In the spring I did something that I haven’t done before. I bought an Apple computer. It is an iMac (the smaller one) and I confess I find it to be exactly what I hoped it would be. Beautiful, elegant, unobtrusive, simple.
A surprising amount of thinking and research went into that decision. Or rather, a lot of research went in to helping someone else arrive at the best possible decision for his next computer. And having convinced him that the right choice was an iMac, I found I had very little counter-argument when it came to purchasing a new home desktop machine.
My father-in-law turned 80 in April. For more than a year he had been struggling with a home computer that seemed to soak up all of his time, and my time whenever I visited, reclaiming lost files and resolving issues. In short, he was no longer having fun. Of course some people find their fun in constantly tinkering with the innards of their operating system. He is not that sort of person. He had attempted to upgrade a perfectly serviceable XP machine to Vista. That was a mistake. Despite adding extra RAM he was left with an extremely sluggish machine and a mess of documents, pictures and other files shifted to places he knew not where. His computer was now taking up increasing amounts of his time and he was becoming less and less productive. It was time for a change.
He decided that he would buy himself an 80th birthday present – a new computer that would liberate him from the morass his computing had fallen into. He began by exploring new Windows 7 machines and was, for a time, enchanted by the idea of a touch-screen HP desktop. However, before making a purchase he decided to ask my advice (which, regrettably, he had not done prior to his XP to Vista disaster). And so I set about exploring the options.
I decided to concentrate upon his computing experience. What did he most dislike? What did he most enjoy? One of the things he appreciates is elegant, functional design. A well-engineered machine can be in itself a beautiful object. Like a high-end BMW or Audi, a good computer (and operating system) should get out of the way of the experiences you hope to have using it. His computing needs, in effect, were simple: email, some Internet surfing, word processing, a handy collection of photos of his family, one or two solitary games, and possibly some VOIP (probably Skype) to keep in touch with distant family. There are lots of machines that could meet these computing needs. But what would transform his experience? What would, for him, make computing fun again?
I recommended the 21-inch Apple iMac.
He had not even considered a mac until then. He had successfully taught himself to use Windows computers from 3.1 to Vista and didn’t immediately see that he could step away from that paradigm at this point without a huge change cost. When he went to see his local Apple dealer, however, he fell in love with the iMac almost immediately.
And he has been delighted with it ever since.
Somewhat to my surprise I discovered that in convincing him that the iMac was right for his needs I also convinced myself that it was right for me. And I too have been delighted with it ever since we got it. So much so that it seems like it has always been here. Or maybe it is that, because it doesn’t require constant attention, I forget about the device and have simply got on with having fun again. And that seems like a good page to have turned.