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ATPM 7.09
September 2001






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Apple Cider: Random Squeezings From a Mac User

by Tom Iovino,

Hey, I Recognize You!

Our parents and grandparents had it a whole lot easier than we do.

Before the Internet, before cheap air travel, before even telephones, people typically never moved far away from where they grew up. You might have been born in your parents’ house or the local hospital, attended the neighborhood school, fallen in love with the girl or boy next door, gotten married, and repeated the cycle all over again as you raised your own children just a few miles from your childhood home.

One by-product of this phenomenon is that you knew everyone in your neighborhood. Neighbors who might have congratulated your parents on your birth and waved hello to you as you walked home from school would often attend your marriage and congratulate you on the birth of your own children. As you went about your everyday business, you constantly ran into people you knew—in the stores, on the streets, at the movie theater.

But now, things are a little different. Mobility is apparent a whole lot more, with friends, relatives, and children moving across the country to pursue their careers. I was one of the first of my paternal grandmother’s 27 grandchildren to pack up and leave New Jersey and not move back. While I was at the University of Maryland, just about everyone I met was new to the campus, but the shock of leaving my friends and relatives was lessened. After all, the University provided plenty of opportunities to make sure that I was able to meet people and make new friends.

But, in October of 1992, I pulled up tent stakes and moved to Florida. What an adventure: it was even fitting that I moved to Florida on the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus setting foot in the New World. I had no job, and the circle of people I knew there was extremely small. There was no organized way for me or my wife to meet other folks. We spent New Year’s Eve 1992 by ourselves in our small apartment because we didn’t know anyone else. It was a little disconcerting for me, coming from a large family, to know that there was only a very remote chance that we would ever run into anyone we knew while out and about. We were the consummate strangers in a strange land.

In many ways, Apple had become a similar stranger to us through the dark days of the late 80s and early 90s. Sure, as Apple enthusiasts, we always knew where to look to find Macintosh computers—quite a few companies were using them, as well as graphic designers and other creative professionals. Their ease of use, processing power and compatibility with the creative thought process made them a must-have for forward-thinking business owners. Unfortunately, their high cost and the perception that they were not a ‘serious’ business computer made the Macintosh a computer that never got a lot of face time. Computers in movies, TV shows or commercials were typically PCs running DOS or Windows, or large main-frame workstations. This, after all, was the ‘real world’ of computing, since market analysts and other pundits were absolutely sure that Apple couldn’t compete in the cut-throat world of computing.

That’s what made the use of Macs in movies such as The Net, Independence Day and Jurassic Park so interesting. Here, in these large-budget blockbusters, the lowly Macintosh, with its rainbow-colored Apple Computer logo, was prominently featured. In fact, after Independence Day premiered, I was able to tell PC supporters that while it was great that 90% of businesses were using Wintel boxes, the Macintosh was the computer that saved the world.

Macs have also been seen more frequently on television. As I have confessed in the past, I am a Home and Garden TV (HGTV) addict. While the main reason I watch the station is to see the home improvement, landscaping, and woodworking shows, I’m amazed at how prominently Macs are featured in a series of ads for the station’s Web site. In these commercials, computer users seeking information about a particular home improvement issue can be seen typing on the keyboards of their trusty iMacs and iBooks—with nary a Dell, Gateway, or Compaq in sight.

The prominence of the Macintosh isn’t just limited to HGTV. On the Food Network—yes, it’s another favorite cable station of mine—Alton Brown, host of the quirky, entertaining, and quite educational show Good Eats, makes frequent reference to Apple Computer. In fact, in the episode Ham I Am, he advised consumers to stay away from hams that looked more like iMacs than a piece of porcine anatomy. Think about that—here’s the host of a show referring to the iMac in a way that assumes his viewers can immediately picture what an iMac looks like in their mind’s eye. While that may not seem like much, it shows that the show’s writers classify the iMac as a recognizable cultural icon somewhat like the golden arches of McDonald’s. It’s a subtle but very important statement about the market penetration of Macintosh computers.

Even the print media are getting in on the Apple act. While I work out at the gym, I’ll usually pass the time on the Stairmaster or treadmill by reading magazines. In several of the issues of Men’s Journal, GQ, and Parenting, among others, I’ve seen a fair share of Macs somewhere in the photos. While the articles are typically not about computing, a piece on dressing for success at your office, how to convince your boss to give you a raise, or getting your kids ready to go to school will show an iMac or an iBook on a desk.

Within a few months of our moving to Florida—and given that my wife and I are two extremely outgoing people, judging from our professions as a TV news producer and Public Information Officer—it became difficult for us to break away and not be noticed. Turning the corner in a grocery store, picking up our dry cleaning, or taking the kids to the pediatrician, we seem constantly to be running into folks we have met at a party or a business meeting. Florida is becoming a lot like our own neighborhood, with recognizable faces appearing almost everywhere.

Hey, Macintosh, welcome back to the neighborhood!

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