Season 7, Episode 1
April 3, 2022
The first computer the Rileys owned was a Tandy. What’s that? Never heard of it? How embarrassing for you. This was the computer where I gained my familiarity with computer programs and file names. Because of that – and the fun-to-say brand name – it will always hold a special place in my heart. (If you’re curious, I think it was a Tandy 1000 RL-series.)
A few years later, my dad won some money in the lottery. We used that to get a second computer, one that would feel familiar to anyone walking into a den or home office in the 1990s. It was a Hewlett-Packard and it came with something similar to that fancy new music player my parents had recently purchased: a CD-ROM. I was still a kid – second, third grade – so my memories are foggy. I do remember going into a store in downtown Wilmington to buy it; remember my dad assembling the computer desk we bought, still working on it when mom, James and I returned from church; the day the computer and all of its CD-ROM games arrived. Mom told us not to play with it until she got home, so I made do with just looking at the CD cases.
For those of us who came of age in the ‘90s, the home computer was a revolutionary thing. But within a few years, it became ubiquitous. And two of the biggest names and competitors in the computer industry served as a dividing line for consumers. Did you support Microsoft or Apple? Your answer told others as much about you as your response to “The Rolling Stones or The Beatles?” or “Star Wars or Star Trek?”.
So, it intrigues me that two events on the same day, ten years apart, serve as a clear example of how these companies differed in public perception. Microsoft, as long as I’ve been aware, has been regarded as a monolith, a greedy company resistant to competition. Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who presided over the case of United States v. Microsoft Corp., seemed to agree. Issuing his conclusions of law on April 3, 2000, Judge Jackson found that Microsoft had committed monopolization, attempted monopolization, and tying in violation of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
Compare this with Apple, the company associated with “the crazy ones:” artists, musicians, creative people. On April 3, 2010, it released the first generation of iPads. Certainly, this was not the first tablet computer – not even Apple’s first tablet. But as it had done with portable music players and cell phones in the ‘00s, Apple changed the public’s relationship with and dependence on electronic devices.
We’ve come a long way from ENIAC to smartphones. In celebration – and a dose of healthy fear – of these machines, our theme for the first episode of season 7 is computers.