I’ll Never Forget the First Time

2001 – My first Mac wasn’t my own. It belonged to my college professor. I think it was a 512K Fat Mac, because it booted off of a floppy and didn’t have a hard drive. It couldn’t have been later than 1985, because that’s when I graduated.

Original Macintosh

Original Macintosh

At the time, we were using Apple II and Atari computers in the physics department. I spend some considerable time learning to draw on the old Atari 800 with a joystick, and I liked the computer so much that I bought an Atari 400 for use at home.

Then one day my professor invited me into his office and said I could sit and play with the Macintosh for a few hours to get a feel for it. I learned to open applications and save files, use the basic MacDraw drawing tools, and write a program in MacBASIC. I experimented with bitmapped fonts with MacWrite and printed out a couple of sample pages on his ImageWriter II.

I was fascinated with the mouse. It only took a few minutes to master, and the ability to draw practically in freehand was lots of fun. But as a fresh graduate out of college, I couldn’t afford such a luxury item – I “strayed” for a while until I was better able to afford a nice computer.

My First Computer

Timex Sinclair 1000My first computer was a Timex Sinclair 1000 – a small microcomputer based on the Z-80 microprocessor. It had 1 KB (that’s KB, not MB!) of RAM, no drives of any sort, and output black and white video via an RCA cable to a television. It displayed 40 columns of text including some graphics characters. For an extra $50 I got a 16 K RAM expansion card.

You could save programs on cassette tape, which worked about 10 or 12 times before the data degraded on the tape and the program became useless (which was more a function of the cheap tapes I bought than anything else). The operating system was essentially a BASIC interpreter. It was very efficient in storage (it had to be), using just one byte for each BASIC command. Thus, the membrane keyboard could call up an entire PRINT command with one keystroke somehow involving the P key.

The Next Few Computers

Atari 400I quickly outgrew the capacity of the Sinclair, and it was about this time I bought my Atari 400 and had my first Mac experience, described above.

Eventually I bought an Atari 520ST and a 1040STe, both of which were machines that sported a GUI that was sort of a hybrid between the Mac OS and the file structure seen on DOS machines. I felt (and still believe) that the ST was a tremendous value and offered the best of both worlds at the time. It’s OS was on ROM, so it would boot without a drive of any type attached.

In some ways, it was ahead of its time. The ST, for example, had proportional scroll bar handles long before the Mac or Windows did.

One of the more annoying features of the ST is that it required two wholly different proprietary monitors to display high-res black and white and low-res color images. Microsoft Word 1.0 was available for it, as well as several spreadsheets and graphics programs and games. It was a fine machine, underpromoted for the market but priced well.

I held on to the STe, using it for grades, checkbook registers, desktop publishing (PageStream), programming (GFA BASIC, still my favorite language of all time), printing documents at home and school, using it alongside my classroom filled with Apple II computers, until I finally surrendered upon taking a job in an all Mac office. I still have the 1040 STe, and I boot it up out of nostalgia from time to time.

My First Mac

Quadra 650My first Mac at work was a Centris 650. I used it for about a year doing various office tasks, and along the way I taught myself AppleTalk networking, connecting all the computers in our end of the building together by stringing phone cable underneath the carpet. This was around 1993 or so.

Upon leaving that job, my next employer provided me with a PowerBook Duo 230 with many accessories. I still have this computer (or I will still have it, after I get it back from a student to whom I loaned it). The Duo had almost all the accessories with it: a Dock, a minidock, a floppy adapter, an external floppy, and SCSI-to-ethernet adapter. By the time I finished with it, the accessories weighed more than 10 pounds; I might as well have lugged around the Centris.

My first Mac at home was a Power Mac 7200/90, which my sister now owns. I now use a 300 MHz Beige Power Mac G3 (all slots filled, naturally), and I have a collection of classic 68K and PowerPC Macs for which I am responsible at school.

This fall, we all get new iMacs for our classrooms – and mobile iBook carts for use with our classes. My next home purchase will almost certainly be an iBook with an AirPort base station.

I am looking forward to Mac OS X and beyond, but I’ll never forget that first time I moved a mouse and made the cursor draw a picture!


Jeffery Adkins is a science teacher, consultant, and Mac Evangelist from Antioch, CA. In his classroom he has everything from a Quadra 700 to a Blue and White G3, and they all work together nicely. He also writes the Mac Lab Report column for Low End Mac.

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