Saturday, November 24, 2007

Closing A Window

We bought our first house about six years ago. And after we'd addressed the basic building blocks of life - food, light bulbs, cable television - we turned our attention to the need for a home computer. There was no great mystery or indecision about where to go next, we did what everyone we knew was doing back then. Dudes! We were gettin' a Dell!

I was vaguely aware that there was a company out in California named Apple that dabbled in funky computers, it didn't matter, didn't apply to me, even though I'd had a little bit of experience with one of its early, iconic products.

My first job out of college was writing for a weekly newspaper in my hometown - and the desktop I was issued for this purpose was an Apple Macintosh. It was nice, I liked working on it, but I can't say I spent too much time focused on the machine itself. This was the late 1980s, and computers at that point were about grayscale graphics and simple tasks. There was no Internet, no e-mail, no digital photos or music, no advanced applications, no color. None of the things that, today, make these devices such central fixtures in our lives and increasingly personal extensions of ourselves. I left that first job, and that oddly endearing little Macintosh, and never looked back.

And then, about 15 years later, I got my first iPod. It was only the second generation model, and was still so much cooler and elegantly functional than anything I'd seen before that I almost couldn't believe I was allowed to own it. And it turned me into the cliché, the personification of the "halo effect," because within just a few minutes of clickwheeling to that first song I knew I was going to have to find a way to give these people more of my money. I just wasn't sure how.

Apple computers had come a long way from the Macintosh I'd used to bang out stories as a cub reporter, but there was still something scary and uncertain about the proposition of converting to a Mac. Everything I knew was Windows-based. The documents that were so critical to my professional life were Word documents, presentations were in PowerPoint, those grid-like things I could never figure out how to manipulate that people sent me sometimes were in a program called Excel. These were essential tools, supporting work that was frequently circulated and shared under deadline pressures. I couldn't put my livelihood and ability to bankroll future Disney vacations with Gwen and the kids at risk playing around with some kind of computer that thought different, as much as I wanted to.

But the Apple fixation took hold, I couldn't shake it. I started talking to people who used Macs at home, with Office products designed for the platform, and who seemed to move files around without a problem. This ground had obviously been covered before. I noted from afar the company's switch to Intel processors, which made it clear to me that the good folks out there in Cupertino were trying. They were trying to make it easier for people like me to become people like them.

By the spring of last year, I was ready to dip at least one toe in the Mac pond. I noticed a new line of MacBook computers and bought one as an early birthday present to myself. It was perfect. Adapting to life on a Mac was effortless, and delivered a much easier, better and more intuitive computing experience for everything I needed and wanted to do than any of the Windows-based PCs that littered the previous two decades. I started taking the MacBook to the office, had a second data line installed, and it quickly became my primary "work" computer. I had turned a corner.

I found my way to a few great and affirmational Mac-related podcasts, notably Ken Ray's terrific daily dose of "You Rock!" news and Mac-attitude, Mac OS Ken, and the MacCast, through which host Adam Christianson provides a truly mind-boggling (and occasionally mind-numbing) array of valuable information for Mac geeks every week.

A year into the MacBook, I was ready to once again tithe in the Church of Steve Jobs. I waited for the company to update the slick MacBook Pro line, and when it did I jumped. I gave Gwen the MacBook (endured a few short-lived grumbles about subjecting my better half to a "hand-me-down" computer), bought myself a MacBook Pro and connected an AirPort Extreme Wi-Fi base station to our cable modem so we could get online anywhere in the house.

It was phenomenal. Changed the way we live. And, most importantly, it passed the toughest test of all in our family when it comes to new technology - Gwen saw the merit in it. Believe me when I tell you that is one high bar. We maintained our AOL account for years, unnecessarily, just because my wife liked her e-mail address and buddy list. Then I found Google's Gmail, got her on board, and we never looked back.

The arrival of Mac computers and the AirPort Extreme in our house was like that. Gwen used to go days - sometimes weeks - before shaking free of the kids long enough to actually visit our desktop and check her e-mail. Suddenly I was getting little mid-afternoon "Madison's home" updates and messages asking what I felt like having for dinner, or reminding me to pick something up on my way home. The phone calls asking me to decipher some cryptic error message, or explain why the "printer won't print," stopped cold. Coordinating soccer practices and dance rehearsals and all of the other elements of our day-to-day lives was exponentially easier. We were on the same platform, and that platform was Mac OS X.

