My First Mac

Macs an Inseparable Part of My Life

Dave Mitchell - 2001.11.29

I am a Macintosh enthusiast. I have been using computers for about 20 years, and I thoroughly enjoy using, rebuilding, and collecting Apple Macintosh products.

My first computer, which I still use as a label printer with an ImageWriter printer, was an enhanced 128k Apple IIe from late 1982. I can connect it to a color television, monochrome 80 column screen, or a VCR. I played dozens of classic arcade games on it, and I continue to use it with AppleWorks as a basic word processor and label maker.

My first Macintosh, which started my love of Macintosh computers, was a Macintosh IIcx that my parents gave to me in high school in 1989. It had an incredible 8 MB of RAM and a 40 MB hard drive. Compared to the Apple IIe, it was a speed demon at 16 MHz. This computer served me throughout high school and college. I continue to use my 1988 ImageWriter II, which I initially had been using as a color printer for my Apple IIe, to print from my IIcx. The Macintosh served me well, but two years ago I wanted a little more speed.

Two years ago I began tinkering with the IIcx. Currently I have a Radius Rocket 68040/33 NuBus card (purchased brand new for $80 from Radius Vintage) with 32 MB of RAM in the IIcx and 32 MB on the Rocket. The Rocket functions as a separate computer, and I have software that allows both processors to function as separate computers.

My current limit is that I only upgraded my IIcx's hard disk to 120 MB, which is still sufficient for system 7.1. I also added an Apple 8•24GC 24-bit NuBus video card brand new for $55 (a 1992 issue of Macworld lists it as a $1999 card). I filled the third NuBus slot with a Video Spigot II RCA/S-video input/output card. I can watch TV on my IIcx, and I can record video with 8-bit sound to a VCR. Not bad for a 12-year-old computer. I also have an external Zip 100 MB SCSI drive for backup.

In college and graduate school, I bought and used a Macintosh IIci, which has a 25 MHz 68030 and was the top-selling business Macintosh in 1992. My school was using IBM compatibles running DOS and eventually early Windows. My Macintosh never crashed on my external 14.4 dial-in modem for journal searches, but my journal searches at the school library would often freeze the IBM-compatible 1994 Pentium computers, as would printing to the inkjet printers.

I have upgraded my Macintosh IIci and continue to use it daily. It has a 68040/40 MHz with 128k cache DayStar card as its second processor. I have added a 56K Best Data external data/fax modem for email and basic Internet surfing. I added 128 MB RAM to its eight RAM slots. It also has an Apple 24-bit video card instead of the 8-bit built-in video. I added a 16-bit sound card and a Video Spigot II card to this model, too. It does almost anything that current computers do. I have an old SCSI scanner with OmniPage, which allows the IIci to recognize and convert to a word processor document a full page of scanned in text in about 35 seconds.

After tinkering with my original Macintoshes - and once I realized that the basic CPU value was only $20-40 - I began wanting to collect and tinker on other old Macintoshes. I realized that I had used an SE/30 at the computer lab in high school and a Centris 610 at my graduate school's computer lab. My graduate school had a dozen Centris 610s networked into a Quadra 660AV.

I found a college on eBay that was liquidating its old Macintoshes. I bought a Centris 610 with 8 MB RAM for under $20. I added a new PRAM battery and upgraded the RAM to 36 MB RAM. I added some VRAM and have the 610 hooked up to my television at times with a $35 converter box. I also use the 610 as a low-cost testing box for CD drives, floppy drives, and older RAM.

I found another computer on eBay, a Quadra 650. This was advertised as being liquidated from a bankrupt store. I bought it with 56 MB RAM, a 1 GB HD, a 24-bit video card, a keyboard, and a mouse for $55 delivered to my door. It had Mac OS 8, but I downgraded to System 7.5.5. This computer runs quickly and is a backup computer. I bought a TV converter box for $35 and have it hooked up to my television, along with the Centris 610. I can record on VHS videotape basic instructions on using a Macintosh from this model, too.

My computer collection expanded with a Centris 660av. I bought it on eBay from someone who said that it likely was broken, as no screen would show up. On arrival - along with an NEC 17" monitor with Macintosh adapter, keyboard, and mouse, all for $53 - I found that pressing the front startup button about 5 times finally got a flicker of a screen and the classic 1956 date on startup. The computer simply had a dead PRAM battery. With the newly installed battery, this computer was great. It had VRAM and a 16 MB chip in 1 RAM slot , along with 4 MB soldered to the board. I added a second 16 MB chip and have a total of 36 MB. The hard drive was 500 MB. I added a full-motion video kit card for $25, which allowed 30 FPS video and 16-bit quality sound from the AV's built-in slots to be recorded to videotape.

