My first Mac was purchased through my university in 1997. It was a Powermac 6500 with OS 7.6 installed. It was, frankly, a piece of shit, and I bought (well, my parents bought) a Pentium II Gateway laptop for my sophomore year. My dad had always used Mac Classics, and he loved them. After living with that behemoth 6500 for a year, I couldn’t imagine why, but even after I turned over to the dark side he would reminisce about that Classic and how truly great that machine was at the time. My senior year of college, I spoke to a professor of mine who was a die-hard mac guy about something I saw on the cover of one of the mac rags in his office. I was this new operating system called OS X, and while he said it was a great first pass for the new Apple, it wasn’t ready for everyday use in his opinion. “It’ll be a big hit, though,” he said.
In a fit of first-job splurging (I was making $12,000 a year as an educational assistant at an elementary school and had more money than God it seemed thanks to free room and board in my old room of my parents’ house), I picked up an iBook – the first generation white one that immediately followed the clamshell designs. It’s safe to say that computer was the computer that converted me to an Apple fanboy1. After I’d spent a little time living with the iBook, I began to find other Mac faithfuls who loved their machines as much as I did, and they opened me up to the world of the online Apple community. Like any other nostalgia-hungry human, I like to think of those days as the Golden Era of Mac ownership – the crew didn’t yet seem so holier than thou, they weren’t as quick to declare any decision by Jobs as genius, and my iPod was just another extension of my Apple digital life, not the cultural phenomenon that it was a few years ago.
I suppose it would be superfluous to try to describe how the online Apple community is today, but if there’s one person who seems to have a main line between his brain and the mac zeitgeist, John Gruber is he. Running his uber-successful blog, Daring Fireball, out of Philadelphia, Gruber took the Mac community out of the realm of rumor and fandom (the Macrumors / ThinkSecret era) and into the realm of a pseudo-philosophy – where (mostly) Apple news is extrapolated to a larger web context. DF is composed of “Mac nerds, designers, nitpickers, perfectionists, and connoisseurs of fine sarcasm”, and if you’re at all interested in Apple or other web topics that catch fire, it truly is a great read.
Being a Philly guy2, he gets a special Onethings tip of the Phils cap, but even regional ties aren’t strong enough to warrant a place on the Onethings list. No, the Onethings-worthiness of DF and John Gruber is something that he described in his joint podcast from SXSW this year with Merlin Mann. Their entire semi-extemporaneous talk was about finding something that you’re fired up about and figuring out a way to give it to the world (and make heaps of money in the process). Cliche, sure, but it actually does come through in his writing, and while you’re reading, you can easily tell that you’re reading the opinions of someone who (1) loves intelligent discussion (2) loves Apple (3) will be unapologetically critical of anyone and everyone (even King Jobs himself) and (4) is very sure about what he offers (which is why there are no comments on the site – it’s his opinion, not mine or yours). There’s something very refreshing about his no B.S., no compromises approach, and it seems to be serving him very well. It all stemmed from the fact that he knew who he was and what he wanted to offer on the web, and if there’s an issue that affects the great majority of the businesses that we talk to every day, it’s the lack of a true, authentic, and fully-conceived identity.
1 When Jon purchased his 17-inch Powerbook G4 during our first [wp] year, we brought it back to the office and were in utter disbelief of how thin and cool this thing was. He’s a zealot, too.
2 Sadly, Gruber is a Yankees fan, and we all know what 1,000,000 Yankee fans at the bottom of the ocean is.