Happy 30th Birthday Macintosh!
January 24, 2014 4:32 PM   Subscribe

Apple is kicking off the Mac's 30th in typical Apple style with a lovely landing page. Slate has a copy of the video of Steve Jobs unveiling the Macintosh in 1984. Watch as the audience looses their minds over scrolling graphics and a basic voice synthesizer. iFixit has posted an appropriately retro teardown of a Mac 128k in celebration. As always, Folklore.org is your best source for first hand accounts of what it was like to actually create something cheaper and less clunky than the Lisa. All whilst hiding in the closet from Steve Jobs.
posted by BartFargo (85 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
When I got an ethernet card for my SE/30 I had to borrow university ITS' extra-long Torx driver and their Mac rib-cracker to install it. Good times!
posted by 1adam12 at 4:36 PM on January 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've been using macs for 27 years now. Yay me!
posted by cjorgensen at 4:40 PM on January 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

I dropped by Apple HQ this morning; was hoping that there'd be something nifty outdoors.

Unfortunately, there was not.
posted by caphector at 4:40 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Huh. The google search page summary for Anya Major, the actress/athlete who appeared in the 1984 Macintosh commercial, still says she died in 2000, when most sources appear to have corrected that to say she was alive and well at least in 2009.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:44 PM on January 24, 2014

My dad recently returned my ancient Macintosh Plus so it could sit in my attic instead of in his. What a great little computer that was!
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:47 PM on January 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

There are huge posters up at Infinite Loop with everyone who has ever worked for Apple's name on them. I made some mistakes bad decisions and got myself fired from the fruit stand, but that experience—and the company in general—has had such an overall positive impact on my life over the years, that I am honored to have been given a chance to be part of the celebration. Even if it's just my name on a poster in gray on white.

And to everyone else on those posters and who will follow, I say the same thing I told Steve at the Fifth Avenue opening: Thank you. For everything.
posted by frijole at 4:47 PM on January 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

Funny, they seem to have left the Banana Jr. out of their roll call.
posted by mykescipark at 4:49 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by mykescipark at 4:49 PM on January 24, 2014

I still kind of want a Twentieth Anniversary Mac.
posted by ckape at 4:51 PM on January 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

My first computer drawing on a Mac SE in 1987 using MacDraw or MacPaint.
posted by perhapses at 4:51 PM on January 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

How on earth does Apple not have a mobile site?
posted by schmod at 4:53 PM on January 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

For those of you growing nostalgic, a Mac Plus in your browser.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:53 PM on January 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

My favorite memory of the Mac Plus comes from some time around 2002. I was in grad school, and participating in studies for the University of Chicago biomedical department to make some extra cash. One researcher in particular was getting a lot of NIH (and probably DEA) money to understand the effects of different party drugs when used in varying amounts and combinations.

For this particular study, they were testing me on (what I found out later was) different amounts of hydrocondone and alcohol. Part of the study involved testing reaction times at various stages while the drug was active and during recovery. These tests were all conducted on an old Mac Plus they had lying around in the lab, and involved following a cursor around with a mouse and clicking at various times. I didn't much care for the hydrocondone, but in one session, they gave me lorazepam as a control, which, as it turns out, I didn't mind at all.

I fell asleep in the middle of the test.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:59 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thank you Apple for allowing creativity. I remember the first time Aldus Pagemaker blew my mind.

Why doesn't Autodesk have these ads? AutoCAD has been around for over 30 years.
posted by Teakettle at 5:02 PM on January 24, 2014

How on earth does Apple not have a mobile site?

Mobile sites are out of fashion. "Responsive" sites are all the rage now.

My dad bought us the first Mac for Christmas in 1984. It's hard to describe how exciting it was using it for the first time, watching the self-guiding tutorials (with audio cassette accompaniment!) and within an hour, knowing everything I'd need to know about using the computer and especially Mac Paint.

I also had a program for it called "slide show magician" or somesuch. (a proto-PowerPoint, if you will) I aced every oral report in school that year, for sure.
posted by ShutterBun at 5:03 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I so wanted those original Macs when they came out but they were way too expensive for my college budget. Thirty years later, I still have never bought one because they're always more than I want to spend.
posted by octothorpe at 5:22 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I still kind of want a Twentieth Anniversary Mac.

Why? It was a custom job so NetBSD doesn't run right on it and good luck on getting a GUI running that is not Mac OS 9.

It was a stepchild just like RedBox and the Newton once Steve became king.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:31 PM on January 24, 2014

The same reason anybody wants a Mac: to sit there and look cool.
posted by ckape at 5:33 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Long live the Mac. A great machine in so many ways.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:37 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

to sit there and look cool

Surely that's what a fedora is for?

Happy Birthday, Mac!
posted by arcticseal at 5:37 PM on January 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

There are only a few computers I feel nostalgic for. Our first computer, an apple ][ +. The original 128 K mac my Dad brought home a few months after the launch. My powerbook Lombard, bought for an absurd amount after a rather lucrative summer contract while I was working on my MA.
posted by sfred at 5:38 PM on January 24, 2014

Surely that's what a fedora is for?

So long as FreeBSD has its Strange Attractor its all good.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:41 PM on January 24, 2014

How on earth does Apple not have a mobile site?

I recently watched the video of when Steve Jobs introduced the original iPhone and he made a big deal about the iPhone being the able to show the real Internet. I think Apple makes sure apple.com works on iOS devices.

