iLove: Meet the Apple addicts
Tomorrow, when Steve Jobs walks out on stage to announce his company's latest super-gadget, millions of technophiles will watch with excitement bordering on religious fervour. Simon Usborne talks to the Macolytes, for whom Apple truly is the only fruit
Michael Bywater, 55
First device: Lisa (1983)
Now owns: MacBook Air, PowerBook G4, iPhone, iPod 3Gb, "hipster PDA" (index cards clipped together with iPod Shuffle)
I am a serious contender, with Stephen Fry and Douglas Adams, for the ownership of the first Macintosh in Britain – except mine was given to me Steve Jobs himself. Ha! This was back in the mid-1980s, when I was writing about technology.
Steve had come to London and I took him out for dinner in Soho, where he produced this Mac in a canvas case. I stuck it on my desk beside my Olivetti ETS1010, my Sirius and my DEC Rainbow, then swivelled round to my other desk and got back to work – on my battleship-strength Hermes Ambassador typewriter.
But while the Mac was expensive and couldn't do an awful lot at that stage, this was no quirky toy. It was damn obvious the paradigm was revolutionary. And unlike Microsoft, Apple's products have always struck a balance between accessibility and not being patronising.
There's no way on earth anyone at Apple could have come up with that bloody paper clip or "My Documents". You can imagine Bill Gates with drawers labelled "My Socks", "My Hats", "My Shoes". Apple shows computers can be simple without infantilising us.
I just feel sorry for people who have to use PCs – I can't see why they would voluntarily spent time interacting with such ugly machines. It would be like wearing cheap polyester or not going to the doctor about your haemorrhoids – "I'm not the kind of smart-arse ponce who gets his piles seen to. Oh no, I just sit on them and suck up the pain!" Why would you do that?
I've had a long marriage with Apple gear, but I hate all this fanboi rubbish. You won't find me in a sleeping bag outside the Apple store to get version one of something that's only a rumour.
And I can't stand people who take their MacBooks to Starbucks so girls think they're writing a novel – the kind who have Moleskine notebooks as if they were the badge of a louche creative. "Yah, chicks, I'm writing a novel."
No you're not – the guy writing the novel is the one with three days' growth of stubble and red eyes staring into space and occasionally weeping – over his MacBook.
Richard Pietrasik, 58
Occupation: Education consultant
First device: PowerBook 100 (1992)
Now owns: iMac, MacBook Air, iPhone 3G, iPod Nano
Imagine someone building a car and thinking the easiest place for the handbrake would be outside, just by the front wheel. Yes, you'd have to wind the window down to pull it but it would still stop the car. Another person might say that's ridiculous – if you want to stop the car you need to make it so easy you hardly realise you are doing it. That's Apple.
A few years ago, I was head of education for BBC Jam, a digital schools curriculum that was eventually shut down. We were trying to produce engaging, user-friendly educational materials online.
Apple was high on the list of companies we looked to for inspiration. Students are using technology in their private lives in sophisticated ways. The challenge is integrating that into the education system.
The kit Apple makes is the best of its sort because it takes such an effort to make things intuitive. When I leave my three-year-old grandson sitting at my iMac watching Sesame Street, I come back to find he's not only loaded up another video but is scaling it to fit the screen.
I don't consider myself a real Apple fan but I did have a moment on the train the other day. I was on my MacBook Air. All four people around me also had Airs and even the guy in the seat behind had an Apple laptop. You might expect it in a Kensington branch of Starbucks, but this was on the train to Edinburgh. We're a bit too cool to give a nod and a wink but you can be sure everyone noticed. I took a photo – on my iPhone, obviously.
Malcolm Garrett, 53
Occupation: Graphic designer, creative director of Applied Information Group
First device: Apple IIe with Robocom Bitstick (1983)
Now owns: MacBook Pro, iMac, iPhone 3G
I started in the industry by designing record sleeves for bands like Duran Duran and Simple Minds in the late Seventies and early Eighties. Back then everything was done on big drawing boards.
That started to change and by 1984 we were using an Apple IIe drawing system with specialist drawing software. Then, in 1989, we were the first London design studio to throw out its drawing boards and go digital.
Three years later, we were working on an album sleeve for Peter Gabriel, which required a lot of photo retouching – the kind you'd do in 10 minutes using Photoshop today. Each time we wanted to change something we had to wait up to 45 minutes to process it. But for me, the vision was clear: the industry was going to change and Apple was leading the way.
I have a personal interest in Apple, too – I've bought just about everything as it's come out and I often keep the packaging – but it's in my professional life that Apple has made the biggest difference.
In 2003, Jonathan Ive, the Apple designer, was in Britain to receive an award. Creative Review asked me to interview him. He's a wonderful person and a peerless designer, but he was a difficult interviewee.
I wanted to ask him where Apple was going, and to lay out some of my criticisms, but the two PR people sent to scrutinise the interview refused to allow that conversation to take place. Apple is famous for being tight-lipped and sometimes closed-minded, which can occasionally be a shame.
When I threw out my drawing boards, it was with dreams of a computer with a screen as large – a digital drawing board. It didn't happen and then came the iPhone and suddenly the dream was rekindled. Here was a screen I could touch and move things around on. Immediately I thought, if it went bigger, eventually I'd get my drawing board. The tablet would be the next step so I guess I'll have to get one.
Sam Downie, 34
Occupation: Presenter, music producer, founder of Bristol-sounds.com
First device: Macintosh SE (1990)
Now owns: MacBook Pro, iPhone 3G, iPod Touch, iPod Shuffle, mug, T-shirt
The first time I went to the Macworld Expo in San Francisco in 2004 it was as a fan. I'd always loved the products – as a teenager I would do school projects on my parents' old Mac and eventually saved up enough to buy one of my own.
