My First Mac

Hooked by Apple Engineering

Eric McCann - 2001.11.27

Years ago, when a computer meant something the size of a keyboard hooked up to the TV, I'd used an Apple - specifically, an Apple IIe. I used it in school, learned BASIC, and played games; the usual. I came home to a TI-99/4a, or my brother's Commodore, or the Atari 800XL we got later.

This was my first source of frustration with computers. The program I wrote in BASIC on Apple didn't work on the Atari or the TI. And loading programs - floppy drive? Ha! Listen to the squeal of my tape drive! Of course, at this time, tape was state of the art for home computing.

I didn't really touch a computer again for a long time.

In high school, I had to write an essay. The class tromped off to the computer lab filled with Macs and LaserWriters - to be honest, I don't know what sort they were, but given this was around 1989 or so, I'll let those with a better grasp of Mac history figure it out. It was nice - better than the electric typewriter I was using at home. Of course, trying to talk the parents into a computer (not knowing the differences between them) netted me a newer electric typewriter, with a 20-character, 1 line LCD.


I still didn't really pay much attention to computers. Once in a while going to American TV and playing with music software on their compact Macs or playing Wolfenstein on a PC. But this didn't really expose me to the differences in the platforms.

A few short years later I decided I had to go back to school. A high school diploma didn't get me much but temp work in a factory, and I decided barely-over-minimum-wage was not going to be my future. My parents retired, and I moved in with my brother.

More importantly, I moved in and got to play with his computer, a 386 DX running DOS 6 and (sometimes) Windows.

This, in and of itself, wasn't too bad. I didn't have much to do, but I wanted to play games. Lemmings. Populous. Falcon 3. And I was going to school to learn drafting - specifically, to use AutoCAD. So I dug in and learned about PCs. From not knowing what an XT, AT, various 86s and the like were, to being able to make the PC absolutely fly --- and pushing it 'til it locked up.

The lockups got really irritating. DOS and Windows 3.1 weren't cutting it for me. Windows 4.0 was barely being whispered about. NT? Needed a lot of memory and was very picky about hardware. So I went and used OS/2.

This was my first foray into computer evangelism, nay, zealotry. I could do so much more than those "poor" Windows users! It made so much better use of my hardware and memory! It didn't crash! It did what I told it to!

Unfortunately, not many "big names" developed for it. I had to keep DOS and Windows around, either as Win-OS/2 (a virtual machine that runs inside OS/2, much like VirtualPC on the Mac) or, for games and really picky applications, as a dual boot option. Still, life wasn't too bad, I thought. And I have to admit to still having a soft spot in my computing heart for OS/2, but that's another story.

I didn't really consider a Mac at this point - sure, they also had this neat user interface, but only one button - how could you do anything with that on a mouse? And they were so expensive! And wouldn't let you upgrade! (I thought.) You couldn't open the case! (I thought.) I'll stick with my "clearly superior" PC, running the 'better Windows than Windows."

Then Windows 95 came out. Sure, it still crashed, and I got to ignore it for a while, upgrading OS/2 - until, of course, the gaming bug bit me again (Diablo), and I had to get Windows 95 to run it. Come on, where's that IBM marketing?

Have you ever upgraded an internal modem on a PC? It gave me new reason to really dislike Windows. I had a system with a 14.4, which I wanted to upgrade to a "blazing fast" 28.8 modem. I did so, changing jumpers (which I really didn't mind) to match the settings of the old one. DOS didn't care. OS/2 was perfectly happy.

Win95 - er, no, that's where your mouse is! So now, no mouse, no modem, and hours of frustration. Still, I got it to work.

I had given up on drafting and was doing tech support now. I walked literally hundreds of users through Windows 95 upgrades, sometimes suggesting OS/2 - until they shot themselves in the foot, first with the aborted PowerPC version (which I was waiting for - and hey, here's Apple again, with them and IBM, we'll have cheap, common hardware!) and then with their snubbing of home and SOHO users (their "kitchentop market" comment). IBM pulled out of the home OS market and went back to business. Not being able to find much software for OS/2, I went back to the Windows world.

Windows 98 and NT 4 were out. I liked NT - too bad it didn't like some of my hardware. 98? Well, somewhat better than 95, but where's the $100 worth of improvement? I tried other OSes, various flavors of Linux, and settled on Be, which loves my digital camera but hates my WinModem and network card. Rather limited use at the moment.

I was resigned to suffer with Win98 until something better came along.

On a lark, I went to the nonprofit computer store and picked up a Mac Classic to play with.

Hey, I like this!

Quick bootup (how many, er, few seconds?) 4 MB RAM, 40 MB hard drive. Okay, it's not going to do much for me, but I like this. I'd also been hearing (earlier) about the blue-and-white G3s, which sounded great, except for all the PC hardware I had. And then the iMac - all in one, again, but no cash at the moment. And the G4s....

Well, it was time to give these a closer look.

I started reading about what was going on with Apple. I'd heard of Steve Jobs coming back, of the trials and tribulations of Apple beforehand, and of Apple being profitable again. Something was going on. Still, I wasn't ready to take the plunge (financially or computer-wise) just yet.

I moved to find work and met a friend of my brother's. He'd just written a book, mostly on a Classic. He had some other hardware he didn't know what to do with, and had heard I was interested in Macs.

I got my Mac IIsi and Quadra 700 that way: external CD ROM, one keyboard, nice Belkin mouse.

Oooh, I could play games. <g>

I didn't know where along the Apple "food chain" these systems were, though I remembered hearing of Quadras some time ago. Didn't graphics people use them? They couldn't' be all that bad. Tinkerer that I am, I decided to take them apart to see what was inside.

I'm sure you realize how easy Apples are to take apart. I was seriously impressed. And to be honest, this is what hooked me. This was some well thought out engineering.

Time to move up a little farther. I played with the Quadra a bit more, playing Warcraft, Glypha, and some of Ambrosia's games, typing along with WordPerfect 3, and started looking at other software.

"Requires PowerMac."

"Requires OS 8.1 or higher."

Oops. So, off to eBay I went. I decided to take the plunge on two machines: a PM 7100 and 7200. I'd use one (the 7100, no hard drive, but they were cheap according to the ads in MacAddict) as a Be machine, and play with 8.x on the 7200.

"Hey, Be doesn't work on a 7100."

Oops. I'm still learning a lot about the built-in elegance of the Mac. I like working along its OS's "evolution" - for someone like me, it helps. And I have to admit, I love its memory management. "You have this much" is so much more clearer than "X much XMS, X much EMS, X much conventional, and did I mention system resources?"

But I'm still having a lot of fun learning about Macs - and starting to evangelize again. I'm also looking for my first "new" Mac. I'm looking at a nice iBook for myself, and maybe one for my wife. Or an iMac - there's still the money thing there. Or, I might splurge on a 766 MHz G4.

What can I say, I'm hooked, and places like Low End Mac and all the other Mac-related sites have helped out greatly.

Yes, I still use a PC. I'll use it less, most likely, when I get the "new" Mac. I'm thinking of the G4 with VirtualPC (for the occasional game I can't get on the Mac - or can't wait for).

I'm hooked.

Thank you, Apple.

Go to the My First Mac index.