Today marks a birthday worthy of major celebration as the Macintosh turns 30. It’s kicked off some amazing retrospecitives and personal stories of how Apple computers have completely transformed our lives. Long before the iPad, iPhone and iPod, there was the Mac. Born in 1984, under the bright glare of one of the greatest Super Bowl commercials in history, the Macintosh was designed for people and the love affair continues to this day.
I remember my first Mac experience. As a college student in 1989, the ‘computer lab’ had rows of the Macintosh Plus. Back then, if you had to type a report, you needed to bring your floppy disks with you to the lab. Most, if not all, students would type their papers in the lab. It was incredibly inefficient. My papers were handwritten in advance and I’d use my time in the lab to type them. When you were finished, you’d send it to the lab’s dot matrix printer. During busy periods, the print queue left many of us standing and waiting. When I think of this today, it sounds like torture, but my time in the lab was magical. It left me amazed and I was in awe of this small box of awesome known as the Macintosh.
Years later, I had started work at Dean Witter in NYC and decided to go to grad school. At the time, I was living about 45 minutes from St. John’s University. Working full-time, while attending graduate school, I was going to need a personal computer. There were no inexpensive computers and like today, Macs were more expensive. I remember the decision at the time being questioned by my parents. “Why are you buying a computer? Can’t you just go to the school library to use a computer?” Looking back now, and playing a bit of Monday morning quarterback, the computer thing worked out ok.
If you were in the market for a computer in the early nineties, you went to CompUSA. There you found walls of PC software and hardware. If you wanted a Windows PC, there were no shortage of choices. The Mac displays were always sad looking. Little, if any interest was shown by store staff. As a result, the Macs were usually powered off, frozen or in a state of disarray. I often took it upon myself to zap the PRAM and rebuild the desktop, hoping to give them a fighting chance against the army of PCs.
Forget about asking for advice on what to buy. These were the dark days. There was a 2 in 1 chance that the response would be, “Don’t buy a Mac, Apple is going out of business.”
Maybe it was my rocker rebellion, but the gravitational pull to Macintosh could not be stopped. My first computer was destined to be a Mac and I fondly remember the day I took home a PowerMac 6100/60. It had 8MB of RAM. Megabytes, not Gigabytes. I’d soon return to CompUSA to purchase (2) sticks of 8MB RAM, expanding my powerhouse of a computer to 24MB.
I had become part of the Macintosh faithful. My first website was Cult of Personality, a website built to preach the Macintosh gospel. I was crazy about the Mac and let everyone I encountered know about it. If someone mentioned an interest in purchasing a computer, I had print-outs handy offering the 30 reasons on why they should buy a Mac. If they went against my advice, I would look at them with disappointment, even disdain. If a someone chose a Windows PC as their personal computer, I took it personal. I had become the best and worst kind of evangelist.
Over the years, I’ve had all sorts of different Macs, including a PowerCenter Pro when Apple allowed clones. For the most part, I’ve been incredibly fond of the Mac Pro. I’ve still got a Mac Pro G4 in my basement, which at some point I’d like to repurpose and see it back in action. My most recent Mac Pro was an early-2009 quad-core beast. Earlier this year, it was replaced with a 15-inch retina MacBook Pro. It’s been able to handle everything I’ve thrown at it and ask for more. Yet, I can disconnect a few cables (that connect it to my Apple Cinema Display) and be completely mobile. It is with amazement that I think of where Macs have come since my first computer.
Apple has certainly changed over these last thirty years. In the early 2000s, their focus was on the iPod and in recent years, it has shifted to the iPhone and iPad. Somewhere along the line, Apple Computer became just Apple. Despite the name change and focus on mobile handheld computing, the foundation of the company that so many adore is the Mac. Today I’ll raise a glass, on this, the 30th anniversary of the Mac.
What was your first Mac?
Photo courtesy Humbolt University