I've been every year since but more recently I got the chance to visit Mecca itself – the Apple campus at Cupertino in California.
It has this unique Apple store called the Company Store – it's the only place in the world you can buy Apple-branded T-shirts and mouse mats and pens and mugs. The last time I was there, I even got to touch and photograph the CEO's car, which was parked outside.
My Apple products have become tools for me. I use my Mac with Apple's Logic Studio software to create and remix music and I use them in my everyday life – they are a constant buddy.
Most of my friends are PC users and they often poke fun at me for being such an Apple fan but with the success of the iPhone and this rumoured tablet announcement, people are starting to take more notice and so I'm getting less stick. A lot of my friends now have an iPhone and some are even considering getting an Apple laptop.
Laura Bradley, 25
Occupation: Online fashion editor
First device: PowerBook G4 (2000)
Now owns: MacBook Pro, iPhone 3GS, iPod
I like to think I'm not a real geek but I did run out at lunchtime to get my iPhone 3GS the day it was launched, and I will admit to occasionally listening to technology podcasts to hear about new releases. And I probably don't go an hour without doing something on my iPhone. It's got my life on it.
I use the calendar instead of my old diary and I've got an app called Newsstand, which I can use to check my favourite websites. It's completely changed the way I consume information. Where I used to buy six magazines I might now get two or three – and read everything else on my phone. My handbag's a lot lighter, too.
Most people in the fashion industry use Macs. It's just easier to do things and they don't go wrong, which is important when you're working to deadline.
When I worked at SHOWstudio, a fashion website, I used to go to all the shows in Paris and London and had to file reports afterwards. When I started, in 2005, I used to have to go back to the hotel and write it up on my laptop. When I got my iPhone, I could file quick reports and post photos to Flickr and Twitter before the show had even finished.
Christof Haemmerle, 32
Occupation: Digital designer
First device: Macintosh SE (1987)
Now owns: Mac Pro, MacBook Pro, iMac, iPhone 3GS
I like to be surrounded by devices that think and work the same way I do. And that's where the simplicity of Apple's user interfaces has changed the way I work.
When Apple launched its OS X operating system, it was like moving from a bicycle into a great car. I design websites, mostly in the fashion industry, and nothing compares to the way Apple works. They don't release half-done products. Everything is so well thought through.
My parents have an embroidery business in Austria and about two years ago my brother and I started making these embroidered covers for the iPod Nano.
We called it the PodDress and it was really cool – not like these hundreds of plastic covers you can get. They came in lots of different colours and we even had a couple of versions studded with Swarovski crystals. But sadly we had some issues on the business side and had to stop doing it.
I did it mostly because I'm a fan but I don't see myself as some kind of Mac evangelist – you have to remember that, at the end of the day, Apple is a big commercial company.
You won't find me waiting in line for the next device (I'm lucky enough to live round the corner from the Apple store), but I do see it as part of my job to know what's happening. I check the Apple rumours site pretty much every day – and I'll certainly be watching events tomorrow.
Marc Kerstein, 20
Occupation: Maths student and Apple campus rep, Imperial College
First device: Mac Mini (2005)
Now owns: MacBook Pro, two MacBooks, iPhone 3GS, iPod Touch, iPod Nano, iPod Shuffle, table cloth
Tomorrow is probably the only day you will find me with my iPhone turned off. I follow Apple news daily – sometimes hourly – but when Steve Jobs makes a big announcement I avoid hearing about any new device so I can watch the speech in full when they post it online a couple of hours later.
Whatever they launch, you can be sure I'll be getting one as the campus rep, which basically means I'm the Apple promotions guy for my university.
You have to go for an interview at their UK headquarters near Heathrow and show you have good contacts on campus – and that you are passionate about Apple.
I run a magic society and know people through that and I am very much an Apple enthusiast. They just know how to make things work and have a great strategy of only having one of each product on the market at any one time – and they're always really nice products.
Sometimes it can be difficult to convince students to switch from Windows to Mac, especially if they're in the middle of a degree and have everything on their computer.
My job is to make that easy. I've also become a bit of a campus IT guy – and will help people out with any Apple-related queries or problems.
I write about cutting-edge Apple news and products for Felix, my university newspaper and hold events. I don't get any inside news or anything like that – but I do get free stuff.
Screen time: How Apple made history
1976: The Apple I
Despite high praise, the company's first model, the satanically-priced original Apple computer (retailing at $666.66) sold just 200 units following its release in July 1976. Less than a quarter of those models are still in existence.
1984: The Macintosh
The original Mac was considered a masterpiece of design and engineering on its release. "We didn't know what it meant for a computer to be 'friendly'," said one Mac designer, "until Steve [Jobs] told us."
1993: The Newton MessagePad
Expect Wednesday's announcement to feature plenty of people raving about "Apple's first tablet computer" – erroneously, as it happens, thanks to 1993's MessagePad, a tablet which failed thanks to poor battery life.
1998: The iMac
You can make your own guess at the meaning of the "i" (theories include individual and internet), but either way, the iMac (Jonathan Ive's Apple design debut) brought together elegant software and hardware design for the first time.
2001: The iPod
220 million devices sold and one severely shaken music industry later, it is difficult to underestimate the impact the Walkman-slaying original iPod made on its release. The subsequent launch of the iTunes Music Store reshaped the record industry forever.
2007: The iPhone
It was the year the mobile phone became a fully-fledged touchscreen internet-centred device. Two models later, there's nothing to usurp it – except, perhaps, Apple's tablet?