Over the last 30 years, the Apple Macintosh family of computers has become an iconic and world-famous addition to the technological landscape. Apple’s product range has expanded to encompass tablets, mobile phones and MP3 players, and its Macintosh (or Mac) computers have gradually taken an ever-greater share of the global personal computer market. Indeed, while the terms Mac and PC are commonly used to differentiate Apple products from incompatible rivals that typically use Microsoft’s Windows operating system, Macs are personal computers by their very definition.
A eureka moment
The story of the Apple Mac dates back to 1983, when a TV advert depicted an Orwellian future of identical PCs being smashed apart by a new Apple Macintosh. Although the advert only aired once that year, it was widely discussed, and by the time it was broadcast again during the 1984 Superbowl in America, Apple’s new computer had become a direct competitor to the monopolistic brown PC towers of the time.
Landmark differences between the Mac and PCs included the former’s unibody construction, with a monitor integrated into the same box as the processing hardware. This was also the first time a computer had been controlled using drag-and-drop images on a desktop screen rather than unintuitive text-based interfaces that required lines of coded instructions. The user-friendly appeal of this visual operating system is reflected in the fact that every computer, tablet and mobile device on sale today features a graphical user interface (or GUI).
With ground-breaking functionality allied to a focus on developing in-house software, Apple ensured that their Mac computers would appeal to people who wanted a simple-to-use device, as well as those who viewed PCs as functional and boring machines whose spiritual home was in an office.
Big trees from little apples
Over the last three decades, Apple products have retained many of the ground-breaking elements first pioneered in 1984, while their popularity has burgeoned. Today, one in 20 computers in the UK is estimated to be a Mac, with a particularly high market share in the all-important domestic sector. Having established their long-term status and popularity, an Apple Mac course is therefore an ideal way to learn about a range of computers that encompasses desktop and laptop variants.
A core range of products
Like all successful technology brands, Apple is constantly refreshing and updating its product range. However, the word Mac currently refers to three related product ranges:
1. Desktop computers. Designed for the home and small business, these include the compact Mac Mini, the fully-integrated iMac (with hardware built around the monitor, just like the original Macintosh) and an aluminium Mac Pro tower, with high-end specifications for people requiring plenty of computing power.
2. Laptops. The Macbook Air represents the smaller, more affordable end of the laptop spectrum, while the Macbook Pro is distinguished by its larger screen sizes.
3. Servers. Both the Mac Mini and Mac Pro can be purchased as dedicated servers, effectively acting as a gateway to the Internet rather than standalone computers.
Getting beneath the skin
Although Apple Macs are renowned for their ease of use compared to other computers, an Apple Mac course is still highly recommended, for beginners and more advanced users alike. There are numerous functionalities built into each Mac’s operating system that casual or occasional users would never know about or be able to exploit, such as the iVideo camcorder editing software, or the Boot Camp functionality. This allows the computer to run Apple’s operating system and Microsoft’s dominant Windows OS side-by-side, which is very useful for Mac owners who wish to use any of the numerous software packages that are only compatible with Windows.
The proprietary operating system installed onto Macs is known as OS X, and this also contains numerous features and characteristics that are worthy of exploration. Indeed, a dedicated Mac operating system course is well worth considering, since it explores the integrated features of Apple’s operating software in considerably greater detail than a normal Apple Mac course would.
Pipped to the post
Since the original Macintosh launched in 1984 with its revolutionary GUI, Apple has cultivated and maintained a reputation as an industry pioneer. Over the years, this has been evidenced in various industry firsts that have subsequently been copied by competitors:
· The 1991 PowerBook transformed public perceptions of laptops, with innovations like integrated palm rests and trackballs instead of external mice.
· With its hardware tucked behind the monitor and visible through translucent blue panels, the all-in-one 1998 iMac was the first personal computer to offer real style.
· Apple pioneered the use of aluminium casings for its computers, at a time when PCs were considered risqué if they were clad in black plastic rather than beige.
· The Apple operating system has been subject to endless revisions, and this policy of named updates has become common industry practice among other OS providers.
By Neil Cumins