Apple Has Lost Its Charm
Noah Halford

The first Apple II appeared in 1981. I know, I ordered one of the first for the California Legislature. I bought one of the first Macs in 1984 (after the famous Big Brother aka IBM ad) and again for the Legislature, one of the first networks of Mac IIs in 1987.

In the early 90s, Jim Faris and Lauralee Alben did a total visual interface redesign including the beloved Finder Face but more importantly, several dozen hidden interaction improvements.

While Jobs tool a breather and Gil Emilio took over, for a brief while licensing the interface to other manufacturers, Motorola came out with the ultra-customizable, multicard Starmax, arguably the most powerful desktop of its time. I had one and loved it. Tjen Jobs came back and the Era of Machinened Dullness began….

This all occurred before 2000. The author’s account mostly begins five years later. By that time, Apple was already on the creativity decline. Two decades of camaraderie among hardware, software, and network developers with customers organized into regional fan clubs had dramatically come to an end.

Most of what the author laments are overt design decisions and a lack of sparkle in product presentations coincident with the ascension of Tim Cook to Apple’s CEOship. But Cook’s elevation was more a consequence of what Apple had become and remains: a vast corporation soon to be housed in a giant toroid — a coldly streamlined doughnut — in formerly homey, now big-city Cupertino. The anti-Establishment Apple of the past is now run by Big Money.

“Somewhere in a Silicon Valley garage attic a forgotten first Mac grows pockmarked and ugly.”

Microsoft, Lenovo, HP, etc., now make comparable desktop and laptop machines that cost a lot less than Macs and are arguably better buys if one can live with Microsoft’s Windows OS that remains a kludge even after 35 years.

Today, each time I beta review a new “macOS,” I resent the fact that all my communications with Apple developers, once so collegial, are now anonymous, at least on Apple’s part. And I like a billion others purposely use an Android phone (a Moto E4 Plus made by Chinese Lenovo, priced at $130), because Android phones are endlessly customizable. Still crazy (fun) after all these years, unlike the new $1000+ iPhone.

The only thing that would save Apple’s soul is an impossibility, that it voluntarily devolve into smaller, more accessible, more customer-responsive sub-organizations. Close the Apple department stores and empower more small shops. Get rid of the alienating new-product showcase spectaculars and replace them with the warm gatherings that typified the first 15 years of Apple’s history, before Steve Jobs to satisfy investors went corporate.

If Apple won’t do it, someone will. The market abhors a vacuum. Humanized computing is a coming thing, VR and AR notwithstanding — or perhaps because of these new human-centric technologies. Maybe deep within Apple someone is “thinking different,” plotting a second Apple revolution, Another hammer thrown in the face of Big Brother and this time, also Big Money and the conformity it breeds. Longtime Apple fans like me can only hope.

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