A Brief Interview With James and John of the RetroMacCast – a Podcast Devoted to Older Apple and Macintosh Computers

In the world of podcasts, there are many choices, especially when it comes to shows centered around technology (and even more so centered on Apple technology), but very few of these podcasts would ever talk about the Macintosh Quadra 660AV, the Apple Lisa, or the Performa 5200.

That’s just one reason the RetroMacCast (iTunes Link) stands out. Each week, James and John sit down and discuss Apple news, unique eBay auctions (like a pallet of Color Classics and PowerBook Duos), and the “Retro Mac of the Week.”

That last bit is what brings me back, week after week. James and John take a particular model (last week it was the Macintosh SE) and talk about it’s specifications, available upgrades, common problems, and any personal experience they have with the model – and since between the two of them, they own somewhere around 200 Macs, they’ve touched almost every single machine Apple has ever produced.

Needless to say, I was thrilled when James and John agreed to an interview. Here it is:

ForkBombr: Lots of people love technology, but few people like old tech. What drives you to spend time with computers that are (at best) difficult to use in a world of cloud computing, iPhones, and high-speed Internet connections?

James: For me it is nostalgia first and foremost.  My dad collected and loved cars because he grew up during great years in automotive history.  For me, I grew up during the birth of the computer industry.  While I had some experience with many different makes of computer from an early age, my fascination truly took root when my dad purchased an Apple //e for the family.  While I  only owned a handful of Apple computers over the years, I was always aware of the different models and the capabilities each had.  Since most people quickly move to the latest and greatest, the obsolete get discarded, and collectors like myself get to own and play with computers which had been previously out of reach.

John: The main thing about using my old systems is the sense of nostalgia they invoke. Using my Apple IIe or gs takes me back to my early experiences with computers. Even though by today’s standards these systems seem laughable, I still remember the awe I felt the first time I wrote a program in basic or used a mouse. It’s no different than people who like old cars. Sure the newer cars are faster, and flashier, but there’s still something about the old ones that draws people to them.

FB: Do you think that Apple Computer and Apple, Inc. are different companies? If they are different, how so? Is one better than the other?

James: No, I don’t think they are different.  Most important to me is the spirit of innovation and the goal to make technology for the rest of us. Computers have and will continue to evolve.  From kits, to desktops, to computers you can carry in your pocket, computing will continue to take different forms.  As long as Apple continues to harness the latest and greatest technology and bring it to me in a fun and accessible way, they will still be Apple with or without “computer” in their name.

John: I never really stopped to think about it. Back when it was Apple Computer it was still a company trying to figure out what it was doing. I guess Apple, Inc is the grown up version of Apple. The price they paid for this maturity is that they’ve lost some of the fun.

FB: As the Mac has become more mainstream in the last 5–10 years (with the advent of OS X, especially), do you think that being a Mac owner has changed?

James: Yes, it has changed.  For quite a few years, Mac owners were a dwindling population. Finally, it is cool to be a Mac user (again). I had given up singing the praises of the Mac many years ago, but now, I find myself talking to potential Mac users all the time.  I enjoy my Macs because they make me enjoy computing, and I’m happy to help others enjoy computing for the first time.

John: Even though there are a lot more of us, I still think that there is a great sense of community between Mac owners.

FB: If you had to pick one Mac that stands out above the rest in importance what would it be (and why)? What about in design?

James: That is a tough question because there have been many standout Macs over the years. Since the last question brought up Apple’s turnaround, I’ll give much of that credit to the iMac, a Mac that stands out.  The iMac actually recaptured much of the spirit of the original Macintosh with its all-in-one design and emphasis on simplicity.  For the original Mac, it was simplicity of use.  For the iMac, it was simplicity of Internet access. The iMac design not only changed the way computers were designed, but it influenced all of industrial design.  The iMac helped save Apple and continues to set the standard for the family computer.

John: Oooooh, tough one. I’m going to say the iMac. It’s what started the revitalization of Apple, jarring it out of beleaguered status. The design of the iMac was a wonderful update to the simplicity of the all-in-one computer that was the original Mac

FB: What does the future of the podcast hold?

James: The future holds more of the past!  We shall continue to explore the products, people, and stories that contributed to the rich history of the Macintosh and Apple.  I hope to have more interviews and how-to segments.  When we started two years ago, I would have never guessed we would produce over 100 episodes.  All I have to do is walk around my personal Mac museum, and I can come up with 100 more.

John: More retro fun!