I finally found an SE/30 and a Classic II for my collection. One of my former high-school teachers had an SE/30, and it basically was a compact IIcx. The one I purchased had 20 MB of RAM and an 80 MB hard drive. It works perfectly, even though it is 12 years old. The Classic II came from a government sale, and it is also more for nostalgia. It has 10 MB of RAM and an 80 MB hard drive. Both of these work well with the free WordPerfect word processor and System 7.1. I enjoy owning the grandparents of the iMac in my collection.

I decided that I wanted to acquire a few other 680x0 systems, along with a couple of PowerPCs. I bought a Mac IIvx from a pawn shop in New York for $40. It had 20 MB RAM, a DayStar 040/40 card in it, and a 500 MB hard drive. Then I added a Quadra 630 with big-screen video output card to my collection. I then decided to look into the PowerPC world.

In graduate school the library had an 8600/200 tower, a room full of LC IIs and IIIs, a couple of IIcxs, and about 20 Compaq and Toshiba desktops and laptops. The head of the library had a friend who sold IBM-compatibles, and he would compare a brand new Pentium II Toshiba to the lowly IIcx or LC II. He would state that Macintoshes were slow and that the library needed Windows for everything. He forgot to mention that he was comparing triple digit megahertz to double digit megahertz machines.

Interestingly the 8600/200 tower, which outperformed all the Windows computers, rarely crashed. I was one of the few students who used the 8600, since the library people told everyone that Macintoshes were not used by the rest of the world. Daily the Toshiba and Compaq computers, under Windows 95, would crash. This was my first experience with a PowerPC computer, and it was in a class of its own. At the time I wanted (but could not afford) a PowerPC computer.

Last year I found a Power Mac 7200/120 for $70 on eBay. I added some RAM to give it 64 MB. It had a 500 MB hard drive and was about twice as fast as my accelerated IIci for most applications. I use this model for more intensive Internet graphics than the souped-up IIci, and both computers share desk space.

Currently I am typing this on my most recently-acquired Macintosh, a Power Mac 7300/180 with 64 MB of RAM and System 7.5.5. It is extremely fast and likely will last for years to come. Of note is that my current job has Dell 933 Pentium III and some gigahertz models, along with some HP Celeron models. These models commonly crash.

I cannot believe how fast System 7.5 starts ups and how it shuts down without difficulty. The Windows 98 and 2000 OSes seem to hang at startup and shutdown, which is measured in minutes instead of the Macintoshes startup times of under a minute. I recently went to a computer store and tried restarting and shutting down the Pentium 4 models with Windows 2000 - they were not any better. Also of note is that the technical people at work likely would have layoffs if they did not daily have to help my colleagues figure out why their computers do not print, cannot connect to the network, or crash on the Internet.

I cannot figure out why people use Windows-based computers. I am thinking of bringing the 7300 to work to use as my daily computer and to show people that not all computers crash frequently and are user unfriendly.

Once someone has a Macintosh, that person likely is not in a hurry to upgrade a perfectly good and user-friendly computer. I think the problem with Apple is that they build computers that rarely crash and last for many years. Each one of my Macintoshes will run FileMaker Pro (older versions), AppleWorks, and Netscape/IE (older versions) - including models that are over ten years old.

I do have two original MS word 5.0 and Excel 4.0 install disk sets, and I used converted Word/Excel documents at work through each Macintosh built-in PC Exchange, which allows documents to be copied to and from IBM-compatible disks.

I use external modems to connect to the Internet. Each modem cost about $10-20 on eBay for a 28.8 or 33.6 modem. I have found that ViewSonic provides free adapters for the Macintosh with its monitors, and I have two 17" monitors, one attached each to my IIci and Power Mac 7300/180. When each of my Macintoshes arrives, I do a clean OS install with the open license of System 7.5.5. System 7.55, which I downloaded for free from Apple's site, installs in under 15 minutes. System 7.5 is very fast and does everything that I need it to do. I recently helped a friend install Windows 98 on a Celeron 733, and it took us an hour and 15 minutes because of the slow installer and constantly switching CDs for device drivers. Some people think that IBM compatibles are cheaper than Macintoshes, but Macintoshes seem to last longer than their Windows counterparts, secondary to the quality that goes into the production of each Macintosh, along with the decreased need for frequent service to Macintoshes.

Macintosh has been a part of my life for over 12 years, and each Macintosh in my collection provides some nostalgia. I think that Apple needs to encourage educational sales to schools, as many high school and college graduates, once they see how great the Macintosh is, will likely purchase Macintoshes for their home computers.

I read Low End Mac with interest about the new G4s, and I am impressed with Mac OS X. But I will continue to use my old Macintoshes until a need arises for newer equipment. The Macintosh experience is far superior to anything in the Windows world.

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