Inspired by Ars Technica’s staff looking back at their old Macs, I thought I’d chime in with my stories, while they’re still clear in my mind.
My first Mac was a Mac LC, a pizza box, bought in 1991 just at the end of school and heading into university. I had the 512×384 pixel screen so I could do 16-bit colour, and it was a revelation compared to the 256-colour world most people lived in or the truly odd graphics modes of the Amiga.
Sure, my friend had the Amiga with all the games, but I could make art, program, use cool fonts, and it was a Mac (my own Mac!) running System 7. Even better, I was learning Pascal on a room full of Macs and was one of the very lucky people who could do pretty much everything at home, not in the labs.
I have fond memories of that great little device. My dad and I had been wanting a Mac for years (looking through Mac magazines, poring over fonts, visiting showrooms and annoying the staff) but this was the first remotely affordable (for us) Mac at around $3000. It eventually made many people’s nights at dance parties running the After Dark screensaver Satori through a TV-out card connected to a projector.
At some point I picked up a maths coprocessor card, as the 68040 chip inside the LC was missing one. This let me do some tiny raytracing using POV-ray: I modelled (in a text file!) a bubble of water rising from a sink with mirrors on two sides, then spun a camera around it by using sin- and cos-based functions on a continuously ramping number. With all these numbers spat out of a spreadsheet, I’d comment all of them out except the frame I wanted to render, then start that frame going, go back downstairs to watch Friday 13th Part SOMETHING, and come back up in each ad break to move the comment markers and press Go once more. It took all night to produce a tiny, 30 frame animation, and wasn’t even possible without the extra card.
That Mac wasn’t all, though: my sister used it too, and during my Honours year I needed something of my own to write my thesis on. I got a cheap Mac SE for that, which worked perfectly. Alas, its power supply sadly died shortly *after* submission and it was never resurrected.
What else? Well, my first computer was a Dick Smith Cat, a rebadged Apple II clone. Used for games and graphics programming in Basic, It did really well for many years and was eventually sold, working, to a family with kids who I hope enjoyed it. I also had a Power Computing 7600/132, a PowerBook G3/400 (with a DVD Player!), a PowerBook 12″ (which was even used in 2006 to demo videos to the Microsoft team at a trade show) and now a MacBook Pro 2.33.
The PowerBook G3 was hideously expensive (~$7000) but work covered much of the cost as I used it there. Since then they’ve gotten cheaper each time, though I suspect the Australian dollar will push my next purchase back up in price. As soon as Apple release a mid-priced Pro laptop that’s significantly faster than my current machine, I’m in.