My First Mac

Macs for Writing and Typesetting

Laraine Anne Barker - 2001.12.04

My first Mac was a Mac Plus with 1 MB RAM. Together with a LaserWriter Plus, it cost us $26,000 (New Zealand dollars) in May 1985. We literally had to mortgage the house to pay for it. I did desktop publishing, mainly for printers, using PageMaker 1, which was a nightmare, and Word 1, which was useful only for bashing out words to be placed into PageMaker. We later had to buy a second floppy drive, which was followed by an external 20 MB hard drive. We also upgraded the RAM to about 2.5.

At the time I was working on a CPT word processor. Two work stations and a daisy wheel printer cost my employer $50,000. They had 128 KB of RAM, and if you wanted to spell-check you had to reboot using a different startup disk. However, the limited vocabulary of the software didn't make it worth the effort - it queried at least two words out of every three. These machines used 8" floppy disks that really were floppy and absolutely ghastly to use. They were always breaking down, no matter how careful we were with them.

I remember thinking that if only Word could do all the wonderful things the CPT's software could do (boxing tables, collapsing columns, creating footnotes, etc.) the Mac, with the beautiful printout from the LaserWriter Plus, could wipe the floor with both the CPT and the Wang word processors. I needed to take a course in order to use the CPT (and even then I kept forgetting how to do things), but all we needed for the Mac Plus was the machine itself and the instruction book. Within hours we were producing work.

When I later came across a phototypesetter (Compugraphic) I wished the LaserWriter could produce the same quality as this cumbersome and expensive machine whose output required everything to be pasted up - messy and time-consuming. The owner of the Compugraphic told me my desktop publishing system would never replace phototypesetting, to which I replied, "Give it time, Bill; give it time." I had the satisfaction of later seeing Compugraphics advertised "free for spare parts."

I was really sorry that the Mac didn't replace those awful CPT and Wang things, though. It should have. It certainly would have if Bill Gates had been a little slower in copying the Mac platform - or preferably forbidden by the law to do it. But this isn't the first time that a vastly inferior product has won the biggest market share, and unfortunately it won't be the last.

I sold the Mac Plus for $1,000 and bought an LC, which, with a 13" Trinitron monitor, cost about $5,000, and a OneScanner (8-bit greyscale) which cost $2,500. When the LC (now with 12 MB, its maximum) became far too slow and small, I sold it for $1,200 to the first fellow who looked at it.

Because I couldn't afford the PowerMac that I really wanted, and the genuine 7200s were too small and slow, I opted for a PowerCurve 120 with an 810 MB hard drive and 8 MB RAM. Because the RAM was barely enough to run the system software (7.5.2), I had to upgrade to 32 MB (and later to 96 MB). The PowerCurve, however, lasted a little less than five years. Even if clones were still available, I wasn't going to buy another one and opted instead for a secondhand upgraded 9500/120.

Laraine Anne Barker is the author of The Obsidian Quest, a finalist in the Dream Realm Awards 2001.

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