I appreciate they keep the site easy to pinch and zoom to see versus sites that "optimize" for mobile and lock down the type sizes and don't allow people too vain for reading glasses to be able to see. The worst offender is onswipe based sites. Good god
posted by birdherder at 5:44 PM on January 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Lisa definitely was expensive, and compared to a Mac 128k, everything is clunky except, perhaps, models of Platonic solids. Still, it had some nice features. Being able to get at all low-voltage DC components without tools was pretty neat, and the OS was way ahead of its time. If they could have doubled the clock rate, it might not have failed, even at its astronomical price.

Apple should give itself some credit for getting most of the way toward OS X in 1983. However, I guess we're about eight months too late for that.
posted by tss at 5:47 PM on January 24, 2014

That video at Slate is a kick: Jobs is in his tie-and-jacket mode, and the music playing to the Mac photoplay part is "Chariots of Fire" which gets a laugh from the audience.

I was thinking when he took it from the bag, "Uh-oh, it'll take some time to warm up... AWKWARD" but they must've had a turbo-Mac for the presentation because it booted in like 2 seconds. Mine always took forever... and the grinding... always grinding....
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 6:00 PM on January 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thank you Apple for allowing creativity. I remember the first time Aldus Pagemaker blew my mind.

I can still remember the first time I used Photoshop. I'd been working in the college darkroom for hours trying to get a print just right (going through nearly a box of expensive paper in the process), and when I emerged a friend was sitting playing at the Mac in the common area with a film scanner that had just been installed.

He showed me how to scan the negative I'd been working on, and I started dodging and burning. When I made yet another mistake, I swore, then hit cmd-Z to see if it would undo and it did. Just like you, that blew my mind.

I haven't made a single analogue print since that day.
posted by bonaldi at 6:05 PM on January 24, 2014

So a few years after the launch, in the mid/late 1980s my workplace had a single 512K Mac paired with the Hard Disk 20. Twenty whole megabytes of storage. We could not fathom how we would ever generate enough files to fill it up.

And, watching that Mac launch video, when MACINTOSH scrolls across the screen, I remembered: Proportional fonts on the screen! That was a huge deal.
posted by apartment dweller at 6:24 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

A friend and I were mutually shaking our heads today about all the fortysomething Americans who were saying they got Macs when they were in their teens. In the UK, a Mac was the price of a decent car. Apple IIs had been stupidly expensive too, and there were import duties to factor in on this like disk drives and floppies, so they didn't make a big impression at the time.

I guess the only difference between 1980s UK and the Soviet states was that our dictator had bigger hair.
posted by scruss at 6:40 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

How on earth does Apple not have a mobile site?

I was gonna say that it seems to be exclusively designed for screen-poking money-havers, because it doesn't respond to my mouse clicks at all. (It does work if I use the arrow keys on my keyboard, though, so god knows what the heck they're thinking.)
posted by Sys Rq at 6:43 PM on January 24, 2014

I had one of the original Macs (we didn't call them 128Ks, since there was no need to differentiate from anything else; the "fat Macs" with 512K came out a little later). They were introduced when I was a senior in high school, and when I got to college in 1984, my university had an educational deal for them. I had a bunch of money saved up, so I got one. I had messed around with computers in high school (on a PDP/11), but this was a different world.

I had a friend in film school. As an early techno-Luddite, she had vowed to get through college without touching a computer, but one day she had to turn in a properly formatted film script and had run out of time to do it on her old manual typewriter. I cajoled her into doing it on my Mac. She never touched her typewriter again.

I kept that Mac for years. I upgraded the motherboard to a Mac Plus when I could, and eventually stuck 2.5 MB of RAM in it. I bought a 40 MB hard drive for it. I took it to my first real job, where I wound up taking over layout work that had been done on TRS-80s (don't even ask), and started my freelance career on it. I eventually replaced it with a IIsi in 1992 and handed the old machine down to my sister, who continued using it for a few years.

It was hardly perfect. The power supply on that model chewed through capacitors like they were candy, and at the time I didn't have the confidence to fix it myself (and it's not like I could have looked up a how-to on the Internet). The inherent limitations of a 9" screen are obvious. But damn, I got a lot of use out of that thing.
posted by adamrice at 6:53 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

The first Mac I had was a Mac Classic, purchased in a university auction for $10 -- this was around 1994. The plan was to make it into a fishtank. I think I bought actually bought two.

Consider the average PC from 2004 nowadays -- a bit underpowered, but perfectly viable and capable of running most modern software.

Moore's law was definitely more visible back then.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:58 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

The democratization of creativity. Give me a fucking break. Most elitist snobs don't shove their tech toys in your face and insist that they're MORALLY superior to you because they can afford them- except for Apple cult members.

I wrote my Reed senior thesis on a 128K Mac in 1985-6 with MacWrite as we were part of the original Apple College Consortium or whatever it was called so I have as much right to wax nostalgic as anybody does, and I won't go near a Mac anymore or valorize the overpriced fashion accessories they've become. Almost nobody is "creative" on Macs. They use them the same way the other 93% of computer users use PCs. Gah.

Don't get me started on iPhones.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 7:02 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Macintosh at 30: Celebrating 25 Years of Excellence!
posted by mazola at 7:05 PM on January 24, 2014 [23 favorites]

I miss being a little kid and playing Descent 2, Marathon, Duke Nukem 3D, Jazz Jackrabbit, and many other games on my parents' Mac :/
posted by gucci mane at 7:12 PM on January 24, 2014

Quicktime is 22 years old - something which I took time to look up after the plugin on the Apple site necessary to display the video brought my Win7 PC to an inexplicable but shuddering halt. I have spent all that time saying "no I don't want to upgrade to the pro version" on various computers. I wont be celebrating in 2021.
posted by rongorongo at 7:14 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I snuck into the Apple Developer Program at the age of 17 so I could get a Mac before college. I threw out the piles of tech notes (except TN31), the annoying newsletters, the WWDC invitations...just to get my hands on the prize: the Developer Hardware order form. 50% off. Fuck yeah.

