Mac Firsts

By David Morgenstern  |  Posted 2003-06-26 Print this article Print

In the early and middle 1990s, it was common to see Macs on science reports on the television, even as their market share in the general enterprise plummeted in comparison to Windows. As a reporter, I questioned many of the scientists and vendors in the segment about this situation. Their answer was somewhat surprising. These customers appreciated "niceties" such as the Macs base-level support for SCSI storage, PostScript graphics and networking. Today, we assume that any consumer computer will offer easy expansion for peripherals and storage, support for a variety of networking protocols and rich graphics. That wasnt the case a even ten years ago.
The Mac was the first desktop computer to offer a SCSI port and quickly all Mac models supported the interface. The same design principal was applied to networking. Even as late as 1994, more than half of all PCs were not connected to a network, while the Mac offered easy-to-use, integrated networking since 1986, albeit using the proprietary LocalTalk protocol. Finally, along with integration of Adobe PostScript, the Mac brought forth the desktop publishing market.
As always, performance was important to these technical users. Still, they appreciated the flexibility and productivity that these integrated technologies provided to their workflows. That the Mac also needed less support also helped make it especially useful out in the field or in an research setting. Of course, over time Microsoft and Intel have addressed these issues in the Windows platform. Theres still pockets of strong support for the Mac in some parts of the market or companies, such as in the biotech industry. But Windows has been making gains with applications traditionally run on Unix workstation. Or these companies have transitioned to Linux on an Intel platform. So, what are the new G5 fine points that might woo these users back to the Mac? Its a similar list to the past one: wireless networking support, digital AV interfaces and a elegant, polished Unix interface with a powerful graphics engine. For example, we would expect a workstation to provide Gigabit Ethernet. But 802.11g or Bluetooth wireless networking? Or both USB 2.0 and FireWire 800 interfaces? Nope. But if and when theyre needed--and they will be for data collection, video editing or field backup storage--there will be nothing additional needed to make them run, and no worries about third-party driver support. The technical customer "will be coming in through the Linux window, except [they will find] a more robust and commercially-supported operating system," predicted Peter Glaskowsky, editor in chief of the Microprocessor Report. History does repeat itself, even in the technical market. David Morgenstern is a longtime reporter of the storage industry as well as a veteran of the dotcom boom in the storage-rich fields of professional content creation and digital video.

David Morgenstern is Executive Editor/Special Projects of eWEEK. Previously, he served as the news editor of Ziff Davis Internet and editor for Ziff Davis' Storage Supersite.

In 'the days,' he was an award-winning editor with the heralded MacWEEK newsweekly as well as eMediaweekly, a trade publication for managers of professional digital content creation.

David has also worked on the vendor side of the industry, including companies offering professional displays and color-calibration technology, and Internet video.

He can be reached here.


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