Oh, remember back when. I’m not speaking to all of you at this point. Only folks like Rob and I. We who started our very first foray into the the cultural shift of home computing with our very first computer, back in 1992. An APPLE.

Back then Apple was just a very minor player – minuscule in fact. We might not have invested in a computer that had almost no software available for it had it not been for an award from an employer that was in the form of this tiny little lap top. This laptop was so small the HARD DRIVE was just 40 MB. I think I might have e-mail files with attachments that large!

This was when the Internet was new and e-mail with sophisticated attachments, Java script, pdf files, video blogs, hell – blogs themselves – none of those existed.

We liked our little apple. Grandpa rough was amazed at what it could do, and by comparison to today’s computer in our home, it couldn’t do squat. It essentially was a glorified word processor. But, we marveled none the less. As time passed we soon joined the throngs of consumers who flocked to technology shows (do they even have these anymore?) and perused isles of CompUSA (also out of existence) and shopped for computers. There was no “Apple store”. Apple’s share of the market was so small as to practically make it an ‘underground’ market.

You had to search to find the hard ware, and search equally hard to find compatible software. Our friends who had all only recent discovered home computing and the proliferation of the PC scratched their heads as we attempted to explain why we were reluctant to jump on this same band wagon. We liked our Apple. It was different, it was innovative it was “intuitive”.

While our friends called us for technical assistance, most of which left us perplexed as it sounded like a different language – we wondered why everyone didn’t have an Apple. They were so simple, they required none of this in depth, challenging-for-the-day installations and worse, de-installations and viruses were only just becoming a new scary idea.

Apples were immune.

Now, nearly 20 years later. Our wish has come true. Well, mostly. Not “everybody” has an Apple. But, one by one, we’ve seen friends and family convert to the way of thinking that embraces a product that is simpler, more intuitive to use, is genius in the area of multi-media manipulation and this was all before the advent of Itunes and the like. Companion products like iPods and iPhones and now the ill-named iPad, all have created a cascade and exponential effect that no one could have imagined.

So, now it’s a different world. We all speak the same language when we talk about “apps” and “syncing”. And, that’s good. But, I’m wondering if the thing that I liked most about my apple, that intangible that I was never able to identify until now, has gone away.

That would be I was “unique”.

I wasn’t necessarily smarter than anybody. I wasn’t a visionary, or a psychic. I wasn’t a braniac or any other manner of genius that allowed me to float above anyone else, but — I was different. I felt like I was part of a secret club that no one else knew about. We had a secret handshake.

In groups and discussions when folks were belaboring the challenges that came with home computing. The constant barrage of updates and outdates, incompatible peripherals, networking issues, crashes and rebuilt motherboards, and on-and-on. We sought out the members of the parties that didn’t seem to be jumping in on the bitch-fest and we would meet eyes. We’d grin and know – that we had identified another one. A minority like we who knew we didn’t experience most of these issues. We just had a computer that plugged in, with printers and other devices that also just plugged in and it all worked. No drama. No problem.

Those days are gone. At least the exclusive club part. And as a result, Apple is no better a company. It’s now a behemoth that attempts to continue to capitalize and exploit it’s “cult” status. Like it’s still a secret club that cool people belong to. Um. Not so much. With half a million iPads alone sold in the first month, the numbers Apple moves in hardware is staggering.

It’s more and more difficult for them to portray themselves as the picked-on underdog of the computing world. Their Rodney Dangerfield bit of not getting any ‘respect’ has worn thin.

I’m reminded of this now when my iPhone won’t do a simple thing like send text messages to more than 10 people like my 3-generation-ago sanyo phone could do. Somehow when talking to the tech support people at apple, it’s not the same friendly corner-store kind of experience it used to be.

In fact. I want to reach through the phone – grab the 20 something on the other end and scream, “I’ve been supporting this line of products and company since you were in diapers!!!”. Somehow that wouldn’t quite be satisfying though. Like Barbara Mandrell used to sing.. I was Apple, when Apple wasn’t cool… (isn’t that how that song goes?).

Now, if Apple could find a way to identify the TRUE Apple fans, the originals, and give those folks the same cult feeling they had when they pulled their first 40 MB hard drive lap tops out of the card board box in 1992. Now, that would be something.