30 years of Macintosh, 26 years of my Macs

When you calculate the age of your dog, the rule-of-thumb was that one dog year equals seven years for a human. This may not be accurate but it’s an interesting way to look at life. When I look at computers I think that rule-of-thumb should be 1 year of computer life equals 2 or 3 human years. So when I see that Apple’s Macintosh is 30 years old this month my mind see’s that original 9 inch black & white screen as a very old man.

On January 24th 1984 Steve Jobs introduced the first Mac. It was amazing. It was ground breaking. The original Super Bowl ad was fantastic. Everything about the machine made my jaw drop. I was working in the University of Washington Bookstore at the time and I was one of employees selected to sell them. In an era of CP/M, MS-DOS, Kaypro & Osborne the Mac was a star. I wanted one. I wanted one BAD! Being a newlywed and new college graduate in a poor economy, the only thing I could do was drool. It wasn’t until late 1988 that I finally pulled the trigger and bought my first Mac, the color-capable Mac II.

Mac II  

Being the frugal type that I am, I bought my Mac II used from a software development company. It was still expensive but I didn’t care. I had a computer and it was a Mac! It had a Motorola 68020 16MHz CPU, 1 MB of RAM, a 20MB hard drive, 2 floppy drives and a 13” color Apple monitor. I mean, wow! This thing was amazing! I loved that computer. My family still remembers my endless hours in front of the monitor playing Solarian II (Can someone please bring that game to the iPad!). But all good things come to an end. Soon, 2 or 3 OS upgrades later my new toy started to seem slow and I knew it was time to upgrade.

My next Mac was one of the new PowerMacs with a PowerPC 601 chip in it. That thing was fast! After 4 years (That’s 12 computer years for those of you keeping track) of using that slow, old Mac II I finally had a machine that I could use without screaming at it to go faster. By this time my love of computers had rubbed off on my family. It was at this time that the PC vs. Mac war was in full bloom and I was happy when my dad bought his first computer, a PowerMac 7500. Another convert was won. It was also a bonus for me because 2 years later my dad upgraded to a new PowerMac 9600 and I got his old 7500.

The great thing about Apple’s Power Mac was the NuBus architecture. A lot of 3rd party manufacturers made upgrade cards for these machines. When my dad gave me his old Machine I sold my 7100 and used the money to buy a PowerPC 604e card. Once again I had the fastest machine on the block.

It was now the early 90’s and home computing was really taking off. Too bad the PC was winning. I remained faithful to the Mac but I was one of the few. Most of my friends had long since moved to the dark side and had embraced Windows. Steve Jobs had left Apple in 1985 and the Macintosh was a mess of too many models and too few sales. That changed in 1996 when Apple bought NeXT and Jobs returned.

My next computer was the Jobs & Ive designed translucent, egg-shaped G3 iMac. Mine was a red one and we loved it.

Lousy puck mouse aside, this machine was wonderful.  It was compact, fast and was the first computer to offer USB standard! It was at this time that my kids were old enough to be fighting for the computer. This was a problem until my generous parents bought them each one of the new Apple laptops, the iBook.

These clamshell machines were wonderful. Some said they looked like toilet seats but compared to other laptops of the day they were sturdy, fast and made mobile computing something you wanted to do. Of course you still needed a desktop for serious work.

In 2001 I finally went to my first (and only MacWorld). It was at the 2001 event that Jobs introduced iTunes, thePowerBook G4 and demoed OS X, but for me it was all about the new G4 Power Mac (Digital Audio). When they were available I ordered mine and waited for it to arrive.

This was a wonderful Mac and really showed that Apple design was firing on all cylinders. I bought mine with a 733MHz G4 CPU and it was fast. It was expandable and had a lot of room inside the case but the big addition was the brand new DVD SuperDrive! I could now burn DVDs that I could play back on my home DVD player. It took a while to write all that data but what a huge leap in technology over those small CDs I had been using. Time marches on however and 4 years later I was ready for an upgrade.

The move to the G5 was big. And by big I mean that the case was huge! Beautiful, but huge. Of course that meant a lot of internal drives for extra storage so I didn’t mind a bit.

The IBM PowerPC G5 was a lot faster than my old G4 and suddenly writing to that SuperDrive wasn’t quite so bad. Too bad that it was also one of the hottest Macs around. Although mine never failed, it could and did heat up a room. If you put your hand at the rear of the machine it was like a blow-torch.  To fix this and other problems Apple finally made the leap to Intel in 2006. Having just bought my G5 in 2005 I didn’t make the switch until 4 years later in 2009.

Looking back on things, I’ve upgraded machines about every 3 ½ to 4 years. Macs are quality machines and unlike commodity PCs are usable for many years. Because of my 3 or 4 year upgrade cycle I jumped into the Mac Intel world a little late. OSX was the established operating system and old PowerPC code still ran but if you wanted to see the speed you needed to move to Intel so in mid-2009 I purchased the Xeon Nehalem Mac Pro.

The new case was even bigger than the G5 and I used every slot in the machine. I put in extra drives, a USB PCI card or two and even a 2nd DVD drive. It was wonderful but I knew that in 3 years or so I would start looking for the next model. So I started saving right away.Too bad Apple was spending all it’s time going mobile.

I won’t belabor the point here just know that starting about 2011 there were a lot of Mac Pro users clamoring for the next iteration of Mac Pro. Where was the love Apple!? Where is the updated Mac Pro?

Things finally came to a head in 2012 when Apple CEO Tim Cook answered an email from a disgruntled Mac Pro user  and said that Apple was “working on something really great” for 2013. It wasn’t until June of 2013 that we finally found out what that “really great” thing was when Apple debuted the new Mac Pro. In December of 2012 Apple finally made it available to order.

My name is Bruce Craig and I’m a Mac addict. It’s now been 5 years since my last upgrade and I’m falling off the wagon. Today, my new Mac came. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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