When to be an Early Adopter and when to be a Laggard: Part 1

Iconic @shrineofapple tweetThis is an updated repost from the Madeleine Ewins A Day in the Life blog, that I guest-authored in August 2013. Since then, I discovered an amazing book all about Apple design from the early days, to the present, called Iconic. It's by Jonathan Zufi who founded the website, Shrine of Apple. (I'm not kidding! It's a great site) My bottom line, is that this gorgeous book, which is very visual, has really helped me to get in touch with my inner geek. If you have a friend or relative, who's an Apple Aficionado, trust me, they'd love to receive this book.

HERE'S THE ORIGINAL POST: It's Maddy's mum here, as a guest blogger, with some engineering-relevant thoughts.

I bought my first Apple Macintosh computer in 1984, with the money from the Entrance Scholarship that I got from St. Hugh’s College, Oxford University, where I went to do my D.Phil. in Zoology. At pretty much every university, a doctoral degree is a Ph.D. but at Oxford, it’s a D.Phil128px-Macintosh_128k_transparency

Here are some points worth pondering about my investment – because, at just under two thousand pounds (US $2,495) it was, truly, an investment. That’s US $5,620 in today's dollars, for a computer that I bought when I was 24.


  • People born in 1984 are turning 29 in 2013. This makes me a very ancient Apple user compared to the bulk of users.
  • In 1984, there were no such things as computer rooms at universities – rooms stocked with desktop computers for the use of all. People thought it was weird that I had my own, phenomenally pricey, personal computer. Why not, they asked, just buy a typewriter?
  • The early drawing software developed by Apple as part of the AppleWorks and ClarisWorks packages shipped with these Macs, fell out of favour through the 90s and 2000s, but has been resurrected on iPads. The iPad touch and stylus interface is ideal for them. So, the ideas were around a long time ago, but were not practical enough to have staying power for the average person using a computer, and were really only used by professional designers, needing software like today's InDesign.DiffusionOfInnovation

(from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_adopter and see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology_adoption_lifecycle)

I loved my Apple Mac 128k, a highly portable computer for its time! My purchase put me at the forefront of the users of this technology – an “early adopter”. It saved loads of time in data analysis and writing. I still cannot fathom why some students believe that they can do without a personal computer. Over the last 30 years, I have watched various of my fellow students, and subsequently, the students that I teach, fail to invest in the appropriate technology that will give them an academic edge. And, frankly, it's not always been a matter of affordability, but rather one of prioritizing. If you lose marks on your essay because you handed it in late, due to an unreliable or shared computer, then you might be less likely to get into medical, dental or law programmes... The knock-on effects of making poor tech choices are endless.

2013-08-05 18.48.33That Apple Mac was the first of many bought for myself and my lab, over the last 30 years. My favourite is still the Mac SE/30 – truly the best ever Mac – incredibly fast and powerful. I also had one of the first Mac Powerbook laptops, which the toddler version of this blog's owner (at left) pulled off a table under which she was crawling around. Amazingly, both the computer and the external hard drive survived and worked, both wrapped to varying degrees in duct tape.

featherstoreMy strategy has been to keep all of these Macs in use for as long as possible, until they died. The CRT (that’s cathode ray tube) on my first Mac 128k fizzled out when the circuitry blew and smoke literally came out the top, while it was being used in the field in 1991, on the remote islands of St. Kilda (seen at right), where we used it for data entry.

I have been loyal to Apple through the company's good times and bad. Most people using iPhones won’t even know about the bad times, back in the 1990s, when  Apple users bemoaned the lack of market share of these marvellous,  expensive products, and were worried that the company would go under.

So, you might expect that as an Apple fan, that I would have jumped on iPhones and iPads. I did buy many versions of the iPod, from one of the early hard drive models, which kept on breaking down, to the Solid State Drive (SSD) versions, like the 3rd generation iPod Nano – the latter are amazing and tough. Plus they come in nice colours…

BUT, I don’t have an iPhone, and I will actively avoid getting one. I prefer my brilliant “dumb” phone, which after being launched 4 years ago, is still being discovered... and appreciated.


On the other hand, I have been test-driving an iPad Mini for the last 6 months, and have concluded that it IS a useful piece of technology. My next blog is about why it sometimes pays to be a(n informed and deliberate) laggard when it comes to adopting technology.

Dawn Bazely