That does it! I’m through with Macintoshes! No, really! Ask yourself: “Has Andy ever begun a column with so many consecutive exclamations?”! Exactly!
And I’m certain you already know what finally caused me to snap: Apple’s wretched and fundamentally deranged decision to up and abandon a chip that’s served them ably and well for many, many years. A chip that’s as ingrained into the Mac experience as the Apple menu, the “Welcome to Macintosh” startup slogan, or emitting a yip of pain when you’re reading email while wearing shorts and the act of shifting in your seat causes the white-hot bottom plate of the PowerBook to momentarily come into contact with a part of your body that should, under no circumstances, be allowed to come into contact with white-hot pieces of metal.
You’re with me on this, I can tell. How could Apple have done this? The Western TeleLogic AD-700 family of voltage-regulator chips has been on Apple motherboards almost since the beginning, ensuring that the Mac’s USB bus receives a reliable current of five volts with an over/undervolt of .22 volts and 20 microamps at a latency of not more than ten nanoseconds. Yes, if the chip could provide a 5-nS latency then the OS could overdrive the bus slightly and make all USB devices run faster. But WTL has been working on that problem and even though it missed the ship dates for the AD-800 regulators two years running, there’s no reason not to believe that a solution would have arrived in the fullness of time.
I mean, the problem certainly didn’t merit such a grotesque response. And of all the companies to start doing business with, Applied Voltage Mechanics? Come on! I never thought I’d live to see the day when Apple actually chose to do business with the same company that (I don’t need to remind you) designed the stepper-motor controller of the hard drive that went into the second revision of the Compaq Model 1071 laptop.
I’m sorry. I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. Excuse me a moment while I gargle with something minty. There.
I’m just sorry it wasn’t a full-velocity vomit and it didn’t leave my Apple Wireless Keyboard buried under a thick coating of bile. I would have boxed it up, wrapped it in a festive ribbon, and sent it straight to Steve Jobs with a tersely-worded note underscoring my feelings. I have every right in the world to get this freaking worked-up about it, BECAUSE A MACINTOSH WITHOUT A WESTERN TELELOGIC AD-700 CHIP IN IT SIMPLY ISN’T A MACINTOSH, ISN’T THAT RIGHT!
(A pause, please, as I catch my breath and regain my overall composure.)
I’m sorry about all that, fellow sensation-seekers. But you don’t know what it’s been like for me over the past couple of weeks, since Apple announced a switch to Intel chips. In my entire adult lifetime, I’ve known Macintosh users to be sensible, level-headed people. But it’s been like one of those science-fiction films where the hero has a car accident and wakes up after a coma to discover that during the intervening three weeks, everyone he’s known and loved has become a flesh-eating zombie and that you now need to rely on a double-barrel shotgun as a means of communicating.
In the movie, the message is: “No, actually, I’d rather not be killed by an army of flesh-eating zombies, if it’s all the same.” Here, the message is: “So what if the Mac you buy in a year and a half has an Intel chip inside it?”
Yeah, I know. Given the history of our relationship with users of Intel-based computers, the news does make you feel just a little wooden inside at first – the same way the news that the new CD from the latest winner of Pop Idol is currently the number-three best-selling album and is headed for number one. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that Macs will still be Macs, the OS will still be the OS, and the only palpable differences between a dual-processor G5 and a single-processor Pentium Mac will be one line of text in the “About This Mac” dialog box.
Sorry, did I forgot to mention that it’ll run faster and probably be a little cheaper and Apple will be able to release higher-performance Macs on a much more regular basis? And if the Mac in question is a PowerBook, it’ll run way, way faster, run longer on batteries, and won’t have quite such a tendency to grill your reproductive organs.
Oh, and have you ever used Virtual PC? The application that allows a Mac to run any piece of Windows software by emulating all the hardware of a typical Intel-based Mac? Please stop for a moment to imagine how much improved this application would be if it didn’t have to emulate a different processor. Within three months of the release of the first Intel Mac we’ll see the release of a new emulator. Double-click on a Windows application and it opens in its own Mac OS X window, and runs damned-near as fast as it would on any PC.
These are all good things.
And let’s not forget that Apple’s already handled this sort of transition... twice. When it switched from the venerable 680x0 family of CPUs to PowerPC, and when it turned Mac OS 9 into Mac OS X, it hitched the entire future of the platform to New Stuff that didn’t work with the Old Stuff. Not only that, it did it in such a way that by the time your Old Stuff became truly obsolete, you would have been buying a new Mac anyway. In the meantime, the Mac Experience will be completely unchanged.
It’s not even going to be a big deal for most developers. If they’ve been doing what Apple’s been urging them to do since before the release of Mac OS X 10.0, they can cook up an Intel-compatible edition of their applcations in just an afternoon. Usually, it’s no more complicated than what I do just before I email this column from Boston to London, turning pants into trousers and fanny packs into bumbags.
Now that I think about it, I don’t understand why some folks in the Mac community are so up in arms about this. Somewhere inside their Macs, there’s a chip that was made by this one set of dudes; in the future, it’ll be manufactured by these other dudes instead. That’s really all there is to it.
Brothers, sisters: if you see a fellow Mac user who’s having trouble dealing with them, buy them a few beers (no, sorry, I mean a few ‘pints’ – see how easy it is?) and comfort them. Read them this column, which you should keep in your wallet for handy reference. A gentle kiss on the forehead wouldn’t be out of line either. Unless of course ‘forehead’ refers to another body part entirely over in your proud nation, in which case, please use your own discretion. MW