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back to article Apple’s Mac turns 30: How Steve Jobs’ baby took its first steps

Thirty years ago this Friday, at approximately 9:45am on Tuesday, 24 January, 1984, the Macintosh introduced itself after Steve Jobs unveiled it at an Apple shareholders' meeting in Cupertino's Flint Center for the Performing Arts. "Hello. I'm Macintosh. It sure is great to get out of that bag," the odd-looking 16.5-pound box …

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Anonymous Coward

MacBook Air

I have a two year old, 2011 13" model, and it runs better today (thanks to Mavericks) than it did the day I first switched it on! It is by far the best laptop I've owned. I hope Apple don't delete the MacBook Air line, in favour of a MaxiPad!

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Re: MacBook Air

Especially given it sounds like it should have wings.

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"Such a simple, obvious idea"

Moving the keyboard on a laptop from the front to the back was far from an obvious idea. To get the maximum screen size on the minimum footprint, the screen needs to be as close to the hinge as possible. If the keyboard is at the back of the case, the user's hands will block his view of the bottom of the screen. Apple got around this by raising the screen, but users paid for it with a slightly smaller display and a significantly thicker device.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Such a simple, obvious idea"

Were you using a laptop as you typed that? Any laptop will do. I'm typing this on a MacBook Air. If you were and bothered to check your assertion, you would realise how laughable it is. The screen could be all the way to the bottom of the display, with no bezel, and it would still be perfectly visible and obstruction free when you type. Where did you get your idea from? If it was a little 4 inch high red man with spiky horns who appears above the left side of your head whenever the topic is Apple, I suggest ignoring him in the future as failing to verify what he says reflects badly on you not him.

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TS

Re: "Such a simple, obvious idea"

"To get the maximum screen size on the minimum footprint..."

LoL... are you kidding? Have you ever actually seen an old laptop from that era?

There was *no* "maximum screen size", they all had small screens centered with 2"+ bezels around them. There's no need to "raise the screen", there was always plenty of room between the hinge and the screen.

I loved my PB140 despite the passive matrix screen, it was much more usable than any PC laptop at the time. Spare batteries also helped. And the Portable Stylewriter, that was amazing, loved being able to work anywhere, creating designs and printing them out immediately to show clients was a huge boost back then.

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Windows

Alright, now I feel old.

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Wired ethernet is not a rarity for laptops

It was never common in the home, and in the office they're still most cabled in.

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Re: Wired ethernet is not a rarity for laptops

Most offices I go into have wireless. Aside from the proliferation of various devices like phones, tablets and laptops which connect, we even ended up putting wireless dongles on our desktops as it just made networking so much easier without cabling and to manage everything in the same way.

I think the Macbook air was ahead of the field here, kind of like when the first iMac came out, everyone thought it was nuts there was no floppy drive. I have an Asus ultrabook, it is my main work computer now and although it has an ethernet adaptor that comes with it, I have only used it twice in two years or so. Wireless isn't great if you need the optimum network speeds, but it's fine for 99% of users.

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Re: Wired ethernet is not a rarity for laptops

Fair enough, but I'm betting those offices are mainly Apple

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Mushroom

Re: Wired ethernet is not a rarity for laptops

Network EASIER with wireless? You're all on crack.

Ethernet is a stable well established standard and a mature technology. It's cheap, reliable and secure. Meanwhile, anything wireless has to deal with multiple protocol variants and even more protection schemes. NONE of that extra complexity is present with wired networking.

Then there's the whole speed thing.

Wireless is only OK if you have very low expectations.

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jai
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Re: Wired ethernet is not a rarity for laptops

in our office, only the ethernet ports that are in use are enabled. ethernet is all locked down, i guess they don't want anyone just wandering in and plugging their laptop into the network.

and even then, they're hidden under floor panels or in the cable runs underneath the middle of each set of desks, so even if you can get the networks team to switch one on for you, it's a right pain in the proverbal to find out what it's number is, let alone get an ethernet cable plugged in.

whereas the wireless shows up, and works with the same user/pass that i log into my work pc with.

far, far easier to use for the general user.

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Coffee/keyboard

Later passive matrixes weren't that bad

These days, I'm looking for high-DPI IPS or OLED screens, but back in the day I had a PowerBook 190cs. Apple actually continued to use passive matrix screens until they finished selling the budget "Wallstreet" PowerBook G3 in 1998.

