A $25 Mac, Growing Up Macintosh, and a Complete Mac Addict

Bong! . . . πŸ™‚ . . . Welcome to Macintosh! Since the previous article, I’ve received a lot of stories from readers of how they came to the Apple world. This week I thought I’d dig into the mailbag and pull out three stories to share with you.

I want to thank everyone who sent in their stories. If your story wasn’t featured this week, the odds are that it will be included in a future Welcome to Macintosh!

Hooked by a $25 Mac SE

Our first story comes from “Etsuo”. Just like with me, curiosity got the better of him.


Pismo PowerBookDo you really want to know how I’ve come to writing this email on a G3 500 MHz Pismo instead of a Windows computer? Well, pour some Foster’s Lager, raise a “Crikey!” toast to the late Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, and I shall begin.

It was in the spring/summer of 2000, and I was browsing through the Wahiawa hospital thrift shop in search of this and that. The electronics table had various kinds of decrepit computer gear appear and stay for weeks before disappearing “with the fullness of time.”

This day I spied a classic Macintosh, complete with mouse and keyboard, for $40. I knew that $40 was way too much for such trailing edge tech, but I plugged it in to see if would run. After the usual tone, buzzing, and whirring, up popped what I later found out to be the Mac System 6.x desktop. Then I left, wondering who would buy this monochrome beast.

It was still there when I dropped by the next week, and the store manager mentioned that there was another person interested in it. I passed on the $40 Mac, and another week went by. This time the price had dropped to $25, which was more like it.

I’d been an IBM computer user ever since I’d been persuaded to learn how to use the portrait studio’s IBM XT, which had a green screen monitor, a full length 512 KB RAM card, and a 9-pin dot matrix printer that made enough noise and vibration to merit it’s own (rickety) table.

I was now a Windows 98SE user (shortly to migrate to Windows XP Home) and wondered about this “foreign technology” from the other side of the “digital divide.”

Twenty-five dollars later, I was Clint Eastwood, flying a Firefox into unknown territory with absolutely no way of knowing how to operate a classic Mac. Fortunately, I had a Mac user/friend a mere four miles away, who dropped by to look at the unit and show me the ropes.

Macintosh SE

It turned out that this was a working computer, last used in 1998 by a University of Hawaii Oceanography teaching assistant and was well equipped with Word, Excel, MacPaint, etc. My Mac friend pronounced this an antique, since he’d been a Mac user since the Apple II days and was using a Performa. With 4 MB RAM and a 40 MB hard drive, this Mac SE was not Internet capable, but it was an interesting unit for one who had briefly updated the IBM XT to GeoWorks 1.1 and discovered the graphic interface and scalable fonts.

Eventually, I turned to eBay for an instruction manual, software, and hardware for this beastie. When it left for a computer user afflicted with a Packard Bell computer (!?), a logic board and hard drive floppy installation had turned it into a functional Mac SE/30 with 32 MB of RAM.

This led to more eBay auctions and the second laptop/portable computer in my life, a PowerBook 1400. (The first had been a Toshiba 1200XE.) Curiosity took me to The Great White North, as I bid for a WallStreet PDQ/266 running Mac OS 8.x. The unit was sold to my across the street neighbor after it had been upgraded for Mac OS X with 384 MB RAM and a 40 GB hard drive.

Curiosity about DVDs and other interesting things led to a 400 MHz Lombard (advertised as a Pismo), a 500 MHz Pismo, and a 1.25 GHz G4 AlBook.

It’s been an interesting trip, and I don’t really need to run Windows these days, even if the MacBook series can. Thumbing my nose at computer malware that bedevils Mr. Bill’s world has been liberating, and I’ve even excused the “Smug/Arrogant Mac Fan Boys” of the past, who viewed Windows users as either stupid or masochistic. I don’t ram Mac superiority down other’s throats; I just refer to the PowerBooks as a “different flavor computer” to my Windows-only-using brother-in-law.

Coming Back to the Mac

Our next story is from Alex in Hobart, Australia. He grew up around Macs and eventually found his way back to them.


I’m typing this article on my little 12″ PowerBook. It’s the last of the G4s. It does most of what I need it to do, although a stripped screwhead in the case prevents it from being easily opened for the much-longed-for installation of my region-free SuperDrive (many thanks to Andrew Fishkin for his articles on RPC1, etc.).

The G4 shares a room with my beloved Pismo G3, which now sports the good SuperDrive and an original AirPort card.

Original Macintosh

I was around Macs from early on. I grew up in Hobart, Australia, and my first encounter was with an original Macintosh in the mid-eighties. My dad brought one home to try, as he was thinking about getting one. The slogan went, “if you can point, you can use a Macintosh”.

It was certainly my first experience with a mouse; with pointing and clicking; with selecting and copying. I still vividly remember the dry tapping action of those early keyboards, when beige was king and mice were square. The floppy drive made a distinctive chirping sound that seemed quintessentially Apple, and the graphical interface was as bright and cheerful as a 9″ B&W screen allowed.

