My First Mac

Saved by the Clones

Alex Dalmady - 2001.11.21

I got what I wanted for my eighth birthday. It wasn't a Mac. That's because the year was 1968, and Apple Computer didn't exist yet.

What I got was a calculator - not just any calculator, though. This one had the dimensions of an iMac (a little lower) and was brown with the keypad on the inclined surface in front. It weighed about 40 pounds and could add, subtract, multiply, and divide, an incredible feat for this pre-microchip marvel. My folks got it secondhand for $200, and it sat on my desk for over a decade. I really wish I still had that machine.

In college we all drooled over Apple IIs, Commodores, Tandys (Radio Shack), and the sort, but we worked with TI and HP programmable calculators (of which I had several). The university had an IBM 360. I learned to program with punch cards.

Radio Shack Pocket Computer

My first computer was a very portable portable, a Radio Shack Pocket Computer, a rectangular device with a small, integrated screen and keyboard, 2 KB of memory, and an optional interface "dock" which doubled as a printer and could save programs and data to audio cassette. I believe it cost me around $500. I still have it, and it still works.

While Pocket Computer got me through Business School, the school did have PCs and one solitary Mac in the computer lab. I did get to work on the Mac and was impressed by the way it managed fonts and graphics. It was, however, a "toy" in my mind.

When I had a nice corporate job and could afford a home computer, I didn't get a Mac. Instead, I bought an XT clone, which worked well enough for a few years.

But then I dropped out of the corporate world and decided to set up my own business selling stock market research in the form of a periodic newsletter. That was 1990, and desktop publishing existed (for all practical purposes) only on Mac. So I shelled out $5,000 for a 16 lb. Mac Portable, (often called the Mac Luggable) and another $1,200 to upgrade it to 4 MB of memory. I still dip to one side when I walk.

The newsletter was a hit, and once we had employees and an office, more Macs came. We got a IIsi with a Portrait Grayscale screen for page layout,a LaserWriter to produce the "final art," and a PowerBook 140 (a lemon) to replace the Mac Portable. Then came Centris 610s, which allowed us to network. When the computers in the office were replaced, they went home. My infant daughter played with MS Word on the Mac Portable, for example.

We came to a crossroads in 1995-96. Apple was migrating to PowerPC. Windows 95 was out with its GUI. Software developers were ignoring the Mac platform. We were having some compatibility problems, since everyone in the financial world used PCs.

We had to upgrade or switch to Wintel. It wasn't the best of years for our little company, either. It was a big decision, everyone was consulted (all four of us). It was unanimous: No one wanted to switch to the dark side. But we had to get the most out of our money. So we bought clones: one PowerCenter 120, two StarMax 3000/180s bought in an auction at OnSale, and so on.

Things got better, and we managed to upgrade everything, including the home computers. We bought used 7200s, a 7500, and a 6400/180 (bad choice - I later sold it). A MacTell clone also. And we never looked back or over to the Wintel side again.

I closed down the company at the end of 1999. Everyone got to take their Macs home. The clones are all G3-upgraded and working fine. My 82-year old father is surfing the Internet on a 7200. I'm back in the corporate world (with a Wintel piece of junk on my desk), but at home it's all Mac (four of them).

XP? No way. We're on our way to OS X. I just bought an iBook. Good thing for us that Apple sent in the clones when it did.

Go to the My First Mac index.