Continuing Macworld’s A-Z of all things Apple for your alphabetical pleasure
Battery Keep up to date with your email, impress Dell users in Starbucks, or replace your desktop entirely – these are just some of the fine things that an Apple laptop can do for you. One of the things you don’t want your trusty portable device to do is burst into flames. At the very least it’s embarrassing having to throw your laptop into the air, jumping around screaming like Steve Ballmer, as it crackles and pops with flames licking the screen. At its worst you might have neither a lap nor a top. The PowerBook 5300 was the butt of many laptop insider jokes after some of its new lithium ion batteries caught fire on the assembly line. The phrase ‘battery life’ took on a whole new meaning.
Beige Remember when all computers were beige? Apple may have started the trend with the Apple II, but it was the millions of IBM-compatible PCs that bred the boring beige box. Beige just fitted in with the dull, brown offices of the 1970s and the common colour stuck. The first Macs were also beige – Pantone 453 to be precise – but in 1987 Apple switched to a greyer colour it optimistically called Platinum, although it was really just light beige. That all changed with 1998’s translucent Bondi Blue iMac, which redefined almost everything about the personal computer.
BeOS Apple struggled for years to build its own brand-spanking-new operating system, starting in 1987 but throwing in the towel in 1996. Eventually the company decided to just buy an existing better operating system from someone else and make it work on Macs. One of the prime candidates was the BeOS, a new multimedia system that ticked all the boxes Apple wanted for its new OS. It had all the long-winded system thingamajigs that Apple had failed to pull together itself – symmetric multiprocessing, pervasive multithreading, preemptive multitasking and 64-bit journaling – and even worked on the same PowerPC processors as the latest Macs. Better yet Be was founded by Jean-Louis Gassée, who had once been head of Apple’s advanced product development and worldwide marketing. It appeared to be a match made in heaven.
The only problem was that Gassée wanted more money for his fledgling BeOS than Apple was willing to part with. Apple originally bid $120m, then $200m, but Gassée demanded $400m. Apple instead bought NeXT for $429m (£270m), when it threw in original founder Steve Jobs as part of the package. The rest, as they say, is history.
Bicycle We’re all used to calling our Apple PCs ‘Macs’, even though it’s a pretty random name taken from a type of apple and then misspelled to avoid litigation. But would we be so at ease talking about our Apple Bicycles, installing Bicycle OS X or reading Bicycleworld? That’s right, for a short hushed moment in time Steve Jobs considered calling the Mac project ‘Bicycle’. Gulp. Steve considered personal computers “bicycles for the mind,” and he demanded that the Macintosh name be dropped. Luckily for all of us, the engineers refused.
Boing Mac OS X might look lovely but it sounds rather dull. Back in the carefree days of System 7 Apple gave us a bunch of silly sounds for alert noises. Many had onomatopoeic names like Clink-Clank, Wild Eep, Uh Oh, Bip, and, for the purposes of this list, Boing.
Bondi Blue The rather odd colour (RGB: 0, 149, 182) that changed the world, named after the clear waters of Australia’s Bondi Beach – where the company now has its own Apple Store. Bondi is an Aboriginal word meaning either “water breaking over rocks” or “a place where a flight of nullas took place”.
Bounce When you open an application its icon bounces in the Mac’s Dock while it launches. The longer the bouncing goes on, though, the more annoying it becomes. For example, you need to check your emails at the start of the day and after you start up your Mac you blearily click on Microsoft Entourage. The little purple ‘e’ icon jumps up and down like a kid on a trampoline, and then keeps doing so while you regret not making a cup of tea in the process. Watching that kettle boil would be more productive than sitting waiting for Entourage to get on with it and display your emails. You start to will the icon to bounce a little faster – maybe even a little higher. But most annoying of all is the attention-seeking bouncing icon that wants you to do something (usually install yet another update to Acrobat Reader). This bouncing can carry on for hours if you don’t attend to the needy app, tempting you to bang your own head repeatedly into the ceiling. Bouncing is meant to be fun, not a constant nagging nudge in the ribs.
Buttons While it pioneered the use of the mouse with personal computers – the Apple Lisa and then Mac were the first mass-produced systems to come standard with a mouse – Apple has consistently been attacked for being so damn minimalist with the handy pointing device. For over 20 years Apple’s mouse had just one button, while everyone else’s ended up with more than one hand could physically press – possessing more buttons than the outfitters of the Chinese Red Army.
Clearly under severe duress – and possibly while Steve Jobs was on holiday – Apple eventually partially relented, with grudging invisible right clicks and clickable scroll wheels, but today’s Magic Mouse is a clear example of the company’s hatred of mouse clutter.
Buzz Ever owned a Power Mac G5? Then you know what I’m talking about.
Next month we take a predictable turn to… C, for Cupertino, Clones and Cyberdog.
Read our complete Apple A-Z: the alphabetical history of Apple