I flipped a shitload of burgers that summer, 70 hours a week, but I got that MacSE 1/20, dammit. For $1,795. It's still in the attic and I'm never going to sell it.

So thanks, Apple, for never checking up on that phony business plan I wrote with Fontrix on my ][+. I owe you one.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:14 PM on January 24, 2014 [8 favorites]

Don't get me started on iPhones.
That's a deal, Happy McSunshine!

Mom got a Mac Plus in '86 or so and I was pretty much hooked. Hours of procrastinating, playing Dark Castle and Leisure Suit Larry and eventually getting back to writing my English essay.
I was "creative" on that Mac right from the start, shooting scrolling credits right off the screen on 16mm black and white stock for film school projects. Worked pretty well!
I've been making all my music on Macs since the mid-90's. And editing video for jobs, and editing photos on them as well. Pretty much every creative thing I do involves a Mac in some way.
posted by chococat at 7:17 PM on January 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

I remember the first time I saw one of those original Macs. This happened in late summer or fall of 1984.

It was sitting in the middle of a shopping mall, on a cheap folding table. There was also a desk chair, and some promotional material: brochures, a sign proclaiming the virtues of the thing. 'Everything You Need At One Low Price!', the price being somewhere north of $3000. Otherwise, it was unguarded and unattended. Don't ask me why that was. I don't know, maybe the guy who was supposed to be there went on a lunch break or something. If I had really wanted to, I could have walked out of there with it.

I sat down and started playing with it. It's funny. I don't know how, but I figured out how the mouse worked right away, despite never having seen one before. Anyway, I clicked on some icons, and managed to open MacPaint. I drew circles, some squares, I even filled things in with a woven thatch texture. I knew in my heart that if I had just a few hours alone with that machine, I could have figured it all out. I could have made something cool, something impressive.

I was a fifteen year-old kid. I was living in a trailer park with a mother who saw me as a burden, and a smart, sad grandmother who took care of me as best she could. I don't think our car at the time, a hideous green Chevy Maverick, was worth as much as that computer.

There was a printer hooked up to the Mac, some big dot matrix thing. I printed my scribbles, tore off and pocketed the print-out, deleted, closed, and set everything back the way it was. I got up and left before someone could tell me I wasn't supposed to be there.

I kept that print-out for a long time.
posted by KHAAAN! at 7:17 PM on January 24, 2014 [49 favorites]

We were, at first, a Northstar family, with a CP/M machine in a nicely finished wooden box that would come home from the office on occasional weekends because of my mother's conviction that it might be something I could understand and use as a tool with which to find an alternative to the crushing frustration that was my daily stock-in-trade. It did not accomplish this task, but it was a sterling dream piece, a little chunk of the world of tomorrow dressed in pine.

In 1980, my father spent an absurd amount of money at our local computer/ham radio outlet, a common association at the time, and came home with an Apple ][ Plus with a 16K Language Card, a disk controller card, a printer interface card, a wide carriage Epson MX-100 dot matrix printer, and a copy of the original killer app that turned computing toys into the backbone of modern business, Visicalc. Our Apple II lived the life of Persephone, spending hard weeks at the office and returning each Friday, reeking of menthol cigarettes, to be our home computer.

I played a lot of games, and tried in vain to write some meaningful programs, but it was not my natural language, so the computer remained diffident, a playful, but not very useful presence, until my father got me a copy of Paul Lutus' lumpen masterwork, Apple Writer 1.0, which let me write on the computer for the first time. It was a real hack, in retrospect, not least because the Apple II was ALL CAPS ALL THE TIME UNTIL THE ADVENT OF THE APPLE //e, and Apple Writer got around this by representing capital letters as an inverse block character.

I went sideways into Commodores for a stretch, in that I could afford one of my own, which lived in my room along with a big Amber NEC monitor and a 1541 that I saved up for over the course of a year, but by 1987, my father reconnected with Apple after a stretch of interminable dalliance with crappy Epson Equity PC clones that he found more "professional" than Apples, after seeing a demo of the new fancypants high end Mac.

Thirteen thousand dollars later, he had a giant Macintosh II with a huge greyscale monitor and a laser printer that cost more then than any car I have ever purchased to date, but which printed test that looked like a goddamn book. I taught myself how to use Aldus Pagemaker on that thing, learned vector drawing with Cricket Draw, and struggled with ancient MS Word before MacWrite II came along and allowed me to leave MS behind forever and ever. I loved making HyperCard stacks and installing inits that largely just pissed my father off.

"Son, there's a pair of eyes following the goddamn cursor around and some moose appears at random and says strange things. Is that something you're doing?"

Hee hee!

Got my own Mac Classic in 1990 (when I could finally afford one), and it's fair to say that almost every single creative thing I've done using a computer for twenty-four years has been largely enabled by Apple's encouragement of the creative community. People roll their eyes now about expensive, pretentious, superficial Macs and how they're just a style thing, but the goodness of the alternatives is a relatively recent phenomena.

I'm a musician, and in 1990, PCs couldn't handle MIDI for crap, with abundant glitching and stuck notes from bizarro PC interrupt problems, and even when they got better at it, their clunky DOSsy sequencers couldn't hold a candle to Opcode's Vision. Using Alchemy from Passport Designs, I could pull samples off my big keyboard sampler and edit them, then archive them and send 'em back to the sampler. I could do advanced additive synthesis with Digidesign's SoftSynth and graphical modular synthesis with TurboSynth. Then, there was Max, which was just…oh my.

