My First Mac

Lifting the Lid

Mike Jardine - 2001.03.20

I vaguely remember the little black-and-white built-in screens of Mac the first time around, being one of the few who were brave enough to word-process essay work at age 17 or so.

I had earlier been a "geek" for a while, having just started attacking 6502 machine code on the Acorn BBC Micro, when my interest waned and I had decided, with all the wisdom of a 14 year old, to turn my back on computers.

But when I got laid off from my first job in an Architect's office, with the rest of the staff, I persuaded my soon-to-be ex-boss to let me have my CAD workstation for a consideration, and so I acquired an LC 475, which was already pretty old at that time, with 10 MB of RAM and a whopping (not) 160 MB hard drive. I was sharing a flat with a Windows wizard at the time, who found the Mac amusing, nay cute, but didn't have a clue how to help me upgrade it, so I thought I'd get serious and reengage with the computer thing properly after a near ten-year break!

First thing was to get hooked up onto the Internet, so I bought a cheap 33K modem the moment 56K came out. It took me months to get FreePPP to work, and I'd totally given up, having upgraded System software to 7.5.3, gone through the manual for my University's dialup account dozens of times, and replaced the modem, believing it to be the cause of the problem. In the end I accidentally turned AppleTalk off one day and hey presto!

One of the first havens I came upon in my first explorations of the Net was, of course, Low End Mac, and from there I subscribed to Quadlist, and within a couple of weeks I had undergone serious and irreversible changes to my brain chemistry. I was inspired to go where most fear to tread, removing the lid from the LC and getting inside.

I gasped in amazement as hack after hack yielded massive improvements in performance - a 32 MB SIMM, a 540 MB Seagate drive (after falling foul of Apple's little problems with non-Apple branded drives on these machines, and having to put just enough of the machine back together to download the fix, kindly sent to me by a 'Lister!) and 1 MB of VRAM, which allowed me to glory in thousands of Photoshop colours! This little Mac was just about tough enough to let me take my first steps into 3D CAD, which opened my eyes to hugely exciting new possibilities, and really pushed me onto a new level of understanding and using the computer.

The second year of my post-grad Architecture studies revealed a need for more power, and I got a new G3/266 desktop. Needless to say I couldn't leave it alone - with the need to export big CAD drawings to Illustrator to beautify them, and adventures in the crazy world of raytracing, it grew to the machine it is today... 256 MB of RAM, upclock to 300 MHz, internal 7200 rpm 18 GB SCSI on a homemade self-cooling sled mounting connected to an Adaptec 2940 card, 32 MB of Proformance graphics...

The LC died when the motherboard graphics went south, but the hard drive lives on in one of the two Classic IIs that I pulled out of a skip, refurbed (including a tasteful gold respray), and passed on as minimalist email/word processing machines.

So here I am, having to use a worthy but incredibly slow and ugly WinNT CAD workstation to earn a crust during the day, but I still do tons of other stuff, and crave using the Mac.

Any Mac-based design firms near East London need another pair of hands?

Go to the My First Mac index.