As I sit and write this, it’s been almost exactly ten years since my
first appeared in BIV, in the issue of June 16, 1992 to be exact.
Frankly, I would have missed that momentous anniversary but it was
to my attention by reader James Devon . He e-mailed me a quote from my
titled How the mighty Macintosh became the Betamax of the computer
(not yet a column…) where I said: “My prediction-- there'll always be a
and loyal base of Macintosh users. But then again, there's still a
base of loyal Commodore 64 users. Really! But within a year, two at the
sticking to a Mac is going to seem like running the world's most
On the surface, at least, my prediction was wrong. A decade later, many
Mac customers have remained loyal Mac customers. And as Apple’s latest
of TV ads are proclaiming, at least some Windows users are prepared to
the world how they’ve been won over to the ease and elegance of
computers and operating system.
But let’s take a trip back a decade, look at where we were then, to try
get a bit of perspective on where we are. Back in 1992, while, like
a majority of computers ran a Microsoft operating system, it wasn’t
It was a minimalist, text-based thing called MS-DOS. Some home and
users ran Macs, with a graphical user interface, but after eight years,
Macs were the prefered for graphics and publishing, they only accounted
about 10% of personal computers. (BIV, at the time, was produced on a
of far from cutting edge Macintosh SEs).
The most-used business applications ran under DOS: Word Perfect word
Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet, dBase database. Each used a totally different
of non-intuitive commands. Shift+F7 meant Print in Word Perfect, but
meaningless (I think!) in 1-2-3.
There was an Internet, but it was mandated to be non-commercial, and
just starting to be available outside of universities and scientific
labs. Some businesses communicated using e-mail, typically using
proprietary systems. There were computer viruses, but most were spread
infected floppy diskettes. (There were CD-ROMs, but the drives and
were expensive and hardly anyone had them).
While the hardware was faster and more commonplace, it was pretty
to the first generation of PCs and Macs that penetrated the workplace
the early to mid 1980s. Below the surface, however, it was changing.
Microsoft (not yet the Evil Empire) had released Windows version 3.0 in
1990, and with sales of 10 million, it already had more users than the
My 1992 BIV piece suggested that while it was nowhere near as nice as
Mac operating system, it ran on cheap and common clones and was good
for most users. Sound familiar?
And after a stagnant half-decade or so, the pace of change was picking
The next year saw the release of Microsoft’s Windows 3.1, which quickly
the PC standard. And because Word Perfect and Lotus failed to produce
versions of their applications, Microsoft’s Word and Excel, running
Windows became the new business standards. CD-ROMs and multimedia
increasingly common at home and (a bit later) at work.
1993 also saw the first release of the Mosaic web browser. By 1995,
the release of both Windows 95 and the Netscape browser, the opening of
Internet to commercial users, and my first High Tech Office column in
things were looking a lot like today.