My First Mac

I Was Roundly Unimpressed

Daniel Usmar - 2001.02.27

First, a confession. I am a PC person. I have been since 1992, and it is unlikely to change anytime soon, if for no other reason than you can't get "UFO: Enemy Unknown" for the Mac.

But this lifelong PC abuse was what actually prompted me to buy a Mac - just out of idle curiosity. I had never used a Mac before, and so I wanted one. I nearly bought a Revision C iMac during the summer, but Apple wouldn't give me credit. And as I didn't have £600 to spare, my Mac-owning ambitions were put on indefinite hold.

Until about a month ago. While perusing eBay looking for something completely unconnected with computers (I think I was looking for a bike, actually), I clicked into the Mac section by accident. I started to browse, and then I saw it - the one.

Okay, it was only a Power Mac 7200/75 with 8 MB of RAM and a 512 MB hard drive. On the plus side, it was only £50 including postage and monitor. So I bought it at 03.57 p.m. and logged onto UX-MA117-12 (the Sun Ultra5 workstation I had to use for my university Java course). In due course, and after no small number of irritated phone calls, it arrived. My defection began.

I have to say, when it arrived I was roundly unimpressed. It was big. Well, not really, but my PC is a dinky little laptop. And compared to that, this Mac was a monster. To this day the system unit lurks under my desk. It had no CD drive. And System 7.5 took about three days to boot. If I wasn't a compulsive geek, I would have run away. But it was a new gadget and thus worthy of my attention.

It was booted up, and, on seeing the smiley Mac beaming at me, I duly christened it: Macinpi (mac-in-pie. Sounds cute, don't you think?). Once the Finder revealed itself, I began to play. It was new, different - and confusing. Where was my taskbar? Which button is minimise? And where is my command prompt?

The really baffling thing, to start with, was having to shut down applications from the menu bar instead of just closing the window. Bizarre. And the sheer, painful slowness of doing anything meant that it didn't get used.

Fast forward to last Wednesday. I had invested in a 2 gig hard drive, a CD drive, and 24 MB of memory. After learning the black art of SCSI setup, and having cobbled all the bits together together, I turned it on again. And it was beautiful. No longer could I read a chapter of Red Storm Rising while it booted. No longer did it take 5 minutes to scroll to the bottom of the Stuffit readme.

It was finally usable, and the use was good. Setting up TCP/IP for the university network was a little challenging, but, in fact, challenging is the wrong word. It took me less time to set it up than Win2k took to load the Network control panel. There was only one thing left to do - find a copy of Stuntcopter. (This was the only Mac experience I had ever had before buying one.)

Now I use my Mac daily. I write lab reports on it, I code and test web pages on it, and it does my SETI@Home number crunching for me.


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