I was first introduced to macs in 1991, they were my first real entry into computing as my family could never afford one. My two computers at home were a sinclair zx81 and a sharp which were both given to me in 87.
My love afair with apple started from the moment I first sat at one, somehow I just knew how to use it - sounds daft I know, but that is what apple is - a brand gifted with making computing tasks simple and intuitive, and not frightening.
In terms of the best mac in history, lets think back to ppc days. There were a lot of configurations, a lot of models and more importantly a lot of money- remember that a mac was just a CPU - you used to have to buy a Keyboard, mouse and monitor separately so you were always looking at 2k, when the ibm pc running windows 3.1 was rolling in at 800.
As apple's bank account shrunk they realised that perhaps people might want these at home - or moreover, that there was a home market instead of concentrating on the enterprise customer, who were being won over by stack-em high build-em cheap companies like dell etc. Apple can't / won't compete with these companies, and as applications started drifting to the pc they realised the business paradigm had to shift.
Enter the clones - Motorola , Umax, et al, doing exactly what we're all doing now, building generic components to run mac OS - for a third of the price! Apple sufferred - badly the clone was dead within two years.
So we come to the mid 90's and the maddest idea yet, rebadge 90% of your model range as Performa and sell them to consumers - no different from their pro counterparts, just cheaper! Also apple had and still has a habit of shooting themselves in the foot- look at the powerbook duo - the original macbook air - thin, bugger all connectivity but the duo part was that it could be docked, and the dock had expansion... in slick apple fashion you didn't press a button to unmount, there was a classy eject mechanism like the apple floppy drive! It would have been lovely however if Apple had not delayed shipping of the dock 2 months after the duo's here in the uk.
Whatever apple was doing it was not making them money and Redmond was catching up awfully fast.
Enterprise strongholds such as dtp and publishing started to look to PC and the macs profits tumbled again.
Time for another paradigm shift... and what a shift...
Winter 98 saw the apple revolution - going back to their 89 mantra of 'think different' they rolled out the iMac - in Bondi Blue... a truly revoultionary computer using revolutionary new connectivity and thinking.
Apple had finally captured the heart of the consumer - grasping that (great OS aside) consumers were influenced by style and form.
IF I had to say the most revolutionary mac -it would have to be the original iMac it set the roadmap for everything that was to follow, not so much in terms of technology - but in understanding what drove a market to purchase the machines - offices all over the city were buying imac as front end machines because they were a complete solution and looked good.
It also allowed apple to explore the theme of tying the OS with the product design with the advent of OS X - which was aqua originally and matched the bondi blue exteriors of the imac and powermacs of the time. Later we went to graphite and finally we have arrived at the brushed finish that now greets us with the new machine range.
iMac and iPod are without doubt apple's most important products - Best industrial design / best selling . They both single handedly saved apple from extinction, and ipod more so, and in true apple style, made the business of mp3 music players easy and intuitive to use - even if it was not the best or most feature packed, it did what it was designed to do well and with a design elegance and sophistication.
Apples most revolutionary product in my eyes is OS X. it allowed Apple to explore different possibilites not only with what an os can do, but also with platform dependency - as early as OS 9, there was an file in the system folder hinting at amd hardware - the pundits at the time speculated that perhaps apple was looking to alternatives from the ppc platform - as motorola was slowly becoming more and more uncompetitive on performance and price. Although as we know macs could cope with whatever you threw at them, the Ghz war had started in pc land, and nobody cared that a ppc chip was a different architecture - Power on x86 chips went up to 11!
My favourite Apple Product? - well, it was the worst selling, most overpriced machine they have had in many years, the G4 Cube. Why? well lets look at it from another perspective, it gave you the option to use whatever size of monitor you wanted, and had only one slot - a graphics card slot. In essence most consumers never really do anything other than maybe buy a graphics card and some memory. It came with a set of harman Kardon speakers and was compact and discreet. Unfortunately apple pitched it at not far off the price of the cheapest powermac G4 - so form aside - why the hell would you buy one!
