My First Mac

From a Mac Plus to a Home Network

Mark Burch - 2001.12.28

My first Mac found me in 1993, where I had just crossed over from a union heavy equipment builder to a salaried field service rep., spending half my time in an office and the other half in underground mines and construction sites. It was (still is, since I bought it at the company auction) a Mac Plus with a 1 MB RAM upgrade. Being a hand-me-down, it had a mixed bag of software and junk on it.

At that time, hardly anyone in the office knew much about computers, and I knew practically nothing. A couple of the other guys had just gotten Duo 230's with docking stations, but they were not much help. However, a man named Gary Ligi in our department was a complete Mac Guru and zealot. He was a somewhat eccentric writer and loved Frank Zappa almost as much as his Macs. While he held most of his Mac prowess close to the vest, he was certainly a huge inspiration to me and the only voice of truth and reason in our corporate setting.

Since I taken a few typing classes in school, I was thrilled to be able to type on a device that allowed you to make corrections instantly. However, digging around in the Mac left me totally frustrated. Why the hell couldn't I open all of those files? What did they do? Even icons that looked like they should do something, wouldn't. - and it lacked a network connection, so I was an island.

After many hours of goofing around, I pushed the thing aside and got some work done for a few months.

Then, IS hooked the thing up to the network. Whoa! Now I could print my faxes and letters or get software from the server! I was hooked.

Over time, I was upgraded to various other hand-me-down Macs: an SE, a Quadra 650, and finally, the coveted Duo 230. That was (again, still is - I bought that one, too) a life-altering machine. I can still remember the joy of hearing AOL announce "Welcome, you've got mail" after two hours of screwing around with phone card numbers, commas, the numbers 8 and 9, and modem settings in my hotel room in Jersey. That little PowerBook went all over the United States with me. Though it could barely run MS Office, it was such a bitchin' computer that I had a hard time moving over to the brand new Micron Millennium Transport Laptop/desktop systems (Pentium 233/128 MB/4 GB with external control CD Player, dock, and 17" monitor, all in black) our boss had just bought for us. That was the end of Mac usage in our department.

Luckily, I had the foresight to buy my own Mac for home: a horrible Performa 638CD. I remember fondly my wife asking why we needed a computer. What would we do with it? Why a Mac instead of a PC? PCs are so much cheaper. A few months ago, when we moved into our new house in the back hills of West Virginia, my wife's first To Do for me was to get her Cube hooked up to the Internet. We've come a long way, Baby.

The 638 got sold after I got tired of my four year old complaining that games kept crashing or wouldn't work. We already had a new Performa 6400/180 with a TV tuner card that worked quite nice.

Now the year was 1998. My employee computer purchase plan loan was paid off, and the iMacs and desktop G3s had just come out. I submitted a new loan request that would allow us to purchase an iMac for the kids, a desktop G3/300 with 128 MB RAM, a 4 GB hard drive, AV, DVD, Zip, digital camera, scanner, printer, and MS Office.

Now I was questioning myself: did we really need that much computing gear? After all, I was not some graphics pro. And where was all this junk going to take us? I reasoned correctly that computers were the future and something would come up to justify it all.

One day I went in to ask the HR director how my loan application was doing. She gave me some blah-blah-blah story, and I went away. The next day, the same HR director saunters into my boss's office. Then I get called in. Sorry to tell you this, but you've been laid off, blah-blah-blah. My first thought was to ask if this meant that I wouldn't get the computer loan. Since I had ten years on the payroll, the company gave me a sizable severance check.

My next actions were purely Reality Distortion Field induced dementia. As soon as I peeled out of the company parking lot, whoo-hooing at my former coworkers, I headed straight to the unemployment office to start my claim. Next, I stopped at the nearest pay phone to call my wife, who did not know about the layoff and was expecting word on our loan. Three words: Buy the computers!

On the way home, I ran a few errands and reconsidered our position. Maybe I should talk to my wife about our future and whether or not we really want to spend a third of our severance (it was all the money we had) on silly computers. When I opened the front door, the iMac was already on the Internet, the G3 was mostly out of the box, and my wife had the biggest grin on her face. There was no going back.

I have also found that if you put a poster of a desired Mac on the wall, it will eventually become a reality. The WallStreet PowerBook came to me that way. After we left Portland, OR, for Cameron, WV, I started working from home and needed a PowerBook. Sam's Club had a clearance on lime iMacs, which allowed a cheap upgrade path for our original iMac. A Cube with a Studio Display and an iMac DV 500 came later - when I bought five Macs at Circuit City on clearance.

Through a rare alignment of the planets and Mac gods, my good friend and fellow Mac Fiend forwarded a job posting for an entry-level Mac network admin position in Eastern PA. I tossed a $50,000 job with bennies, 4x4 truck, phone, PC, and the works for $40k with bennies and a building full of Macs. This was to be my "Special Purpose." I had found nirvana - almost.

Doubling our cost of living, commuting two hours/day, freezing our asses off in the Poconos, and nearly being killed in a fatal DUI head-on-collision three days before Christmas 2000 made us take our Macs and ourselves back to the hills of West Virginia. The original iMac went to the brother-in-law, the WallStreet to the mother-in-law, and the desktop G3 is now my iTunes/IPNetRouter machine hooked up to my hi-end A/V receiver. We almost bought the new G4 tower with DVD burner, but opted instead for the TiBook. With the savings, I beefed up the G3 with a G4, a FireWire/USB card, and a 30 GB hard drive.

Now I'm on the TiBook, my wife is on the Cube, my son is on the iMac DV 500, and my daughter has the iBook 366, all AirPorted through the Cube and connected via the G3/G4 desktop.

All from that little Mac Plus!

Go to the My First Mac index.