Mac at 25: Readers reminisce
CNET readers write about their most vivid memories of the groundbreaking Macintosh.
As the Mac celebrates its 25th birthday, we asked CNET readers to send us stories of their most vivid memories of the groundbreaking computer. Here are some of the stories we received.
Mac as typesetter
I was working at an ad agency and had just left a client who was complaining bitterly about the high cost of typesetting changes on his catalog. The agency's typesetter was a $100,000 state-of-the-art unit that was an art director's dream but could not manage a simple change from page 23 to page 34.
On the way back to the agency, I stopped in to see a friend who was working at a computer shop. "You've got to see the new Apple Macintosh," he declared. He proceeded to show me a little box with the cool mouse...and page make-up software that could lift changes from page 23 to page 34 with two mouse clicks. The cost? About $2,500. I raced back to the agency to talk to our vice president of print production. "I have seen the future and its name is Mac," I declared.
His reply? "Nah, computers will never deliver production-quality type." Five years later, Macs were everywhere and the $100,000 typesetter was a doorstop.
A call from Steve Jobs himself
So, it's 2000 and I've just purchased my third Mac, an insanely cool and insanely expensive G4 Cube with a 15" flat panel to match. Only my new computer, designed to be as much art as a tool, has what appear to be cracks in its see-through case. This displeases me greatly.
Much frustrating back-and-forth with Apple's tech support ensues, including skeptical dismissals and promises of replacements that never materialize.
In a fit of pique, I fax a letter to Steve Jobs and Fred Anderson demanding satisfaction. I promise to do all I can to publicize the flaws in my Cube--which it turns out were a systemic problem--and time my effort to coincide with Apple's upcoming earnings announcement so it will do maximum damage. Catharsis achieved.
To my surprise, I get a call from someone at Apple claiming to be from "executive relations." They offer to replace my machine. Sure, I say. That's all I want. Case closed, I think.
It's a Sunday morning several days later. I was out the night before; I am barely awake and not particularly perky. My cell phone rings. In this corner of San Francisco, I get horrible cell service. The caller identifies himself through the static: "Hi, this is Steve Jobs."
"It's Steve Jobs and I'm calling about the letter you sent me."
I wait for the laugh track to start or my housemate to come out from behind the door holding his phone and snickering.
"If you're not happy, you can just send the computer back and we'll give you a refund."
"Um, okay, but you guys already offered to replace it."
"We did? OK, and is that doing it for you? Are you happy with it?"
Still struggling to accept what's happening, I mutter something about being satisfied.
"Good, cause it's a great computer," says Jobs. And then he's gone.
My new machine arrives a week later. It's got the same cracks in the same places. I give up.
Pui-Wing Tam of The Wall Street Journal writes a story about my experience. I give Jobs credit for caring enough to call a customer at home. I don't mention that I wimped out when I talked to him. The story gets picked up far and wide. Nobody really believes it.
That Cube survived until 2004, much modified, but always loved. Then, in a puff of acrid blue smoke, it died a horrible death. I still have its lifeless corpse.
A wish granted
When I was 18 (1990) and entering my freshman year of college, I was diagnosed with cancer, had just lost all kidney function, and was living on dialysis. I learned about a great organization called The Make-a-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to sick children. I wished for a Mac IIcx, and my wish was granted. After getting the machine, I returned to college on dialysis, and my cancer went into remission. I started a business in college doing resumes for others on my Mac. I was one of the very few students who had an actual computer in their dorm room.
When I graduated in 1994, I received a kidney transplant and met my wife in an AOL chatroom. I am 37 now, healthy, have two wonderful children and an amazing wife. My Mac changed my life.
No regrets over a lusty Performa
In the late '80s as a little kid I remember going to Macy's with my parents to shop and I would always stop by the electronics department. I used to admire the computers they had--especially the Apple machines; there was something that made them stand out. I grew up and didn't pay much attention to computers until, one day, I decided I wanted a computer, so I went to P.C. Richard & Son and fell in love with a Performa 6116cd. It was pricey, but I just loved the way it looked, and the operating system was so easy to use and quite elegant in my opinion. When I looked at the price I had a second thought, but my lust over this beautiful computer took over and I purchased it with a credit card owned by my dad. I remember I must have paid for that computer at least four years. With the interest, I think I ended up paying about four grand, but I do not regret it one bit.