Apple were quick to realise that longevity also came in the form of proprietry technology - Apple bought the intellectual property of some heavy hitting software and added that apple twist - they later surfaced as finalcut , aperture et al - even iLife, very powerfull but veiled in the fabric of ease of use. We must not forget that apple first and foremost are a hardware manufacturer - their money comes from people buying into these products, hence the moves on the mini to solder the CPU onto the board, hence the move to tweak voltages on PCIe slots from one MacPro generation to the next, and hence the use of proprietry and infuriating technology like the Mini Displayport. It made me laugh that reviewers of the LED display moaned that you couldn't use it on a pc... but apple don't want you too!
Also notice that Apple are very good at making people 'step up' the product line... think to Mac Mini now nearly 600, add keyboard and mouse to that, because your head will say I already have them but your heart sees their lovely keyboard and hey what do you know you're nearly in iMac territory.
Apple have no interest in customers upgrading their hardware, they want them to buy new hardware - as one idiot at the apple store London said to a customer "i'd want to buy a new mac when a service pack comes out - that way i know it just works!" - he was talking about snow leopard after the customer called it nothing more than a service pack!
The product i'd like to see... would be a mac pro mini!! lol, I'd like a mac which could take a hefty amount of ram, not have a cpu soldered on, and can accept whatever gpu I want to put in there. A G4 cube for the new generation.
We've gone full circle really, We hackintoshers are essentially the people who in the past would have bought a mac clone as I did, because I didn't want to pay apple stupid prices. Five years ago I had a mac mini, a powerbook and an imac, now I have a windows PC. I love apple, but I want to be master of my own system, and that includes the price.
When I was a (real) mac owner I would smugly say - it just works, little did I know how much money I had paid for the privilege of saying those words - but I was convinced that that was the money that computing cost. It just worked because apple control everything on the manufacturing side, and as we have seen, many of our hackintoshes that share the same component chipsets etc as some apple components work OOTB.
One interesting anecdote to leave you with from the same guy in the apple store... he asked me what I ran - I said OS X and said that it was on a hack. He put up his argument - it just works.... I said for 3.5k for a pro I would hope so.
I eventually managed to get out of him that the profit margin on a mac is around 60 to 70% If they wanted to , apple could sell at the same price as HP or Dell. But apart from the likes of us... why should they? they have a captive audience.
Hey, great piece! I myself got started on the Mac back in my preteen years, when the Macintosh LC was something new! I used Macs pretty exclusively up until this Intel switch. My choices now are Linux or Mac OS X on PPC or AMD, as I have no desire at all to use Windows or an Intel CPU. Since Apple's in bed with Intel and snubbing AMD, that's left me with the hacked route. I figure it's fair enough if I've bought the OS legally. And if Apple wants me to buy their hardware again, they can consider including AMD in their line.
I also loved the original iMac when it was new, and yes, we got one. It was a marvellous replacement for the old Performa 6214CD! That beast only had an underpowered 75 MHz 603 chip in it, and of course no accelerated graphics beyond QuickDraw. But more than that, the iMac was indeed beautiful, compact, and it left yesterday's technologies behind. Granted, I ended up getting a USB LS-120 floppy drive to use with it, but at least I can still use that drive today. I actually just installed it inside my hackintosh, a home-built Asus/AMD machine with 4 GB of RAM and a decent graphics card. And I figure with the Athlon 64 X2 I've just ordered for it, I'll be all set for Starcraft II.
Apple likes to keep the whole widget together and rake in a heavy profit on the hardware side, and ultimately this is detrimental to us users with a budget who would also like some choice of hardware components and upgrades. I think we can all agree that a sort of "PC Edition" of Mac OS X would be a godsend for those of us who love Apple's OS, but not their draconian controls. And until that cold day in hell comes, I for one will simply have to continue down the hacking path. I'm sure I'll end up getting a copy of either Snow Leopard or, more likely, its successor, to keep up as needed, but if the hardware is still overpriced Intel-based machines at that point, then that system will also go on hardware of my own choosing.
Lisa was probably the biggest leap but OS X is like a super leap to me so close tie perhaps.
I still wish that Apple had made OS X more classic-like in its appearance and compatibility. The "classic environment" was a pretty annoying solution when they might just as well have made OS X more Copeland-like, having the look and feel of Mac OS 9 and real backward compatibility. With that, OS X could still be running classic apps with the help of Rosetta to this very day!
I'd be tempted to say a rewritten classic Mac OS with real multitasking and protected memory would have been ideal, but then it's proven quite beneficial having UNIX at the core, bringing so much open source software easily onto the platform.