My Macs

Yesterday, the Macintosh celebrated it’s 30th birthday. To honor the beloved machines, aficionados shared stories that lead to their love for the platform, including the history of machines they’ve owned over the years. I included a picture of two Mac minis, declaring them as the first Macs I owned.

@thaddeus
thaddeus First and second. With and without modem. http://pic.favd.net/20730169

Well, this wasn’t entirely true. The Macintosh LC III was technically the first machine I owned. During high school, I helped our school district’s tech director with maintenance and upgrades of our school’s computer labs. At some point, we replaced a lab full of LC IIIs with brand new grape iMacs, and I was given the chance to procure one of the old machines before it found its way to be recycled.

The LC III

Macintosh LC III, courtesy of apple-history.com

The LC III was a handsome little computer, with an easily-accessible 3.5″ floppy drive on the front, a slim case that shouldered a bright monitor, and the familiar Mac keyboard and mouse of the day. The machine was built before Compact Disc became a driving force in software distribution, only to be replaced in our school by a machine with no floppy drive. The drum of Apple driving forward beat strong even in those days.

My classmates and I had slogged over papers in ClarisWorks and enjoyed countless hours of Sim City 2000 1 on the machines, and I was pretty delighted to be able to keep one of these machines for my own. The models we had at school had been updated to included ethernet cards, which meant our labs were connected to the internet much earlier than many other schools in our area. 2

The Desire For Macintosh

While I’d used the Macintosh throughout my years in middle and high school, our family owned a trusty Gateway 2000 with Windows 3.1. I spent my high school years using that machine until I replaced it with my own PC. It wasn’t until my junior year of college that I was reunited with the Mac. My friend Carl had upgraded to 10.3 and was showing off Exposé. He would take his G3 iBook out of his backpack and be working much faster than any of the PC users in our classes. 3 At some point, Carl showed up to class with a new PowerBook, and I shamelessly ogled the machine for the rest of our time in college together. OS X was a very different operating system than 7, 8, and 9, which I was familiar with from high school, and the PowerBook was vastly different from the plastic LC IIIs and iMacs I’d helped administer. I wasn’t sure how, but I knew I had to get one.

And therein lied the problem – as a college student, I simply couldn’t afford one.

Mac mini

Mac mini – courtesy of apple-history.com

This tiny little machine absolutely changed things for me. I was working on a semester-long co-op in January 2005, when Steve Jobs answered a common question at Macworld:

Why doesn’t Apple offer a stripped-down Mac that is more affordable?

The cheap Macintosh was born. I purchased one before returning to school that fall, and quickly found myself wanting more. I sold the Dell Inspiron I’d bought a few years previous and bought a G4 iBook mid-semester. Before the school year ended, I also owned an Early 2006 iMac (the very first Intel desktop from Apple).

Huh. I thought I couldn’t afford one.

Intel iMac

Anybody that owned a G4 Mac mini and actually tried to use it as a primary computer for very long knew the dirty little secret – it was barely usable. I imported my photos into iPhoto and it fell apart. 4 My iTunes library destroyed the machine. When I tried to do much more than chat with friends on iChat, things got messy.

The Intel iMac changed my Macintosh experience again. As soon as I accepted my full-time job that final semester of college, I ran out (and foolishly) bought an iMac. It was a machine that had so much more power than any of the other machines I’d previously used, and it also ran the OS I enjoyed.

I graduated from college and started working full-time on an embedded Linux system. Here an there, I dabbled with Objective-C, but never had anything in particular I wanted to try and build. I used the machine daily, and absolutely loved it. I had it paired with a 20″ Dell display, and the setup was absolutely wonderful for the day. 5

The iMac with its matching Dell display in college

Luckily, that iMac still had plenty of life when I downloaded the iPhone SDK in 2008. That’s a story for another Apple birthday.

Happy 30th, Macintosh.

  1. Mr. Oliphant had the progressive thought to teaching us about city development by playing a video game. He had an incredible impact on my path toward software development.
  2. My first experience on the internet was on a LC III with an external modem. The computer was designated specifically for teachers and special use by students.
  3. Nevermind those of us still bouncing between labs and personal machines back in our rooms, juggling Zip drives or FTPing homework back and forth.
  4. I had even perform the ceremonial putty-knife surgery to upgrade the RAM
  5. As it turns out, the Dell used the identical panel as the iMac, so it couldn’t have been a better setup.