say heavy handed, but this started to change in the 1990’s as IBM acquiesced the desktop to Microsoft. Instead of dominating the industry, they now appear to be content to lay back on the ropes absorbing one punch after another. What bothers me is that they give the appearance of a company who is no longer in charge of their own destiny and rely on others for direction. To me, this is the sign of a company on the verge of becoming irrelevant.