For this Christmas, two people thought I should have this book about Apple's design. It's a beautiful coffee table-style book, full of photographs of old computers, phones, printers, and even the cardboard boxes they came in. *Yes, it's a book about all of Apple's products. *
On the surface, why would anyone want this? It's kind of like taking the Ikea catalog from 10 years and gluing them all together, taking out repeats. There: 10 years of Ikea, in photos.
I am not sure there's a market for that. I like Ikea, but the company and the products both don't really have the same emotional connection to me, as a person, as Apple did/does. I could picture a book about Ferrari cars over the years, or Porsche Design. I have little doubt there are enthusiasts for big, expensive cars and other functional objects. But consumer electronics kind of come down to a less interesting level, perhaps, due to their price. Then again, I am sure there are books about small collectibles. At any rate, a book about computer products seems paradoxical at some level in my mind.
If you're looking for a review, the book was great. In addition to the photos, there are written contributions from a handful of people in the know about Apple's gear.
I didn't ask for the book, so getting 2 copies was a pleasant surprise. But the biggest surprise was what I felt as I turned pages. I said "Wow!" and "Wow, come look at this!" multiple times as I sifted through its pages.
I came across the rare Bell & Howell Apple ][ model in the book that I encountered in my first programming class at La Roche College in the early 1980s. My held the book further away, and my senses became overloaded. I smell came into my nose. I wasn't sure what the smell was, but it was distant, yet familiar. It was something from my childhood, perhaps the lab where we learned to program in Applesoft BASIC. It's where I learned about the GR command and Integer BASIC.
A turn of the page, and an Apple Lisa. The first GUI computer I ever saw. And it's large hard disk that came in 10MB. A turn of the page, and a multiple-photo collection of all of Apple's mice: from the one for my Apple //e, the Lisa, the original Macintosh, up to the Magic Mouse and the Magic Trackpad.
The page with a picture of the box of System 7 pretty much shut me down. My heart raced just a bit. I was back in high school, in the house of my friend, who was ordering it the first time I really met him, over the phone. It would be at his house in a week, and we explored color icons in the Finder for the first time, together.
For me the book wasn't so much about computers or even industrial design of computers and consumer electronics. I know it's that for some.
For me, it was about me and my history with products made by the same company. The company almost had been around as long as me, and for what it is worth, it might as well have been around for that long. It was akin, perhaps, to seeing a photo collection, professionally done, of all of your favorite cereals growing up. All the boxes as visuals, allowing me to re-live the flavors and marketing progress of breakfast cereal since 1980 to the present. Or, uncovering a secret photo album made of you growing up, capturing your perspective in a Google Glass kind of way, of significant things that had happened in your life. The book made that type of impression on me.
Exploring memory lane was fun, but it made my heart race in a way that made me short of breath. It made me uncomfortable, too. I relived the passion and the excitement about exploring all of those early computers. Like the Apple IIGS, an Apple 2 never was able to get but had a lot of fun getting to know in a store.
But beyond the hardware, the pictures brought back memories of people. And I miss a lot of those people. And no matter what, it would be hard to embrace all of those relationships again. I wish I could, for that would be cool. They included the joystick for the Apple // series that my friend told me he was fixing the first time I called him to invite him over in middle school. The paddles you'd connect to an Apple 2 to play games, before they made joysticks, that my friend had at his house on his Apple ][+: they were there, too.
For much of my life, I've been a fan of Apple's tools and offerings of entertainment. And for me, this book was not only a reminder of some of their cool (or less cool) offerings, but also a timeline of my own life. I don't personally know anyone that can share that with me, which I find just a little bit sad. I am sure they exist out there, and for them, this book will likely be equally significant. For those that do not have a long history with Apple products in their life, it may well provide entertainment in the form of vintage products you never knew existed.
Today I visited the Apple Store in my town and I paused before going in. I did that because it was chock full of people and I wanted to make sure I really needed to go in that pot of human soup. But during my pause, I took stock of the blinking phones in front of me, and looked beyond to the customers and fans of Apple's iPads, iPhones, and Macs. I've never worked for Apple, and can't say they sell anything of mine in their stores. But I did feel a sense of pride for them. It was obvious to me that success was on their side, and I was happy to see the impact they were making on the lives of everyone in the store. The store was nothing like the one I visited to see my first Macintosh in 1984, and by that measure, they've come a long way.
Thanks go to my mom and my friend Todd for thinking about me and my love for Apple this holiday.