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PC vs. Mac now vs. PC and Mac then

In its latest ad, Apple is taking a poke at old Windows versions. Let's look at Apple, shall we?

In one of Apple's latest TV ads featuring the omnipresent Mac (Justin Long) and PC (John Hodgman), we see PC going retro. It's actually a cute ad as PC regresses back in time with various incarnations of himself through the years, each time promising that a particular version of Windows won't suck. "Trust me," he says. Sure thing, PC. And nice wig.

But since we're going retro, maybe we should look at a few of Apple's ads from around the time PC and Mac apparently met (according to the ad): the '90s.

For those who don't remember Apple's advertisements from then, I offer a collection of some of the most sucktastic ads Apple has ever had (remember Think Different? Yeah, me too). Enjoy them. You can thank me later.

First up: The 20th anniversary Macintosh. Remember this one? The computer cost more than some cars at the time and was woefully underpowered. But it was the first Apple desktop to come with an LCD screen, so that's, you know, something.

Here, Apple says, "You see, if you're not like anyone else (you're not!) then you should use a computer that's not like anything else. Can you see our logic? It's plain! Buy a Mac!" Or something. I was never sure what the point of these was.

But of course the flagship Mac was the PowerBook. At the time, notebooks were blowing up. To create interest in its product, Apple's PowerBook ads featured copy touting how the MacOS was easier to use than Windows. This ad may have helped some Mac users feel more sure of their anti-Windows ways.

But then Apple started losing the OS wars. In the mid-'90s, Apple introduced a series of Macs with a DOS card. The DOS card allowed the Mac to run both MacOS and Windows. This was to expand its market to the "it's not compatible" crowd. Of course, Apple still said MacOS was better, but in this ad, the Mac's ability to run both OSes is highlighted directly.

I remember Mac enthusiasts were upset with that commercial, seeing it as the first sign Apple might throw in the towel and start making expensive PCs. A machine running Windows is not a Mac, they said. There were even rumors that the next Macs would run Windows-only, something that kept some diehards up late. But it was the next ad that really caused concern on message boards and bulletin board services.

There it is, their worst fears confirmed: a Mac is shown, but as far as the OS goes, it's only Windows, including the Windows 95 MSDOS icon. So looking back at this transition and then looking at the above ad we have to wonder: what would a Mac and PC ad have looked like back in the day when Apple was pushing the Mac's ability to run Windows?

I'm guessing it would look very different indeed.