While world stock markets slid into free-fall, I did my bit for the economy by buying a long awaited lap-top. And made the braver move of buying a Mac to run alongside my desktop PC.
And oh, how the Mac’s have changed.
I was a first generation Mac user — though in fact, I never liked them as much as I should have, given that the alternative was word-processing on a Unix based Vax.
But I distinctly remember the Apple representatives coming to my school in 1984 to convince our parents to buy the wonderful new machines. I don’t remember seeing the machines, mind — that didn’t come till a year or two later at high school. But I do remember being given a soft-film window decal of the rainbow striped apple, and thinking it was wonderful (be fair, now: I was 11). Already, Apple knew that the visual was all.
But that wasn’t their marketing game, then. No. This was an educational tool. Parents were urged to buy it for their child’s future. Intellectual growth was at stake.
Which was not the approach the salesman took today. He was both helpful and knowledgeable. Reassuringly geeky, in a post-modern sort of way. He talked me through the various wireless options and how to try to trick horrid Orange (my internet provider) into shifting my contract to wireless without having to pay penalty fees. He showed me clever tricks and games. He didn’t push me to buy things I didn’t want. It all went beautifully until I asked about word processing.
We had already established that I could save files as .doc so that my PC could read them. He knew the speil about how well Mac runs Microsoft Office, and could rattle off the ways in which Mac runs circles round Vista. But he floundered when I asked about Apple’s own package.
‘I’ll just go on line and look that up,’ he said, frantically typing. And within seconds there were all the specs I needed for AppleWorks.
‘And how much is that?’ I asked, as I read the screen over his shoulder.
‘$79 plus shipping,’ he said. Now remember, dear reader: this was in Glasgow. In Glasgow, that’s the price of a decent cup of coffee.
We soon got it straight and decided that I would do best to order Apple Works from my desktop PC at home (since nasty Orange won’t play with the Mac till I change contracts).
But I was fascinated. Here was a clever man, who spends most of his life with computers, yet who knew nothing about word processing. Or indeed about any of the other ‘academic’ tools (apart from the built in camera for video conferencing). It seems computers are no longer educational tools at all — but rather extraordinary home entertainment centers.
So on the way home, I stopped to buy three DVDs — just in case my poor little lap-top went into graphics withdrawal with all those documents I’ll be typing.
Now, shall I save The Lion in Winter or A Chorus Line for Synod next week? Hmm…