The 'Book Beat

Hands-on with an iBook Leads to On-the-Spot Conversion

- 2006.04.26

Pay It Forward

Let's start with a bit of history. Up until summer 2003, I was a fully paid up member of the Windows fraternity. Despite a little dabbling with Unix at university, I was in a Windows world and pretty much unaware of anything else out there. My family turned to me for computer advice, and I recommended Windows PCs - despite spending lots of time fixing problems with them.

Then, for some weird and inexplicable reason, I decided that I wanted a compact Mac. I've no idea where the idea came from, but I managed to pick up a working SE/30, which I planned to play around with and perhaps turn into a Macquarium.

But as I sat at this little machine and tried switching it on, I was somewhat amazed at how responsive it felt, how quickly it booted, and how a 14-year-old machine had such a sophisticated GUI when it hailed from an era when the highest technology I'd seen was an Amstrad CPC+.

I soon realised that gutting this machine for a fish tank would have been a crime, and my conversion had begun.

My first "new" Mac came a few months later, in the form of a 12" 800 MHz iBook G4 that truly blew me away. The GUI felt so much more slick and sophisticated than anything I'd used before.

I really could do anything that a Windows user could.

The ads were true; I really could do anything that a Windows user could.

That laptop and I spent a couple of years together before I finally upgraded to a Dual 1.8 GHz Power Mac G5. That was when the iBook went back in its box and on top of the wardrobe to gather dust.

Spring Cleaning

Fast forward to 2006, and a new year is upon us. The time came for a clear out of my flat, and I finally decided to put the iBook up for sale on eBay. I mentioned it in passing to my dad on the phone one afternoon and thought nothing more of it until a couple of hours later, when my sister called. It turned out that she'd heard I was selling my old laptop and had been thinking of getting one for a while.

iBookNeither she nor her husband had ever used an Apple computer before, so we agreed that I'd bring the machine round to her house for them to have a play around with and see if it suited them.

The Laptop Is King

When I worked in computer sales a couple of years back, it would have been fair to say that the laptop was king. No longer an expensive tool for traveling businessmen, it was now the machine of choice for homeowners who were short on space. Property prices in the UK have been soaring for years, and with many people unable to move to larger properties, laptops eliminated the need to dedicate part of the house to a computer.

My sister already had a desktop PC, but it was big and took up lots of space in the spare room. Even worse, it was next door to my two-year-old niece's bedroom. My sister and her husband didn't get a chance to use it until she had gone to bed - and were then terrified of waking her up.

With a laptop, they could just pick it up and head downstairs without any worries.

Welcome to OS X

So over the Easter weekend I sat down and introduced my sister to OS X. And what can I say? There was a mixture of awe at the slick graphics and animation (who can't love the "Welcome to Panther" screen accompanied by Royksopp?). There was surprise that Microsoft Office could be installed, and even greater surprise that it really did open and save Word documents. Surprise that it could be connected to a PC monitor. Amazement that no special software needed to be installed to use a digital camera. Realisation that it could be taken on holidays to watch DVDs. Disbelief when I explained the situation regarding viruses and spyware.

And then came the really impressive part. The machine is only running Panther (OS X 10.3.x), so it lacks the full parental controls of Tiger (10.4.x). Even still, we've created an account for my niece that uses the "Simple Finder" interface and eliminates the risk of any serious damage to important files. Plus the ability to limit which applications can be run means that Internet access can be controlled when my niece gets a little bit older.


All in all, it was an on-the-spot conversion.

All in all, it was an on-the-spot conversion. The iBook, which sat idle for so long, has a brand new lease of life. It's been especially gratifying for me, because essentially my sister and brother-in-law have had the same moment of realisation that I did when I first discovered the world of Apple.

Windows is a big success; there's no denying it. Microsoft's licensing model really helped computers proliferate faster than they may have done otherwise. Today, PCs are cheap and prolific in a way that would have seemed unlikely even a few years back.

Windows isn't the best solution for everyone, but most users will simply never try anything else. I think that Mac users can find it quite easy to preach the benefits of Apple's platform to others, but the most convincing way to help others reach the same conclusion is to let them try it out.

And now that my sister's converted, my dad has started to ask questions.... LEM

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