My First Mac

From Beebs to PCs to Acorns to PCs to Macs

Fred W. - 2001.08.28

I didn't get into Macs until around the age of eleven. Before that, it was my dad's 286 laptop. The floppy drive was dying, but it was still good. I spent hours learning all the DOS commands and more hours playing the original Leisure Suit Larry. (What's that? You think I'm warped? I wonder why!)

At school we had a whole lab of Beebs. Yes, the old BBC Microcomputers. They did everything: games, word processing, and the old favourite, TCLogo, the art of building things with lots of traffic lights and making things happen. For anyone in the dark about Logo, it's lots of lego, with any motors or lights or whatever plugged into a control desk, which was then plugged into the Beeb. Magic!

Then one day some guy came in and put all these machines around the different classrooms. We then discovered the Acorn Archimedes! The GUI was amazing, and it had a mouse, and you could point at what you wanted to do and click it and it would run and we were all very exited because we were seven years old.

The Acorns were just too good. But what about the Macs?

In year 5 (1995), our teacher had a Mac Plus with two floppy drives. Pretty much all we did was play SimCity, albeit slowly, and sometimes it crashed, but no matter. You couldn't just press shift-break like the Beebs and go back to the program menu, but it did smile at you when you turned it on. That sounds a bit creepy, or even a little disturbed.

Later that year we won a brand-new Compaq with Windows 3.1. Surely the forefront of technology, this would satisfy my computing needs forever. Alas, no. Soon after it was "treated" to Windows 95, then switched back to Win 3.1. A huge new 1.5 GB hard drive replaced the original 500 MB drive, and Windows 95 was finally happy. Then it got hungry: RAM upgrades, new modems, and it nearly got a CPU upgrade. The 486 DX2/66 was struggling in 1996, and computers were getting fast.

Just as I was content with this, the school labs got upgraded with Acorn RISC PCs all round. These were sleek, easily upgradable, and fast, fast, fast. They even had 300 MB hard drives!

That sounds crap for 1996, but one thing we must remember about these Acorns is the file sizes - or lack thereof. Like 1982 MS-DOS programs, still today their file sizes are small. The equivalent of IE 5.5 on a RISC PC is 120K (kilobytes) in size and almost never dies or crashes.

But alas, I had never used a decent Mac. After well and truly becoming an Acorn nerd in Prep (Primary) School, I moved to senior school, where the whole place was filled with Macs. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the Road Apple 7220s! For us, though, they were great, so that's cool. These Power Macs gave so much and took so little. Making games in Cocoa was fun, and work was boring.

Then came a shiny(ish) new PC at home.

A blazing 233 MHz P2, surely the forefront....

The cycle seems to continue. It always has, always will. Yesterday my desk was for scribbling on paper; today it's for networking my own RISC PC, my P2, and my LC 630.

Computer speeds jump every so often, hard drives get bigger, RAM gets cheaper, and Windows crashes. Damn.

Go to the My First Mac index.

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