4th May 1998 was the day, and I was super-excited. I kept asking my mother, “is it here yet?” at least 5 times every half an hour.
I had only heard of these new devices, but I had never used one of them. I was curious and impatient. The word “computer” was still new to my vocabulary, but I was getting one already.
And then it came.
A brand new Compaq Presario, in a box the size of a washing machine. For the first hour or so, I just stared at the packaging, reading the instructions and marvelling at the pictures on the box.
My dad assembled it, while I watched quietly from a corner of the room. It took him about 3 hours (15 minutes to assemble, after carefully reading the instruction manual, and nearly 3 hours to configure the software). I was bedazzled when I first used it. Everything I did, even as much as moving the cursor around seemed like a magical experience.
Windows 98, the operating system. I clearly remember being swept off my feet. My eyes grew wider every time I pressed a key on the keyboard and a character popped up on the screen. The MSPaint application, the 8-bit Mario game floppy disk that came with it, the speakers that looked like giant ears – I was enchanted.
Years passed, computers came and went. I had never felt again how I did when I unboxed that 333MHz computer. Windows XP had me ecstatic for a week or so, Vista made me puke and by the time Windows 7 came along, I was a power user. And a Windows fan.
I spend many hours installing drivers, coding, tweaking the BIOS, and other things that were odd. Windows let me do it all. There was always a way to work around things.
My mobile phone, a Nokia 6120c worked amazingly well with the PC Suite installed. Doing a simple job was a tedious affair (for example, to sync my contacts from my Windows CardSpace to my phone, I had to copy the contact files onto my phone manually and transfer them to my contact book on my phone. But this became a part of my mindset over the decades. I never thought there could ever be another way).
I was lost in a world of tinkering stuff to get my jobs done when I first heard of a Mac (or Apple) as it started to grow traction. I got defensive. My new VAIO had an 8 GB RAM, an i3 processor and my phone had everything I ever thought a phone could do. My setup had to be the best. My setup was the best, or at least I thought it was the best.
As all Apple product users posses a mystical power to induce curiosity into the minds of the PC users with Nokia phones, I too was pushed into thought by a friend of mine. I was shown pictures of silver computers, and told about the iPod (and I kept arguing baselessly that a Walkman was better than it).
I started thinking. A lot.
Finally, I broke the silence of my curiosity when the iPhone 4 released. I bought one of those things.
I gave it hostile glances on our way back home, and switched it on as soon as we got there.
“Connect to iTunes”, Ah, here starts the crap, I thought. I did so, and after a few clicks on my VAIO, the iPhone was set.
I carried it around, and was not excited at all. Though was convinced about one thing: this can’t be hard to use. I mean, everything I needed was right there on the home screen. The settings were navigable. The display was admittedly one of the best. But it would take more than that to convince me to embrace its goodness. I saw no file system, no folders, no buttons — nothing I was used to.
The first time I actually considered appreciating it was when I put it in my pocket without locking it. Now, an ordinary phone would have to be removed and locked and put back. But here, I could just press the button on top and hear a click-like-sound to confirm that it was locked. (I didn’t appreciate Apple yet, and said it was coincidental that the button was on the top, rather than somewhere else).
Then it happened. It was quick. In just over a week, it became obvious to me that Apple had not only paid attention to the smallest detail in order to make the perfect product, but while doing so had incorporated simplicity and style to give me the most fluid experience ever.
The way the touch screen operated with the slightest of touch (unlike other touch phones which were—frankly—more of ‘press-hard’ phones), the way the music player paused automatically when the headphones were unplugged, the message app giving you a second message alert if you ignored the first one, the way a song played from two-seconds prior to the position you paused it in — I was awestruck. This couldn’t be happening, I no longer had to think about all the crap just to sync a few songs.
Everything about the iPhone begged me to take the ultimate leap: switch to a Mac. I was skeptical, but went ahead.
December 2011, it came. A small white box. I stared at it for the first hour. Then opened it up. It was simply the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I switched it on, and within 5 minutes of setting the time, date, etc.. I was on the desktop.
There was no start button. No ‘cut’ option. No refresh. I felt lost (and traitorous).
I used my gut to find my way to the launchpad. Played around for 10 minutes. After which, I knew for sure: I was in love. The inertia scrolling, the display, the apps…everything felt so welcoming and easy to use.
I could finish twice the work I could on a PC, in half the time. Because this thing was absolutely hassle free. There was a centralized place to download and manage apps, music, etc. I no longer had to Google “how-to’s,” there were no more “ctrl-alt-del” furies, and most importantly there was nothing unnecessary. It brought back the childhood feeling of being swept off my feet.
Several months later, here I am at a local Starbucks with my iPad (another amazing device) writing this piece. I own 4 Apple products that sync seamlessly and let me glide through my workflow.
Just day before yesterday, while at a friends place working on our presentations for school, I shut the magnetic cover of my iPad and heard the resounding click to confirm the device had locked automatically. I had made a beautiful 40-slide presentation in under an hour using Apple’s Keynote app for the iPad, and was getting up to leave.
“You’re done already?”, said my friend while irritably staring at the boxy UI of Microsoft PowerPoint on his garish HP laptop.
“Yup” I shot back.
Midway through tapping furiously on the 3 inch touchpad he yelled, “How the hell do you add a gradient?” and before he could find an answer, he was forced to scream “ Oh great! The damn thing just got hung!”
I smiled, turned around and in all my pride, snorted, “Heh. PC users!”