A Journey in Macintoshes

Mac 30 Years

Originally I hadn’t wanted to write a post for the 30th anniversary of Mac, simply because there wasn’t much of a story to tell, even if it was definitely worth recognising this machine that changed the world. I haven’t been alive even as long as the Mac has existed, therefore I have no stories to tell such as Stephen Fry’s most eloquent look back in history, and my use of the Mac hasn’t even extended into the double digits, but I suppose for everyone there is still a story of their first Mac.

Is it a story worth telling? I suppose it is. Hold on, you’ll need your raincoat.

A Mac? What is this?

The year was 1999. If I remember correctly, and it’s highly likely I don’t, I recall that there was a line of computers at the back of my Year 2 classroom, backed up against the blue felt wall where classwork was stuck up. I recall this one fact vividly, because this year a classmate named Ross managed to get his hand stuck in something which broke the bones in his right hand, meaning he was incapacitated for a fairly long period after and had to use the computer to type.

Along the lines of clunky-looking Windows computers, at the end were two iMac G3s, the name which I now know. Although they were far by the most colourful and cute even, the computers never really appealed to me. They didn’t work in the way I was used to. So I gravitated back to the Windows 95 computers, ready to get back to playing The Magic Schoolbus, and would not touch a Mac for many more years.

Released in 1998, it’s surprising to me now that my school had them at all. I barely recall them, and had very little understanding of computers at that time beyond my strange ease in creating cards using Microsoft Word when my peers struggled.

Different Macs

I touched a Mac, and I didn't like it

The year was 2004. I had just started high school and by mid-year had been pulled into the world of online gaming. Never had I had such access to computers before, I was able to snatch up a computer in the library at recess and lunch times, accompanied by like-minded friends as we played Powerpets or Gaia Online.

Of course, that meant a slight addiction to these computers and we were always finding ways to get online when we weren’t busy in class. If we happened to work in the computer labs or were researching in the library, we would have these sites open on the side. Never was it a better time to learn Alt + Tab or to use a window hider to hide all signs of offending windows from the teachers’ watchful eyes.

Most teachers were more concerned about what was immediately on the screen for the task bar to not matter anyway.

During another relaxed English lesson where we were allowed into the hall just outside the classroom, we spotted two very-old-looking computers sitting on the table just outside and bounded up eagerly, ready to test for an internet connection. But — there wasn’t the Internet Explorer that we were already familiar with. If I recall correctly, and again it’s possible I don’t, I clicked Netscape Navigator which rang very vague bells only to be severely disappointed again.

Over the months, we tested them again a few times before we simply had to accept that these computers really had no internet connection, and probably never would. Occasionally we messed around, just having a look at this operating system we were unfamiliar with on these grimy computers sitting in a corner, but we had no real awareness of what we were using.

It’s difficult for me to recall now which machine this was, however although my memories of it seem to be that it was a black and white machine, I do vaguely remember limited colours. It could very well have been a Mac Centris 650 or Mac Quadra. One could have been a Power Mac G3 though, and the other could have been a Macintosh IIcx, since I vaguely recall those horizontal grooves across the front. I could have been using machines older than myself.

Sadly, these computers disappeared around my senior years and I never saw them again. I will always wonder which machines used.

Photoshop 8 on Mac

Mouses with a MacBook

The year was 2008. I had picked photography as one of my subjects for the year, even though it would never count towards my HSC, and was only for year 11. Nonetheless, I wanted to learn more and I loved to use my ‘cheap’ digital camera.

During class, the teacher would usually roll out a trolley of MacBooks and plug the mounted powerboard’s trailing cable to the wall socket so that all the MacBooks would remain charged during the lesson. At the end of the day, it was a students’ duty to roll the trolley back into the storeroom and remember to plug this whole trolley in to charge, a duty which I sometimes performed.

Although I was still unfamiliar with a Mac then and the Mac OS, it was interesting to use, and I got a good taste of Photoshop outside of a dated copy of Photoshop Elements which we had at home. I found that although I usually didn’t like Mac mouses, using a MacBook was very tolerable when using a mouse which had the usual left and right mouse buttons — a ‘Windows mouse’.

At some point, my father had purchased a similar MacBook and I sometimes played around with it, but as none of the ‘programs’ I knew or used were installed on it, I left the Mac OS again and focused my concentration back on Windows.

The Uni Life and an abundance of Macs

The year was 2010. Sometimes as we waited outside in the hallway for CITP, I would pull out my father’s MacBook which I had ‘borrowed’ from him yet again, because this MacBook had less difficulties connecting to UTS’ wireless networks than my own netbooks.

Although it was great to surf the net on, it wasn’t ‘useful’ to me for much more than that because I still was unfamiliar with the ‘programs’ that were available and how to get them. Having used an iPod Mini, an iPod Touch and iPod Nanos through the years, the concept of an App Store still wasn’t one that translated to the Macbook.

It wasn’t until a few more months passed in late 2011 that I gave the MacBook another try again, as my netbook constantly seemed to be on its last legs. The battery capacity was increasingly less, as the machine itself burned my legs with its fans running on overdrive. The MacBook, however, was perfect as a backup and not as heavy as my larger 15” (or thereabouts) laptop.

It could also play Hi10p anime, which was all the rage at the time. Is it still?

Hi10p fail on Tiger and Bunny Episode

I was finally utterly hooked on the Mac OS, getting used to the new keyboard shortcuts and the wonderful flexibility of the trackpad which I hadn’t experienced with other computers before. I was learning various ‘programs’ — or rather, apps — were good to install, and finding ways to get around the problem of living in a household which only bought ‘programs’ for Windows — OpenSource and other Shareware was such a blessing.

It’s been a long and strange journey and despite all the opportunities it seems I may have had to really get into using a Mac, it took a great deal of time before I was able to scale the proverbial wall and discover what a Mac could do and how much better it was than Windows, despite the amount of time I spent complaining about the latter and never really doing anything about it.

Despite what it took to finally draw me in, I’m glad that it did in the end and wouldn’t have it any other way. The Mac may have changed the world, but as a far more personal story, it’s also changed the way I work, and the rest of my life as well.

Truly, what a wonderful machine.