I got my first actual PC in 1992 during my studies at Bradford University – as I recall, I spent my entire student loan on it. After using green screen VT100 terminals during my first year there, and part way through my second, upgrading to a colour Windows PC was a real step up in my technological abilities – although I didn’t have Internet, just Bulletin Boards and a 2600 baud modem that took all day to download just a few hundred kilobytes over my dial-up, pay-per-minute phone-line narrow-band connection. Everything was still pretty much text-based – the WWW had yet to take hold.
In the computer centre at University, I had access to Unix workstations that allowed me to telnet into text-based MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons) around the world. They were part of the first generation of multi-player internet based gaming that, in the 20 years since, has evolved beyond anything we imagined then – World of Warcraft was a long way from technologically possible back then, and 32 people all playing at once was considered a lot.
The came the rise of the web – another technological advance, that’s increasingly quickly become an integral part of life for myself and many millions (even billions) of users around the world. Ever faster computers and better internet connection speeds followed – exponentially larger than back in 92.
Inside computers, processing power becomes ever greater and ever smaller – The number of transistors that can fit on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every 2 years, according to Moore’s Law, and has done since the 1960s, with the trend continuing today.
PCs in the home were almost unheard of in the early 90s, most of my friends have owned one less than 10 years – yet now, the majority of homes have computers and Internet access. In 2009, 18.3 million households – 70% of the British population – have Internet access (National Statistics Online). 90% of them have broadband access. A few years ago, it was rare to see a web address on an ad – now it seems stranger when there isn’t one there.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because things change with technology, really quickly and often in unexpected ways…
From my first encounter with Macs in the 90s, as a PC man through, I knew I hated them and their ‘overly smug owners’, and that continued for a couple of decades. Once the exclusive weapon of design houses and musicians, Apple have transformed a. their fortunes and b. the world around us. I have a couple of friends who can be described as Mac Fanbois (apparently this is the de rigeur spelling!), eschewing PCs as the evil spawn of Gates, a man guided by evil – as it turns out, Mr Gates is actually one heck of a Philanthropist, giving away 58% of the money his software has gifted him with to help others in less fortunate circumstances. As it also turns out, PCs are not evil either, so that’s 2 things that probably come as a relief to many of you.
As a die hard PC-to-the-core guy, never would I have seen a day when not one, not two, but three Apple devices are within reach (2 iPhones as of today, and one iPad I’ll talk about at great length given the chance!). I would have probably bet an awful lot of money on the fact that I would never own an Apple product, and if you had taken that bet… well, I wouldn’t have been able to afford to pay you the Gazillion pounds I would have bet… but I would have made that bet 100% confident I wouldn’t lose, at that time.
They invented iMac – ooo a coloured computer that’s all inside the monitor box… ummm yukk. “How are you meant to upgrade that with the latest graphics or sound card? What, you can’t?!? Well my PC…”, you know the story, if you’re a PC Guy you’ve probably told it to many a Mac user, and if you’re a Mac Man you’ve probably heard it as a rebuttal of your claims of technological superiority! I’ve stopped having the argument since they started building Macs using PC architectures (Take that, Mac boys!!!! Darn it’s hard to get out of the habit…), and Windows PC owners started running OS X in a desktop window, as their Mac counterparts did with Windows for many years as an indication of perceived superiority!
Then they invented the iPod – I never bought one, I’ve had a few different mp3 players (including a really cool waterproof one for swimming), but never gone so far as to ‘believe the hype’, as I said at the time, and buy an iPod.
Then they invented iPhone, and I bought a Blackberry Curve 2 months before they released it… so didn’t own one – for another 16 months, when I lost my bet, and bought my first Apple product – the 8GB iPhone 3G…
Why the change of heart? Apple created something that changed the game completely, and the Nokia-dominated UK mobile phone market soon evolved, with Apple stealing an ever-greater share of the market – and dominating the conversations about the smartphone market – which the iPhone evolved in such a way that the Nokias, Samsungs and Sonys aren’t yet caught up in tech terms. Another young pretender, Google, with its’ Android OS, has risen from nowhere to become the second most dominant. Analysts are divided over who will rule the smartphone market in a few years time, things have changed so much, so quickly. Most agree that Apple’s iOS, and Google’s Android, look like becoming the main 2 mobile phone operating systems.
