The Keeper of the iBook

On our own terms

By Mark Newhouse, <>
March 13, 2000

"Bottom Line: Apple still makes the best hardware and software for getting things done on our terms - even before we know what our terms are (wireless networking, no floppies, USB, firewire, etc.)"

The quote above was taken from an e-mail I sent to a former co-worker as I was gloating about my first experience with an iBook. The more I experience the iBook, the more I recognize the truth of the statement. This week I examine each of these "terms" Apple has created for us in the iBook, and across the product line, and how they have changed not only the way we work, but in many cases the entire computing industry.

Wireless networking

I remember watching the QuickTime stream of the Macworld Expo Keynote in July of '99. Everyone was anticipating what we now know as the iBook. Steve Jobs finally introduced it to the approval of all in attendance. After showing some new commercials, Steve began to run through the specs. As he was surfing the Internet, he picked up the unit and walked away from the table it was sitting on, without saying a word. It only took a second before people in the audience realized that there were no wires or cables attached to the machine and erupted into a round of applause and exclamations of delight. I could hardly wait to try out the feature myself! Now I use it so regularly that I find myself starting to fire up my e-mail client while I am on the bus!

No floppies

I remember when my department purchased Zip drives for us. My first question after using one was "When are these going to replace the floppy?" Almost every piece of software I have installed since '95 has come on CD-ROM, and those that came on floppies (printer drivers, etc.) could be downloaded on the Internet. Following in the footsteps of the rest of the Apple product line, the iBook also has no floppy drive. My iBook connects to the office LAN via AirPort or ethernet, and an ethernet crossover cable handles any file transfer issues at home. I don't miss the floppy drive.


Apple has taken Microsoft's Embrace and Extend philosophy and, in signature Apple style, made it work. USB was a floundering PC technology until Apple made it standard on their iMacs. They continue the revolution with the rest of the product line, and the iBook is no different. This hot-swapable, plug-and-play, (did I mention buzzword-compliant?) bit of technology is great. I can plug a mouse into my iBook without turning the machine off. I plug my Epson 740 in and turn it on, a few seconds later I am printing. There are hundreds of USB devices out there (most in translucent iMac colors) that would not have been in existence if it weren't for Apple's use of USB.


I realize that the iBook doesn't support FireWire... yet. I am sure that sometime in the year 2001 (if not sooner) Apple will introduce an iBook DV. The same things that were said about USB above apply to FireWire, and more. Apple is poised to help create a desktop movie revolution. And when you think of the possibilities for connecting as yet unnamed FireWire ready appliances and consumer electronic equipment, the mind boggles. Is "convergence" still a buzzword?

The iBook Gestalt

Using the iBook and all of these great technologies is more than just the sum of the individual parts. It is truly an experience. Once you have experienced it you won't want to go back to the way you have worked before. And once you have surfed the web and checked your e-mail while sitting under a tree you'll be hooked. It's cool looks just add to the mystique and experience. I look for excuses to use my iBook, just because of the attention it gets. Put this all together and you have the iBook user experience; I call it the iBook Gestalt.

Thanks Apple.

Mark Newhouse is the Web Designer for the public outreach arm of the National Optical Astronomy Observatories in Tucson, AZ. He has been using Macs for over a decade, and with the recent addition of a Grape iMac to his home network, is a proud user of all four products in Apple's grid.

The iBook image is courtesy Apple Computer, Inc. The iBook icon is courtesy the Iconfactory.

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Keeper of the iBook Copyright © 2000, Mark Newhouse, all rights reserved

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