The early passive matrix screens were a blurry mess. You had separate brightness and contrast controls, where the contrast varied between washed out and completely dark, with no good image in between. Operating systems included a pointer trails feature, because the screen updated so slowly that you would easily lose your pointer if you moved it faster than 1 mm per second.

The later passive matrix screens weren't so bad. Sure, due to the crosstalk between the display transistors, there was a massive amount of image bleeding, and the colors were horrible. But the display refreshed quickly enough to be usable, and most importantly they were relatively cheap.

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Unhappy

I wish my MacBook Pro had a palm rest!

The palm rest is a feature that I unexpectedly miss in my new MacBook Pro. Jony Ive has gone all minimalist industrial in his designs. To keep the lines all straight and clean when the laptop is closed, the laptop's base is now ringed by a sharp edge that cuts into my wrist if I rest on it.

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Re: I wish my MacBook Pro had a palm rest!

It's not a sharp edge; it's a blunted edge.

I appreciate that some people have delicate skin, but it's not something that I've ever noticed myself as any kind of issue whatsoever. Ever.

Personally, the clean lines work very well for me. You might benefit from some fluffy wrist cuffs, or a 3rd party wrist cushion for deluxe comfort :-)

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"although IBM used it for some of its RS/6000 boxes"

The CHRP platform formed the basis of all RS/6000, pSeries and Power systems from the second generation 43P (the 7043 models, not the original 7248 which was a PReP model) right up to the current day.

Although modern Power systems use PCIe rather than PCI or PCI-X, they are still under the covers CHRP platforms, although they are not categorised as such any more, because it is not important. I'm sure CHRP has evolved, but it is still CHRP.

If I look at one of the Power7 systems running AIX that I help look after, I can see "devices.chrp.base.rte" along with 25 other support packages that mention chrp.And I can tell that this is not for legacy systems, because amongst them is "devices.chrp.IBM.HFI.rte", which is the support package for the HFI interconnect that does not appear on any other IBM Power server than the 9125-F2C Power 775 HPC system.

So CHRP is alive and well, but only in IBM supplied systems.

It is possible that the Power8 systems will not be CHRP, because the fundamental GX++ Power bus is no longer used as the primary system bus, and has been replaced by the PCI Express 3.0 based Coherent Attached Processor Interface (CAPI). Whether CHRP will be extended to include CAPI or replaced, I do not know.

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Paris Hilton

Floppy Eject

I used an early Apple Mac to help create the school newspaper and it was quite an eye opener - I'd already been using PCs at home for a while.

I remember saving my file to a floppy disk and then trying to eject it to go home. There was no eject button. I hunted around the operating system and could find no obvious way of getting it out. I was there ages, refusing to accept my failure and ask a teacher. In the end I had to ask for help and I was told I needed "command+E" or something. Not only did Apple not have something as simple as an eject button, it also had an extra key on the keyboard that nothing else had.

From that moment onwards I hated Macs and still do. I'll never have one in my house.

Of course, the beauty of all this is that when they break and my friends ask for help I can comfortably say "sorry, I've never used a Mac and can't help you". I recommend them to all my friends and family now :)

Paris - because even she has buttons in the right places.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Floppy Eject

Let me get this straight, you "hate" Macs because you were too stupid to operate the floppy drive?

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Re: Floppy Eject

I knew how to operate a floppy drive, had done for years. They came with eject buttons, always did on PCs. Apple chose not to include one. I still have no idea why.

I remember once getting the disk out using a paper clip in the hole. The OS instantly displayed some kind of horrible error and wouldn't operate again until it was powered off and back on.

How could this possibly be a good thing?

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jai
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Re: Floppy Eject

I hunted around the operating system

Not very far then? It would have been right there in the Special menu!

From that moment onwards I hated Macs and still do.

Good grief!! whatever you do, don't visit a foriegn countries then - you'll hate everyone you meet, they speak a totally different language!!

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Re: Floppy Eject

As I understand it Jobs actually had a phobia of buttons (koumpounophobia).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Floppy Eject

You drag the disc to the trashcan to eject. Simples.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Floppy Eject

Simple reason why. If you want to improve disk performance you buffer up data before writing it. If you allow the user to eject without the data being committed then they lose their work.

Having a "software eject" mechanism ensures the disk is always in a correct state before being ejected.

Linux is the worst offender for floppy buffering, you can write an entire disk full of data to a floppy in Linux and it won't write a single byte until you "unmount" the disk.