People found my tiny, monochromatic, slow little Classic, and even the SE/30 I bought later to up my game, ridiculous, and yet, you couldn't do the things I was doing on a PC. You could do some of them on an Atari ST, but it was a decade before tools migrated over and PCs started to be capable of some of the things that my little beige box had already been doing for years, even at the supposedly tortoise-like speed of 8mhz on a 68000 CPU. I'd show up at my gigs with a rack of processors, my trusty sampler, and that little Mac in a giant carrying bag that matched Colin Baker's outfits, and it was silly, but I put on some damn good shows.

I stuck with the original formula until '99, when the iMac equation just got too good and the price was too perfect and OH MY FUCKING GOD I CAN GET IT IN ORANGE, and I went from an all-MIDI rig to a hybrid MIDI/audio rig (Studio Vision by then), and I could burn CDs and man, I had a color monitor at long last, after nineteen years of monochrome. Quit using MacWrite II in favor of Nisus, and these days, I do most of my music work either in Reason (Mac-only for years) or with a combination of iPad and iPod Touch weeny tablettes and some outboard gear.

In all this time, I'm well aware of Apple's shortcomings, and the nervous feeling that comes from being dependent on a minority platform supported by a single company, but my Macs have done the two most important things for my creative outlets—they engage the talents and interests of people who want to make amazing things (Vision, SoftSynth, TurboSynth, Max, Reason, etc) and they stay the hell out of your way. I never had that dispiriting feeling of dealing with an intrusive, clunky, poorly thought-out user interface, or had to deal with absurd workarounds (early MIDI on a PC), or got stuck in word processing software that just doesn't freaking work right and fills the screen with crap you don't need.

And still, in this day and age, you cannot type an em dash on a PC without using some idiotic numeric keypad workaround, by using "--" and relying on autocorrect, or by installing some macro or whatever they're called now. Why would I want to be a writer using a platform that can't even handle standard English punctuation?

— — — (Because I can.)

Back in '84, when I saw my first Mac, on the campus of Goddard Space Flight Center, where my Explorer Post (1275) met, I was astonished by the otherness of the thing. Where the blunt, industrial IBM PC that had taken the place of our old Apple II at my dad's office just sort squatted there, all flinty and desperate, with the ugliest character set imaginable and just no joy at all, that little beige thing sat, pert and lovable, on a table and invited play and experimentation and exploration.

Velu Sinha, who I envied furiously at that moment, fired up a Mac rendition of Conway's Game of Life, and the sheer speed at which those little blocks of cellular automata flipped around the screen just made me feel like the future was arriving.

"Jeez, it's so fast! It's like a Cray compared to my II!"

"Yep, it's pretty quick. The 68000 is a 32-bit CPU."


I'd been using computers in some form or another since the seventies, and through the Explorer Post, had regular access to a Vax 11/780 that was itself pretty freaking fast and futuristic, but that, right there, was just a little box of tomorrow, with that sort of incidental amazingness that was both avant garde and as comfortable as a pair of jeans at the same time.

"This is what all computers ought to be like one day," I said, and one of the Post's adult advisors shrugged.

"Hope everyone's rich by then, 'cause those things cost more than my car."

He had a point, and yet here I am, thirty years on, blathering at length via wireless (wifi was on Macs long before they were common elsewhere) over the internet to a kind of super-BBS of smart people on a 2.13ghz Macbook that I bought for $240 as a school surplus sale. It looks like kids used it to surf on sand dunes, but even all beat up and ragged and with that stupid little crack that Macbooks of this generation got, it's not in my way.

What a long strange trip it's been.
posted by sonascope at 8:15 PM on January 24, 2014 [32 favorites]

Fine, fine. Just release a refreshed Mac Mini already so I can give you more money, Apple.
posted by planetesimal at 8:23 PM on January 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I loved making HyperCard stacks
This is sitting right beside me as I type.
posted by chococat at 8:24 PM on January 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

I first met a Mac in the late 80's. A friend had gotten a job selling them a a local computer store. Like pretty much everyone else, I'd used the Apple ][s at school, was able to find my way around an IBM, and I had a TRS-80 CoCo at home. This beige box with the monochrome screen though... it was a different thing altogether. There was pretty much no learning curve with it. It had realistic sound. One day I came by and he was on this interesting thing; I was used to BBS's, but this not only was connected to people across the country, but you could point and click at things instead of having to type everything out and wait for the text to roll onto the screen. It had pictures and everything! This was some little service that was really catching on in the Mac community. Something called America Online.
posted by azpenguin at 8:28 PM on January 24, 2014

My first was a Mac Portable. Early '90s. I was flunking out of college, my Dad's office was switching to PC's, and they let him buy the thing for =real= cheap, as in "Give us a couple bucks, and we'll sign the papers" cheap. It was the backlit model with the built-in trackball and the full eight megs. It ran a Unix emulator and a zillion shareware/freeware apps I snagged with a borrowed SCSI CD-ROM drive and a stack of CD's. Including Z-Term and MacPPP. I was flunking out of art school, and he figured a Mac would inspire me to do better. Nope. I discovered the internet in the last, glorious days of Usenet, did worse at school, and ran away and built the internet for a living. (Well, not too far away. I was living at home in RI while commuting to Boston everyday to do Eudora support for Bay Networks as my first paid-geek babystep, not including the mom'n'pop computer shop where they should have fired me, but I quit to be a full-time projectionist, first.)

