The Lite Side

The Little Mac That Could

- 2003.10.28

Ever wonder what kind of bedtime stories Mac fanatics tell their kids at bedtime? I'm sure you've spent many sleepless nights, like I have, pondering the answer to this fundamental question. Well, Gentle Reader, put your mind at ease, because you're about to hear one of those long-forgotten childhood stories we here at the Lite Side call

The Little Mac That Could

Once upon a time, in a building far, far away, there was a little computer called Mac. He only had a nine-inch black and white screen and sported a boxy little mouse. Years ago, he had been brand-new and exciting. He did many important and interesting jobs. He published articles in newspapers, printed flyers for yard sales, and made funny noises when little pictures on the screen were clicked.

Everyone thought he was cute. For the most part, though, he was pretty lonely, because there were no other computers like him in the building.

As the years passed, newer and bigger computers were brought into the building. Some had shinier parts, others had plastic doors on the front to hold shiny new CD-ROMS, which the little computer could not read.

Gradually, all of the things the little computer could do were taken away by bigger, faster computers, and eventually the little computer's only job was to print multipart forms on an old printer that was not compatible with any other computer in the building.

One day, the printer broke, and the kindly Engineer who had kept the little computer running for so many years could not find a replacement part to fix it. The Big Boss commanded the Engineer to retire the little computer and move on, since better printers were available and multipart forms were being phased out in favor of Web-based documentation.

"Now I'll just fade away, forgotten," thought the little computer. But the Engineer had fond memories of the little computer, so he set the little computer in a corner of his office, where he would occasionally boot it up and play a game or show young workers what computers used to be like.

One day the Engineer did not come back to work for a long time. The little computer heard coworkers talking about the Engineer, who had been "downsized." Now there was no one to pay attention to the little computer.

Several days later he was removed from his beloved office and put into storage. For the longest time he sat in a box, collecting dust. His hard drive slowly degraded from cosmic rays causing random data fluctuations in his platters. Particles of air leaked into his vacuum tube, a few at a time. He knew if he ever booted again, the picture wouldn't be quite as crisp as it was when he was new.

Then, one day, he heard some people talking in the storeroom.

"That virus has shut us down completely," said one.

"Too bad we don't use Macs any more. We could finish that document the boss wanted done today."

"I thought there was an old Mac around here somewhere..." said the first.

The little computer heard rustling noises and suddenly saw light for the first time in many years.

"There is is," said the first voice. It belonged to another Engineer!

Soon after the little computer felt electricity shoot through its circuits. It struggled to boot up, but its hard drive was stiff with age and didn't spin as fast as it should.

"Go, little guy, go," said the new Engineer.

"I think I can," said the little computer to itself. "If I think I can, then I will. I think I can, I think I can."

Soon the little computer's hard drive was spinning and the operating system was running. Even though the building's network was not supposed to be compatible with the little computer's networking protocols, the young Engineer found an old Farallon LocalTalk-to-Ethernet adapter in the storeroom and got the computer online.

Fortunately, there was an old printer on the network that was still Postscript compatible, and so the little computer was soon printing out view-graphs in black and white, just in time for the Big Boss's presentation.

Now the little computer sits proudly on a shelf in the young Engineer's office, and visitors often hear the tale of how the little computer saved the company from losing an important contract when all of the other computers were broken because of a virus.

The young engineer always ends the story the same way, too.

"Just because it's old, doesn't mean it isn't useful. Newer isn't always better."

The End

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