There and Back Again… The Making of an Apple Fanboy

Posted: August 4, 2008 in Apple, iPhone, Macbook Air
Tags: , ,

A long, long time ago in a suburb far, far in LA, a young lad was introduced without much fanfare to his first Apple Personal Computer.  Well…. sort of.  A friend of my dad’s had come back from Taiwan and purchased an Apple ][ clone, which my friends eventually dubbed the “Orange”.  I’m not sure if it was a gift or what, but eventually I took over the unit, completely mesmerized by the glowing green CRT and the magical worlds it introduced me to.  I do recall we started off extremely old school, I still remember hooking the unit up to the TV and using an old tape recorder to load in software.  Wow, those were the days.  Eventually I was introduced to my first computer role playing game (CRPG) – Ultima – and have been hooked on the genre ever since.  I was completely obsessed with Ultima and Wizardry those early years, and the Orange became my home away from home as it took me further into the computer gaming format as a hobby.

Some years passed and I eventually moved on to college, at which point the IBM PC/Microsoft era was beginning to take hold in the PC market, most noticeably in the gaming department.  Because of that, I also shifted away from Apple and labelled myself as a “PC Gamer” exclusively.  My primary home computer has been a PC since the early 286 platform and good old MS-DOS, and has remained so to this day.  Interestingly, while in grad school my research group was largely using Macs (just a coincidence I guess).  While programming and “complex” computational software was running on mainframes at the time, we did the majority of documentation and presentations on an old Mac Plus, and eventually on some Power Macs.  Because of this, most of my data and graphs were on a Mac, and I ended up writing my entire doctoral dissertation on an old Macintosh IIci (completed in 1998)!  Somewhere during this period, I also briefly fiddled with an Apple Newton, which I thought was just the coolest thing on the planet at the time, but never got much real use out of.  I think I still have it sitting in the closet or garage somewhere.  So oddly enough, even though I functioned as a PC Gamer “snob” of sorts (I was known to often pan the Apple line for its expensive prices and lack of new/good games), I was always surrounded by and acutely aware of the Apple platform.  From time to time, I would flirt with the idea of trying a Mac at home but nothing would make me take the plunge, the closest thing being that cool looking Borg Cube contraption.  A lot of my friends and colleagues in college were avid Apple fans, but I held fast that until they had the top tier games playable, I’d always be a PC man.

Then around 2001, a strange looking little white device called the iPod was released into the world, and this, I believe, marked the beginning of the end for me.  Well, maybe more appropriately the beginning of the beginning.  I resisted it strongly at first, not really understanding or knowing what it was all about and finding the price to entry just a bit too much for my taste.  Finally, though, I gave in to the hype and my instincts, having spent a number of years collecting expensive gadgets that I didn’t use much, and purchased one of the classic units.  (Ironically I just fished that original iPod out the other day and stole its case to help protect my iPhone 3G, who’d a thunk it?)  As soon as I got started with the iPod, I was hooked.  The interface, the sound quality, the look and feel of the device, it was just absolutely perfect, and at the time there really didn’t seem to be anything like it in existence.  Coupled with the capability of transferring one’s entire CD library (I still have hundreds of CDs sitting in boxes) to the format using iTunes and having portable access to all of the songs, this was a major leap for a music fan like myself. 

And so it began, with each subsequent release, Apple hooked me further.  First it was the nano, which I convinced myself would be perfect for exercising/jogging.  I even got the special Nike shoes/nano combination.  This I admit only got limited use for a few months, but that was more out of my physical laziness and not about the technology.  Next up was the video iPod, how could I resist?  The only thing I loved more than music was music videos!  The screen, though tiny at the time, was just so crisp and perfect.  The advent of the iTunes store only helped to further the frenzy for which I “needed” the new technology.  This is/was the beauty of the Apple hookline, somehow it became more of an inexplicable obsession than simply a desire.  My video iPod I had inscribed with my name and the following line: Apple Owns Me.  At this point in time, I really had no idea just how far that statement would go.  It was meant to be ironic, or funny, or sad, depending on your viewpoint, but realistically I felt like I was pretty much satisfied from the entertainment device standpoint.

Then just when I thought I was “safe”, along came 2007.  When Steve Jobs announced the iPhone in January, I was more angry and stunned than anything else.  I refused to watch the keynote or read the hype.  Why?  Because I had just purchased a new smartphone from Verizon (at the time I didn’t keep up on Apple release news/timing) and was locked in to a new 2 year contract, but Apple announced it was going solely with AT&T.  I bitterly convinced myself that I didn’t care, because my phone had all the functions (and more) that the iPhone claimed to have, and more.  But the truth was at the time, I would have paid top dollar for just a larger/wide screen version of the video iPod; even the touchscreen was icing on the cake.  So I spent the next few months in rabid denial, seemingly content with my smartphone and separate iPods.  Then one day out of boredom I decided to hit the Apple store and actually watch the keynote.  I don’t remember what the impetus was, maybe seeing a commercial or something I had read online.  Once I watched Steve Jobs’ presentation, I was once again hooked.  The accelerometer, the seamless integration of functions, the beautiful screen, the touch interface, it was just too much for my gadget crazy brain to fathom not possessing.  When he did the rotation and started playing a scene from The Office, it was all over but the crying.  In fact I may have shed a tear that evening knowing how much longer I had to wait, and how much money I’d have to spend to buy the iPhone and dump my existing contract.

