Special: The Mac at 30: Being Your Best

by on January 24, 2014

The Mac at 30

After spending a fair amount of time posting stories from everyone else, I was inspired to write a little about my experience with the Mac. Although I haven’t been using a Mac since day one, I had the chance to start with some of the earliest models and still have many. It’s been a fun day to read some old stories and appreciate how far technologically we have come since 1984.

Growing up, we always had PCs in our house—a number of work-issued laptops that my dad would let me play with, later followed with a pair of IBM home PCs. I learned what I could because I enjoyed technology and found it fascinating. Like many other people my age, I also used a lot of Macintosh LCs in elementary school. I took an interest in these because they felt more cohesive than our PCs, although at that age, I couldn’t quite pinpoint it. When a new school opened, the old LCs were joined with newer Macs. Needless to say, I was even more excited and learned all I could while still playing with Windows at home.

Eventually, that changed when I was given an Apple IIgs—I got a taste of Apple’s design sensibilities, some technologies like ADB and the 800k 3.5″ floppy—but it still wasn’t a Mac. Worse, I didn’t have a compatible printer, which was necessary for it to be a homework computer. Looking around for a printer that would still work with a long-discontinued platform proved difficult, especially in the days before Craigslist and eBay. At a local used computer store in town, I managed to find a great deal on an ImageWriter II, except that it also came with a Macintosh SE.

My original intent was to use both machines for their strengths—the IIgs for color graphics, games, and multimedia; the SE for things that I’d be printing and productivity. However, like Apple’s own plans a few years before, my interest slowly shifted completely to the Mac. I upgraded the RAM, which was both scary and exhilarating on a non-user-servicable machine. After that, I was hooked.

Over the next couple of years, a number of other early ’90s gems that I got cheaply followed, including an LC II, a Quadra 800, a PowerBook 170, and a PowerBook 540c. Although badly outdated, I was able to get on the Internet with some of these Macs, and got involved in some of the various discussion email lists to maximize the usability of these rather old machines. What was initially surprising to me was that people found these to be useful long after their PC counterparts had been retired, and there was a love of keeping them working.

By the time I was ready for college, a five- or ten-year-old Mac wasn’t going to cut it, so I bought an iBook G3 (officially, the Late 2001 model). As it was replacing the tandem combination of the aforementioned PowerBook 540c and a Power Mac 7200, I effectively skipped machines made from Apple’s darkest days and the bright-and-colorful years (not that I wasn’t aware of what was going on—I remember badly wanting a PowerBook G3 when the second-generation models were introduced).

Having a Mac on a large university campus the early 2000s was still considered a bit odd, and often you were on your own with support and working around some PC-specific policies. Nonetheless, I found some areas where there were some really smart people using Macs and actually ended up providing technical support and repairing iBooks for a pilot program. It was a nice campus job, and once again found myself using technology as a means to an end—media and design projects, while also helping others use their Macs for exciting things.

Thanks to the iPod and growing popularity of iTunes, Mac adoption grew slightly around me, and I even bought a Mac mini shortly after its release. That machine (and the iBook) were replaced with a 15″ MacBook Pro, which was eventually replaced with my current computer, a 13″ MacBook Pro.

Regardless of what I was using, the same purpose and idea held true—my Mac is the most effective tool for what I need, but my knowledge of the platform and software has allowed me to help others maximize their potential with their own Macs. I think this was the goal of the Macintosh all along, regardless of what technical specifications or features a particular model included. Some of the best conversations I have had about technology with others are not about particular hardware configurations or the components, but what kinds of things we have done—or could do—with our computers.

The Mac has always been about being a well-designed product that not only inspires, but also enables you to get excited about using it to get things done, whether it’s creative work, browsing the web, communicating with others, or just entertaining yourself. Much like Apple’s slogan in the early 1990s, the Mac has given me the power to be my best.

Eric's Macs

This post has been filed in Articles and Special Coverage