May 18, 2010, 7:20 PM — The history of fanboyism is sordid. There are great reasons to get behind a product. I have in my drawer, a 1926 Liberty Dollar on a money clip. The other side is the Pontiac logo. My grandfather was a Pontiac fanboi. Rest his soul.
Today's industry fanboi is probably unaware that product fads have come and gone. Fanbois become disappointed. Stuff happens to their product line. Bad and hurt feelings ensue.
There's a great Who song, We Won't Get Fooled Again. It has a nice lyric, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss....." that chimes about history repeating itself. The current drama in the systems, personal computer, and even the smartphone industry is singing that tune.
Once upon a time, I sold pallets of Apple IIs at a MicroAge franchise store. These machines were fun, and what sold many of them was a combination of a business application (and justifying reason) called VisiCalc. But you could also play a raft of games, ranging from silly stuff to arcade-like games. Alongside the Apple II was another machine, the Atari 2600, which used game cartridges. You could get VisiCalc for the Atari, but no one could seem to justify the Atari as a business machine, whereas contractors, lawyers, and other customers of mine were eager to buy the Apple II and get started. VisiCalc was good. I wrote/co-wrote several books about electronic spreadsheets; they were the beginning of that revolution. Grown men in suits became Apple fanbois. Back then, we called it a successful cult. These little beige boxes with weird stuff inside could do business, and games. And they hardly ever broke.
Put that revolution into a business suit with wingtip shoes or an Ann Taylor outfit, and you got the IBM Personal Computer, the progenitor of what most all of us use as a personal computer today. The name of the electronic spreadsheet changed from VisiCalc to Lotus 1-2-3. The base memory was similar, but could be expanded. And someone at IBM published not only a motherboard without a copyright notice on it, but also the full BIOS of the machine, so that it could be reversed engineered. IBM took off, Compaq (now HP) copied it along with a raft of others ranging from Corona to Hyperion. There was an upgrade available soon to a five megabyte hard drive. It was staggering. Then.
Microsoft made software that worked on the IBM and its copies. IBM (and Compaq) would try to make their machines proprietary again, but lost the battle. Eventually IBM would sell its personal computer division to Lenovo. Compaq would be acquired by HP. Apple remained Apple, going its own way, occasionally languishing until its primary motivator returned from stints at Disney and Pixar and NeXt.