Richmond Hill, N.Y.
Filling a niche
Back in 1984 I went from being an unemployed kid with no future to a Macintosh programmer at a major college. The engineering department had been working on a networking project for home computers because staff members were purchasing them to avoid using the mainframe. There was a smorgasbord of various "microcomputers" on the market back then, and nobody really knew which one was going to take off, if any.
The professor in charge of the project was having difficulty getting students interested in working on the project. The problem was further complicated by the fact that the Macintosh had just come out and it had no terminal emulator software, which was needed to attach to his "network." The network he was working on was really more like a BBS system, if you can remember those things. Anyway, he told my brother all of this at the church they both belonged to. My brother told him about a terminal emulator program I had written from my TRS-80 at home, so a week or so later I was working at the best job I ever had.
West Chester, Penn.
Finding first love with Lisa
I got my first Mac a long time ago--so long in fact that it wasn't even called a Mac; it was a Lisa. Apparently Mac was to be the business model and the Lisa was the home model. Well, after a few months of using my Lisa in my parents' bedroom, we got the notice from Apple that they were recalling the Lisa and they would replace it with the Mac Plus (we opted for the 1MB external hard drive that was the exact dimension of the computer so it could be used as a stand for the Plus.) Since then, I have worked my way through a Mac Plus, a Mac II, a Mac IIci, the first color laptop that Mac released, and after a brief, and regrettable venture into the realm of PCs, I am back with my MacBook. Which is my favorite? What can I say? They keep getting better and better.
Who needs a keyboard?
I bought my first Macintosh, a Quadra 650, in the fall of 1993. Once, someone took the keyboard home overnight but left the mouse. I plugged the mouse into the Apple Desktop Bus port on the back of the computer and turned the computer on. The desktop and mouse pointer came up. I went to the Apple menu and pulled down the keyboard or keycaps application. To my surprise, I could click the letters on the on-screen keyboard and type. I then launched Microsoft Word and typed a letter that I needed to write.
What a tremendous point-and-click GUI.
A missed opportunity in Cupertino
I left design school in the winter of 1974 and came to San Francisco. I signed with an agent who convinced me to go freelance so I could concentrate on graphic design and the "Big Idea" while she brought in the business.
Her first project referral to me was a packaging job with an eccentric young guy in Burlingame. He had created a radio-controlled model airplane made entirely out of corrugated cardboard, and he needed some graphics help. I was to meet Jef at his home in Brisbane. He wore wrinkled khaki pants that coordinated nicely with his furry house slippers and print pajama top.
As I worked on the cardboard package at Jef's house for a few weeks, I saw the many sides of him. Neighborhood kids came in for music lessons, his radio-controlled glider club, and a magic lesson or two. Jef even had an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art showcasing the corrugated cardboard building blocks that he designed.
Finally the packaging project was finished, and as we said our good-byes, Jef asked if I wanted to come work with him in Cupertino. He had a couple of friends who were building computers and he needed a graphic designer on his team.
I lived two hours away from Cupertino, and without asking the smart questions I should have, I declined. And with that, I shrugged off the opportunity to follow Jef to his next project.
That decision would come back to me years later as my greatest missed opportunity. Jef Raskin was going to Cupertino to design the operating system for the first Macintosh computer with his friends Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. I didn't learn until much later about the fate of this most creative thinker, who touched all of us with his innovative design of the Mac's user interface, including double-clicking, pull-down menus, dragging and dropping, and icons.
San Anselmo, Calif.
Computer as community
Some of the more interesting projects were the annual MacCentral Mosaics. A sliver of an adjoining tile would be sent to someone via e-mail. The recipient had to create a tile of his/her own, based upon that sliver. Here's a link to the site showing the final result of one of the Mosaic projects. Participants hailed from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Dublin, Ireland; New Zealand; Hawaii; USA; and Canada--all brought together by their love of creating, and having fun, with their Macs. The people ranged in age from very old to very young. There were doctors, scientists, housewives, retirees, students, musicians, artists, graphic designers, web designers, photographers, a cancer researcher, a farmer, a firefighter, etc...Many of us have met in person over the years.