Anyway, I digress… back to my change of heart! The iPhone offered one thing that for me has changed how we think of our mobile phones – the App Store. Now, what used to be a simple device for making calls has evolved to become an ever more flexible, multi-purpose electronic device that also makes phone calls. The Star Trek tricorder from our childhood has become reality! What fan of technology could resist this quantum leap in hand-held capability? Not this one, that’s for sure. Since the first day I got that iPhone, I knew that I had found one of the missing components in my technological journey through life. Since that day, I have integrated it completely into my work and personal life to the great benefit of both – I even set up a company to help other businesses benefit from this marvelous device
Such is my love of the iPhone that, after resisting the urge to queue ‘with all the nutters‘ yesterday on Launch Day, I found myself unable to sleep – and by 8am this morning had looked up all the remaining stock in the North of England and decided that I was going to drive to the only place in the North East of England that had any left, and see if I could get myself a nice new 16GB iPhone4. I gathered with other people as crazed as myself, and stood in queue for 3 hours outside the O2 store in the White Rose Shopping Centre in Leeds to get one of the last batch of iPhone4s available. Given my physical problems, it turned out to be a rather painful experience tempered by the knowledge a lovely new iPhone waited at the end. Now, I sit here with said device resplendent on the desk in front of me, immensely comforted in some strange way that I have one – now!
What’s worse is that, on the 12th May, I pre-ordered an iPad before the UK release – yes I did! It arrived on the 8th June (some weeks after they came out in the shops, which is one reason I queued today!), and for 18 days I have been acclimatising to yet another quantum leap in the way technology influences my life. The iPad has freed me from my desk in so many additional ways to the freedom the iPhone gave me – it’s way easier to work on than the iPhone because of the larger screen, and its’ portability has already allowed me to work in my dream office every day this week, achieving as much as if I’d been sat behind my desk. I’ve seen all the naysayers dissing the iPad, and I disagree with all of you – I completely get the point of the iPad, it fits into my existing Tech infrastructure perfectly, and it has evolved the way I work as much, if not more than, it’s smaller cousin, the iPhone.
My dream office, by the way, is a hammock. This is said hammock, in my dream office out in my garden (pre-lawn grown days, just after I moved in) – pic taken on old iPhone using Hipstamatic – awesome camera app The relaxed-looking wild-eyed dude laying in it is my brother!
When I was slaving away in offices throughout the 90s and early noughties, I used to dream of the day when I was able to escape from behind the desk, to get away from the unpleasantness of office politics and minimal intellectual stimulation – and to do something I loved, that gave me a sense of purpose. And what’s more I wanted to do it on my own terms, in a hammock if I so choose! Although I had an inkling I had a purpose for my life, even as a child – I didn’t know what that purpose was… I just knew it wasn’t yet possible at the time, and I’ve had to wait many years for it to become technologically possible, feasible, and affordable.
I always wanted to help people make their lives easier using technology, the way I’ve used it as an extension of myself throughout the years. I know so many people who would benefit in so many ways from embracing computers and technology, but they fear it – believing it to be far too complex for them. I have a good friend who is 71 and thought that he’d never understand computers – he has now written and published his own website for over 10 years (with some minor help here and there from yours truly), and still thinks he doesn’t understand them. He would be the first to say “If I can do it wi’ my bad eyes, any ald sod can” (he has a fine, broad, Yorkshire accent as you can see in the video!).
I don’t know any business that wouldn’t greatly benefit from better use of the Internet and mobile devices, and I’ll happily prove it to anyone who cares to take me up on the challenge, as I have for many years already.
I hated Apple, as was traditional and almost compulsory in PC circles, until they changed the world around me – the world of Technology, not the World itself(!). When they gave power to developers to let their imagination run riot (within provided Apple boundaries!) and build applications for their device, they created more than a new type of phone – they created a device that’s shifted the way we think of, and use, our handheld devices. That, coupled with the ever improving hardware and software inside, is what made me stop hating Apple. I’m still no fanboi – I have no illusions that they do some things badly, but they do some things really well – and by taking advantage of those things, I have improved the way I interact with the World (the actual World this time).
That is why I will now admit to quite liking Apple – I love my iPhone and iPad – but to feel the same about the whole company will take time, especially given their propensity for massive hype – by the way, it’s not ‘magical’ – it doesn’t cut assistants into 3 or produce doves from its’ interface!Paul Daniels and David Blaine are magical, the iPad is ‘just’ plain awesome! Still, the hype is effective – despite myself, I found myself queuing to make sure I got one of the first iPhone4s, and I pre-ordered the Pad which is even more pre-meditated!
Keep impressing me with your evolving product line, Mr Jobs, and you could make a fanboi out of me yet – but I won’t go easily… I still bleed PC, and am not ready to embrace desktop Mac by a long way – but the way your wonderful gizmos work with my PCs, and in my environment, is perfectly fine for now – thank you. Your mobile devices have enabled ever-evolving enhancements to my work and personal life, and I am grateful for that.
Please don’t release anything else new this year though… I can’t afford it – time- or money- wise!