So, as described in detail in this blog, I did the whole big “iDay” thing in June, and finally got my beloved iPhone.  I won’t repeat what’s already been discussed previously, suffice to say in spite of some ups and downs, I was pretty happy all in all with the purchase.  Soon after, Apple announced a new revamped line of iMacs, and at this point the so-called “halo” effect finally nabbed me.  I was having trouble with some sync issues with the iPhone on my PC, so I finally decided to make an excursion into the Mac world and have all my media (photos, videos, etc) run through the iMac as a central hub.  Even the look and the feel of the iMac seemed designed to compliment the iPhone, the perfect desktop companion.  I loved the ease of use of OS X and especially features like iPhoto and iWeb.  I had a new, nice looking web page up, literally in minutes.  Eventually I collected all my masses of digital pictures from all the sources and backups I could find and for the first time, organized them all painlessly using iPhoto.  Given how lazy I am in general with these types of things, it was a big deal, and only a fun, easy to use interface could have sucked me into doing this.

Earlier this year, I was drawn in yet again by the Macbook Air.  Sigh.  Helpless to the marketing effect of seeing a full powered notebook computer pulled out of a manila envelope, I immediately pre-ordered and waited with baited breath for it to arrive.  Even realizing I was being manipulated, I couldn’t help myself.  It turned out well, giving me yet another wonderful piece of hardware, so light it’s almost impossible to describe.  I now do the majority of my finances, personal email and surfing solely on the MBA.  More amazingly, I was easily able to install Windows XP2 in a dual boot configuration and run some fairly challenging PC games on the Air.  On a plane trip a few weeks ago it almost felt like no added weight to my backpack.  I watched as other people brought out big chunky laptops and almost felt guilty about how light the MBA is.  I’d often wondered if there was a “perfect” weight point for a portable PC, and this has to be pretty close; weighty enough so it doesn’t feel cheap or like it will blow away, but light enough to be held on one’s fingerstips and literally as light as (or lighter than) a paper notebook.  Also, at this time I had purchased the Time Capsule as the backup companion piece for the MBA.  I later found that it was much more useful, and I’m now using it as a central file hub for my PC and Macs, as well as for wireless N throughout the house. 

But the “total conversion” doesn’t end there.  Another product I had dismissed during its original release was the Apple TV.  It was back when I was at the peak of my fandom, so I was actively trying to convince myself to like it.  But at the time I couldn’t find any viable reason to purchase it.  Finally this year with “Take 2” and the introduction of the rental market via an iTunes interface, I took the plunge and brought it into my main entertainment system.  It’s turned out great, as much as I intended to use it for rentals of movies I didn’t want to buy, I seem to use it the most for watching music videos, surfing You Tube and listening to music.  Just another classic example of an Apple product surprising me with usability in ways I might not have expected or imagined.

The final straw in the conversion process?  Recently I opened an eTrade account and for the first time put myself in the stock market by purchasing a few shares of Apple stock.  This was a big leap for me, and while I don’t actually have a lot of money invested, it felt good to be investing in something I really believe in, and in some ways actually feels like I’m investing in myself.  OK, so the stock hasn’t been faring too well since, but I am keeping the faith.

The iPhone 3G is the latest in my Apple Fanboy checklist, and I’ve been loving it and the new App Store addition to iTunes.  In all honesty it feels like a stepping stone en route to even bigger and better things.  Next gen iPhone with video conferencing?  iPad Mac with full touch screen interface?  Who knows what’s next.  While I haven’t made a 100% move away from the PC, I do believe I’m getting close.  I’ve been eyeing the new iMacs with nVidia graphics as well as the Mac Pro.  Knowing now that I can easily dual boot for gaming, there’s less and less reason to not go 100% Mac, even in the gaming world.  Cutting edge video card performance is still the limiting factor, but realistically there are so few games coming out that make use of the cutting edge, there’s almost no point these days.

People still complain about the pricing from Apple and how it creates a barrier relative to what you can purchase from other companies offering devices with similar (or perhaps more) functionality at a lower price.  To this, I say, yes, all that is true.  However, I would also say it’s not always so simple to look at it as a flat dollar cost.  There are tons of gadgets and cool gizmos released all the time; many of these are feature rich, and often less costly than the Apple equivalent.  The question to ask, though, is just how much use and enjoyment one would get from them.  All I can offer is that from a relative standpoint, I have always received more “bang for the buck” from my Apple purchases in terms of usage, and as mentioned, most of them have surpassed my original expectations.  I have a closet full of gadgets that were retired after a short usage period, but from Apple?  Every device is in regular rotation (and many that have been upgraded have been passed down to someone else), and each plays a significant and varied role in my “e-life.”  The devices are friendly and inviting, so much so that it’s not a matter of forcing myself to find uses for something I’ve bought, but instead the products have made something previously difficult (or perhaps just annoying enough to become a deterrent), much easier to do now.   Somehow the precise combination of presentation, interface and sheer usability create something larger than the core functions or specifications.

So there it is, a long (and admittedly expensive) journey covering roughly 25 years of gadgets and gizmos, the insidious yet inevitable creation of an avid Apple Fanboy.  While I don’t actually consider myself a complete fanatic, I will (obviously) admit to being a strong devotee.  As long as they keep cranking out wonderful products that challenge and break conventional technological barriers and modes of thought, I will be there with bells on.

  1. […] out Rittblog II’s The Making of an Apple Fanboy: So there it is, a long (and admittedly expensive) journey covering roughly 25 years of gadgets and […]

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