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All My Macs

Entry 1629, on 2014-02-19 at 15:49:48 (Rating 1, Computers)

Recently we in the "Apple World" celebrated the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the Mac in January 1984. And yes, as a computer veteran I was there, well not actually there, but I was working as a programmer for an Apple dealer at the time and I did get one of the earliest Macs ever made. And, of course, before that I programmed the Apple II and Apple II. Ah yes, those were the days when programmers were real programmers!

I have listened to some podcasts of people reminiscing about their early Mac experiences so I thought why not add my own, both of my earliest use of Macs and of further experiences since then, so here goes...

Just before the Mac was released I was heavily into the Apple II and especially the Apple III. Yes, the dealer I worked for was one of the few who sold a lot of Apple IIIs and despite their reputation they were actually a really good machine in many ways. But the Mac was something different. It really was a revolution.

Because the first Macs were all American models they needed a step-down transformer to operate on our 230 Volt power instead of the American 110 Volt (this was before the universal power supplies we have now). The other Apple dealer in town also had a Mac but - you guessed it - they forgot to use the transformer and fried theirs!

So I had this little Mac with 128K of RAM and a single 400K floppy disk drive. Compared with what we can do now the whole experience was pretty awful but compared to what we had before that it was fantastic! Managing floppy disk space was tricky because that 400K (a million times less than a small hard drive or an SSD today) was needed for the whole operating system, application program(s), and data, but it could be done.

But MacPaint was such an advance on any other painting program I had ever used before (even though it was only black and white) and MacWrite - with it's abilities to display different font sizes and styles and to embed graphics - was so far ahead of other word processors, that the inconveniences of the early Mac were barely noticed. Of course, the Apple II only had a 143K disk and the same applied to the Apple III, unless you could afford the massive 5 Meg Profile hard disk!

After that first Mac I progressed to newer models as they became available: the Mac 512 worked much better because of its extra RAM but the Mac Plus was the first really useful model because its SCSI port allowed easy connection of hard disks of 10, 20, or even 40 Meg capacity!

After that I continued to move up the scale to a Mac SE, LC, LC III, and finally to one of my favourite Macs (considering the time it was released) the Centris 610. I had that machine at home and it was powered by the might 68040 CPU running at the impressive speed of 20 MegaHertz! I did a lot of programming, newsletter production, and game playing on that Mac and I still have it. Not sure if it still runs. Must try that some time!

I had a much more powerful machine at work shortly later when the PowerPC-based machines were released. It was a Power Mac 8100/80AV and it had a PowerPC 601 processor running at 80 MegaHertz. It also had some cool audio and video I/O features (as indicated by the AV designation). That was probably the most expensive Mac I ever had because, at the time, they cost about $NZ13,000!

After that I used various models at home and work: Power Mac 7200, 7300, and then the 8600 with the PowerPC 604e processor. Then the G3 CPU was released and this chip was the first one to really realise the performance of the PowerPC RISC architecture. It was also used in the iMac when it was released a bit later.

After that there was further steady progress with various G4 machines with speeds from 350 MHz up to dual 1.25 processors. I still use one G4-based machine as a server.

By about 2003 I had switched from having one Mac desktop at home and one at work (with all the issues involved in keeping them both up to date and synchronised) to having one laptop for everything. It was a PowerBook G4 17" with a 1 GigaHertz processor and a 60 GB hard drive. I must have got the first 17 inch laptop in town and I remember everyone admiring the screen. It wasn't light to carry around though!

When the 64 bit G5 came out we all admired its power (I still use several G5 Power Macs as servers) but there was a problem: the G5 chip ran hot. IBM was losing interest in the architecture, and Apple wanted to move more to laptops (where efficient processors were necessary), so although there were various laptops based on the 68000 and PowerPC 603, G3, and G4 chips (many of which I owned and used) there was never one using the G5. Apple had to do something, and much to the dismay of many supporters, they switched to the same Intel architecture as the PC in 2006.

So after a second, faster, G4 17" laptop I switched to a MacBook Pro with a Core 2 Duo 2.33 GHz Intel CPU and a 160G hard disk. But I soon realised that a screen that size was just too big, so my current machine has a 15 inch screen. I hope to replace it soon and that will probably be for another 15" laptop with a high resolution screen.

You can see I've used a significant proportion of the total range of models over the years, and at home me and my family currently have the following: a 15 inch MacBook Pro, a 13" retina screen MacBook Pro, a 13" standard MacBook Pro, a 13" MacBook, an old 17" MacBook Pro, a Mac Mini Solo, a Mac Pro quad-core Xeon used as a media server, three Mac G5s used as file and web servers, a Mac Mini G4 used to display photos, plus a pile of old machines such as a G3 iMac, G4, and 7200 used to run old stuff occasionally. Oh, and there are four iPhones, 2 iPads, several iPods, and an AppleTV. Now you know why Apple makes so much money!

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