My First Mac

PC User Finds Mac Clearly Superior

Vince Anderson - 2001.08.09

I also want to tell you my story in becoming involved with Macs and the Mac Web. For background, let me tell you that I am a computer guy. I love all computers and the capabilities that they grant us poor humans. I love my Macs, but I also love my poor Pentium 166 (still my primary Windows box), and I also love the sleek new Windows laptop that my employer has seen fit to bestow upon me (did I mention that I work for a global computer hardware, software and services firm - its initials rhyme with "I See Them") :-)

I also love the powerful Unix computers that I work with every day, and I love the wonderful mainframes that I still interact with on a daily basis (although it is a love from afar). The technology industry has granted me, a poor dropout from university in the 80s, a chance to enjoy a quality of life far beyond the weak promise of my early years.

My experience with Macs began in the early 90s, when my job as a lowly helpdesk technician included supporting mainframe connectivity to a large assortment of 68020 and 68030 machines. I have to admit that I hated Macintoshes - in my mind, real computed happened on the mainframes and VAXes that my employer had in quantities. PCs were toys, and Macs were a poor cousin of the XTs, ATs, 286, and 386 machines that were common at the time.

Worse still, Mac users had little patience with the vagaries of mainframe connectivity; they expected their computers to work all the time. Walking a Mac user through a problem on the phone was like getting a six-year-old child to land a 747 in heavy fog.

As the years passed, I became an expert in Windows, Novell networking, and early Web technologies. The Macs were almost all replaced by Windows 95 and Windows NT, which I understood completely. Despite what I read daily on the Mac Web about the inferiority of PC computing, my conclusion is this: PCs running Windows are, more often than not, an ideal solution for what they are used to accomplish - office computing.

So how did Macs begin to make an impression on me?

I used to volunteer for Computers for Schools, a Canadian program that refurbishes surplus computers from government and corporate offices for redeployment to schools. We took used 486 and low-end Pentium computers, got the hardware going, loaded Windows 95 on them, and shipped them by the hundreds to far-flung school districts in Western Canada, where they were welcomed by cash-strapped schools who could never afford to buy gear any other way.

In one corner of our warehouse was the Mac graveyard. Although we received many donations from government offices, legal firms, and other places where Macs once ruled, the schools did not want them ("we want our students to learn a computing platform that they will encounter in real life"). This corner would make a Mac afficionado cry. Shelf upon shelf of beautiful used Macs - not just Compacts and LCs, but Quadras and Power Macs galore. Here they would sit until somebody put a special order in or they would be relegated to the landfill.

One day I asked if I could take one home. My ambition was to load MKLinux on one and prove to a friend that Linux didn't just run on PCs. I selected a very clean, bootable Power Mac 6200CD with a 1 GB hard drive and ethernet and took it home. Within a day I realized that the 6200 was one of very few Macs which was not supported under any Linux distro. I was going to take it back and swap it for something else, but something told me to stuff it full of RAM (64 MB) and load a copy of Mac OS 8.1 that I had gotten my hands on, just to see if it would work.

Although it was kind of slow (a real Road Apple, as I would learn later, through Low End Mac) I still found something funky and compelling about the user interface - why, after using Windows since version 2.1 (anybody remember the DOS Executive?) did it make so much sense to close a window with the little square in the left-hand corner of the window, instead of the right? Why did the keyboard and mouse seem so crisp and responsive when I had worked on the best PC gear available? Why did Control Panels under the Apple menu seem like such a good idea when I was a wizard at Windows registry tweakings to do what I wanted to modify system parameters?

Anyway, to make a long story short, I was sold on the Mac platform like never before. Although I passed the 6200CD onto a friend, my present collection includes an SE/30 (currently not bootable, probably ready for a Macaquarium), an SE (that used to boot until the last RAM upgrade, currently under review), an LC III, a wonderful Mac IIci, a 7200/120 (my workhorse - I'm typing this on it right now) and, new this spring, an iMac DV+ which dual-boots MacOS 9.1 and OS X. Although I make my living on Windows and Unix machines, I still like to boot the Macs up at night, see all my antiques report in faithfully in Chooser, and run some beautiful, complex desktop publishing projects through on what others consider throwaway computers.

Thanks to Low End Mac and other great web resources (JAG's House, The pickle's low-end Mac FAQ ) I have had a wonderful experience with this clearly superior computing platform.

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