The community that grew up around the Mac is even more amazing than the Mac itself!
The power of OS X
I am currently a junior in college, but I will never forget my freshman year in high school, the year I discovered the Mac. I was a complete upgrade-it-yourself PC nerd when I started my freshman year in high school. I joined our school's cinematography club and was first introduced to our club's Quicksilver G4, OS X, and iMovie. I had only used OS 9 up to that point and when I saw what OS X could do I remember turning to our teacher and asking him, "What kind of computer is this?"
I couldn't believe it was an Apple. I fell in love and spent the rest of that year drooling over all of Apple's offerings online until one day in our local mall I saw it, our very own Apple Store. The staff was polite, helpful, and friendly and the idea of an on-hand Mac Genius minutes away from my house made the sell to my parents that much easier. Two PowerBooks, an iMac, and a MacBook Pro later, I work for the very company I fell in love with.
Being part of something insanely great
It was 1984, and I had started a small company in Canada, designing, manufacturing, and selling Cordura camera cases (not a very unique idea then) when the first Mac commercial--where you saw the Mac bag before the computer--sent me in a different direction. Long story short, I got in early and had a well-accepted product line selling in Canada and lucked into an invite to InCider Magazine's hospitality suite during the first Macworld Expo in San Francisco. It was held in two penthouse suites at the Sir Francis Drake with a double doorway joining the two suites: one suite held all the marketing/sales personnel and the other room was the programmers/techies. That doorway was a real "dimensional portal" if you will. When Steve Jobs entered the room (on the marketing side), you could literally feel his presence before you saw him. That was the one and only time I had the opportunity to meet him and shake his hand.
My company is long since gone, but I've always had a Mac--and just about one of each series, if not models, over the years--not as a devotee, but there was always something about most of them that was unique and better in functionality to anything a Windows machine could do. Today I still use both platforms, plus Linux, in business.
Those early days were something to be part of, where the energy and entrepreneurial spirit was contagious and you really felt that you or your idea could be part of something bigger that was destined to be insanely great.
Through a child's eyes
I have been an Apple/Mac user since 1986. Before the days of the big mega stores, the Best Buys and such, there were the little strip mall geeky/techy businesses that had very little inventory but tons of support and conversation.
One business was called "Mr. Micro" in Dallas, Texas. My son was three years old at the time. My wife, my daughter, my son, and I walked in and started to look around. I vividly recall watching my son walk up to a MS-DOS-based computer and tap around on the keyboard. There was no mouse as I recall. All he saw was a command line with a blinking cursor, otherwise a blank screen.
He then walked over to a little Apple IIGS and maneuvered the mouse to open the hard-drive. His face lit up! The GUI hooked him at such a young age. I recall seeing lawyers standing in line to use the Apple laser printer and a Classic Mac to print out all kinds of documents/proposals and such. Remember, this was before Kinko's and such.That day I spent in excess of $3,000!
The IIGS used a brutally slow (compared to today!) Motorola 68000 chipset. It came with 256K of RAM, and an additional 256K cost an extra $499! No hard drive, just 5 1/4 and 3 1/2 floppy drives, and a 16 pin dot-matrix printer that had a cool feature of sleeping until it was needed. I bought a copy of Clarisworks/Appleworks, which was a suite of basic apps. I also bought Print Shop, Quicken, and Reader Rabbit. I was in heaven! I eventually bought a custom-made (by Kensington) command center that matched the dimensions and color of the IIGS.
--Emsy Robinson II
One fine-looking document
In 1984 I worked for Four-Phase Systems in Cupertino, Calif., right across the street from Apple. My assignment was to document my company's product life cycle. My buddy had just purchased the very first Macintosh, the Mac 128K, and the ImageWriter printer. He said this little Mac could far surpass anything I had at work or at home.
This first Mac had a tiny 9-inch black and white screen, 128K of memory, no hard disk, one 400K 3.5-inch floppy drive, and a thing called a "mouse." That's it! No hard disk, no external floppy drive. The system software came on a floppy disk, as did the applications MacWrite and MacPaint.
