Snippet: Connor Oliver’s Favorite Computer, An Old Mac ☇

Shared on February 6, 2023

Connor Oliver (via John Gruber):

I have no nostalgia for this machine, I don’t remember these from childhood and didn’t get to experience the classic Mac OS until 2015 for the first time. I can look at this computer from a modern perspective without nostalgia and appreciate it for what it is.

This Mac was designed to be a useful machine, a companion when you needed it, but to leave you alone when you didn’t. When the power is switched off the machine is truly off, no background updates, noises, or other nonsense occurs.

This Mac has no form of notification system built in, it never begs for your attention and its applications never try to distract you from what you are doing, begging you to look at them instead. If I get distracted while using this Mac the fault lies squarely on me, not the computer and not the programs running on it.

This Mac is unchanging in a world where things change by the minute. It will never receive another software update and is thoroughly obsolete, but it’s comforting to have something that you know will stay the same forever, remaining in a known state every time you return to it.

I grew up in the era of these machines (even using a Macintosh SE, and later an LC II as my main computer), and there was something to be said about the simplicity of the classic Mac OS. While I appreciate the reliability of the current macOS era (one misbehaving piece of software won’t bring down your entire machine), being able to name and easily understand every file in the System Folder led to a familiarity we don’t have today. In terms of capabilities, these machines are fairly primitive, but for a lot of tasks like generating documents and email, they work no worse than a current machine.

I’ve often mused about the idea of software like the classic Mac OS for simple devices like Raspberry Pis—for some of the things that Pis get used for, a classic Mac with an 80MB hard drive could in theory work if the software existed. Nonetheless, like a classic car, I don’t think I’d “daily drive” one of these old computers for mission-critical work today just because there is the looming concern of aging components.

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