I still remember seeing my first Mac and watching a demo of what would become Macromedia Director. It was so different from anything I’d experienced on any computer. I immediately saw the future; one day computers would be used to make movies. Until the Mac, computers were the domain of those who wanted to learn to program or do “productive” things like type, build rockets or crunch numbers. Most people just played games on their Apple II’s. If you didn’t like coding, debugging and then running a program, what good was a computer?
That all changed when I had two roommates with computers. One with a Mac and one with a PC clone. The contrast between the machines was stark, even in the late 80s. The sleek Mac SE vs. the PC running a generic DOS. Watching the two machines usage patterns and seeing the headaches convinced me which machine I’d get, once I could afford one. It was clearly going to be a Mac for me.
Fortunately, my bank had a drawing for a Mac Plus, and after entering the contest on a complete lark, I won with only $10 in my account. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. It literally changed my life. I had already been leaning towards design, but wondered if I could afford the additional years to earn a design degree. No matter, I studied humanities and worked a part-time ad job making flyers during my undergrad years. If I hadn’t had won that Mac, I wouldn’t have gotten the design job, nor probably be where I am today.
It’s odd that a product line in any retail segment lives for 20 years (I know, soap, toothpaste, et al). But in technology, where product cycles are so accelerated, there aren’t many 20-year old products. I love my Mac because it’s brought me so much happiness. Could I be as happy using another computer? Sure. But I doubt a PC would have inspired me to learn design and make it a career.
I have spent the past few hours reading about the birth of the Mac in the following articles (I can’t remember how I got to these, so to whatever site it was, thanks):
- Stanford’s excellent collection of Jef Raskin materials. In particular, this interview.
This amazing essay about computing culture and counterculture (and why the Mac appeals to who it does).
So, I’m going to put my Mac OS 10.3 woes aside for a day or two and say thanks to all those who put in long hours, fought for it, pushed themselves and others and changed my world.
Happy birthday, Mac.