The user interface was nothing like I had ever seen. I was accustomed to a PC running WordStar. This little Mac was nothing like a PC. While not a PC, the little Mac was not without its challenges. With so little memory and storage I had to work hard to avoid repetitive strain. "Floppy in, floppy out," again and again. My document was stored on the floppy that held the OS, as I recall. There were at least three floppies in play at all times, one with the OS and my file, one with MacWrite, and the other with MacPaint. Every time I wanted to "save," I had to eject the application floppy and insert the OS floppy repeatedly as the 128K of memory in the Mac strained to coordinate between the OS, the applications, and my paper. By far, printing was the most tedious of all efforts, requiring additional insert-eject repetitions throughout the print job. With such little memory and storage, such a task would be impossible today, but this first Mac succeeded gloriously.
Even though the Mac 128K retailed for more than $2,400, it was worth every penny. My 34-page final product "wowed" everyone. There were typefaces and graphics that none of our in-house systems could produce, and the print quality of the first ImageWriter dot-matrix printer outclassed everything. My company's policy was to produce in-house documents with their own high-end systems, but this paper was so fine it was allowed to remain as it was.
Mountain View, Calif.
A Netbook ahead of its time
I just finished crawling into my attic to unbox what perhaps was a unique machine that was ahead of its time. I speak of the Apple eMate 300 which, now that I think of it, seems like a Netbook or OLPC that was a few years ahead of its time. This tiny portable computer ran the Newton OS but featured a full keyboard and a clamshell design similar to some iBooks of the late '90s.
I used this to take notes in my first year of graduate school during 1998. From my understanding, when Steve Jobs returned to the helm at Apple, he made it clear that he hated the Newton and he quickly kicked it to the curb. I loved this device, as I was able to surf the Web (kinda, sorta) and pull e-mail (definitely) as well as store notes and documents for all of my classes.
Going on faith
In 1987 I wanted to get into desktop publishing for Founders Ministries, a nonprofit organization. I researched the options, settled on Adobe Pagemaker, Microsoft Word, and an IBM XT 286. A friend, who had recently won an award as a top IBM salesman, offered to purchase the hardware at his discount, but asked me to stop by his home first. On his desk was a Macintosh Plus. He said, "This is the computer you need." It looked like a toy, but at his recommendation, I did more research and took the plunge. Since then we have purchased over 50 Macs and I remain a die-hard Machead today.
Cape Coral, Fla.
Drawing a dream
In late December 1984 while stationed in Germany, I took my family to the U.S. Army Recreation Center at Garmisch. We went to visit an old friend of mine stationed there.
At the time I was thinking about buying a computer, and being in the Army gave me the chance to try out a variety of computers and operating systems. Trouble was, I just couldn't get into command line interfaces. Teaching myself a bit of Basic did I create a simple program for a little used PC in our office that mildly impressed my superiors but I hated the effort I had to make to get things to work. Imagine creating a bar chart by blindly entering grid coordinates to define the corners of a rectangle then rendering the image to see if you got it right! There had to be a better way.
On visiting my friend he showed me his new computer called a Macintosh. I had heard of them but hadn't considered buying one as they weren't sold in the Post Exchange. As I sat down at the little 128k Mac and took that funny mouse in my hand, I literally had an epistle (with angelic choir). I could draw a rectangle with two clicks and a wave of my hand--amazing! I was so absorbed with the thing that eventually everybody went to lunch and left me there alone on the Mac. With no more than a few words from my friend, I spent the next two hours in MacDraw making a sketch of the house that my wife and I had been talking about building. The next month I bought my first Mac (at the Canadian Post Exchange). And we did build that house largely based on that first MacDraw sketch.
Decades of freedom
When I was growing up, Apple had their "Apples for the students" program going full-swing. Every week, I had the opportunity to sit down with a 512k Macintosh and an Apple IIe with dual floppy disk drives and that lovely black-and-green monochrome screen.
