The beauty of technology is in the details. That is, when everything works it’s as if we are living in the best modern world possible. But when not, the world is a lousy place. Value is king and while Apple never sells value products in the form of bang for your buck, there is value to be had provided one is willing to search for it outside the products Apple offers. And I, for one, am someone who doesn’t mind looking.
Apple products are expensive. Let’s face it. A long time ago I was a huge Apple fan. I thought eventually they might actually make a value Mac one day. I’m not talking about the demure CPUs known as Mac Minis. I’m talking about actual value, bang for your buck, capability for money shelled out.
Don’t get me wrong. Aesthetics are great. Macs look great, but since everything is in super close quarters components tend to burn out prematurely—the price for all that elegant sleekness and compactness. This dirty little secret regarding Mac hardware is not lost on resellers whose livelihoods depends on the Mac owners whose hard drives, GPUs and/or logic boards go wonky approximately three years or a little there afterwards into daily use. These are the same resellers who understand that Apple’s design machinations will eventually make Apple certified technician jobs obsolete or at least not as necessary as trends toward non-upgradeable and unrepairable models continues.
What still gets me geeked is when I can try out new and not-so-expensive ways to get the job done. Whether it’s word processing (the bulk of my work) or photo editing, I use the tools that represent the best mix of value and capability—for me.
I was never as excited as when I opened up the bulky box (Macs didn’t always come in consumer eye-candy friendly boxes) on my Mac Performa 5215CD back in 1995 after I brought it home from Best Buy. The brick and mortar staple of computer and electronics stores had a Mac section back then, but it was pitiful compared to its PC sisters. Gil Amelio was still running the show at Apple. I wanted to get in on a Mac finally after using DOS computers with 5-1/4” floppy diskettes and Compugraphic and Linotronic typesetting machines doubling as computers back in the day in graphics departments at pre-press operations across the nation.
While Apple’s Power Mac line was completely out of financial reach for this writer of modest means, I was very much hell bent on getting a Mac of some kind, and a brand new one at that. I settled on the un-Performa line and began my love affair with Macs and all computers that I wanted to do certain things on, that were not advertised or promoted right out of the box. In the case of the un-Performa it was trying to take Apple’s consumer line of Macs at the time and bring it up to par with Power Macs of the same era.
I was able to get satisfactory operation out of the 5215CD, but not until after spending copious and laborious hours on it. Back then, there was no broadband and I needed a computer to build ads for the agency I worked at. The Internet was not something to use for business back then. It was something to engage in on a leisurely basis. I finally purged my old dial-up modems recently. I knew I no longer had a need for them unless I was planning on inhabiting a country with only dial-up access (which I’m not). But back then, I only utilized my connection to FTP my completed jobs. After the jobs were uploaded and delivered, then and only then was it time to get on AOL via dial-up and see what other un-Performa owners were sharing.
Macs had a great reputation and an adoring base of users but even the Power Macs locked up and froze on us daily back then. I remember top of the line Power Mac 9500s, 9600s, 7500s, 7200s, 7100s…you name it, doing the bomb before our eyes each and every day. Back then, that was not anything typesetters and graphic artists blinked at. We just rebooted. The IT department tried to keep “conflicts” of extensions and control panels to a minimum. But it was a never ending battle that the Macs lost no matter what was done. While fun to use, you better have built plenty of time into your day’s agenda for the numerous restarts and complete take downs of the Macs you used; it was just how life was back then.
Now we have tablets which are completely and utterly cool. I needed a tablet for my mobile capabilities. When one is flying these days, it isn’t easy to use even laptops a few years old anymore. With the trend towards smaller seats, leg room and space for passengers on jets, you need to be able to hunker down with something small if you want to get any work done that involves a computer.
I recently purchased a refurbished Microsoft Surface RT that has been nothing short of heaven. I jumped when the price came down to $169. Sure, it’s just a tablet. And it isn’t Apple. It’s Microsoft. Yes, the iPad is nice, but it’s way overpriced. I didn’t test drive an Android tablet before biting on the Surface, but Apple can only play the supposed better quality, more chic angle for so long, when it comes to any of its products. It used to be that intangibles regarding viruses, malware or whether devices just worked as well, were what helped consumers decide in favor of Apple. Now the lines are blurred.
In the case of Microsoft’s Surface, the Redmond legend was and is making its coin dinging consumers with add on keyboards. I picked up a knockoff keyboard/case combination for the Surface that looks great and has a keyboard that utilizes the built-in USB port on it. While the keys are smaller than I’d like, I can still write when I’m on the go. I picked up a totally inexpensive, brand new Bluetooth mouse from Meritline and I have a tablet that is a laptop computer which utilizes a mouse that I prefer over a touch screen mode of operation.
The point of all this is our choices have never been greater. Apple can always appeal to those upper crust folks who have money to burn for the privilege of being the world’s beta testers for one of the most cash-laden, publicly-owned conglomerates out there.
For the rest of us, if you’ve got a couple hundred dollars and some time to research how best to spend it, you can come up with solutions that enable the modern mobile lifestyle we all enjoy living in. That is not a big price to pay to remain up to date. It is actually quite wonderful when you consider you can keep using your older Apple and Microsoft hardware in tandem to get the more heavy lifting done, and until the cows come home.