My First Mac

128K and Beyond

Nick Canterucci - 2001.09.18

One thing about older Macs: They continue to run on and on and on. With the proper tweaking, they continue to perform long after their production ended. Perhaps this was one of the problems that hurt the Macintosh platform. Apple for the most part built machines so well that people continued to use them years after their demise, while in the Wintel world - replacement every few years was the buzzword.

My first Mac was the original 128K Macintosh that I got my hands on in the summer of 1986, just as the arrival of the then-fantastic Mac Plus, was in full bloom.

I remember when the 128K first came out, and boy did it get my tongue a waggin'. It was that The Macintoshcool, but being a poor boy from Ann Arbor who didn't have a decent paying job or know someone going to the University of Michigan (where one could grab one of those very tasty student discounts), the 128K, was beyond my reach - but not beyond my dreams.

In the summer of 1986, I was finally able to purchase a 128k with an external floppy drive. I used MacWrite, MacPaint, and other software that came bundled with it. I was in heaven!

My little 128K was built in the 30th week of 1984 and was first owned by a U of M grad student. When the Mac Plus was released, I was finally able to get one, do word processing, hook up to local BBS, and explore all the magic of the Mac OS. I was hooked.

My little 128K gave up the ghost that fall when it's analog board-power supply died, probably due to any number of heat related problems. I didn't have the money needed to repair my little friend, so it was sadly boxed up, my name written on the box, and the box placed in the attic of the house I was living in Ann Arbor.

Not too much later, I got a full time job in Memphis and departed, leaving (but never forgetting) my first true love and little friend. Over the years, I made the jump to many Macs: SE/30, Color Classic, Quadra 840av, and my current Mac, a G3 upgraded 8100. But I always thought about that 128K....

In the summer of 1986, an old friend moved into that very house that I lived in some years ago. Still up in the attic was my old friend, asleep for the ages. My friend tracked me down in Memphis and alerted me to his find. Would I like it shipped to Memphis?

I was overjoyed and could not wait for it's arrival! Finally it showed up at my door....

The first thing I did was replace the analog board with one from a mint Mac Plus, and then proceed to give the 128K a total 409 orgy, both inside and out. I got the case fairly clean, with only a tad of yellowing, probably due to the type of plastic shell Apple used. As time went by, those cases began to yellow, due to the effects of sunlight, smoke, and anything else mother nature threw at them.

After this orgy of cleaning, I threw it all together, made a 400K floppy, put Mac OS 3.0 on it, and booted the little monkey up. Voilà! got the blank floppy with the ?, slid in the floppy, and got the smiling face we have all grown and love. I went to the finder, where it read 128K. Wow, 128k of RAM - not even a meg. It was truly amazing that the Mac sold as well as it did even during it's early heyday, but it did.

For the time being, Mona the 128K is in my den next to my G3 upgraded Power Mac 8100. I sometimes use it to play Missile Command or use MacWrite. I have no plans to upgrade Mona to 512k or even a Plus - why change perfection?

In any event, it sure was great to welcome an old friend back into my life. People would come over and see it are amazed what a sweet little Macintosh it truly was back in 1984 - and 17 years after it's debut, it still makes for great conversation.

Can any Wintel machine from that time frame boast the same? Probably not, unless one is into boat anchors, or door stops....

Go to the My First Mac index.