My First Mac

I'd Rather Use a Mac

Joseph "Pope Zaphod" Prisco - 2001.11.06

My initial exposure to Macs was in college, 1988-92. The computer lab had many VT-100 terminals, around 10 PCs, and 10-20 Macs, mainly Pluses and SEs. We also had a pair of SE/30s that we used to monitor things and do print jobs on the LaserWriter NTX (only 10¢ a page!). I was impressed with the desktop publishing capabilities - including everyday word processing - that the Macs had and was generally unimpressed with the DOS machines in the lab.

My father, however, was a mathematician and used "serious" computers. I inherited his 286 while in college, while he worked on a 486 DX2/50 from Gateway. Being exposed mainly to PCs at home - along with my father's disapproval of the Mac as being a "toy" - swayed me over to the Dark Side for many years.

My first job after college involved doing technical writing and eventually graphics and multimedia for a small software company, all on PCs running Windows 3.1, then 95 and 98. The first computer I ever bought was a Micron P100 system. I was fully into the Windows mindset; they had pretty much all of my mindset. Strangely, the majority of my friends were Mac users. I recall seeing a Quadra and commenting, "Oh, Macs can do color now?"

I started my current job in 1999, providing support to a department at a major university. The department had just expanded (or, more appropriately, three departments merged into one large one), and I inherited the workspace of the tech guy from one of the former departments. There I found a PowerTower Pro 200 running Mac OS 8.6 hooked up to two Hitachi monitors, as well as a WorkGroup Server 7150 doing backups with Retrospect. I had reacquainted myself with the Mac OS in the past year or so, but this was the first time I was using it regularly. I quickly picked up troubleshooting extensions, preference files, directory trees, and SCSI chains. DiskWarrior and TechTool Pro became my new best friends.

I generally found that troubleshooting Macs was easier than PCs. Instead of looking for "ambgextn.dll" and wondering what the hell it did, I would use the Extension Manager to see what extensions were being loaded - even without detailed descriptions, it's pretty easy to figure out what "MouseMan Extension" is for. I also found that I had to troubleshoot Macs much less frequently than PCs.

Pretty soon I had Eudora, Netscape (eventually IE 5), Office, and a few other programs working the way I wanted, laid out just so using both monitors. Then I noticed that other people in the department were Yosemite designusing Blue and White G3s while I, the Computer Guy, was slumming on a 604e. So in a meeting with my supervisor and the head of my department, I brought up this fact and requested a better Macintosh - not necessarily one of those new G4s, but certainly a fast G3. I also asked for a low-end PC so I could support Windows users (read floppy disks, confirm Windows networking problems, etc.). My supervisor asked me, "Why don't we get you a high-end PC and make that your main machine, and you can use your current Mac as a troubleshooting machine?"

This was the moment. I could get a new PC running Windows 98 on my desk at work. I could bring in software that I had for my Pentium II at home. I would be back in my element - back to using Windows, back to BSoD (blue screen of death) every day, mysterious DLL files, security holes - away from the Macintosh and it's comfortable GUI, powerful applications, it's Mac-ness.

I replied, "I'd really rather stay with the Mac as my main platform." I had finally put into words what I had known inside since my second week at work: I loved the Mac.

The department chair decided it would be good for me to have one of those new Power Mac G4s, and I am writing this on a 450 MHz G4 with 768 MB of RAM running Mac OS X 10.1. At home I have a G4/450 MP running Mac OS X 10.1, having sold my PII system and buying the G4 from a friend who decided what he really wanted was an iBook. I finally understand why Mac users (I should say "we Mac users") love this platform so much. It feels really good to be away from the Dark Side.

(My "troubleshooting" PC at work has Windows 2000, but I tend to run Linux on it most of the time.)

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