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Mac Style Loss

604 words

Last month was the Mac’s 21st birthday. Which may mean that I can take my Powerbook out for a beer now, even in the more ‘free’ countries of the world. Along with that birthday came lots and lots of comments and collections of old Apple advertising media.

Does it look like a business computer now? - Images from old Apple Ad Uh, I still remember my early days on the Mac. The year before I actually got one, I curiously looked at their brochures and Apple’s stuff at CeBIT. I think I opened around a million windows on an LC III with the portrait display back then. And I thought it was extremely cool (as the Atari could only open four windows at once). And with that in mind reviewed some of the old Apple ads that were circulated in the recent birthday fever.

And what struck me was that although Apple’s ads these days look really clean and good, in a way they’ve lost all their class and style. Not visual style, but content style. In those days the ads seemed to tell you your computer work shouldn’t be about the computer but about your work. In contrast, these days they’re all about you wanting that computer. This may be good business (but who cares, certainly I don’t) but it’s sad to see them move away from the point where they communicate that their task is to make the computer less noticeable to todays point where the flashiness of a new computer is one of its main points – and mostly the only one that is communicated actively.

And to me it seems that this ‘trend’ is not just one that affects the marketing but one that you see in many places. Just consider the decreasing care that Apple put in their products – the Finder that even after years of OS X is full of bugs which distract you from what you want to do, the partially careless localisations which often need an extra revision or two before they’re streamlined enough to not stall whatever you’re doing, the ‘new’ applications most of which are so slow that they constantly get in the way of what you want to use them for, the photo management software that gains a basic filter field in version 5 only, the music application which is made with an extra ‘outstanding’ interface to capture more of your attntion…

And even in the old days, those ads could be funny. What makes a computer a ‘business computer’ is not the company it’s made by but rather the environment it’s used in, one of those old TV commercials showed us. Funny and true.

Finally let me share a little 1993 Apple ad from a Swiss computer magazine. All it does is compare what two people have to do when they want to delete a file on their computers. One of them is smiling. The other one is getting the job done.

1993 Apple Ad

I’ve always loved this ad, because it works in so many ways. It’s also quite funny to look at the back-sides of the ad and see what they were writing about back then. For example about label printers, capable of printing all sorts of labels including bar codes. No progress there. Another report is on Video for Windows, which cost 425 Swiss Franks in 1993 and could import QuickTime films. The report also mentions that you’ll need a large hard drive to store films at 25MB/s. Which hints that technology has gotten better since but computer journalism has always been bad. Which hard drive would’ve been able to read data at that speed back then? Which 386 could’ve played it?

February 16, 2005, 23:10

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