I have never owned a Microsoft box. Never really felt I was missing out. (I have owned a Sun Sparcstation LX, and then a Sun Ultra II, both running OpenBSD, that I had set up as my own internet fiefdom on a biz-class DSL and then Cable Modem. I need to see what an IBM POWER system goes for used these days, and what Cox charges for a biz-class line with static IP. Fuck your cloud, Bezos, I got my own right here!)

I =had= a PC when I went to school... a DOS-based 8088. I wrote some papers on it. Otherwise, it seemed an enemy rather than an extension of who and what I was. Only the Amiga guys seemed to get me, after I discovered my Mac Portable with its Unix emulator, and they liked that I blew up on the PC guys on their BBS's from a hard-hitting tech standpoint. I've been a jerk online ever since, my bad behavior reinforced!
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:32 PM on January 24, 2014

I was 12 years old, and there was a computer store within walking distance of my school that had a Mac. I remember going over after school a few times a week. I would play with it for a little while, and then politely sneak out.

It felt like touching the future.
posted by petrilli at 8:32 PM on January 24, 2014

I've been using macs for 27 years now. Yay me!

Not to brag or anything, but I've got you beat by 3 years. My first computer was a 128K Mac bought at an educational discount through the University of Texas. Their campus Apple store claimed to be the biggest seller of Apple products in the world at the time (or something similar; no idea if it was true). I borrowed some money from my grandparents and splurged and got both peripherals (external disc drive and numeric keypad), as well as the Apple carrying case and an ImageWriter. With what software was available and probably a couple of other gadgets the overall cost was a ridiculous $8000.00; strangely enough, that has remained a fairly constant price point for high end Macs to this day. Pricing out a Mac pro with Thunderbolt display, 8 core processor, 3 TB Time Capsule and upgraded from base memory and storage (but not maxed out) comes to roughly $7600.00. Before buying it I looked at other options, including the IBM PC and the early Compaq Portable (the Compaq salesman bragged that at sales meetings the president of Compaq introduced the computer by throwing it onstage from the wings, then strolling out, picking it up. plugging it in, and booting it up without a problem). It was a bit early to buy a Dell but I had lived in the same dorm the year before. One of many near-misses with greatness. What sold me on the Mac were several things. When I told the other salesmen how easy the Mac interface was to use they would invariably trot out some graphics program that looked like MacDraw but totally missed the point of a GUI (a term that I had never heard at the time). I had also seen a Lisa, thanks to a friend who had dropped out of college to become a full time sysadmin (he'd be the IT guy in today's jargon) who knew someone who had one. Finally, I had played around with Apple II's in high school and so had a fond opinion of Apple to begin with.

For someone who had grown up with typewriters and at a time when inserting graphics into a document required literal cutting and pasting (with scissors and glue), the ability to produce lab reports and other work without Liquid Paper, correction tape, or glue smudges was miraculous. I hope that my impeccable scholarship was the reason I got good grades in college, but I also know having good looking papers didn't hurt. On the other hand, the seeds of the Mac/PC rivalry had already been sown. I bundled up my Mac in its carrying case and took it on a plane home for Christmas, and packed the printer in its original box and sent it as checked baggage (I planned to do some schoolwork over the holidays and needed hard copy to turn in). As I waited for my baggage at AGS some guy standing behind me spotted the Mac and sniffed "Macintosh, huh. Toy computer." to his buddies. Probably had a TRS 80.

Seeing my Mac helped convince my father to buy Macs for his academic department (in the days before networking there was no reason to standardize computers) and a friend to get a Mac to computerize his family's business. Of course by that time the Fat Mac was out, and I had learned my first lesson about Moore's Law/waiting for the latest upgrade.

That computer served me well for seven years; finished college, through medical school, and well into residency. I used it to type up and printout lecture notes for the class note taking service, wrote a program in BASIC to allow me to play along with Jeopardy on TV, and played a few games. I don't remember why I had to get into the case (some minor repair) but I bought a set of Torx drivers specifically for that purpose; the first time I had seen that tool but have had many opportunities to use them since then.

Eventually it became clear that my beloved 128k had become obsolete and I passed along to a friend when I bought a Mac IIci; getting a LaserWriter was the big deal with that purchase. That was the computer I bought a Hayes modem for so I could go online with Prodigy. About the same time a lot of people I knew were getting PCs running DOS and asking me to help them figure out all that C colon backslash nonsense. After all, I had been using a computer daily for the past decade (almost). Needless to say, that didn't last long. Then Windows came out and I was dumfounded at what a blatant ripoff of the Mac OS it was (albeit a shitty one)

That IIci was during the time when Apple totally lost sight of the importance of design and made beige boxes like everyone else. By the time that IIci was ready for replacement, the first G4 Macs were coming out. That computer is still sitting in my office at home; I stripped to the bare minimum software and let my daughter play on it for a few years as a toddler. Its successor, a late-model G5 is also still in my house and functional. I am typing this on a 2011 iMac, which I got while waiting for them to finally upgrade the Mac pro. Although I can't justify it on a purely rational basis, I really want one. And based on past experience, if I spend extra money to get a computer that seems more powerful than I need, I'll be able to keep it longer before upgrading. OSX and the Motorola to Intel switch were a nuisance, but life goes on. Regardless of how people feel about Apple Computer, they were the first to get an intuitive GUI to millions of people. There would be no Windows without the Macintosh, and the concept of a computer as an appliance would be dead in the water. I don't consider myself a computer expert by any stretch of the imagination, yet the fact that I am comfortable using one is entirely due to that first Mac, when I was barely out of my teenage years.
posted by TedW at 9:12 PM on January 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

Wow; that got long. I had been hoping someone would make a 30th anniversary post so I could comment in it but didn't realize I would get so carried away.
posted by TedW at 9:14 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Pretty much every creative thing I do involves a Mac in some way.

