21 Years of Low End Mac

When I started adding some profiles of Macs to my personal web space in April 1997, who would have thought that it would grow into something enduring? We used Macs at work, I had a Mac at home, and I was teaching myself how to make web pages using Claris Home Page. So I put together two dozen Mac profiles from the 1986 Mac Plus to the 1990 Macintosh IIfx, sharing specifications, links to other resources, and my own experience with these models.

Quadra 610At the time I was using a 20 MHz Centris 610 at home, along with an Apple 13″ color display and a 14.4 dial-up modem. That was my second Mac; I had sold my Mac Plus to help pay for it. I was working for a local publishing house, first as a book designed who helped support our 12 Macs on a PhoneNet network, which grew to over 80 Macs by the time I left the company at the start of 2001.

I was a Mac convert. I started out using an Apple II+ at one job, which was way outside of my budget. My first personal computer was a Commodore VIC-20, followed by a Commodore 64, and then my first DOS PC, a Zenith Z-151. I taught myself MS-DOS 3.3 in about two weeks.

When I eventually got a job at the local ComputerLand store, I thought I was home free – everyone loved their silly Macs with mice and graphical interfaces. I would make out like a bandit selling DOS computers! You can guess what happened over time. I started to understand Macs. I began to like Macs. I chose to use Macs for some projects. And then I earned a free Mac Plus in an Apple sales promotion.

The rest, as they say, is history. I became a Mac geek. I swapped my Zenith PC for a SyQuest 44 drive with three cartridges. I upgraded memory in my Mac Plus, added an external floppy drive and then a 40 MB hard drive, and sold Macs hand over fist, just like everyone else at our ComputerLand store.

This is where I got my experience upgrading computers, taking apart a Mac SE to add more RAM and put in a third-party hard drive. Adding video cards to Mac IIs. And then being there to day of the Apple simulcast introducing the first PowerBooks. We closed the store to the public and had an invitation-only event for our customers to watch the video feed and check out the new Macs afterwards.

I received MacWeek at work, and when I was let go (as the store was getting ready to close its doors), I had that subscription directed to my home address. And when I moved to the publishing job, MacWeek followed my there. And when I quit that job to publish Low End Mac full-time, MacWeek followed me home again. I also digested BYTE, Macworld, and MacUser magazines cover-to-cover every month.

So when I started The New Low End Mac User, it was because I knew a whole lot about older Macs. I had worked with almost every one of the 24 models initially profiled, except for the Mac IIvi, IIvx, and Performa 600. In face, the company had just sold its oldest Macs that had recently been replaced – a Mac Plus, Mac II, and a few Mac LC and LC II computers. (Guess who bought most of them?)

From humble beginnings, Low End Mac grew. I added profiles for 68040-based Macs. I added profiles of 680×0-based PowerBooks. I added profiles for Power Macs and PowerPC PowerBooks. I started adding editorial content in July 1987. I added some writers in 1999. And it just kept growing.

We’ve had our ups and downs over the years. I picked exactly the wrong time to quit my IT job so I could publish Low End Mac full-time. Little did I know that the dot-com bubble burst would decrease ad rates faster than I could increase the number of pages served. I ended up working part-time in a local camera store and, on a personal note, went through a painful divorce.

Another big drop in ad rates meant that I had to cut back on what I paid my writers. Many of our writers were willing to switch to volunteer status, but Charles W. Moore is a full-time journalist and can’t afford to work for free, so we lost him, which significantly impacted our site traffic. (Moore wrote 1-2 articles per week plus a mailbag column plus our news roundups.)

Over the years, we’ve served somewhere around 175 million pages. We peaked at an average of 1.43 million pages per month in 2007,  dropped to an average of 1.03 million pages per month in 2010, 757,000 in 2011, 509,000 in 2012, and 194,000 in 2013. In recent years our average has been around 200,000 pages per month.

Five years ago, we switched from Claris Home Page to WordPress, and since our numbers were so low, ads no longer provided much income. We left a few affiliate links up but got rid of the display ads, going to a donation-based funding model. Nobody gets paid to write for Low End Mac, and what I receive for my work is that Low End Mac pays for the Internet and my iPhone service.

For me, it’s a labor of love. I am now working as a full-time technical writer in a completely different field, and I owe that to a B.A. in English, history, and philosophy plus a lifetime of learning and researching and sharing what I’ve learned with others. Low End Mac has been a huge part of preparing me for working as a technical writer, which I intend to do for the rest of my life.

Whether you’re new to Low End Mac or you’ve been following us for all these years, thank you for supporting our very worthwhile endeavor. We love nothing more than sharing our knowledge and our passion for almost all things Apple.

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