Happy Birthday, Mac!

It was 25 years ago today (January 24, 1984) that Apple unveiled the first Macintosh personal computer.

On that day a quarter century ago, Steve Jobs stood in front of a crowd of early Apple faithful and literally let the Mac out of the bag. Macintosh Model M0001 may look nostalgic by today’s standards, but in 1984 it was the most polished, most powerful, most user-friendly, best looking and among the lightest computers on the planet. (Hmmm. Sounds like the 2009 Macs ...)

As my friends and family know, I’ve been a strong Apple supporter since even before the Mac was introduced, so Mac’s 25th is an ideal excuse to wax poetic about my many Apple memories. 

By the way, if you’re looking for some great Mac memories from the Apple team that actually conceived of and developed the Macintosh, check out Macintosh Folklore Radio (also available as a podcast from iTunes).

My first exposure to Apple came during 1979 when five of my high school classmates and I started a small business to make some money during the summer break. We founded Abacus 2001 Computer Business Associates to provide data processing services for other local businesses. The microcomputer market in 1979 consisted of just a few products and after shopping around, Abacus purchased one of the new Apple II+ computers which had just been released.

Apple II PlusAbacus was in the days before there was a computer in every classroom (much less in every home), so that Apple II+ turned into a major educational experience for the six of us. We learned to write code, connect via modem to mainframes (such as the VAX 11780 at Marquette University), install our own expansion boards and more. And as I like to joke, the business paid for our pizza during high school and our beer during college.

Following the sale of Abacus in 1982, I experienced my period without an Apple computer. While attending Marquette, I worked on the university’s Macs as part of a desktop publishing class, but didn’t own one. (Even though I didn’t have one of the first Macs, our classmate Kate owned a first generation Mac that actually had a serial number under 1000.)

Mac IIciFor nearly a decade I eked by without my own computer until my (then new) wife Priya and I purchased a Mac IIci in 1990. (We still have it, although it’s rarely used.) Priya was working as the creative director at a local marketing agency so it seemed natural for us to buy a Mac for our home computer. Ironically (and unlike Priya), my work life at that time relied on a Wang computer network which I used primarily for word processing and email.

Eventually the company Wang (trust me — that computer was almost as obscene as it sounds) was replaced by the first in a series of “IBM-compatible” PCs running Windows. So from 1995 until 2006, I was computer bilingual, working with Windows during the day and coming home to a Mac at night.1

Meanwhile in 2000, Priya started Creatonomy — a full-service marketing agency — and stocked the place with Macs (and a couple of Windows PCs used solely for cross-platform testing). Since then, she’s always had the newest and coolest from Apple (currently that means a MacBook Air and iPhone), although my personal Macs tend to be a generation or two behind hers — right now I’m using an iBook G4.

Mac Pismo Powerbook G3Over the years, I’ve had several other Macs such as a Graphite iMac, but my favorite is the black “Pismo” G3 Powerbook I got around 2001. It continues to be one of the best looking laptops Apple ever produced.2 Over the years I’ve upgraded my Pismo’s hard drive and RAM to the point where it is nearly equivalent to my iBook, and I still use my Pismo for all my fiction writing.

So what’s next? For my personal enjoyment of Apple, it’s a trip back to the future. At the beginning of 2009, I bought a classic Apple Netwon MessagePad. The Newton was the world’s first PDA when it was introduced in the 1993 and led directly to the development of the Palm Pilot and other subsequent PDAs. Functionally and visually the Newton feels like the grandfather of today’s iPhone. Although Apple discontinued them in 1998, there is still an active community of Newton users who continue to expand the platform. I’m currently configuring mine to handle my email and considering setting it up as an eReader.

25 years for the Mac and over 30 years for Apple. It’s been a great ride and there’s no sign it will let up anytime soon. Happy Birthday, Macintosh!

  1. When people accuse me of being biased or uninformed when I speak highly of Apple, I always enjoy pointing out how I’ve put in thousands of hours working with every OS from Windows 95 through XP. []
  2. Apparently I’m not the only one that thought it was cool, based on how often it showed up on TV and in the movies. Carrie’s laptop seen throughout Sex and the City was a Pismo; Phoebe in Charmed used a Pismo; in Stargate SG‑1 Samantha Carter, General Hammond and other SG‑1 personnel are seen using Pismos; even in the pilot for the current series How I Met Your Mother, Marshall uses a Pismo. []

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