Software ejecting is something USB drives do today, or do you just pull your USB memory stick out and enjoy losing your data?

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jai
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Re: Floppy Eject

it also had an extra key on the keyboard that nothing else had.

and here i am at work, in 2014, looking at the keyboard, and there's this "windows" key, which no other operating system has a use for.....

and a right-click menu button too for some reason

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Re: Floppy Eject

Most people I know never bother to eject their USB drive before pulling it out, and I've yet to see this cost someone their data (I've yet to see one pulled mid-write).

Still, at least this thread has taught me why Word'95 used to throw such a hissy fit when people would eject the disk whilst the document was still open!

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Re: Floppy Eject

The two ACs above me may not have heard of such a thing as a progress bar before. You know, something that that lets you know when the disk is finished being used (not that you could have missed the grinding noise of a floppy in use.)

This fandangled connivance allows the user to be in control, both hardware and software and not at the whim of some egomaniac that requires that the software be working to access your hardware.

Oops I left the disk in the MAC when I powered off. Darn now I have to power up again.

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Re: Floppy Eject

To me, dragging a disk into a trashcan means you want to *trash* the disk, not eject it.

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jai
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Re: Floppy Eject

Oops I left the disk in the MAC when I powered off. Darn now I have to power up again.

Not a problem with a Mac, because when you powered it down, it would eject the disc before it shut down. That's because the eject was software driven, not reliant upon a mechanical device.

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Re: Floppy Eject

Logic of that has never scanned for me. I want to eject the disk so let's throw it in the trash.

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Re: Floppy Eject

Pulling a USB flash drive out of a Mac without ejecting properly can trash the drive let alone your data. You also have to allow the mac time as the drive will continue flashing after the drive icon has disappeared from the screen, it lies I tells ya!

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Windows

Re: Floppy Eject

My first encounter with a Mac - back in the 90's some time - also featured an embarrassing failure to understand how to eject a floppy. When I finally asked someone, I found the idea of dragging the floppy icon to the trash to eject it ridiculous and just plain wrong. In fact lots of things about Macs seemed stupid to me (single button mouse anyone?)

But here's the thing - every computer has flaws, and if I was crazy enough to permanently reject a whole line because of one or two flaws I would by writing this with a biro[*] rather than typing it on my fine MacBook Air.

* - well obviously I wouldn't, because I wouldn't have read this article on the interwebs because I would have given up on the whole web browser concept when Netscape Communicator came out

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Re: Floppy Eject

Not a problem with a Mac, because when you powered it down, it would eject the disc before it shut down. That's because the eject was software driven, not reliant upon a mechanical device.

And we all know software never fails, ever and especially because it is Apple software and we all just "believe" huh? And you know that elec-e-electricity stuff that powers these strange devices. That never fails either.

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Megaphone

Re: Floppy Eject

"It would have been right there in the Special menu!"

The Special menu, for special people? Sounds about right.

Of course I spent a light of time trying to right click on the floppy icon, which just opened it because there was actually only one mouse button - another eternal source of frustration for users of proper PCs.

I've just always found Macs completely non-intuitive. People says they are so much easier to use than Windows but I couldn't agree less. For example, the window management buttons. On Windows the buttons represent the action. A big square to make it bigger. A little line to minimise. An X to close. All logical. On Macs I get some odd coloured traffic lights. How is a new user supposed to have any idea what red, green or yellow will do? No labels, no help if you hover over. Nothing. Just seemingly random coloured buttons. MS Windows and X-Windows got it right, why do Apple have to be different?

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Re: Floppy Eject

"If you allow the user to eject without the data being committed then they lose their work."

But that is no reason to lose the button. Apple put a motorised eject system into the drive, far cooler than a mechanical button. There was no reason at all not to include an electronic eject button in that process that first flushed the drive buffer and then ejected the disk. It's really not rocket science and far more useful than a hidden OS command.

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Devil

Re: Floppy Eject

> You drag the disc to the trashcan to eject. Simples.

Yes. Because THAT is oh so intuitive.

That sounds like something you would do to WIPE a disk, not eject it.

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Linux

Re: Floppy Eject

> Software ejecting is something USB drives do today, or do you just pull your USB memory stick out and enjoy losing your data?

If your OS is doing that to you then it's inferior trash that belongs back in the 80s. Every little hiccup should not be a total disaster. Sometimes those hiccups aren't even caused by the end user. Ensuring that they get kicked in the balls is just bad engineering.