I make our science look beautiful — on a Mac. Before I did that, I made music and web sites I liked enough to want to share — on a Mac. Every creative thing I do that involves technology got started and finished on a Mac.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:53 PM on January 24, 2014

I consume porn -- on a Mac. And it is beautiful.
posted by mazola at 10:54 PM on January 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

512K "Fat Mac" represent.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:00 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by mazola at 11:03 PM on January 24, 2014

I bought a Mac, the IIsi (for well over $2500) and it had one of those Sony drives in it.

Unfortunately, the 3.5" floppy "Apple superdrive", as it was actually known was mounted in the front of the case, and the power supply evacuated air OUT the back of the case. The drive became part of the air filtration system (unbeknowst to me) for the Mac, and after about 1-1/2 years it quit working.** At the time (~1992) a replacement for the "superdrive" cost $400. 10-20 times what a similar product for a PC cost.

My Mom didn't have any kids that stupid, so for a little over twice that amount I invested in a Mac clone called the PowerPC ... which lasted 7 years.

** The Mac which replaced the IIsi had a plastic cowling wrapped around the "superdrive" to keep it from filling with dust and hair. An option never offered to IIsi owners.
posted by Twang at 11:19 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I watched that super bowl 1984 commercial in real time with a good friend of mine and we had drank close to a six pack apiece by the time it came across the airwaves with no warning. We were yacking &c. and then we saw the thing and we shut up, looked at each other, and said at the exact same time WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?

The game was not close. Los Angeles 38 Washington 9; in hindsight the Mac commercial was the biggest thing on TV that night.
posted by bukvich at 11:21 PM on January 24, 2014

layout work that had been done on TRS-80s

1.) what is this
2.) I don't even

(For those of you not up on your Stone Age PCs, this is a little like hearing someone used to perform surgery with a spork.)
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 12:23 AM on January 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

My dad bought the 128K one when I was seven. He was a mechanical engineer and just started up his own company. He originally used it for Pascal. Later my mom started using it to do the fiances for the business with Excel. I used MacPaint to make my dad a businesses card when I was eight years old. I think my dad was just trying to get me to go away when he said that I should make him one. I drew a Marine Leg Bucket Elevator in MacPaint and added in all the business card info. I even came up with a nice logo. I did mess up the phone number and it went unnoticed. My mom has a box of them sitting around since he could obviously not hand them out with the error.

Around 13 I was given the old Mac. We had Microsoft BASIC on it so I dug into the stack of manuals that came along with the software. I ended up writing a program where I could enter in what baseball cards I had and what their value was and it would figure out how much my collection was worth. It took months. This was before the Internet was available to normal people. When It worked well I was really proud and ran to get my mom to show her. She showed me Excel and I was devastated.
posted by johnpowell at 12:50 AM on January 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

When I beheld my first Mac computer I was employed as a Quadex operator. The Quadex system was arguably the most powerful and sophisticated phototypesetter available. It produced gorgeous type but required extensive coding knowledge to operate effectively. I had reached a level of expertise where I could generate everything from shaped blocks to elaborately formatted text without any sort of preview--I worked with pure code. It had taken me years to acquire those skills, and I type 120 wpm. I could generate text for a fully-formatted, press-ready book in no time flat.

My boyfriend had started a newspaper and had purchased two Macs. The type they produced was okay, not pretty; since the people operating the machines didn't know a hanging indent from a drop cap the difference in appearance between that paper and the established one I worked for was dramatic.

Then the Quadex went into the dumpster and I was thrown into the pool of "production workers", none of whom had ever much used a keyboard before. While I struggled to adapt, I watched those around me break every rule I'd ever learned--script fonts were used as all caps, multiple clashing fonts were used together for no reason, etc.

Over time, my boyfriend's paper improved as his people learned how to use the Macs, while the paper I was with deteriorated dramatically. End effect: they pretty much looked the same.

Don't get me wrong. I love Macs. I'm sitting here right now loving my iPad Air and my gorgeous huge iMac and all my beautiful Mac toys. I would never go back. But every so often I think about that Quadex and I feel wistful, if only for the incredibly springy-clicky keyboard, the best I've ever used (and I've been typing for 47 years).
posted by kinnakeet at 3:34 AM on January 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

The first Mac I used (at work) was a Quadra of some flavor, I think. The first Mac I actually owned was a PwerComputing clone. A PowerCenter 150. Great machine. Still have it, running OS 8.1.

As for Apple's "responsive" birthday page...It's completely broken in Firefox. Not only do the side-scrollable panels not scroll or highlight, the top site navigation bar is dead, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:41 AM on January 25, 2014

My first Real Job was a summer job working for my mom's then-boyfriend, who was a clothes designer in possession of a motley collection of Macs. He sat me down with a pile of "Learn The Mac" audiotapes, then set me to work upgrading all of his Macs from System 6 to System 7 by essentially performing the duty of being the monkey to sit in front of the damn things and swap out the relevant floppy when the Mac spit one out. It took days. He had a really rather advanced setup at the time - all the Macs were networked over LocalTalk, some had 40 MB external SCSI drives, there was a laser printer (a LaserWriter if memory serves), a networked modem, and a stonking great Mac IIfx which made me feel like an ape in front of the monolith. Then he stopped making payments and most of the setup got repo'd but the damage was already done.

