Apple II companies are people

November 14th, 2016 3:15 PM
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Filed under Musings;
3 comments.

I engage in as much online commerce as I do offline. Whether I'm buying a hot chocolate at the local coffee shop or going to the movies to see the latest Marvel movie, or I'm buying a book on Amazon.com or a mobile app from Apple, I don't personally know the people handling my transaction. We're polite to each other and treat each other with respect — as any decent human being should — but we don't take the time to address each other by name or inquire as to each other's wellbeing. Once the transaction is complete, the interaction is concluded and the relationship ends.

The Apple II industry is different. The size of each company is proportionate to the size of the community — that is, small. While my credit card receipts may show me to have patronized such companies as RetroConnector, a2RetroSystems, and Manila Gear (to name a few), I never saw it that way. Rather, I was supporting Charles Mangin, Glenn Jones, and Jon Co & John Valdezco. Each of these technical geniuses have long been members of the Apple II community, supporting it not just with their inventions (off which they rarely, if ever, profit), but with their camaraderie on IRC and Twitter and at KansasFest. Through their long commitment to the platform and their people, they've earned our trust, friendship, and patronage.

This reputation isn't reserved to the privileged few who are able to make their way to KansasFest and meet these vendors; for example, Glenn Jones and Jon Co have yet to make their way from Canada and Australia to our Midwest convention. Given our geographic diversity, a lot of community-building is instead accomplished online. For my part, it's not enough to let the Juiced.GS store's automatic receipts be a new customer's first impression. I personally email each new subscriber to ask them how they came to our publication and what their history with the Apple II is. You can say that I'm doing so to build customer retention or to scout potential content contributors — and you wouldn't be wrong. But that alone would not be enough. I cherish my quarterly mailing parties where I get to see the name on each mailing label and recall the stories of each person this community has introduced me to.

I've grown so accustomed to these personal interactions that, when I have the opposite experience within the Apple II community, it's noticeable and jarring. Such is the case with 8bitdo's recent Kickstarter to create the AP40, an Apple II-themed game controller with Apple II-compatible wireless receiver. While I was excited by the prospects of the hardware, I was surprised to see it come from an organization our community had never heard of. I've since exchanged several emails with the AP40's creators, but I never once had my inquisitiveness or enthusiasm reciprocated. When I mentioned possibly reviewing their hardware for Juiced.GS, they glossed over it; their emails are always signed with their company's name, not an individual's; the campaign had few progress updates; and the pitch video featured none of the talent responsible for the product. They seem utterly uninterested in the Apple II community or being a part of it.

If this were Amazon.com, a coffee shop, or Apple, I wouldn't bat an eye at such behavior; it'd be expected. But in the Apple II community, AP40's outsider status and indifference is unmistakeable. I was so disappointed and dissatisfied that I ultimately requested that my Kickstarter pledge be cancelled [see comments below for more details]. Maybe I'm a snob for refusing to associate with those outside some Apple II "inner circle". But I was always taught to "support those who support the Apple II" — and support takes many forms.

Friends for life

June 30th, 2011 10:01 AM
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Filed under Musings;
1 comment.

As I faced one of life's challenges, someone told me, "[I] am glad that you have some very good friends to help." Although it was a sincere sentiment, I was nonetheless amused at its obviousness: the comment came from an Apple II user — and "being an Apple II user" and "having very good friends" go hand-in-hand, making any challenge surmountable.

When Ryan Suenaga passed away … as strange as those words still are to type … the community grieved. Sentiments from his best friends to those who had met him only once were universal in their sympathy and support. One person who never had the pleasure of meeting my favorite Hawaiian even commented, "It's easy to see that he was a great person and meant a lot to everyone." Knowing how much Ryan meant to everyone accentuates his loss, but it also affirms the value of the life he led and his contributions to our community.

It's not just empathy that communities are valuable for; it's providing a critical mass with which to turn that emotion into action. It's how the @rsuenaga scholarship fund was established. And it's an attribute I took advantage of in my own recent challenge.
road forks clingman ave
I lately found myself paralyzed at a crossroads, one that I knew would not impact my ability to participate in and enjoy the Apple II community, but one which nonetheless would significantly define my immediate future. I had to take action, but before I could, I did what anyone would do: I turned to friends. I called KansasFest attendees I'd never called before. I emailed Juiced.GS staff writers, asking if we could swap our professional relationship for a personal one, just long enough for me to get some advice. I identified people throughout the community whose previous challenges, sense of adventure, long friendships, or plain old geography would give them unique and applicable insights into my situation.

To a one, no Apple II user let me down. The support and feedback I got from each was more helpful than any of the three spreadsheets I compiled that outlined the variables, importance, and consequences of my decision. (What else would you expect a geek to do?) Every friend listened patiently to my blathering. Some listened; some asked questions; others gave answers. Some even offered to rearrange their lives to help me rearrange mine. All helped me choose a direction and start moving.

You'll say that this is just what friends do, and you're right: not everyone who helped me was an Apple II user or was even able to comprehend our fascination with this archaic machine. But for all the years a person can spend making friendships through school, work, dating, or sports, few friendships have proven as immediate or durable as those which come from being an Apple II user.

You guys are the best.