The only item left to address was that old Dell stack computer still sitting upstairs in our spare bedroom/home office, a vestige of the past that unfortunately had all of our music on it - more than 4,000 songs in our iTunes library - and a good five or six years worth of digital photos and Word documents. I decided not to renew our anti-virus software, in anticipation of dumping the PC for a Mac desktop that would serve as the central storage repository for our increasingly digital lives, and while I dragged my feet I was frequently greeted with jarring Norton reminders that my computer was NOT PROTECTED AGAINST NEW THREATS! The Dell's 60GB hard drive was also basically consumed, so the other fun message that kept popping up related to the fact that the computer's "virtual memory was full," which might cause some programs not to work. Surfing the Web was painfully slow. Other times, the thing just froze, or crashed.

I told myself I would make the final switch when Apple's new Leopard operating system came out, but then the release was delayed. Around the same time, I started reading about an alleged new version of the iMac desktop computer, with "striking industrial design." Hmm, I thought, that sounds kind of interesting. Well, the rumors turned out to be true, and over the summer Apple unveiled an insanely great update to a computer line that was already the coolest desktop on the market. Then, on the last Friday in October, Leopard arrived. I went out that first weekend, bought a disk to update our notebooks, and liked everything I saw.

And finally, last Sunday, the arc was complete. Dudes! I dismantled the Dell! Pulled the old thing apart, disconnected the rats nest of wires and cables under the desk and stuffed the stack into an enormous suitcase on wheels, lint older than Ava falling out of the air vents. I asked Madison whether or not she wanted to go to the Apple store with me and her eyes lit up with the unique glow of relentless parental brainwashing childhood enthusiasm and wonder.

We navigated our way through the packed and active store, found someone to help us, and in just a few minutes our mission was accomplished. I left the Dell behind, with instructions to move everything we wanted onto the iMac. They said it would take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to transfer our files onto the new computer, I'd get a call when it was ready. That call came the next day, and I stopped off on my way home from the office to retrieve our new desktop, which looks even better in our house than it did in the store.

So we got there. We closed the Window, and it may as well be locked and painted shut, because we're never going back. Bill - you've lost a whole family of customers, but look on the bright side. You got about 20 years of licensing fees out of me for the technology you appropriated invented, and that's not bad. Steve - we know we're late to the party, we understand that, but put us down for four lifetime seats on the Apple bandwagon. Mad props and much love. Namaste.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations and welcome to the Mac community! You know I felt the same way you did when I left my old Dell laptop behind and could transfer everything to the brand-new MacBook. The Mac OS is so much more sophisticated and logical. I really don't know why so many people still stay on their XP systems when they have to put so many efforts in them (as you said antivirus software, annoying popups, etc.)

Greetz from a Swiss guy

10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing this story!

I'm glad to hear that your whole family is enjoying life on the Mac platform, and your writing style makes the story a pleasure to read.

Keep up the great blogging!

1:07 AM  
Blogger gdl said...

Dude, I'm still using my Dell with the zillion popups that say my machine is going to blow up any minute. Used a pc because that's what we used in business. Not in an office anymore.

My best friend is converting to a Mac which she originally had at work, then moved into the Windows world and she doesn't work any longer and is going back to Mac.

Me, I'm in the mid stage of life and a little concerned about learning it all new again... But, I've been to the Apple store and posts like yours help me get closer and closer.

Loved your blog about Apple and Mac's, so good to read of a "convert". Nicely written.

Many thanks for your informative post!

3:35 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

After reading this and a couple of other "transition" stories...I'm off to the Apple Store tomorrow.


5:15 AM  
Anonymous Neil Anderson said...

I liked the strike-thru text. Funny stuff! Hey, that's pretty cool that Apple will transfer your files from your old computer for you for free. Great service!

4:52 PM  
Blogger Knowledge seeker said...

Very well written article. Its almost like a story. I have been contemplating shifting to a mac. Most of my friends who are mac lovers say- " Once a mac user, always a mac user". My only worry is that the macbook pro which I'm planning to buy for use in my office is going to be connected to 10 other PCs in windows networking. Would it work well? Moreover I don't know if I will be able to use other softwares such as bassline popup ( for messaging internally in the office), Karen's replicator etc in the new environment. Wish me good luck. Namaste.

8:33 AM  

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