Everything we Macintosh users of the 80s wished for has come to fruition: Apple products are ubiquitous. The world is connected. And people are empowered to create, publish, cook, telecommute, learn, mate, and most importantly consume using Apple tools.
Katie Benner, a reporter covering all things Apple for the New York Times, recently wrote a story about Macintosh user groups in the 80s and ones that are continuing to this day. In July, I had invited her to meet Raines Cohen, cofounder of the Berkeley Macintosh Users Group, at our Berkeley "breakfast cabal," a weekly Thursday morning breakfast at Saul’s Deli in the gourmet ghetto section of town that was started by Jeff Ubois, now with the MacArthur Foundation’s Fellows program, and Ben Gross, then an 11-year-long Ph.D. student and now a senior tech guru at UC Berkeley.
Benner’s story, titled "Mac User Groups Fade, But Loyalty Endures,” examines the persistence of these groups over the decades, when much of the tech support they originally offered their members has been supplanted by Apple Genius Bars and easy access to online help.
Why does any group persist beyond its original purpose? Any sociologist would say it’s because of the social bonds people form, as with parents who stay friends long after their schoolchildren who introduced them leave home. Or post-college friends, who are embedded, like strands of DNA, into the bloodstream of their unique shared experiences.
Sharing a common history alters one’s perception of current affairs. It’s difficult for old-time BMUGers to criticize Apple because we still recall the company’s struggles to gain at least double-digit market share. Even though Apple is now more dominant than Microsoft, we still think of it as the David, albeit now fighting new Goliaths, like Google. It’s sort of like the Cold War against the former U.S.S.R., which, with Putin’s invasion of Crimea, really hasn’t disappeared in the minds of those who lived through Soviet invasions of the 50s.
Call it reality jet-lag: the mind refuses to readjust for change, especially when the residuals, such as a circle of friends, reaffirm values no longer based on new realities.