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Blast San Francisco Bureau

I was all set to buy one of those sleek, new Sony desktops this summer until my snooty Mac-owning friends battered me with an unrelenting, month-long guilt trip. "Hey, when the computer breaks down or you can't figure out how to install something, don't come crying to me," one devout Mac lover pouted. "Don't give in to the pressure!" implored another.

But dammit. That Sony PC was a beauty. With a 200-MHz Pentium processor (blazing fast at the time) to boot! For months, every Sunday morning, I woke up, dug out the CompUSA ad from the Sunday paper, and just sat there and lustfully stared at my future Wintel machine.

Naturally, my Mac friends felt betrayed. They mocked me. Scolded me. Word spread at 6 gazillion-MHz that I was on the verge of becoming a heathen. At a party, one friend -- who I didn't even know owned a Mac -- approached me the minute I walked into the bar. "You want a PC. There's going to be new software called Virtual PC that emulates a PC on a Mac," he said. "So, you stay with a Macintosh, OK?" Jeez, I thought, what does it matter to you what computer I use? I told him I'd mull it over.

Don't get me wrong. I've always been faithful to Apple, but now I was disillusioned. Our relationship started off with a bang 13 years ago in high school with my very first computer: the Apple IIe with that ugly, green monitor. (Why study for the Algebra test when you can play Ultima IV?) Then I happily graduated to the black-and-white Mac Classic in college and the LC520 -- my first color Mac -- right around the time of my first full-time job.

But things began to go downhill a few years ago when I bought the problem-plagued PowerBook 5300cs. You know, the one with the battery that burst into flames? Mine didn't catch fire, but I had to send it into repairs twice because the monitor kept falling apart. (The screen was glued to the monitor with something resembling white tape.)

Add the fact that Apple was bleeding money this summer, company executives were jumping ship on what seemed like a weekly basis and computer analysts were prophesizing that Apple was dead. And combine that with those cool-looking Intel commercials with the dancing Bunny People and you've got one seriously depressed Mac lover who's thinking that "Intel Inside" might not be that bad of an idea after all.

I told all this to my PowerBook-owning friend Robert, a wise, 40-something newspaper reporter. "I use a notebook PC at work and Windows 95 is just as good as the Mac OS. You can't tell the difference anymore," I whined to him. "I think those computer analysts are right. Apple is dead. How can Apple survive when corporate America only buys PCs?"

He patiently heard my spiel. But waved me off.

"Macs have never been popular in the corporate world. The corporate mentality requires regimentation and mediocrity. That's why Windows dominates," he said. "Macs are like Porsches. They inspire affection, they inspire dreams."

"How many companies buy Porsches for their employees to tool around in? None, they'd rather have us driving around in Escorts or Tauruses," he added. "Don't buy into the corporate mentality, which is naturally anti-Apple. You'll lose your dreams."

I thought about that for a few weeks. I stared at my Apple LaserWriter. At my Apple digital camera. At the happy smiling computer icon that greeted me every time I launched Mac OS on my PowerBook. They gave me that warm, fuzzy feeling inside. I suddenly felt loyal to Apple again. Heck, I thought, the new PowerBooks are supposed to be great machines. Who cares if I have to spend a little more?

A few weeks later, I bought a PowerBook 3400c and have no regrets, especially after having my work computer -- a Micron notebook -- crash on me recently. It seemed to happen in slow motion: I launched the computer, watched Windows 95 load for a few seconds and suddenly, it started beeping, and I got a C: prompt.

I was terrified. As a Mac user, I had no clue what to do with a C: prompt. I think it has something to do with a computer language called DOS, but I'm not sure. You see, Mac people don't have to worry about shit like C: prompts.

"What the hell did you do?" asked Spanky, our mean, little information systems manager.

"I didn't do a thing," I said. (I didn't!)

He grumbled, took my Micron into his little office, performed open heart surgery, and gave it back to me in a few hours. He went home, while I wrote up a story for my editor in New York. When I dialed into our ancient computer system in the East Coast, the stupid computer said my PC modem wasn't correctly installed.

Apparently, whatever caused my computer to throw its temper tantrum earlier also caused my PC modem to uninstall. Having installed a modem on my Mac in a matter of minutes, I was fairly confident I could quickly get this modem up and running. So I started pointing and clicking and pressed, "dial." Nothing happened. I did more pointing and clicking and pressed, "dial" a few more times. Nothing. Two hours later, I wanted to pound the Micron on the wall and break it in half across my knees. When I calmed down, I drove home and filed my story using my trusty PowerBook.

The world would be a happier place if everyone used Macs.

As for the company, things still are bleak. Apple's market share had dwindled from 7.7% last year to about 4.4% this year. But with co-founder Steve Jobs returning to head the company at least on an interim basis, things have gotten better. On top of the expected $45 million in profits this quarter, Jobs launched the ultra-cool "Think Different" ad campaign that appeals to the Mac faithful, creative professionals and education markets. The new Power Macintosh G3 computers are popular and selling well and companies are making an effort to make software on the Apple platform once again. Jobs has given us Mac fanatics something we've been dreaming of for years: We again feel good about owning Macs. And we now have hope for Apple's future.