And these little machines remained novelties for some time, especially in the circles I moved in. At high school we had BBC microcomputers; LOGO, EDWORD and BASIC were the order of the day, with perhaps a session of DragonWorld for afters.

Many kids had a big brother with a Commodore 64, and a Saturday afternoon would be whiled away with a round of (real!) table tennis while waiting for said game to load in virtual form from the C64’s cassette drive.

And this was how it was all through high school. The IT guy at school (back then the IT boffins were invariably maths teachers most of the time) had a Macintosh. I remember seeing him turn up to class with his large bag slung over his shoulder – so nice to be able to transport a desktop machine in that way. But it rarely seemed to come out of its bag unless you were one of the bright computer sciencey geeks with an HP pocket calculator and a flair for Fortran.

It was in my last years of high school that Apples became much more a part of my life, if only for a phase. The term Macintosh was still, for me, synonymous with an all-in-one kind of computer, as opposed to an “IBM-compatible” PC which generally manifested itself as a CPU and separate monitor.

The school I was attending at the time had some kind of deal with Apple, and it was there that I first saw a PowerBook. Students who signed their first-born away were allowed to borrow a PowerBook for the evening if required by their studies. I never had the opportunity, but from the rumours I heard that these machines were quite formidable in terms of ruggedness – an apt attribute for withstanding the rigours of school-bag life.

Mac II with color displayIt was off to university in the early nineties, and to a campus with an eclectic mix of PCs and most flavours of Apples available at the time. My first experience with the Internet was emailing with Eudora from a Mac II. Still a small screen.

As my science degree studies progressed, I was using PCs more and more for work related stuff and heading back to a Mac lab at lunch to do email. Windows 3.1 was on the scene, and Solaris was the go for those with some Unix task to get their head around.

And after university, that was the end of my Mac journey for quite a while. Windows was close to looking like a good thing for many, and the PCs were quite good value for money.

But I made a comeback. If anything, the clue that I might return to the Apple camp was in the fact that most of my personal computing has been done on hand-me-down, or secondhand, machines. I was getting by quite fine with a Pentium 200 until late 2002, when I bought my first laptop – a ThinkPad R30. It seemed like a good machine, and to be honest, I’d certainly consider a ThinkPad again if buying another PC laptop (were the waters not clouded by the Macintel invasion).

The thing is . . . I work in sound and media production, and whether or not they’re actually better for the task, my world is heavily populated with Macs. It was the black PowerBook G3 that really caught my eye, that evening in 2002 when I helped record an entire band concert with a colleague’s Pismo and a MOTU FireWire audio interface. Everything “just worked”.

But there was no denying that PowerBooks were still expensive things to buy. I got on fine with my ThinkPad until late 2004, when I spotted a Pismo 500 for sale on the Internet. I got it, upped the RAM and hard drive, and have made this machine a firm friend.

I had a foot in two camps, with the ThinkPad still going, until that died from a mainboard failure in late 2005, leaving me with just the Pismo. I’ve been running OS X Tiger and Photoshop CS2 on this machine quite happily, and hence am something of an evangelist for making the most of technology that is not the latest.

So in early 2006 I wanted to get a friend for the Pismo; something that would let me dabble in video editing and be a bit quicker at Adobe. The Intel books were on the horizon, but I decided a tried and true G4 ‘Book would fit the bill, so a slightly used 12″ PowerBook it was. So there they are on my desk – the last of the G3s and the last of the G4s.

I haven’t looked back, although I need Windows very occasionally. Virtual PC has helped so far, but I imagine the next generation of MacBook Pros might be very tempting.

A Complete Mac Addict

Our final story comes from one of our own writers! Joshua Coventry, who writes the Cortland column on Low End Mac, shares his story of how he came to the Apple world.


Performa 6200Back in either 1996 or 1997, I became interested in computers for the first time. My father was using a Performa 6200; he was a graphic designer at the time.

At first, I just used it for Warcraft II and a shareware game called Pizza Rush in System 7. I then started playing with Photoshop 3.0. I taught myself many parts of the operating system; I didn’t get into the hardware side of computing for some years.

From there on, I kept on discovering more and more about the computer and what I could do with it. I had always been quite creative since a young age, and the Mac allowed me to be even more creative and have more fun in my life as well. So those were my beginnings of entering the Apple world.

Ever since then, I’ve been a complete Mac addict. I follow everything Apple does, and continue to support the company by purchasing their latest systems now and then – and of course by wearing my Apple T-shirts. πŸ™‚

Macs for All

From every walk of life, short or tall, big or small, no matter what, someone, somewhere has experienced the wonder of Apple! I’m still amazed at the stories I receive, because it shows how Apple thought of “the rest of us” when they created these wonderful machines! I want to hear your story! Send your story of how you joined the Apple world to thomas (at) lowendmac (dot) com, and chances are it’ll be included in a future Welcome to Macintosh article.

Stay tuned for an upcoming series of articles that I’m sure everyone will enjoy! πŸ™‚

Short link: https://goo.gl/p24lxs