Article: The Perfect Space

by on March 15, 2012

As we are just a day before the launch of Apple’s third iPad, it’s hard to imagine Apple not being successful. About 16 years ago, Apple was almost out of business, and it seems there’s a growing trend of tech writers who like to bring up this point as though history is going to repeat itself, especially immediately after the passing of Steve Jobs. As someone who was pro-Apple in a time when everyone was leaving for Windows, I have a slightly different view on Apple’s success, and the turns the Mac journalism community has taken.

I had been fascinated by computers for years and finally got my hands on a couple of used Macs—this was during my teenage years, so it may have been my own bit of rebellion—our “family” computers were always IBMs. Newer Macs replaced those late-’80s-era models, I worked on having a usual web browsing routine over the 14.4kbps dialup connection, and I started finding a lot of small sites supporting the Mac as a platform, especially when most of the tech press had been marginalizing Apple as a whole. After a few years, our local library got rid of copies of old issues of Macworld, so I was hit with both the immediate past and the current news of Apple’s declining health. I also got to read back-page columns by the likes of Andy Ihnatko and David Pogue, where we got to see a mix of snark, commentary, and a bit of calming that everything was going to be okay.

David Pogue’s column in Macworld‘s January 1998 issue exemplifies the tone of the time well:

I guess I shouldn’t have gone to a party where the eggnog was spiked, and maybe I shouldn’t have watched the movie It’s a Wonderful Life while leafing through MacWeek. But anyway, I had the weirdest dream last night–like a bizarre black-and-white movie that went like this: Jimmy Stewart stars as Steve “Jobs” Bailey, who runs a beleaguered but beloved small-town computer company. For years, big monopolist Bill “Gates” Potter has been wielding his power and money to gain control of the town. And for years, Steve has fought for survival: “This town needs my measly, one-horse computer, if only to have something for people to use instead of Windows!”

Okay, it’s a bit cheesy, but you get the idea. Microsoft was the “bad guys”, Apple was the “good guys”, and Macs tended to be used by people who were fanatical about the platform or needed it for graphics or multimedia.

Over time, I really wanted to start sharing my thoughts with the world. Call it an ego thing or call it the fact that I was fascinated by this whole Internet thing and wanted to learn how to make web pages of my own. Either way, I launched the first version of SchwarzTech in 1999, a time when things were looking better for Apple, but not great. Over time, I had also written for Low End Mac, but the focus of those articles were often for much older machines and not the state of Apple and the industry. SchwarzTech started taking on a life of its own with product reviews, smaller posts of news, and I think it eventually was trying to become my own version of an issue of Macworld. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the amount of resources I had wasn’t exactly going to support something that well-developed.

Over time, the site grew quite a bit (although I still get the, “You run a web site?” shock from people), and I was always afraid to label it as a “blog”, since the connotation with that was often the likes of something like an online journal where I share what I had for lunch or every fleeting thought, and not a place where you’d read technology news and opinion. It also served as my place for tinkering with HTML and CSS, and still does to this day. Still, a lot of the smaller sites I used to visit regularly when I started SchwarzTech have disappeared. I know, like my site, these were there to support Apple, and that may be an obsolete concept in a day when Apple is the world’s most valuable company.

Instead, we have people who share their thoughts about the tech industry as a whole, share things about Apple and their thoughts as to where the company is going, but it doesn’t have that same feel. A lot of today’s Apple fans were brought in by the iPod or iPhone. Using a Mac when Apple was doomed doesn’t exactly get you street cred, especially since a lot of Apple’s core consumers now were entering kindergarten in those rough days.

I find myself asking where SchwarzTech fits into this mix. Although I do have some help, the site mostly is me, sharing my thoughts, covering some news items, and trying out a product here or there. It’s a fun little aside, and I am proud of the sheer depth of content I’ve accumulated over the years. There have been a lot of blogs popping up over the years, in the style of John Gruber’s Daring Fireball or Jim Dalrymple and Peter Cohen’s The Loop, especially thanks to tools and services like WordPress, Moveable Type, tumblr, and others. Instead of arguing the benefits of Apple products or hating on Windows, the focus tends to be more towards furthering the Mac and iOS platforms and providing useful resources for people. Sure, the Windows 8 joke pops up every now and then, as does a Google slam, but the tone has changed.

People often ask me how I’d feel if the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. I can’t give a specific answer, because I really don’t know how I’d react if that actually happened, but I think Apple going from a company that was within 90 days of insolvency to the most valuable company in the world is kinda close in magnitude. Except, instead of just one big hit product and the company is healthy again, Apple keeps winning. The 1997 version of me is saying, “That’s enough, Apple, let’s go back to you being that quirky, alternative option to Windows, except without that whole poor financial situation,” while the 2012 version of me is thrilled and excited what new product Apple will introduce next. Obviously, the 2012 version of me is more mature and smarter.

Essentially, Apple gave up on trying to convince people to buy their Macs, since the mostly-wrong “expensive” and “incompatible” arguments never really went away, and instead convinced them to buy their post-PC devices. When most people think of Apple these days, it’s seen as the company that makes iPhones, iPads, iPods, and also happens to sell computers. Is this good for the Mac? Maybe not, although the post-PC devices certainly have helped Apple continue its growth.

As for SchwarzTech, I’m going to keep writing when the mood strikes me, sharing things that I find online that I think are either interesting or important, and enjoying myself. I am glad that there are some loyal readers out there, and hopefully the site can find the best place to fit on the Web.

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