The Agony of Victory.
The late 1970s and early 1980s were the Permian Era of the personal computer. Fern-filled forests were crowded with darting Timexes, lumbering TRS-80s, and roaring Commodore 64s. Weird evolutionary dead ends like the lungfish Mattel Aquarius and the fur-bearing, egg-laying Coleco ADAM slithered through the undergrowth. From the mass extinctions of the early '80s emerged two survivors.
The first to market was the PC, from IBM. It's easy to fault an old DOS machine for its command-line interface if you're a whippersnapper, but back in the early '80s, everything had a command-line interface. Looking at the almost-suitcase-size bunker-shaped beige sheet metal box, one can almost hear some guy in a blue suit and a buzzcut saying "Those hippies in Cupertino are making a mint shipping little home computers. We need a slice of this pie. Whip something up." and three guys in identical blue suits and buzz cuts replying "We're on it, chief!"
Meanwhile, one of those hippies in Cupertino was obsessively pushing for an "appliance computer"; a computer with a transparent Graphical User Interface (GUI, pronounced like bubblegum on hot blacktop) that required no memorization of arcane commands; one that was cute and non-threatening. He wanted a computer that would have a place in every home. Thus was born the Apple Macintosh.
The problem was, there was nothing to do with a computer in every home. Mom didn't need a simple GUI to sort recipes, because she still had index cards and a pen. Dad didn't need some hippie computer that smiled at him when he started it up to work on spreadsheets from the office. And the kids didn't need a mouse to play Oregon Trail, especially when that mouse was attached to a machine that cost more than a two year old Honda Accord. (The original Mac cost $2,495. If you were making minimum wage in 1984, you would have had to work for five months to buy a Mac. If you didn't pay taxes. Or eat.) Lacking a killer application left the "appliance computer" wandering in the market wilderness. Steve Jobs, the hippie behind it all, was run out of Apple on a metaphorical rail.
Meanwhile, the clunky PC had two things going for it. First, IBM opened the architecture to anyone with opposable thumbs and a lemonade stand. With its BIOS painted on billboards, it took clone makers six months to reverse engineer the PC and six years to darn near knock IBM out of the home computer market with a deluge of better, cheaper clones. Second, the vast, beige case was nothing but a hollow box of expansion slots. If dad brought one home from work and turned his back for fifteen minutes, junior would hot-rod the thing with better graphics cards, sound cards, a joystick, and a modem, and be swapping pirated games on dial-up bulletin boards faster than you could say "Killer App".
For the next decade or so, tech geeks (read "gamers") flocked to the PC platform. Meanwhile, Macintosh was number one in the fields dominated by people who didn't want to have to use a computer in the first place: Artists, musicians, educators, writers... in short, hippies. They loved their machines, anthropomorphized them, and the more market share Apple lost, the more fiercely loyal they became.
In the early '90s, after mildly successful ripoffs of Apple's GUI, Microsoft went whole hog and launched Windows 95, which was a blatant enough copy of the Mac OS experience that even Stevie Wonder could see that Redmond had just moved the task bar to the bottom of the screen and the icons to the left side. One of those icons was very nearly the end of Apple, because the launch of the new Windows and its bundled Internet Explorer software coincided with the Killer App that the "appliance computer" had needed all along: The World Wide Web.
Now everyone had a use for a computer: Mom could forward glurge email spam to the whole family tree. Junior could play Quake against other nose-pierced losers around the globe. Dad could download porn 'til his right hand fell off at the wrist. Apple was on the ropes.
Mac loyalists became deranged. Why were these people buying Wintel machines? Couldn't they see that the OS was just a bad ripoff of their beloved Mac? Mac newsgroups paused their incessant font-swapping to paint a picture of "Windoze" users that was as bizarrely schizophrenic and mutually contradictory as the one Democratic Underground posters paint of Dubya. On the one hand they were pocket protector-wearing tech geeks who didn't care about the soul, the gestalt, the experience of using a computer and only worried about cold hard specs and benchmarks. At the same time, they were technically-illiterate bubbas and bubbettes, blind to the obvious hardware and software superiority of the Mac in every way that counted.
Just as the end seemed nigh for Apple, the chief hippie was brought back to Cupertino to see if he could work that old magic one more time. Boy howdy. From the iMac to OS X to iTunes to the iPod to the iPhone, Apple has moved from strength to strength since then. Lured in by a really neat looking box, or a Walkman with a hard drive, or the slickest-looking cell phone to inspire gadget lust since Maxwell Smart dialed his shoe, folks came for the flash, and stayed for the computers. Apple has finally become... mainstream.
The reaction from the faithful, the ones who manned the bunker through the lean years, is actually kind of funny. Like folks who discovered REM or U2 when they were still underground, they're almost resentful of the newfound success of their object of worship. I guess finding out that grandma bought an iPod at the Apple store at the mall is kind of like hearing your favorite college station indie rock group doing tunes for Chevy commercials; suddenly you don't feel very exclusive anymore. And when your whole identity, from your "Think Different" bumper sticker to your Apple tattoo, has been built around being one of the elect, an avant garde rebel, finding yourself suddenly in the mainstream can be something of a... bummer, dude.