My Turn

Old Macs and New Can Be Great Tools in the Creative Process

- 2007.07.30

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

My relationship with computers began in the early-to-mid 80s with my grandfather's TRS-80 and the Atari 400 at school. Computers fascinated me, but everything changed when I was shown a Mac (I think it might be a 512K or Plus) in a demo in a mall in 1986.

That was a revelation.

I was eight years old, and I found it playful and inspiring. I remember that I told the guys in the booth that one could videotape the movement of the squares and ovals and make computer animation. After half-an-hour,å my dad had to remove me from the mouse.

We ate pizza, and I only spoke about the moused wonder. I haven't stop since then.

Early in 1987, my uncle, a graphic designer, got himself a Mac Plus, and I spent a lot of time in his office and later got vacation jobs there so I could have some time to experiment with the Macs, Aldus PageMaker, KidPix, HyperCard, and, most importantly, SoundEdit. Oh yes, the games were also important: Lode Runner, Billiards (I remember it was made in Pascal), and my favourite: Social Climber. My first experiments in electronic art were made with these Macs and these apps.

I needed a computer and was 14 (with all the annoyance and noise that a teenager can make), Macs were expensive, and my mom couldn't afford one, so my first computer was a 486DX IBM clone (the term PC then applied for all PCs) with a VGA monitor and a CD-ROM that I wasn't able to configure at all in almost three years. It ran DOS 6 and Windows 3.1. I used it at holiday work. Micrografx Designer was the tool of choice - the only thing that made the IBM an acceptable environment.

Time passed, and I and the Mac family grew. My dad - an architect and industrial designer - got an LC III and used a powerful app that could run well even in an SE called DesignCAD. He still misses it and sobs in front of Rhino.

Finally, My Own Mac!

My sad and clumsy IBM clone began to look boring, and it gradually went out of favour. Eventually the Plus wasn't used anymore at the office, so I decided to borrow it and gave away the IBM clone in favour of a 9-year-old Mac.

That was the first Mac that lived with me.

In 1996, I graduated from high school, and I began my music studies the next year. Soon, there was a big surprise: My mom got me a Performa 6400 as a birthday present, my uncle owed some money to her and also gave her a PowerPC upgraded Quadra 610. That was the first Mac I owned. It made everything I wanted and had tremendous sound capabilities, and it ran SoundEdit 16, my editing tool which got me into the field of electroacoustic music. I designed my own CD covers, made numeric and graphic experiments with the golden mean, made graphic scores for improvisation, and made a CD database in AppleWorks (man, that was an office suite!).

My First PowerBook

PowerBook 100Some years later, I felt the need for mobility, and the Blueberry iMac I got later was too big to carry around (I actually did sometimes), so I got a PowerBook 100 for US$10 in eBay (the shipping to Colombia was absolutely expensive relative to the price, US$30, but still cheaper than anything else). The 12-year-old laptop ran realtime algorithmic composition software called M2, a very good MIDI sequencer called Master Tracks (which isn't too different than current MIDI sequencers), and Encore, the music notation software, along with some other apps. I impressed everyone with this old grey machine, controlling and automating the devices at the electroacoustic studio in the University. They couldn't do that much in their brand-new PC laptops. (They won in one thing: they could run Minesweeper, but I had Spectre!)

Macs came and went, some died, and some were given away, but they always were and still are important in my formative and creative processes. I'm writing this in my MacBook Pro, which I think is a superb machine with a superb OS, but I still find the first Macs more elegant and charming than OS X.

It may sound strange, but Macs are more likely to develop an emotional link with you than any other computer.

Daniel Andrés Prieto García
Departamentos de Artes y Música
Universidad de los Andes

Daniel's Blogspot

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