I have a form of muscular dystrophy and for the first time in my life, doing schoolwork or just playing a game was a physical possibility for me thanks to those early Apple computers. They laid the foundation that brought me into the PC world, three Macs and a career in information technology. I owe Apple my livelihood and my direction in life; they opened new doors and showed me opportunities that I never saw possible.
Jump ahead 20 years and Apple gives me my dream computer, the MacBook Air and it was finally a notebook that I could carry around independently and gave me a sense of freedom that is lost of many other people. Before the MBA, a notebook was simply a slimmed down desktop for me, and now I have freedom.
I owe Apple my endless gratitude, for giving me a career and improving my life in ways that simply were not possible before my first experience with that beige, monochrome Macintosh.
Sneaking a Mac into work
In 1983, I was the "PC analyst" in the MIS department of a Silicon Valley semiconductor company. MIS bought all the PCs in the company and whoever wanted one had to justify to me why they needed it, i.e., why the MIS computers couldn't generate the reports they were looking for. I also ran what was called the "Information Center", a small team of people who taught people how to use WordPerfect, dBase II, and Lotus 123.
The woman I hired to be the word processing trainer (we had an IBM centralized word processing computer) bought a first-generation Mac and brought it in to show us. We all drooled over it. Everyone loved the mouse, the GUI, and especially all the fonts and the laser printer. We decided to create our course catalog on the Mac so that it would be eye-catching.
She had to bring her Mac in every day to work on the course catalog because there was no such thing as telecommuting back in those days. At one point she asked if the company could buy one since we were clearly using it for work purposes. No, I said. It wasn't the company standard! The IBM PC was the company standard because we wanted to offer training on a standard set of software and that was PC software. It was more efficient that way.
That goes to show you how dumb we MIS types were in those days. I suppose there was a lot of merit in having one file format for spreadsheets and word processors so that documents could be shared. But in those days, everything was printed and sent out in interoffice envelopes so file formats weren't that important. There was some merit in supporting one end-user programming language, but very few people actually created dBase II programs so that wasn't really that important. But we had set a standard and by God we were sticking to it.
The Mac software was easier to use and therefore took less training. AppleTalk was far better than any PC networking technology at the time, especially because it let you share Apple laser printers. With HP Laser printers we had to use parallel cables and switch boxes. If we really cared about users and their productivity, we would have thrown out the PC and standardized on Macs. But such was the power of those three letters "IBM" in the MIS world in 1984.
1984 - While working in Denver for the U.S. Department of the Interior, I saw a newspaper ad for a "Macintosh" (strange name for a computer) and dropped in at a small strip mall store to see it. I was impressed. Although it was simple-looking, cute, and superficially laughable, I knew the GUI approach was significant. It could walk all over the clumsy DOS competition when it came to usefulness. The next day, I went to the head of purchasing for the 500-person organization I worked for and asked him to get one. His response was, "Mac what?" It wasn't listed by the GSA and therefore couldn't be bought. I "encouraged him" to try harder and he eventually got one, which led to several more, GSA approval or not. It was a hit.
1986 - Teaching at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, CO, I was the only person in my department that had and appreciated a Mac. The rest of the faculty either didn't use computers or were DOS or Unix addicts, much smarter than the rest of us, of course. By this time, I was pretty Mac proficient and had a small lab at CSU with staff and a couple of grad students. I regularly taught courses on geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing and the new GPS technology.
1988 - There was a growing community of academic and research GIS professionals worldwide that communicated mostly via bitnet or one its offshoots, in addition to FTS (Federal Telecommunications System) phones. There was no GIS publication except for a struggling new technical journal in Britain. So, having been smitten by the Mac bug, I decided to start a GIS newsletter, 6x per year on my personal Mac 128k, complete with one floppy drive inside and one outside. External hard drives for Macs were starting to appear but I couldn't afford one. Besides, who needed one? Floppies were cheap! (In fact, Apple later loaned me both a hard drive and a Laserwriter while I was getting started).
