In the Multi Colored corner, The Graphics Contender from Cupertino, California, sporting the Motorola equipped 680xx series chips, The Apple Macintosh.
And in the Big Blue corner, from Armonk, New York, the Number Crunching Champion fueled by the Intel x86 series chips, The IBM PC.
And that’s the way it was in 1984 through 1987. Mac vs. PC-DOS in The Battle for The Desktop. On the Undercard was that old warrior, Apple II, no longer the media darling, but still a favorite on the Education Circuit through its retirement in 1993.
What was it that drove the passions of the proponents of these two combatants in the mid to late 80s? At times it even looked very much like a Holy War. Though imbedded with all the fire and contempt, the industry survived without the mayhem of its Medieval counterpart.
Perhaps it had something to do with the Orwellian implications set out in Apple’s iconic Super Bowl Ad which introduced Macintosh to the world in January of 1984. Didn’t the IT guys look like those drones anyway? And we Mac guys sure loved that hammer throwing babe!
Those elements certainly had something to do with defining the differences between the two platforms. But the real passion, the real animus between Mac Users and followers of the IBM PC could be summed up in two words… Star Wars!
This was easy. The vast array of characters the original three films made available to identify with on both sides of The Force was extensive. Many dubbed this eternal conflict “The Platform Wars!”
Real characters on both sides, easy to identify with the Heroes and Villains in the two competing visions of “The Force.” And what a grand time it was! Suddenly, the T-Shirts vs. The Suits transformed into The Rebel Alliance vs. The Evil Empire. And boy did we love it! And as the Prequels were produced, the identification of Heroes and Villains evolved along with it.
Steve Jobs enjoyed two incarnations at Apple. As co-founder, and pilot of the Macintosh, his original character identification for many was that of Han Solo. However, in his “Second Act” at Apple, he was One with the Force, its Grand Master, Yoda.
In the early days many of us who embraced the Star Wars metaphor had a bit of trouble identifying which players in the Wintel World assumed the characters of Darth Vader and The Emperor. It was often a toss up between Andy Grove, the CEO of Intel, and Bill Gates, the head geek at Microsoft. By the end of The Return of The Jedi, it had been decided. Gates was The Emperor and Grove was Darth Vader. Why? Because in the end, Vader had redeeming value!
The Woz (Steve Wozniak) was relatively easy to cast, especially in the original context of the first film. He was young and naive, but quietly skilled in “The Ways of The Force.” He was Luke Skywalker!
Guy Kawasaki, Apple’s lead Evangelist in the early days is our Obi-Wan Kenobi. Skilled in the Force, Obi-Wan guided the young rebellion’s champion in a way that would ultimately, in the end, restore balance to The Force. In his younger incarnation, he mistakenly thought he could train the young Anakin. In our “Real World” scenario, Guy’s failure to convince enough software developers to adopt the Mac led to the rise of the EVIL MS Empire:-)
In the early days before his falling out with Steve Jobs, John Sculley was seen in the role of Chewbacca. Sculley, as the ever loyal partner of Han Solo, and co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon, was a perfect “Second Banana.” Chewie watched helplessly as Solo was frozen in carbonate, a great metaphor for Jobs’ banishment from Apple in 1985.
C-3PO and R2-D2 were Andy Hertzfeld and Bill Atkinson. After all, who better as the two droids than the creators of the Macintosh Operating System and MacPaint and HyperCard. Erase their memories? Never!
Back over on The Dark Side, Paul Allen was Grand Moff Tarkin, Commanding Officer of the First Death Star. Nasty fellow that one. Just a notch below Vader for vile cruelty. Dastardly inflicted the torture of DOS onto millions.
Then there’s Steve Balmer. This weasel enjoys multiple roles, actually millions, in our Star Wars metaphor. We met him first as Boba Fett, the Bounty Hunter in The Empire Strikes Back. Later in the Prequel, the Attack of The Clones, we discover that Balmer is Jango Fett, Bounty hunter extraordinaire. Then we learned that Jango Fett is the source DNA for all the clones/Imperial Storm Troopers grown on the planet Kamino. He is also “father” to Boba Fett, the unaltered clone Jango raises as his son. In a sense, Balmer is the essence of all those copies of Windows produced. He lives on as an inferior clone of the Macintosh!
And let’s not forget Jabba The Hutt. Who better than Steve Case to play this villain. “You’ve Got Mail” indeed.
So there you have our cast of characters. Hey, if you’re going to be a Mac Newbie, you need to get familiar with some of the history. Back to the serious stuff next time.