My First Mac

You Hate Windows - Get a Mac

David W. Murray - 2001.06.19

This is not your typical first Mac story. I'm not "under thirty," but I am like "under sixty." I never touched an Atari, a Commodore, an original Mac, or any other computer until 1997, and even then I was dragged in kicking and hollering.

My bride is an elementary school speech therapist. The proliferation of useless, CYA government reports required of her had become impossible, including one which took about six hours to write and type, virtually all of which was lawyer-approved boilerplate. She does about eighty per year - this is why your kid can't read as well as you could.

I figured that if computers were useful for anything except screwing up my phone bill, certainly they should be able to do this, so I bought a Gateway laptop. I got the basic books and read them even before the computer arrived. Color me confused.

I have to set the stage here. I, like many others, came out of scenic Southeast Asia with a set of attitudes which have since come to be known as PTSD. If you have seen extensive combat, you understand; if not, you can't. Take my word for it. Despite Hollywood, we don't end up atop the water tower with a deer rifle, but the attitude set includes paranoia, frustration intolerance, quick anger, alienation, unreasonable expectations, etc. (Ask my bride.)

It was with these tools that I sat down at the Gateway. I pushed the button, and up comes the BIOS screen (Win 95), which is not the first thing a neophyte needs to see. It's intimidating. I took the "cookbook" approach with the books open beside me. I was able to make it work, but I was appalled at the counterintuitive nature of Windows. It seemed as though to do the logical thing guaranteed disaster. Installs were problematic, uninstalls a sick joke, navigation the semantic rape of a defenseless noun. Storage was designed by the guy who wrote "Where's Waldo?" After hours of phone calls, I found that the "Word Autotext" function would do the reports, but if anything, Word was worse than Windows.

I am a woodworker, I have a thousand tools, but they're not all on the workbench at once, all the time.

I tried for nearly two months. I had bought the computer to make the difficult simple, but had not reckoned with Windows' ability to make the simple impossibly complex. How stupid is a computer that must be told to use the floppy drive (excuse me, the freakin' "A:" drive) to open a floppy? I called, throwing myself on Gateway's mercy, and they took the computer back. They simply didn't want a customer to be so unhappy with their product. If you must buy a Windows computer, get it from Gateway. They are a class act.

I called Steve Pensak, who predates Fortran - a friend, a Geek among Geeks, a guy who dreams in VMS - and cried on his shoulder. His advice boiled down to: "You do not hate computers, Grasshopper. You hate Windows. Get a Mac." With some trepidation, I did.

I pushed the button, and the PowerBook 1400 smiled at me! It welcomed me to the OS. The extensions loaded (PowerBook 1400I found myself humming "Sorcerer's Apprentice"). My responses became pretty predictable, as Steve led me through the system. I would ask, he would answer, I would exclaim, "That's it?"

"How do I open a floppy?"

"Double click the icon."

"That's it?"

It was simple, intuitive, and while there were quirks (like the Chooser), common sense was a reliable guide. My bride didn't even read the books; she just sat down and figured it out. I won't detail the rest of the exploration story - you know it. Word was retired, replaced by Riccardo Ettore's wonderful TypeIt4Me and AppleWorks.

The 1400 was traded on a 233 WallStreet, which later got a 466 MHz Newer chip. Later a 333 iMac was added, then another iBookWallStreet, which was replaced with a new 500 iBook. The iMac, the 466 WallStreet, and the 500 iBook (which Cyndee schlepps to school) all reside on an ethernet network through a MacSense broadband router/switch/hub. All are configured identically with Mac OS 9.1 (the jury is still out on X), and, except for an ancient copy of Word to open Wintel documents, it's a Micro$oft-free zone.

Yeah, I'm still a bit wacky, but now the computer is part of the solution, not a major part of the problem.

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