My First Mac

Midlife Mac Lover

Chris Volpe - 2000.07.18

I'm a technology flip flopper.

I love literature, especially when it comes on age-mellowed paper between the covers of a real old-fashioned book with real pages. I make my living writing and teaching. What happens on the page is usually more important to me than how it gets there.

I once vowed I'd never own a computer, but that began to change when I left journalism in 1998 and landed a job writing about technology for a public relations firm that parked me in front of an Internet-ready Pentium-class PC for nine hours a day.

I aspire to simplicity, and I'd avoided computers all my life. I wasn't particularly thrilled with my brand X operating system and its frequent crashes, but I was learning first-hand about a stunning new world -- technology. For one thing, there was the Web.

One of the first things I did on the Web was haunt online auction sites for vintage manual typewriters. I spent a year off and on reaching into the past through cyberspace, importing these gorgeous relics of vanished technology and using them for my creative writing. I still had no desire to own a computer.

Then, in September, 1999, a friend gave me an inherited Mac during a difficult break-up with a woman I had almost married. I didn't really need it, but I thought I could probably sell it, so I took it.

It was a PowerBook 540c running System 7.1. As far as I could tell, it had been purchased for business use, booted up once or twice in 1995, and then packed away with all of the original manuals, floppies, and mid-90s accessories. It was immaculate.

I threw myself into it to forget my broken heart. The first thing I did was order System 7.5.5 from Apple in order to get online - three days later, the OS arrived on 19 floppies; it took me nearly two hours to install it! But once I was connected, I logged onto Apple's technical information library and learned everything I could. The more I learned the more interested in technology - Apple's especially - I became.

I bought a printer, an external CD-ROM drive, and an Ethernet adapter, upgraded the processor with a 100 MHz 603e, maxed out the RAM at 40 MB, picked up OS 8.1, and spent long hours fine-tuning my system. I began slowly migrating all of my writing - and a good portion of my life -- onto the PowerBook. I typed a book manuscript into it, took it to client meetings, networked it with the 40+ Windoze PCs in my office, used it for games, email, news, graphic design, Web site creation, shopping, travel directions, QuickTime movies, and general Web surfing.

I have yet to use it to bid on a single Swiss-made manual typewriter circa 1955.

I'm enamoured of my Mac's elegant OS, sturdy construction, vivid screen, and graceful design. Tomorrow a brand new PowerBook 2000 (a.k.a. Pismo) will be delivered to my door. I'm not at all sure I'm ready to part with my 540c, but one thing I am sure of - I'm completely in love.

And I'm never looking back.

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