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Macintosh fans ready to mark three decades of computers
[April 01, 2006]

Macintosh fans ready to mark three decades of computers

(Daily Oklahoman, The (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Apr. 1--John Beresford John Beresford was a high school student in the late 1970s when his family went computer shopping.

Their choices were limited to RadioShack's TRS 80 and a few other machines favored by the few Americans who were dabbling with computers at the time as a hobby.

Beresford's family chose to buy an Apple II computer produced by Apple Computer, the now-famous company co-founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

Apple is celebrating its 30th anniversary today, but Beresford thought back nearly three decades to his family's first computer purchase.

"It was one of the first (models), the ones that you actually put a television set with," Beresford recalled. "There was no such thing as a disc drive; it has a cassette recorder tape drive."

It wasn't long before the Beresfords expanded uses for their versatile new computer.

They connected it to a printer, and Beresford soon was producing high school research papers on the computer.

The Apple II sparked a revolutionary change in the way the world viewed computers, said Bennie McElhaney, owner of ProMac Computers in Oklahoma City and an Apple retailer since 1980.

"Everybody thought of computers as big rooms full of vacuum tubes," McElhaney said. "This was the first really portable home computer."

Beresford still uses a variety of Apple computer products to operate his Edmond-based business, Digital Studio Design. That business provides Web design, hosting and even wireless Internet services, all run by Apple Macintosh computers.

"I use Macintosh because it's reliable, it works and you don't have to install a service pack every other day from Windows," Beresford said. "Windows is a Ford Pinto. There are a lot of them on the road and they are cheap. Apple is a BMW. It is reliable, and it is going to work for years and years."

Apple's fortunes have ebbed and flowed during its 30 years. It grew rapidly in the early 80s, then bottomed out in the mid 1990s after Steve Jobs was forced out as chief executive officer in the late 1980s.

Beresford stuck with Apple products through the dark decade and was rewarded by spectacular rebound since Jobs returned as chief executive officer in 1999.

He owns one of the first Intel-based computers Apple produced in the new MacBook Pro laptop that debuted in January.

"They were going down an unsuccessful path, and whether you love him or not, Steve Jobs brought vision back to the company," Beresford said.

Since his return, Jobs brought a new computer operating system to Apple, launched new Macintosh models and the phenomenally successful iPod music player.

Apple opened its first company-owned retail store in 2001 and now operates more than 100 of them worldwide, including one in Penn Square Mall.

Long known for its small but loyal user base -- the company owns less than 5 percent of the personal computer market share -- Apple is approaching cult status among its faithful, McElhaney said.

Its products are seen as well designed, created with a certain "cool" factor and, above all, easy to use.

At last year's retail store opening in Penn Square Mall, hundreds of people stood in line for hours before the doors swung open to be among the first to enter. Some traveled from as far away as Wichita, Kan., or points in western Oklahoma to see the new store.

"The people who get them just love them because they are so easy to use," McElhaney said. "They still don't have a dominant market share, but their computers are so easy to use.

"As far as Apple's evolution, nowadays it really revolves around the iPod, quite honestly."

McElhaney calls Apple's new retail store an "iPod store," and said his ProMac Computer store continues to prosper despite the competition from the computer maker.

The Apple faithful have anticipated today's 30th anniversary with high expectations for new product releases. Speculation has centered on a wide-screen video iPod or a new Intel-based Apple "tower" or iBook laptop.

Although he's remained an Apple users for almost 28 years, Beresford said he doesn't follow the company with blind faith.

"It happens to be the best piece of hardware and the best operating system, that's all," he said. "There's no religion involved. I'm not fanatical about it."

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