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Re: Floppy Eject

You'r not ejecting it, you'r unmounting it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Floppy Eject

When developing software for the Mac in '90s I always kept a stiff wire by the drive to use the force eject feature, used several times a day as MacOS System 7 had a habit of crashing often without a even the courtesy of a blue screen. Like DOS, MacOS made lots of sense in the mid 80s when RAM was horrendously expensive but for years lived on as an obsolete design until OSX emerged to start to compete with XP/NT. Back then I wrote and debugged as much code as possible on NT before integrating with the Mac-specifics on Mac itself - otherwise I'd have been using that wire several times an hour.

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Re: Floppy Eject

Ejecting? Unmounting? As long as you're not Ejaculating it. Perhaps in Windows 8.2...

Seriously, what's with all this intolerance? I've used everything imaginable: DOS, TWM, FVWM, OS/2, Windows galore, OS X, GNOME, KDE, Cinnamon, iOS, Android, etc. and I've just figured out how they work and happily gotten on with my business.

Only scary moment was when I feared MS BOB might be the future and some annoyance occurred when a certain ribbon managed to effectively hide all advanced functions, though it was fine for simple documents.

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Re: Floppy Eject

So does 'Start > shutdown' make more sense?

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Linux

Re: Floppy Eject

> Seriously, what's with all this intolerance?

The myth of Apple superiority and improved usability is pushed hard and often.

That trash can nonsense is a good example of how bogus the mythology is and always has been.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: JEDIDAH

It's a quirk. An counterintuitive one, sure. Still, clicking "Start" to shutdown is considerably worse. Since you're a freeboard, you don't care, right? So do us a favour. Stop with your self righteous gum flapping. You're fanboy polemic is boring.

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Re: Floppy Eject

>You drag the disc to the trashcan to eject. Simples.

A level of UI design which makes the Windows "press start to stop" button seem like genius

You save all your vital work (no hard drives in those days) and the operation to take it away with you is "delete"?

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Re: Floppy Eject

@Ben Rose

They don't do it the way I want to do it so I hate them with a vengeance and issue a fatwah on all their products.

Obviously the kind of rational, reasoning purchaser every supplier yearns for...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So does 'Start > shutdown' make more sense?

It is irrelevant. When you click on Start you see the Shutdown command, really close to where you're looking, so you know where it is. And if you fail to notice it the first time, it shouldn't take long to locate given the likelihood of clicking Start again.

Also, if the meaning of 'Start' in this context is 'Start doing whatever it is you want to do', if possibly a little strained, 'Start shutting down' nonetheless makes sense. It would probably be more confounding if instead of 'Shut down' the command was 'Stop'.

It seems less likely to encourage dubious behaviour than ejecting a floppy by dragging it to the Trash, although Microsoft are equally to blame for the many users who store files in the recycle bin. Obviously 'Recycling' is not the same concept as storing documents you want to keep, but that is possibly closer to intuitive to novices than the concept of recycling disk space. That or they're idiots.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Floppy Eject

> That trash can nonsense is a good example of how bogus the mythology is and always has been.

It's not super great. If you're that upset about it, as someone else pointed out above, you could also have used a simple menu item to eject your disk.

If you're willing to put more than 2 seconds of thought into why Apple made this design decision, the obvious answer is that the trash can was not meant exclusively to delete things, but as a way to get things off of your virtual desktop. If you look at things that way, it does make perfect sense. Actually I'm not sure what else you could use as a simple "gesture" to eject a floppy, considering the idea of a context/right-click menu didn't exist back then.

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Re: Floppy Eject

Surely that would definitely imply "delete everything on this floppy" ?

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jai
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Re: Floppy Eject

And we all know software never fails

Sure, if there was a crash, you're floppy disk was still in there when the machine booted. And if it wasn't a bootable disk, the machine would automatically eject it, and then it would continue to boot. What's the problem?

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jai
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Powerbook 170

my dad had one of those, which inevitably i pinched whenever i could, and looking at the picture, surprising how much i miss the old thing. real pang of nostalgia.

yes, my macbook air totally out classes it these days, in every respect. but back in those days, it was a very nice machine to use, very capable, and it ran and ran and ran without a hitch until long past the point when we should have upgraded to the more powerful machine.

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Trollface

Doesn't the OS look just like windows?

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Trollface

A little

but then so does Linux

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