My road to the Mac has been a long one. While some of my earliest experiences with computers were on a Macintosh, it would take another 15 years before I would come to own one myself. Along the way I would discover a passion for computers and technology that continues to this day.
A Mac in the Classroom
My first experience with the Macintosh came in the fall of 1997 in my 2nd grade classroom. Up until this point my experience with computers was very limited. My first grade classroom had an Apple IIe in it that I believe I used once, while at home we had an obsolete PC clone that my great uncle had sent us running DOS and Windows 3.1. Computers were still mysterious boxes that let you do fun things and this one, a Macintosh IIx or IIfx, was no exception. While I can no longer remember the exact model, I can remember playing with Kid Pix, a wacky paint program with tons of fun effects for making or destroying a drawing.
The fun with the Macintosh was not to last however. In December the school district put four IBM NetVista PCs running a skinned version of Windows 95 in each classroom, and the Macintosh was unplugged and eventually removed.
This was not the end of Macs in my school though. Third grade would bring my next experience with the Mac. While the classrooms had been switched to PCs, the computer lab still had Macs. Unfortunately, this experience would not be as enjoyable as the last. The computer lab was equipped with Power Macintosh 5200 series machines, some of the worst computers ever built by Apple. To this day I can remember the computer teacher warning us not to have more than two or three windows open – or we could freeze the machine.
Worse, these Macs were running At Ease, a simplified environment that ran in place of the desktop. This awkward UI and the instability of these machines would sour my view of the Macintosh for many years to come.
Midway through the year these Macs were replaced with IBM machines, and the 5200s were given to classrooms that wanted one in place of one of their PCs.
This was also the year my parents finally bought a usable computer for our home, as I was starting to need one for schoolwork. They brought home a no-name beige PC from a computer show running Windows 98. This would be the machine that I would really learn how to use computers with and began to become interested in technology.
An iPod and the Return of Apple
Apart from commercials on TV, the Mac and Apple had no presence in my life until my freshman year of high school. It was spring of 2005, and the iPod mini had hit my school hard and fast the previous year. As a musician (I play the trumpet) I was feeling the need for something better than my old CD player from 1999. So when Aldi had a deal on the iPod shuffle in the Sunday paper, my brother and I each got one.
This was the first time Apple had a direct presence in our house and my life. I liked the shuffle and would use it as my only music player throughout high school.
While there was still no chance of a Mac coming into our home; Windows was too entrenched both there and at school. However, it did lead to an interest in them. I read Wikipedia articles about the Macintosh, starting with the models that I remembered from elementary school. This lead to an even bigger source of information, the huge archive of articles here on Low End Mac. I spent a good amount of my free periods on the computer reading about the history of personal computing, including Mac history.
It was around this time I took a computer programming class my high school had. I enjoyed the course so much that I decided to apply to college as a Computer Science major. I was accepted to Binghamton University and began my studies there in the fall of 2008.
College and Experiencing the Mac
It was at Binghamton that I would experience the modern Mac for myself. I had briefly looked at Macs when shopping for a laptop, but I thought they were too expensive and was worried about compatibility, so I got a Dell laptop instead. As it turns out, getting a Mac would have saved me the need to dual boot Linux in order to do my programming assignments. I was also surprised by the number of Macs on campus, almost a 50/50 split, after years of living in a Windows-only world.
Out of curiosity, I started using some of the Macs located in the computer labs on campus. While I found them different than what I was used to, I found them more enjoyable to use than the public Windows machines.
College would also pull me further into the Apple world, first with an iPod touch in the fall of 2008, then an iPad and an iPhone in 2011. I found myself understanding and liking Apple’s focus on the overall experience of the product, rather than a focus on specs or features that drives Android. That being said, I still respect and enjoy different technologies and try to recommend the best fit to anyone that asks for advice.
My First Mac
In the summer of 2012, I was once again on the hunt for a new computer. I had one year of graduate school ahead, and my Dell was showing its age in certain areas. Now that I knew a lot more about computers, I was better equipped to pick out the machine I wanted. Apple had just refreshed most of their computers with the latest chips from Intel and introduced OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. The PC world was not due for a hardware and software refresh until the fall with the release of Windows 8.
Since it had the specs and build quality I wanted and was available before school started, I decided to go with a Mac. I purchased a 2.9 GHz 13 inch Macbook Pro from the Apple Store at the mall. Now, a year and a half later, I absolutely love this machine and have no regrets about switching to a Mac. While I still use Windows and Linux, and have no problems with either, my Mac has taken much of the hassle out of maintaining my main computer, and I see myself using it for a long time to come.
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