1989 - My plan was to charge $98 a year for my newsletter, which I named "GIS World" and take no ads. Before the first issue was mailed I had almost 400 subscribers, and by the second, I had been talked into taking ads. I moved to full color after five issues, with the printing bill paid for by a MasterCard. The rest is history, as they say. By 1992, GIS World was distributed worldwide (120 countries) and I started three more GIS publications in succession: GIS Europe (UK), GIS Asia Pacific (Singapore), and Business Geographics (US). GIS World was a success and it was developed and produced solely on Macs. My peak staff of 50 people each had their own Mac, used for everything from office mail to all aspects of full color graphics, layout and publication. Between 1984 and 2009, I bought over 100 machines.
GIS World Inc. is gone now. I sold in 1994 to Pearson and it has changed hands twice since. Someone changed the name to Geoworld, not a smart move, and now its just a shadow of GIS World at its peak. The Mac allowed an inexperienced "publisher" to learn how to create successful publications from the technical content side, instead of journalism or publishing. It worked quite well but could not have gotten off the ground without the Macintosh and Apple's support. ( I have to wonder how many similar stories are out there...?)
Lake Wales, Fla.
The long walk to Mac
As a family, we were early adopters. That meant a "fat" 512K Mac in 1985, which I eventually inherited, requiring a System disk (!) to boot, coupled to a 20Mb DataFrame hard drive. Said HD was the size of 2 personal pizzas, and needed a minute or so to spin up. Upon going to college in 1990, I was presented with a Mac SE/30, something that was nice and tidy and fast. A year or so after purchase, I added memory--my first time. I wore a grounding strap...it was a big deal. I even bought a carrying case and lugged the heavy thing around on flights. Memorably, someone pointed to it at LAX and said "Mac SE," to which I replied "30!" Other elements in the family graduated to the Mac IIci, and to various versions of the Mac LC. The IIci was a speed demon, much faster than the IIcx. I remember keeping tabs on pricing throughout college, and distinctly remember NeXT (precursor to OS X) at the UCLA computer store. A good friend at college withdrew $1,000 (1989 dollars) from his Westwood, Calif., bank and walked the mile or so to the store to buy his Mac SE. He said that that was the longest walk of his life.
Don't tread on Mac
I was working at an architecture firm here in Toronto back in '91 and they were big Mac fans. We had all the latest hardware, like the FX, the fastest Mac at the time. We needed it to run AutoCad for the Mac.
Anyway, one of the partners heard about this portable Mac, and had to have it. I guess he thought it would be great to show clients drawings of projects, etc.
As you might know, the portable Mac turned out to be pretty heavy, (15.8 lbs.) with a tiny monochrome 9.8" display.
So one day this guy was leaving his house, getting into his car. He put the Mac Portable on his roof as he negotiated his keys and car door. He got in and pulled out of his driveway, completely oblivious to the new computer on his roof. The computer promptly slides off the roof, off the car, and falls on the driveway. He hears the crash, and panics. Instinctively, he puts the car in drive and pulls forward. Then he hears another frightening sound. He has driven OVER the computer, leaving a fat tread mark on the case.
He arrives at the office, fully embarrassed, and freaked out about the computer. He gives it to us (the office computer guys). We see the tire mark, and parts of the case missing. We can barely contain ourselves. We set it up, and carefully tilt open the screen. More bits of plastic fall. We get it plugged in and stand there for a minute, not knowing what to expect.
I hit the startup button, and the room is silent. A few seconds go by, and by golly, the thing boots up!! We can't believe it. We see the Mac logo on the screen, and we are speechless. The thing actually booted up.
The partner never used the portable after that. I think he was scared of it, like it had a soul that would not die. The office jokes lasted for months, but I can tell you, it was a proud day to be a Mac owner.
All the bytes in the world
Eric, my brother, then 11, and me, freshly 8, sat in the newly anointed "Computer Room" in our house. Dad was fit to burst in front of a computer that was not even on. As if we were to embark on our greatest adventure, Dad addressed us. It was March 12, 1987. We had a new Macintosh computer, filled with what must have been internal paint for all I knew. How else was I to use the colorful drawing program I so coveted? Eric knew what he was doing and simply waited patiently until the computer was booted up so he could show up Dad. Alas, the future was then, and then still feels like now. Dad held authoritatively that evening an impossibility. "Boys," he said, vigorously emphasizing our new destiny, "in your lifetimes you will never...--he paused, never losing eye contact, though conceivably calculating the last scrap of potential squashed assuredly with doubt--"EVER see this computer's 20-megabyte hard drive filled to capacity." And with that stunning declaration, certainly on par with "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," Dad pressed Power.
