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ATPM 9.09
September 2003





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Segments: Slices from the Macintosh Life

by Angus Wong,

Hello Again

I realized today I had left the Macintosh community for six whole years.

My first Mac was a Mac SE, purchased at a student discount in university. It had 1 MB of RAM and came with a 20 MB hard disk. I still remember wondering how it would ever be possible to fill that monster up. Even if I loaded it with my entire collection of 800K floppies, there would still be heaps of space.

That SE cost me an arm and a leg, but as things turned out, it eventually paid for itself. By fooling around with a Macintosh in the late 80s, I eventually landed myself a part-time gig doing (you guessed it) “desktop publishing.” I got to play with a LaserWriter (“Prints just like a book!”), something called Digital Darkroom, and its eventual competitor Photoshop. Of course, there was PageMaker, and Aldus FreeHand was my favorite drawing application, along with the company’s Persuasion product, which let people produce slideshows via a computer. We also frequently sent stuff to another company which had really expensive Linotronic machines that made high-resolution glossy printouts that were even sharper than what the laser printer produced (if you can believe that!).

Eventually, with the help of a program called Quicken to track my expenses, I saved enough to upgrade my SE to an 020 chip via an add-in board called the Hypercharger 020, which was about the only thing I remember that ever made use of the SE’s System Expansion slot. I also bought a ton of games. And to think I almost forked over my savings for an IBM PC with Zero Wait State. Life was good. I had made the best decision in my computing life by going with the Mac.

But not everything was happy in those early days. I remember reading about the death of Duane Blehm, the kid who wrote the games Cairo Shootout and Stuntcopter, when I was surfing one of the local BBS systems (via the terminal program Red Ryder and my blazing-fast 2400 bps modem). I can’t help but think how Duane would have been amazed at the development of the Mac over the years.

Around that time, however, there was another kid by the name of Ray Lau who had thrown his StuffIt program into the gauntlet of compression applications, against rivals PackIt and Compact Pro (he later sold his rights to Aladdin Systems).

Nearing graduation, I got myself a IIsi, having salivated over a color Macintosh when I had the good fortune of using the then-recently-released Macintosh II at the DTP job (color guide markers and highlighted text!). Although severely constrained, the IIsi nevertheless let me experience the Mac in full color. Of particular interest was the full GUI-driven First Class BBS system, which completely blew away all of the text-based BBS systems.

Entering the workforce proper, I finally started earning a real salary, and with the boost in spending power grabbed a PowerBook 180c. But I was soon over the joy of having a portable Macintosh (and with color!) and ended up buying a Newton 110. And for the first time, I realized not all of Apple’s products were necessarily good despite being consistently expensive.

During this critical moment of personal history, a larger revolution was going on elsewhere in the world, and I kept busy fiddling with SLIP and MacTCP settings so that I could work the handful of neat-o Internet applications I had FTPed. Anarchie was a favorite, as was an early Eudora. I also ran the Mosaic browser, although there wasn’t a whole lot to surf with it aside from university documents and Yahoo.

Two years and a higher income bracket later, I put a Power Macintosh 6100 AV onto my credit card, proudly showing off homemade digital videos to my friends, and doing my best to convert at least twenty of them to the Mac platform.

Then, around the mid-90s, I had to eat my own words, for I began to work in a company which not only used IBM PC-compatibles, but actually made critical parts for them.

So began my foray into the wilderness, starting with a no-name Pentium 133 tower and a serial mouse.

That machine was later supplanted by a Pentium 166 MMX Thinkpad, a Pentium II 300 Latitude, and finally a Pentium III 1 GHz Inspiron. Macintosh had become a distant memory, my neurons only barely recalling a huge marketing campaign around the number 7.

Flash forward to 2002.

My Inspiron was aging. It ran at 1 GHz but what I really wanted was a 2 GHz laptop. Especially one with at least 64 MB of VRAM on the 3D card (for graphics applications). But the economy was in shambles, and I really should have been saving rather than spending money. So instead of getting a brand new machine, I surfed around the auction Web sites for deals on second-hand laptops.

On one particular auction page, by either pure random chance or some act of destiny, I came across a 500 MHz G3 iBook (Dual USB). Now, it was entirely not what I was looking for. I wanted a new laptop for games, ah, graphics-intensive tasks, but there was something about the iBook that really caught my eye. And before I realized what I was doing, I had already bid for and won it.

The next day I met with the seller, and gladly exchanged my wad of cash for the near-mint crystal white Macintosh. I simply could not believe my eyes. The iBook was the most perfectly designed piece of computing I had ever seen. And I now owned it!

I hurried back home with my newly-adopted baby. But there was nobody for me to talk to about the purchase. I had alienated almost all my old Macintosh buddies (or worse, somehow had converted them to the Wintel platform!). So, I did the next best thing. I dug through my dusty library of old computer books and fished out The Mac Bathroom Reader.

I then connected the iBook to my broadband connection, and within minutes I was flying through the Internet like a man reborn. The machine came with OS X, but I found it disorienting, so for the first few months I stuck with the more familiar Classic OS. There were many impressive improvements to the Mac OS. I had skipped Mac OS 8 completely, and was enthralled by the advances incorporated into Mac OS 9.

I surfed Apple’s Web site and watched several of the most recent Steve Jobs keynotes. I checked out whatever Mac-related Web sites and mailing lists I could still remember. I dug out my legacy Mac CDs on which I had archived all manner of personal data and classic programs such as Claris Emailer and Acclaim InControl. There was even a floppy disk for eWorld. Go figure.

So here we are now, in the middle of 2003, and I am surfing my favorite Mac sites, running Software Update just to make sure I have the absolute latest and greatest stuff on my hard disk (I do). But what’s really on my mind is when the heck am I going to be able to get my hands on either a 1 GHz 12" PowerBook, or maybe figure out a way I can buy a 900 MHz iBook but somehow swap its ugly opaque casing for the one on my 500 MHz.

As for my Inspiron, it’s sitting on the shelf doing what it’s supposed to do. It’s running Linux and acts as a firewall for my home LAN. I use its free disk space as a kind of Network Attached Storage, and the 3D card is completely useless. Strangely enough, I really don’t give a moof! How can I? It’s just a lousy PC.

They say you can’t go home again. You know, I think they’re wrong.

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Reader Comments (2)

Mike Welsh · September 6, 2003 - 03:13 EST #1
A great article! You had me laughing, nodding my head in solemn agreement (except about the Newton - I still use my 130) and tilting my head in rank nostalgia. Thanks for the memories.
Chris Smith · September 30, 2003 - 13:02 EST #2
Excellent! I love to remember all the amazing history crammed into the past 20 years. Thanks for reminding us.

Welcome home, Angus!

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