It's funny to look back on that experience, because it basically springboarded me into the career in software I've had since. Without that job I have no idea what I'd have wound up doing today. Pretty much from day 1 I've been a Mac-at-home guy as a result.
posted by the painkiller at 5:24 AM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Twang: "I bought a Mac, the IIsi (for well over $2500) and it had one of those Sony drives in it."

We had a IIsi! It dutifully kept chugging for a decade or so before an unfortunate death at the hands of a power surge (we think).

I have such nostalgia every time I see the happy Mac. Who doesn't want their computer to reassure them it's okay every time it boots? I suppose the chimes of death are long gone, too, but I can live without them.

Also, another casualty of the end of Rosetta hit me: Ingemar's Skiing Game. Anyone remember that?
posted by hoyland at 5:43 AM on January 25, 2014

Study of college students shows:src

One hundred eight college students who had purchased either a Mac or PC laptop computer ... Big Five personality traits did not differentiate between Mac and PC owners. Students overall rated Macs higher on various product attributes (attractive style, cool, youthful, and exciting) and PCs higher on reasonable price and good for gaming. PC owners placed greater importance on cost as a determinant of brand choice, whereas Mac owners placed greater emphasis on style. ... Mac owners showed more favorable implicit attitudes and stronger implicit self-identification with Macs than did PC owners.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 6:17 AM on January 25, 2014

Mac? You kids these days with your fancy Macintoshes.

I cut my teeth on an Apple II+ that as a kid I helped kludge together from two damaged machines.

Hilariously, I spent the following summer working for pennies to put a giant 16K board in it to bump it up to 64K. Then I took a magic marker and wrote "64K" on it. Yay, early '80s computing.
posted by Sphinx at 6:52 AM on January 25, 2014

The first Mac I had was on my Amiga. The second is on a VM on my PC. I loved the clones back in the day at a place I freelanced at.
posted by juiceCake at 7:06 AM on January 25, 2014

Last year I found an old Mac SE in the trash and reverse engineered the ROMs to extract the nearly thirty year old Easter Egg images of the design team. Another Easter Egg is that the signatures of the team on the first Mac were embossed on the inside of the case. It astounds me how small the teams were and how much influence they have had on computing and user interfaces since then.

Even the insides matter -- Steve Jobs had the Mac circuit board rearranged to suit his aesthetics. Although that design didn't quite work, the final layout is quite nicely arranged, and even the modern Macbook motherboards are symmetric in their layout (which seems less important due to the difficulty in getting into the case thanks to the pentalobe screws). Watching the "Making the Mac-Pro" video shows how much attention they are giving to pieces that almost no one will ever see.
posted by autopilot at 7:43 AM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

A few years ago I found an SE/30 on Craigslist bundled with an ImageWriter II for $20. I needed it for one reason: to copy all my MacPlus 800K disks over to the HDD and via ethernet copy them over to a modern machine (in this case, a WinXP machine).

Because of that lovely hybrid SuperDrive I was able to copy the old Word short stories, Paint/Superpaint art and VideoWorks videos I made in my teen years during the long days of summer on my MacPlus.

Now all of it resides in a virtual disk image run in vMac (in System 6, which is pretty much the last time I liked MacOS).

Unexpectedly, now I have a working MacPlus, still the fastest booting desktop computer I own, a working Mac SE/30 with HDD and ethernet (with Mosaic for browsing) and an ImageWriter II I never turned on to see if it still works.
posted by linux at 7:51 AM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Key thing I only learned yesterday was that Jobs faked the original unveiling demo using a 512K Mac. The 128K launch version simply couldn't have done all the things he showed it doing.
posted by meehawl at 7:51 AM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Steve Jobs had the Mac circuit board rearranged to suit his aesthetics.

He also had Woz straighten out the jumble of the Apple II mainboard layout, which was part of why, when you opened the hood on your II, it presented a comfortable, inviting environment, like what you'd find under the hood of a well-designed car. People want to say those things don't matter, and that it's all just window dressing and a silly waste of time, and for a lot of folks, that's certainly true, but my compact Macs had a sense of warmth of cuddliness that no roaring giant white plastic and metal box ever had, no matter how fast and/or cheap they were.
posted by sonascope at 9:56 AM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

First: the story of Mr. Macintosh, the easter egg that never was.

Most elitist snobs don't shove their tech toys in your face and insist that they're MORALLY superior to you because they can afford them- except for Apple cult members.

That's odd; in the last thirty years, I have yet to meet one of these people in person (the arguments tended to be about the technical superiority of the machines and/or the OS), and the online arguments tended to be less about the moral superiority of Apple and more about the ethical liabilities of Microsoft, when they seemed hellbent on crushing any and all competition in the face of numerous lawsuits. Most of the people who were of that bent seemed to switch over to Linux when it became a viable option. Plus, of course, the "moral superiority" arguments these days tend to be against Apple, by the Mike Daiseys of the world, who like to pretend that the onerous labor practices of the Chinese tech industry aren't used by every other gadget company out there. But, hey, whatever man.

My own experience with Macs, for nearly the first decade of their existence, was that of coveting, mostly. Couldn't afford one without going into debt in college, and that was something that I was assiduously avoiding, so I drooled over the ads and sneaked in as much keyboard time as I could scrape out in computer stores and the college computer lab. (I even created an invitation for an award ceremony of the student branch of a professional organization, in about five different fonts.) Finally, an aunt who had a very nice academic discount bought me an LC 475 in the early nineties. It was a pizza-box type machine of the seriously-into-beige era, and not that spectacular specs-wise, but I loved that thing; I pimped it out with extensions and the Star Trek version of the After Dark screensaver, and got Marathon and all of Bungie's other Mac games and downloaded every Marathon TC I could find. Held onto it way after I'd gotten an iceBook to replace it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:24 AM on January 25, 2014

Amiga forever.

