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The Mac at 25: Successes and regrets, Apple's had a few

By Dan Turner
January 16, 2009 12:00 PM ET
This wasn't just a good idea -- though it was indeed a very good idea. The public HIG encouraged developers to produce applications that looked and acted like the familiar Mac interface. Users weren't confused with a whole new way to save, or move, or do anything, each time they loaded a new program. Think that's a trivial achievement? Take a look at the Interface Hall of Shame. You could be stuck with that.

Of course, things change, and there have been blips along the way -- especially when Apple moved to Mac OS X.

MacPaint/MacWrite:

Bundled with the original Mac were these two breakthrough applications that allowed users to "paint" by clicking and dragging the mouse, and to create and edit text files in a then-new WYSIWYG way. These programs turned every Mac in a store display into an interactive advertisement -- Hey, Ma, look what I can do! -- something that was more than an experienced programmer could have easily done on previous computers.

These two apps, with toolbars and drop-down menus, set the stage for every application that came after -- including ones like Word, which tossed MacWrite into the dustbin of history.

The all-in-one design

The first Mac came in a new shape: a user-friendly, all-contained, all-in-one design (except for keyboard and mouse). It even had a built-in handle on the top for moving it around, and there were carrying bags available for maximum portability, though it was a heavy package to lug around. But heavy or not, it was a lot easier to move around and set up than the cable-fests offered by competitors.

By necessity, Apple moved away from the combined Mac/monitor design, allowing users to pick and replace monitors and easily access expansion slots and the like. Then in 1998, Apple CEO Steve Jobs debuted the iMac. (Personal note: I worked at MacWeek then, and we broke the story the night before.) The "i" was for Internet, remember -- and the iMac, with its "there is no Step 3" setup, brought back the "computer for the rest of us" trope for the connected world.

The iMac's descendents, including the eMac, have been iconic, and among Apple's best sellers. In fact, the current iMac line has seemed to draw Apple's focus away from its pro desktops, which haven't been refreshed in a good, long while.

Nailing the hardware and software transitions

Linux and Unix users like to show off how they can select just the right distro, recompile, read manuals, scour online forums for new hardware configurations and eventually wind up with their operating system of choice running on their hardware of choice. Fun city?



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