A family of Macs
I was 5 in 1991 when my dad first introduced my family and I to a personal computer. It was a Macintosh SE and he mainly bought it to use the graphic programs and design some ad photos, but it essentially taught my brothers and I how to use and understand what a computer is. Sure, we were entertained by our Nintendo system with our TV, but we knew a computer would be a big part of our lives one day. Going from PC to PC shortly there after was a nightmare. The constant hassle of installing and reinstalling of programs are what drove us away from seeing computers as an easy way to run our lifestyles. Then the iMac was introduced in the late '90s. It was awesome to us. It looked cool, it had power, it gave us the ability to go online for the first time, and it was faster then our one-year-old PC in the house. My brothers and I fought over controlling rights because of some killer app that came out, some game, some tool. It was fun. In 2003, we made another upgrade to the iMac with the swivel neck. Much like the commercial that ran, I stuck my tongue out at the machine whenever I ejected a CD (or for the first time a DVD). Now in 2008, we'll be upgrading the main hardware in March to the latest installment of the iMac. Even though my brothers and I are all on MacBooks now in college, we'll definitely be enjoying the new machine as in a way, it grew up with us as much as we grew up with it.
Speaking of the Mac
My most significant Macintosh was my first. I got it in the summer of 1984. It was just called "Macintosh," had 128k of RAM, and that cute little screen that just barely fit the width of a MacWrite document. It had a single-sided 400k 3.5 inch floppy, which was big considering the normal PC of the time came with a double-sided 5.25 floppy that only held 360k. My first box of ten 3.5 inch single-sided diskettes cost $50. The bit-mapped display, showing fonts as they would print and inserted graphics was a great leap for a computer that cost less than $10,000 (aka the Lisa).
There were two great features of the original keyboard--no built-in numeric keypad to force the mouse outside of the comfort zone--and a caps lock key that "locked" down when pressed, unlocked when pressed again. Because you could feel the difference between the caps lock and surrounding keys, it prevented the accidental swap of caps and lower-case that happens so easily with our "modern" keyboards.
I entered law school shortly after I got it, and hauled it across San Francisco on a bus many times to work on class outlines with a colleague. I didn't have an outline program so I wrote them in MacWrite, used a bunch of rulers to indent paragraphs (the tip came in one of the early MacWorld issues). Could only get about 5 pages because of all the rulers and then the file filled RAM, so I'd save that part, and begin the next.
In the summer of '85, I got a third-party memory upgrade so it became a 512k Mac. Later ('86?) it got the bigger ROMs, and a double-sided 800k floppy. That and software improvements kept it going until the LC came out. Never even bothered getting an external floppy.
An early program that few seem to remember was called Switcher. Story was it was written by Andy Hertzfeld at the request of John Sculley, so that the 512k Mac could switch between several programs running in virtual 128k machines. Very cool.
But my favorite Mac, is my current MacBook. White, powerful, and up to date. (Although I do sometimes miss the simplicity of system 7 on the LC; OS X is powerful, but a pain-in-the-butt when things go wrong.)
I look forward to another 25 years of improvements. Perhaps voice recognition and artificial intelligence will finally advance to where a keyboard will seem--as engineer Scott said--quaint.
--William R. Brown
Menlo Park, Calif.
Love at first sight
My first Mac was the 128K job, you know, the one with the small footprint. My sister-in-law was going to Columbia University at the time and used the connection to snag me the student discount.
I loved my Mac. There was no Internet, and its computing power was puny by today's standards. A single Word document today would have used up everything it had and more. What did we know? I remember wondering if this new company, name of Microsoft, was ever going to come out with applications for it.
I loved my Mac. It was 1984, I was 30, I was in love. I spent many a late hour gazing into its tiny black-and-white screen in the guest room of the first-ever house I owned, in North Jersey. I designed greeting cards for fun using MacDraw to create freehand images. I wrote. I explored every square inch of that baby and became a sort of computer expert, wowing friends and family with my amazing skills and even writing for computer magazines.
