My First Mac

Mac Replaces Apple II

David Owens - 2001.08.02

It was some time in the late 80s, though I don't remember the exact year. But I remember the day clearly. It was Thanksgiving when my older brother gave me his old Apple //c.

I'd been lusting after a computer for a long time. There wasn't anything I could do about it except leaf through computer magazines at the library and try not to drool on the pages.

Though I was in my thirties, I was a poor, starving college student, and a computer was an unimaginable luxury. But I got lucky. My Olivetti typewriter (can you say "typewriter?" I knew you could!) broke down.

This was a catastrophe for a student living on Ramen noodles and powdered milk in a rundown garage apartment. I needed something to write my school papers on, and I didn't know what I was going to do.

I still didn't know what I was going to do when I went to my brother's house for Thanksgiving. Before dinner I got to talking to my nephew, and he told me my brother had recently stored the Apple in the garage. I got excited. "Do you think he'd sell it to me?" I asked, thinking I could get it cheap.

"He'd probably give it to you," my nephew said.

And he did. An Apple //c with monochrome monitor and ImageWriter dot matrix printer found its way into my humble abode.

Time passed. I graduated, got a job, moved to a better apartment. But the Apple, which I loved almost as much as my cat, remained. I bought a 2400 modem and got on America Online. People in chat rooms wouldn't believe me when I told them I was using an 8-bit Apple II to chat with them.

I discovered Eamon text adventures. I signed on at least a dozen local bulletin board systems. I discovered how to download free or nearly free software. I wrote stories, letters, a journal, and published an amateur magazine. Obsolete though it was, that Apple was a major part of my life.

Then, out of nowhere, AOL's management announced that they would no longer support the Apple II. Disgruntled, I migrated to Genie where I could use the Lynx text browser.

Genie was great. This was Genie's heyday, when it was one of the best online communities around. But the service began to decline seriously when new management took over, and I started shopping around for another online service or ISP.

The pickings were slim. In fact, they came down to Delphi or Genie if I wanted a text interface. A shell account with an ISP seemed like a lot more trouble than it was worth. I thought I might make do with local bulletin board systems, but by now they were dropping like flies.

I realized I had to make a choice: get a more modern computer or get off line.

Money wasn't as tight as it had been in my student days, but it was still a consideration. I poked through some catalogs from a company that sold refurbished Apple IIs and Macs. Wincing at the prices, I settled on a Macintosh Plus. I called the number with my much abused credit card in hand. The sales woman asked a few questions about what I was going to use the computer for and talked me into buying a Mac SE instead. I had misgivings; I thought maybe she'd talked me into spending more money than I really wanted to.

But she was right.

When the UPS delivered the SE, I had it set up and running in less than ten minutes. In another twenty minutes, I had printed out some copy on the StyleWriter inkjet printer I'd bought at a pawn shop. I looked at the sheet and felt like dancing around the room, it was that much of an improvement over dot matrix.

In an instant, the Mac had replaced the Apple //c in my heart.

With the SE, I returned to America Online. I wrote my first book on the Mac and published it through a guy I met on the message boards at AOL. I wrote most of my first novel on the SE. I hung out in chat rooms all night - and a couple of times for entire weekends. I posted like crazy in AOL's message boards. I typeset several short stories in booklet form on the Mac and printed 'em up at Kinko's. They looked so professional I proudly gave them away to friends.

It was cyberheaven.

But time and tide wait for no man and for no Mac. I got the itch for color and a graphic browser. I scrounged around a bit and wound up buying a used Mac IIcx with a refurbished color monitor, and the SE, despite all my affection for it, ended up in my junk room. I later gave the SE to my mom, who used it for about a year, then bought a PC and gave the Mac back to me. The motherboard had gone bad, and the SE went back into my junk room. A while later, the IIcx got replaced by a Quadra 800, and about six or seven months ago the 800 got replaced by a Power Mac 6100/60 with a G3 accelerator.

Today the //c sits on a bookshelf. I bought a color monitor for it a few years ago, and now I run kaleidoscope programs and play games on it once in a while. Occasionally I browse though back issues of Softdisk. The Quad 800 sits next to my desk, just in case I ever need a backup for the 6100. The IIcx is in my junk room, together with a couple of burnt out monitors and a Classic I picked up for a few bucks at a thrift store. The floppy drive on the Classic doesn't work. When I get around to it, I'm going to take the floppy out of the dead SE and put it in the Classic. The SE will then be a gutted piece of junk.

But somehow I feel like the SE's still gonna stay.

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