My First Mac

Hooked on Low-End Macs

Frank C. Modica - 2001.07.24

I didn't actually touch my first Mac until I went to grad school in journalism at the University of Illinois in 1986. Both Macs and PCs were available for typing papers, but I used the PCs at first because some friends were prejudiced against Macs. When Mac-savvy friends introduced me to the Plus, I was intrigued, so I had to try them out at the university computer labs. At first I struggled with basic things like how to use a mouse and how to print to the networked laser printers in the labs, but once I overcame my initial computer klutziness, I was hooked.

Nevertheless, when I returned to my public school classroom as a special education teacher in the fall of 1987, I went back to Apple IIes. I had to satisfy my Mac lust at various computer labs on campus. However, when my school district had a special purchasing arrangement with Apple in 1991, I nervously took the plunge. For about $2,500, I picked up a Macintosh LCbrand spanking new LC, color monitor, ImageWriter II printer, and educators software package. (I wince when I think what I can get with the same $2,500 today, maybe an iMac, an iBook, and an inkjet printer!)

In the summer of 1998, I took the plunge for the second time, and picked up a Performa 6200 with a 15" Sony Trinitron monitor for about $700. When I went from a hard drive with 40 MB to 1 GB, I almost didn't know what to do with all that extra space. But I still wasn't connected to the Internet at home, satisfying my Internet mania at school.

I eventually surfed onto Low End Mac, and discovered articles about upgrading old Power Macs to G3s. And then I bought my third Mac, a Power Mac 6100. Thanks to articles on Low End Mac and links to other resources, I dropped a larger hard drive inside the 6100, bought more RAM (and installed it myself), and navigated the shoals of upgrading my operating system from Mac OS 8.0 to 8.1. I also tinkered with the LC, thanks to Low End Mac columns, upgrading the RAM to 10 Mb and adding a 300 MB hard drive. I also signed up with a local ISP.

Through a bulletin board sponsored by my local ISP, I plugged into some local sales, where I picked up Macs four, five and six: an LC 575, a PowerBook 170, and a Power Mac 7100. Thanks to eBay, I grabbed Blackbirdnumber seven, a PowerBook 540c, for a son who needed a handy computer for typing papers and could access his school ethernet network while he was away at college.

On the hardware front, my inventory of Macs has gone down a bit since I gave the 575 to a brother who never had a computer. I'm in the process of unloading the 6200 and the LC, but the 540 is home for the summer. Meanwhile I've picked up a Personal LaserWriter, and I've been looking for a Duo as well as adapters so I can create a home ethernet network with the 170, the 540, and the 6100. Now my kids are asking me, "Are you really going to buy another computer?"

Thanks to the PowerBooks list, I took apart the 540c and put in a new PRAM battery. I've gotten my 170 on the Internet and also figured out how to set up that laptop so I can use a calling card. I've gotten direct email help from people all over the country, as well as picking up tips from around the world in the various email lists that I subscribe to. I haven't named any of my computers so far, but I really love (in a metaphoric sense) my low-end Macs.

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