Newport News, Va.
Another Macalyte converts
At the obvious end of another life span of a PC laptop in 2008 and the looming possibility of only getting a computer loaded with an OS that left a lot to be desired, I turned my sights on something very exciting: the prospect of a rebirth of sorts, my first Mac.
Never knowing anyone personally that ever had one, I asked around a bit and perused the Apple Web site. The collective response is that people love their Macs. There were just as many similar reasons as different ones, but the resounding response is that I would not regret it.
I find I have become part of something that makes me different, apart from the crowd of cookie cutter PCs with their various idiosyncrasies. Conversely, I find I am part of a prominent multitude of wonderful Mac people and that I am never alone.
The curious stares and furtive glances of onlookers at places I drag my MacBook to are noticed. After all, I used to look up, see someone with a Mac, and wonder about it all.
Functional and undemanding things and what they can realistically do, draws my attention. I drive an Element, I rescue Italian greyhounds, I work in a cube, I go to school online, and I possess a MacBook. This computer has found its way into my heart and my life. Happy Birthday Mac!
Fort Wayne, Ind.
Way before Psystar...
Back in 1991 my dad and I searched high and low to find a Mac when it came time to replace our Commodore 64. Big step up! We found a place and dropped close to $3,000 on an LC III. My 13-year-old mind thought this was a great investment; my dad didn't know any better. The LC III wasn't good for much more than displaying the Mac OS hourglass, but it did allow me to punk a classmate in classic Mac style. I fancied myself a budding graphic artist and endeavored to create the perfect fake $1 bill. I think I spent a week on the thing, and used all 128 colors in my basic paint program. The result was a stunning, if lime-yellowish, fake buck produced on an inkjet printer and crumpled up to give it that authentic look (and hide the many flaws I refused to concede). I left the bill under the desk of a friend I loved to torment and waited for him to take the bait. It didn't take long. He at first looked at the bill, then decided to go in for the kill and picked it up. It took him much too long to figure out the bill was a fake. When he did, he dropped the bill back where he found it and pretended he'd never found it. Ha!
Pictures more than words
When the Macintosh was announced back in 1984, I scoffed. "What was Apple thinking?" The Apple IIe had color; this new thing was black and white. I didn't see why anybody would pay good money for it.
However, in mid-1987, I had the opportunity to sit down at a Mac SE. There must have been Kool-Aid on the keyboard because I finally got it. It's why the early cavemen painted images on the walls--a way to tell a story without words. Images, pictures, icons--the first written language.
As I delved deeper into this fascinating computer system, making such rich discoveries as ResEdit, I knew that nothing else could compare to the powerful simplicity contained in that little box. My fascination carried me further, learning of the Usenet groups for discussing the Macintosh. When our department acquired a virus, I found in this pre-web "internet" the means to remove the infection and vaccinate all our computers against this intruder--using nothing more than ResEdit.
The director of the department had noticed the hours I'd spent of my own time learning the Macs, and decided that meant I could do graphics. Turns out he was right. I was ordering Kool-Aid by the gallon, and have never once strayed. My Mac is my muse, my creative wellspring.
And to think I once saw no use in it at all...
Maze of twisty passages
When I think of my first encounters with a Mac I am always reminded of the thrill I had when I first typed the command to "open the mailbox" on an original Macintosh while playing Zork and seeing the game come alive (at least as alive as a text based game can get). That was our first computer and it was shared by all of us. But what really puts a smile on my face is remembering driving home with what was my first computer of my very own a few years later. It was a Mac IIci and I distinctly remember thinking, "Wow, 5 megs of RAM and a 40 megs hard drive; I'll never need more than this!" Obviously, I was oh so very wrong. It has been a fun ride since then as I, and now the family of my own, are all Mac users the same as I have been ever since the very beginning. I know I will still be just as thrilled as I was on those days when I unpack the new Mac (whichever one it will be) to replace the G4 Mac Mini I am composing this on sometime later this year. Never a regret nor a desire for another platform.
Los Angeles, Calif.
(See evenlast week.)