Mac About Town
I had a dream about Apple computers the other night. It was the first one in a very long time. Before I tell you about it, you should know that I am waiting for the delivery of a new MacBook Pro and 23″ Cinema Display (amateur psychologists, start your engines). The delivery has been delayed, and I’ve fallen victim to that itchy “check e-mail and order status every hour” syndrome. You know, the one that all of us who have waited for the arrival of Cupertino’s latest have experienced.
The last time I had a dream about an Apple it was rather hazy. It was also while I was waiting for the delivery of an Apple computer. It was hazy because I didn’t really know what to expect. Nobody knew. Nobody I knew had a computer. It was the beginning of something new.
In the fall of 1977, Games magazine made its debut. The inaugural issue contained a short one-page article about a personal computer called Apple that would, in the writer’s opinion, mark a significant change in electronic gaming. With a personal computer, he wrote, it would be possible to expand the number and the sophistication of the titles that were beginning to hit the gaming-console market in ever-greater numbers. I had been a frustrated gamer for some time. I kept the magazine on my nightstand for three months, periodically rereading the article. Finally my wife said, “For Pete’s sake, buy that thing before you drive me crazy! And get rid of that magazine while you’re at it!”
I was in the Army in Europe at the time, and since this was long before FedEx, getting a computer from the US was a huge drill. I won’t bore you with the gory details, but it was in the five months it took to receive it that I had the dream about this fantastic machine and what I would be able to do with it. That was how it all started. Finally, Apple II serial #21250 arrived, and I have never looked back.
It wasn’t long before I splurged for another 16K of memory. Wow! And then expanded to a disk drive when they became available. As I experimented with the capabilities and potential of this early edition of our favorite computer, I began to get a glimpse of what it might be capable of. But it wasn’t until my Apple was employed in the Cold War that I began to understand what a truly revolutionary machine it was and got a taste for the power of desktop computing.
As an Army officer assigned to a Corps Headquarters, I was given the responsibility of watching over a rather large sum of money that was used for training and maneuvers. When a new software program called VisiCalc came out, I bought it and began to develop spreadsheets that made my job a lot easier. “You say you’ve changed your mind about how many _____ you need? You need to know the cost when? No problem, Colonel. Right away!” It didn’t take many quick turnarounds to get attention.
One afternoon, I was summoned to a secure office in the basement of the Headquarters and briefed on a secret operation. Polish labor unions were in open defiance of their government and of the wishes of the Soviet Union, and it appeared that a dramatic shift in the alignment of Europe was possible. The Soviets had troops stationed along the Polish border and might be preparing to invade, à la Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Our president had decided that if the Russians crossed the Polish border, he would deploy US units to Europe on a “training” exercise. Our Headquarters had been asked by Washington to receive them and to figure out how much it was going to cost. Since I had a computer that could answer the question, I was made a part of “Operation Nematode.” (It’s an Army thing. Don’t try to understand.) Not long after the briefing, I found myself in a signal-secure booth (no electromagnetic emanations possible) where for the next day and a half I worked my spreadsheet magic to arrive at an answer. The numbers went back to Washington and, at some point I am certain, made their way into a White House briefing. The invasion never happened and the troops never deployed, but for a moment, at least, Apple was on the front lines of the Cold War.
I’ve carried Apples in and out of offices ever since and even managed to convert a couple of organizations from the dark side. Since that first Apple II, I’ve owned a IIe, IIc, Mac SE, LC III, G3, G4, PowerBook G3, iMacs (15″ and 17″), and iBooks for my college-bound kids. Lately, I’ve been using a PowerBook G4 for my personal and professional life, which allows my wife unrestricted access to the iMac. But as great as it is, the Apple experience, at least for me, is about more than the machines. There is something personal about the Mac that isn’t true of the relationship that those “other folks” have with their computers. They don’t fawn over them or turn into evangelists for their processors or their OS. For non-Apple users, computers are just the latest boxes they are using to get things done. Often it is a collection of individual parts assembled in an otherwise standard case. I won’t trash that as one way to do it, but with Apple what I need just seems to be there—and many times it’s there before I know I need it. Swivel screens, iPods, AirPort, real plug and play, iPhoto, iTunes, iWeb, and on and on. It just keeps getting better.
This is the first of what I hope will be a fairly regular series of columns for ATPM. I appreciate the free exchange of information that ATPM offers, and I believe that writing a bit about the Apple experience gives me an opportunity to give something back to the Mac community. As the name of the column suggests, we will be jumping around to a number of different topics in the Mac world. I’m not an engineer or a programmer. I’m a user, one of the majority of satisfied Mac users who appreciate this great machine and enjoy talking to other people about the things that can be done with it. In the coming months, we will be reviewing Apple-related Web sites and which ones you should have in your menu bar, discussing new software and how to do a good evaluation before you spend your money, looking at the many peripherals that enhance the Mac experience, and thinking about the future, which is what Mac is really all about. I’m looking forward to sharing with and hearing from you. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oh yes, I almost forgot my recent dream. I dreamt I was at a Mac expo of some kind, standing at the counter waiting patiently for my MacBook Pro to be brought out. Suddenly, Steve Jobs walked up. I introduced myself, because every Mac user feels as if he knows His Steveness personally. Don’t we? We had a short conversation about something or other. Then he began to walk away as I was telling him about my Army Apple experience. I noticed that he was moving smartly so I said, “I can tell you about it as we walk…or I could just drop it and you could get going.”
“I’ll take you up on that,” he said. And he was gone.
I just want to say: Steve, if you’re out there, man, no hard feelings. Just keep on doing what you do. Don’t let me slow you down. By the way…can you move the processing along on my MacBook Pro? Thanks.
See you other Mac fans next month. Peace.
Also in This Series
- What a Ride! And It Ain’t Over Yet! · May 2012
- Life in a Post-Apple World? · March 2009
- When Worlds Collide · January 2009
- What’s a Guy to Do? · December 2008
- A Midsummer Night’s Mare (a comedy in multiple acts) · August 2008
- How Did I End Up Here? · January 2008
- Visions of Sugar Plums · December 2007
- Dear Steve: Hurry Up and Slow Down! · July 2007
- Who’s Got Your Back? · April 2007
- Complete Archive