By Jason Snell
December 31, 2017 6:14 PM PT
I bought it.
Last month I wrote an entire article in this newsletter about my hemming and hawing about buying the iMac Pro. I mentioned that my opinion varied day to day. Well, it turns out that the iMac Pro went on sale on one of those days where I was leaning toward buying one, because I’m typing this to you while staring at a brand-new iMac Pro that’s sitting right in front of me.
Some of my peers ended up leaning the other way. See Stephen Hackett’s column, below, for why he didn’t end up with the iMac Pro. I admit to having a bunch of the same feelings as Stephen, but decided that I’m not interested in waiting for the Mac Pro and that the base-model iMac Pro would be a sufficient step up from my 2014 5K iMac to make it worth the expensive price tag.
In my quick initial tests I’m finding that on processor-intensive tasks, this iMac Pro is nearly twice as fast as my top-of-the-line 2014 5K iMac. The storage is faster, too—Apple upgraded SSD speeds in the 2015 5K iMacs, but I missed that out by jumping on the 2014 model. I’m writing a full review of the iMac Pro for Macworld, due out in the next week or two, so look to the web site for links to that article when it arrives.
Paying all this money for a computer definitely gave me a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach at several points, I’ll admit. It’s been a very long time since I bought a remotely pro-level computer—it was probably the Graphite Power Mac G4 I bought in 1999. And in those days, pro Mac desktops were designed for much broader appeal than they are today.
But what this purchase really reminded me of was the computer I convinced my parents to buy for me during the summer of 1984. They dipped into my college savings account—I marvel at that now!—to accede to my begging for a computer. As Luke Skywalker might say, this story isn’t going to go the way you think. That computer, fresh and new and sparkling with promise in 1984, was… an Apple IIe.
Seems like a terrible purchase now. The Mac… the Mac was right there! Well, let me explain. First off, the Apple IIe cost about $1400, while the Mac cost $2500. The Mac was new and weird and I had literally seen one a single time, at the West Coast Computer Faire in 1984. My reaction was that the graphics were amazing, but I was shocked at the lack of color.
The people I know all had Apple II’s of various kinds, so we were able to share software and write programs. The computer lab at my high school was full of Apple II’s. Today we think of the Mac era as starting with a bang in 1984, but it’s just not true: The Apple II was huge back then, and took years to trail off. When I interned at MacUser during the summer of 1993, there was still an Apple II magazine.
When we got home with the Apple IIe I remember setting it up, playing with it for a few minutes, and then feeling a colossal letdown. That’s where I first experienced something that I discovered was a rather common feeling called “buyer’s remorse.” I think of that feeling often, because it was intense and completely misguided. That Apple IIe was one of the best investments in my future my parents could have made.
I wore that thing out. I used it to write school essays and short stories, to run a bulletin board service for a little while, to write massive amounts of BASIC code, to play games (Lode Runner and SSI Computer Baseball were favorites)… I met my first girlfriend via that thing. And yes, I took the whole kit and caboodle to San Diego for college, and used it to write all my papers the first two years I was there. (Though that second year my enthusiasm for the device was rapidly diminishing, because I discovered the Mac. I would write papers on my Apple IIe, save them to a 3.5-inch floppy disk, and take them to a Mac on campus to print them out on a LaserWriter.)
The only thing I regret about my entire Apple IIe purchase was that I sold it when I was done with it. It was the right thing to do at the time—I had just bought a Mac SE at my college bookstore and even on sale (the Mac Classic was coming soon) and with the educational discount it was not a cheap device. I kept many of my Apple II disks, and have no idea if anything remains readable 20 years later. I bought an Apple IIc on eBay a few years back and in the next few weeks I’m going to attempt to salvage anything I can from them.
But even if the disks end up being empty, it has been a nostalgia trip to turn on an Apple II and press control-open Apple-reset. To hear the churn of that floppy disk. It was a big purchase, worthy of a case of buyer’s remorse, but that Apple II provided me six years of use during a vital part of my development. If I can get a fraction of that value out of this iMac Pro, I’ll be doing all right.
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