My First Mac

More In Love Each Day

Jim Williams - 2001.09.25

Let me begin this article by making a small confession. The Mac I'm writing about is not my first Mac. My computer career started back in the seventies with a powerful Radio Shack Color Computer with a whopping 4K of RAM. Later I graduated to various PC compatibles over the years. In my area of the country, Macs are pretty rare, so I was never really exposed to them - but I had always been curious.

About a year or so ago, while perusing the items for sale on eBay, I noticed how cheaply some of the older Macs could be had. After doing a little research, I decided to satisfy my curiosity by acquiring one of these strange creatures so adored by their devotees.

I began by buying a compact Mac, an SE/30 to be exact. I learned a lot about the basics of the SE/30Mac OS with that amazing little machine, but as you could imagine, due to obvious limitations, I did not really do much day to day work with it. (I did manage to get it on the Internet!)

I then picked up a few other older Macs, including things as late as a couple of Quadra 650s. I'll have to be honest and admit here that my motives had begun to change a little at this point. I was frankly so impressed by the abilities of these vintage machines when compared with much newer (but already pretty obsolete) PCs that I began to think "with a little education, there might be a good market for these things among local folks who want a computer, but don't have several hundred dollars to invest."

So I began to buy a few systems, do some disk cleanup and necessary fix ups, and offer them for sale locally. I sold a few systems for bargain basement prices to folks I considered to be worthy owners. However, I soon began to realize that this endeavor was just too time consuming to be profitable. For every person who called me with any idea of what a Mac was, there were ten with the usual question, "Does it run Windows?" After many hours of educating folks on the phone about the differences in Mac and PCs, I just gave up.

At this point I still had a collection of about 8 or 9 Macs, but I still was not using one regularly. Several of these Macs were rescued from a local thrift store. Let me see, I bought, I think, two compacts, including another SE/30, and the true subject of this article, a badly scavenged Power Computing PowerWave 604/120. The old PowerWave looked pretty sad: no hard drive, an empty bay where the CD-ROM had been, etc. I did a little research and was pretty impressed with what I found out about the machine, so I stuck in a hard drive that I had on hand with an OS on it in and fired it up. Much to my surprise, it came up and ran.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it had 96 MB of RAM installed that someone had obviously overlooked when they attempted to pick it clean. At that time RAM was quite expensive, so I was thrilled with my purchase.

After tinkering with the machine awhile, and installing a 4x after-market drive (I had to hack the Apple driver with ResEdit to make work), I lost interest in the Macs and went on to other projects.

About a month ago, the television station that I work for had a Mac that was giving severe problems - frequent crashes, etc. We were only using it as a backup machine at the time, but it so happened that it was being depended on to do graphics work for a real estate program that we produce. We were coming up on a deadline, and I could not even lay my hands on the CD with the OS that we were running on the machine to try to make repairs. Then I thought of my trusty old PowerWave sitting in my storage room.

I and a fellow employee made a run to my house, grabbed the PowerWave, a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse from my inventory of leftover Macs and headed back to work. After a couple of software installs, we were up and running with the computer and got the program produced in time.

After working with the computer, and working on ( and eventually fixing) the station's ailing Power Mac 7100/66, I began to be once more impressed by this elegant OS. I had wanted an iMac since they had been introduced, but not bad enough to turn loose $800 to get one. I had read how easy the PowerWave was to upgrade and got to thinking: "For a few hundred dollars, I could upgrade this thing to be very close to a low end iMac's performance."

So back to my favorite computer shopping place, eBay, I went. I won the bid on a NewerTech 400/200 G3 upgrade card. I then entered bids on a USB card, a couple of switch boxes, and a few cables that I would need to set the PC and Mac up to where I could switch my 17" monitor and USB printer between them without cable swapping. After the sudden death of my CD-ROM drive, I also upgraded that to a genuine Apple 8x drive.

After a couple weeks of waiting for deliveries, everything is now in place and functioning well. I also upgraded the OS on the PowerWave to Mac OS 9.1, and it runs absolutely beautifully. My original hard drive was only 2 GB, and I recently installed a Fujitsu 8.5 GB 7200 rpm drive (with the assistance of the FWB Hard Drive Toolkit, I might add).

To end this long story, I am absolutely thrilled with my "new" computer. It is truly a pleasure to work with OS 9 on this machine. I fall in love with the OS more every day as I use it and become more and more familiar with it. I have no reservations in saying that my next new computer will be a Mac. I have one specialized program that I can't get in Mac version, so I'll have to buy SoftWindows or VirtualPC, but I consider it to be well worth that price to have a machine of this quality for my daily work.

I am saddened when I see the way that Macs and Mac users are usually treated like red headed step children by the mainstream computer vendors, but I am encouraged by Apple's new strategy of opening their own stores. I think this is a big step in the right direction away from letting "PC" salesmen sell (or, in most cases, talk people out of) buying a Mac. In my opinion they are truly doing a disservice to their customers due to their own ignorance and reluctance to be open minded and "think differently."

Go to the My First Mac index.