Well, where "forever" means "until 2000 when a friend gave my broke ass a Mac clone that had been abandoned in the back of the computer store he worked in". And another friend gave me a CD full of pirate copies of art software. I fell in love with Illustrator and haven't looked back.

These days I have a super sleek little Air that I throw into a bag along with a Wacom tablet. I'll go sit in the park and work on my comic. Life is good.
posted by egypturnash at 10:25 AM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

">layout work that had been done on TRS-80s"

1.) what is this
2.) I don't even

(For those of you not up on your Stone Age PCs, this is a little like hearing someone used to perform surgery with a spork.)

Not a bad analogy. I'll explain. I worked in a small translation agency that, even in the late 80s, could be regarded as a highly selective museum of derelict technology. The boss had a DOS machine that I think could boot Windows. While I was working there, he bought a laser printer, and had to teach himself postscript in order to print anything on it.

We had a Varityper phototypesetting system. Ours was the first electronic typesetting machine imported into Japan, a huge system with a specialized terminal that sat next to a box, somewhere between refrigerator and garden shed in size. Inside of that box was a CRT that would display one letter at a time; that image shone through a lens onto a roll of photographic paper, and the whole thing would step KACHUNK KACHUNK KACHUNK through a document. After that, you took the roll, hidden inside a cartridge, over to a developing station about the size of a copier. The young woman who operated that had an uncanny knowledge of English hyphenation rules despite being a native Japanese speaker. We also had some of the font wheels lying around from the older Varityper.

Most of the staff used TRS-80 model IVs. We had one model II for a German polyglot who came in from time to time and had a model II at home, and we needed to have something that would read his 8" floppies. We used null modems to transmit data among the TRS-80s and between the TRS-80s and the Varityper. For most printing from the TRS-80s, we had a monstrous daisywheel printer inside an acoustic hood, and a rather nice Epson dot-matrix printer.

We had an ongoing contract to translate and produce the English version of a Japanese technical journal, and we printed it on that Epson. The articles were laid out on the TRS-80s in LeScript, leaving blank spaces for the art department to physically paste in the figures. It was actually possible to print multicolumn documents and text in multiple font sizes with this set up, but you had to feed the sheet repeatedly for every column. This was, needless to say, suboptimal.

So after a short visit back to the U.S. I brought in my Mac, which I think had MS Word 4 running on it at the time. Just for my own satisfaction, I figured out how to produce an equivalent layout for that journal. My boss was skeptical that my Mac could talk to his laser printer, but the printer had a localtalk port, so that was no problem. The rest was history. I don't know what they did after I quit that job, but I expect there was some gnashing of teeth.
posted by adamrice at 10:52 AM on January 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Have found another page on the in-browser emulator linked upthread, and this one includes lots of old apps (see here).

Been playing with MS Word 4; I can see why Word 5 was hailed as the second coming but 4 really is a nice little word processor. It's a distraction-free processor before they were cool.
posted by bonaldi at 12:56 PM on January 25, 2014

My first Mac, this afternoon.
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:19 PM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

| Upvoted for choice of mousepad.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:54 PM on January 25, 2014

Shit--just noticed that I forgot to include the link about the story of Mr. Macintosh, the easter egg that never was. Whoopsie!
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:56 PM on January 25, 2014

How the “lost” Mac intro video was found (and got my name stuck to it)
posted by blueberry at 2:44 AM on January 26, 2014

Unexpectedly, now I have a working MacPlus …
posted by linux at 10:51 on January 25 [+] [!]
posted by scruss at 7:30 AM on January 26, 2014

Also, another casualty of the end of Rosetta hit me: Ingemar's Skiing Game. Anyone remember that?
posted by hoyland
Ingemar's Skiing Game for OSX
posted by blueberry at 10:37 PM on January 26, 2014

blueberry: "Ingemar's Skiing Game for OSX"

I'm pretty sure it's a PowerPC port and fell victim to the end of Rosetta in Lion. At any rate, it doesn't run in Mavericks, needless to say.
posted by hoyland at 7:08 AM on January 27, 2014

I realized in all the hullabaloo about the 30th that, even though I considered myself a recent convert from Win/DOS, I've now spent much more time with Macs (14 years) than I did with the PC platform (11 years, from '88 to '99).

I made the jump for laptop usability, since OS9 on a G3 PowerBook was a friggin' DREAM compared to Win95 or 98 on a PC laptop. It still kinda galls me that my beautiful and super-durable and super-tiny ThinkPad (the super-svelte 560Z) was so completely hamstrung by a shitty OS, but whatever.

I'm on my 5th daily-driver Mac laptop, and cannot imagine going back. I'm sure thing would be different had Apple not adopted a Unix-y system with OSX; I spent a good chunk of the early 2000s doing custom web development (back when you could make a living at it, ha ha), and having the same toolchain on my laptop and my dev/prod servers was a real boon. (It probably also hindered the development and polish of desktop Linux, since Apple's laptop dominance meant you could just BUY a well-made, supported *nix laptop, which made things easy for folks not married to a particular Linux distro who still wanted access to that world.)
posted by uberchet at 1:48 PM on January 27, 2014

(They're counting iPhones & iPads as "computers" in the above link, btw)
posted by ShutterBun at 3:43 AM on February 13, 2014

That's because they are computers.
posted by planetesimal at 7:05 AM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

That's because they are computers.

For most intents and purposes, yeah. Just wanted to clarify that Macintoshes themselves are not outselling PCs.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:24 AM on February 14, 2014

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