Made With Macintosh
Both myself and my friend Jason have been independently investing effort into our personal web presence, as we both try to get around what it means to have a such a thing these days. I’ve been running my own website for a couple of decades, but what it should be today when so few people engage with content outside of a social media curated stream I’m not sure. I’ve enjoyed trying to make the photos aspect of this website a better place to view my photos than either flickr or instagram, but ultimately most people are going to view them there rather than here. Still, it gives me a small amount of joy to be able to set things out as I feel, so I persist.
It’s something Jason and I chat about semi-regularly, as he goes through a similar process with his own take on things. It’s nice to both be able to look backwards and forwards in such conversations: what is it we miss from the old web, what didn’t work, and what should things look like going forward.
Jason recently brought up the topic of the old image buttons that people used to put on their sites for “Follow me on Twitter” and such, as he was trying to work out how to encourage people towards his RSS feed and such. These then reminded me of the older and slightly more embarrassing precursor to those: the buttons that just proclaimed some allegiance to a particular browser or platform: “Best viewed on IE”, “Netscape NOW”, and so forth.
For my part, I have to hold up my hand and admit I had a “Made with Macintosh” button on my sites back in the early 2000s. I got my first Mac in 2003, and with the zeal of any new convert was proud to display my believed superior taste to anyone visiting my website. I suspect a lot of those people didn’t even know what France is.
Jason’s prompting caused me to dig around my file server’s archive folder, a dark and mysterious place, until I found a space disk image that contained my website from the old .Mac days when I was hosting an early version of this blog on homepage.mac.com. In there I managed to locate the little button I used:
I have both a feeling of fond nostalgia for that banner image alongside an embarrassment that I thought to conflate my personal purchasing choice & ability with some definition of taste, or to be blunt, moral superiority.
But perhaps, if I’m kinder to younger self, there is something else there. Perhaps I’m wishful thinking that I wasn’t quite so naive in my younger years as I was simultaneously willing to be a billboard for an American corporation at the very same time I was blogging about how much I was impacted by reading Naomi Kliene’s No Logo. I still to this day try to be No Logo about how I present myself - I generally don’t let myself be a billboard for people unless I actually make a conscious decision that I want to support a particular individual (e.g., wearing a t-shirt for my brother’s band), but somehow Apple managed to evade that filter.
I’m aware that we, or at least I, often use brand preference as a short hand for communicating to others who we are. Despite my general policy on branding I have a Ducati baseball cap that I wear, which is less about my state as a former Ducati owner, more as a shorthand for communicating that I’m a motorcyclist to try and find other members of that tribe in a crowd (amazingly most bikers look like regular people once you remove all that protective gear). Similar right now I’m wearing a t-shirt that belongs to a small guitar equipment manufacturer that to me straddles both my stated exceptions.
But with Apple I think there’s more to it; to me the Apple of old seemed to represent something else. If you look at the button again, perhaps squinting a bit given it’s pixelated vintage, you can see the perhaps familiar combination of that black background with white Apple Garamond - a combination that invited us at the time to Think Different. This recently entered my consciousness again as someone on mastodon I follow posted a link to this video where Steve Jobs was unveiling the Think Different campaign, and how he describes it is quite interesting:
Now how much “Think Different” meant to Apple’s then iCEO beyond a brand positioning I don’t know, but I can say that the message did speak to both a set of Apple users like myself and to people I know that went on to work there who did so because they wanted to change the world for the better in some smaller or larger way. In my personal opinion, the Apple of then had a drive to make things better for humanity back then that I feel it lost in the last decade (not just at Apple), as it seemed to shift to a more inward focus on making things better rather than making the world better - this is in part why I drifted away from the Mac platform for a couple of years.
Of late I’ve come back to the Mac platform, and I enjoy it, but whilst I think that Apple of late is doing more interesting things, I don’t think that spirit that originally drew me in and fuelled their engineers is there in the way that it once was. But that’s just my outsider’s perspective - others will know that better than I.
But I still have a nostalgia for those times, and for the technology optimism I felt back then: for that message which I think is needed now as much as it ever was, if not more so. We need people to feel inspired to make a positive impact through technology, and to look beyond their own frame of reference, in a way that we seem to have lost in the last decade or so. For the last decade or so I’ve always glibly told people that I see “Engineering is a superpower, and you should use it for good” - but I do believe that, and I’m always on the look out for where I can work on things that will make the world better: Ndiyo, Bromium, and my personal projects have all seemed to me about things that would leave the world a littler better than I found it. For my part today I’ve found myself a bit of that spirit by being part of tech team trying to help work on technology in the battle against climate change.
With that in mind, I decided to be kind to the button with which I tried to show my aspirations before, and I made an SVG version - the improvement to display technologies over the last two decades has not been kind to it:
If you’d like a copy, you can grab the SVG version here.
Jason asked me if I’d be displaying this version on this website, and I had to think harder about this than I’d like to admit. But in the end whilst I do have a nostalgia for what the message meant to me, those days are gone, and I’m much more of a “people should use whatever makes them happy” mentality, so I fear it has no real place on these page any more. I already wear my love for that period of Apple history proudly enough on this website with it’s choice of title font and colours on the banner (compare them with the fruit logo you see above…).
What does remain though is how I project what “Think Different” meant and still means to me. That I’m less clear on and will need to consider.