Monthly Archives: October 2009

Lessons From the Mac

I bombed two weeks of computer classes in high school. Ok, it was really a math class, but the teacher took liberties and immersed us in command line for two weeks (TRS-80s). I wallowed. Could not figure it out, and HATED it. Swore at that point that I’d never touch another computer as long as I lived. I had no use for them AT ALL.

About 1994 my father-in-law gifted us a Mac Classic. Kevin was a teacher at the time, and he took right to it. To my utter shock, I did too. I began writing poetry and short stories. I sought out freeware and shareware games for my kids – educational stuff. After about six months, I reformatted the hard drive just to see if I could. I was hired as a computer aide at a local school, and within a few years, was buying, refurbishing, and reselling Macs (desktops and laptops). I could quote you the specs of any Mac model off the top of my head.

There was something about the Mac. I could actually USE it. And using a Mac early on in my computer business career taught me some valuable lessons, which have been part of shaping our business into something both original and successful.

1. Don’t make it harder than it has to be. Keep things simple on the surface, and leave the layers of complication for later.

2. Make it fun. The Mac was a lot of fun. There were hidden messages and games in many of the programs (nicknamed Easter Eggs). The computer greeted you with a smile. Mac instructions were written with a sense of humor (David Pogue’s were some of the best, in Macs for Dummies). You could change the desktop patterns and even make your own (remember, all of this was brand new concepts at the time, Bill Gates was still trying to mimic it).

3. Think Different. More than different – think about needs, and meet them, instead of being trapped by rigid standards arbitrated by those who really don’t get what the needs actually are.

4. Don’t be afraid to use what works, regardless of what everyone else is doing. I defended my position to use a Mac over and over, and it taught me to do what worked for MY business, and not be made to feel inadequate because I wasn’t doing it the way someone else thought I should.

5. Meet higher standards. The Mac had higher customer satisfaction standards than PCs had. They also had higher compatibility and performance standards. They met them too.

6. When you make changes to keep up with technology or growth, don’t lose what makes it work. The Mac fell apart when they made some decisions that lost many of the things users loved about it. It lost some of the humor, much of the reliability, and much of what made it unique. The end came for us when they released an operating system that was incompatible with the firmware (part of the built-in hardware coding) on our Mac, combined with a decrease in available software for our industry. We moved to the PC because the Mac no longer had what we needed – It did not matter that the iMac was cute and colored, the hard drive crashed repeatedly and had to be reformatted due to the incompatibility. It was unsustainable.

7. Just because you screw up once, or twice, or even a dozen times, doesn’t mean you can’t make a comeback. While we haven’t gone back to the Mac (it would be prohibitively expensive for us to do so now), an increasing number of our clients and students have done so.

The Mac was responsible for a huge learning process for me. It took all of my half-talents, and combined them together into a combination of skills which had value. And Mac instructions were so much clearer than PC instructions (which always seemed to assume you already KNEW what you were doing and only needed a reminder of a single concept). In fact, I learned more from Macs for Dummies, More Macs for Dummies, and Mac Secrets, about how to operate and diagnose a PC than I did from a huge combination of PC books. Because I learned more foundational computer concepts, and I learned more practical applied troubleshooting concepts, which I could then adapt to the PC.

I function using a PC. But it isn’t fun, and I miss my Mac. I don’t know if it will ever be feasible to go back. But I appreciate the lessons I learned from it. The whole philosophy of the Mac had a huge impact on how I thought about business, and has helped to take me someplace extraordinary.

Living Life in a Blur

The last few weeks have passed in a blur. Some good things, some hard ones, some absolutely unmanageable ones. I can blame it on my broken glasses – one of the absolutely unmanageable things. Everything is a blur, regardless of the speed at which it passes!

They are old glasses, ones I’ve been trying to get a few more months out of. No insurance, so they have to be budgeted for. Cleaning them one morning, the lens fell out. One minute I was circling the cloth on the lens, the next moment the lens lay in my hand. No pop, no resistance, it just lay there. I immediately thought to pop it back in (the logical impulse). The frame was broken, and no impulse was going to make that lens stick. It broke where the top of the frame connects to the nosepiece – it was not the nosepiece that broke, it was the top of the frame. Unrepairable.

My mother helpfully suggested tape… I love my mother, but I still can’t believe she seriously suggested this, even if the break HAD been in a place where the tape would conceivably hold the pieces together.

Ok, so I have no pride where some things are concerned, I’ll drive an old car and not feel bad about it. But taped glasses on a 40+ year old woman are completely incompatible with any SEMBLANCE of a professional image! She suggested this the day I was invited to present at the Idea Expo. Yeah, that’s just what I want… Show up with tape on my glasses, right between my eyes where it is sure to attract the maximum attention.

I wonder, which sort should I use?

  • The classic surgical tape has a pristine white tackiness about it. It might be considered the all season look. It frays nicely also, and strings hang off the edges, adding to the overall pathetic-ness of the look.
  • Perhaps I should go redneck and use duct tape. It would not only lend a festive silver gleam, it would be sure to be bulky and lumpy – so no one could miss it. The perfect touch to my segment on creative solutions for Shoestring Startups!
  • Or maybe a contemporary look would be better – I could try red electrical tape. This is my 12 year old son’s favorite tape for repairing books, toys, or anything else that it will stand out nicely on. I’m sure it would also stand out nicely beside the bridge of my nose. Red is one of our company colors, so I’d then coordinate with our branding.
  • How about pop-glitz? We have some faceted mylar tape – in silver or gold. Of course, someone might then mistake the sparkle for an inappropriate twinkle in my eye. Besides, I’m not sure I want to feel THAT young.

Maybe I can create an entire look around it. Worn vinyl velcro tennis shoes, a muu-muu style housedress, and a balaclava.

Think it will catch on?

Grow a Garden!

Gardening doesn't have to be that hard! No matter where you live, no matter how difficult your circumstances, you CAN grow a successful garden.

Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere Practical and low cost options for container gardening, sprouting, small yards, edible landscaping, winter gardening, shady yards, and help for people who are getting started too late. Plenty of tips to simplify, save on work and expense.