Yeap, amazing as it seems, Apple's Macintosh computer has been around for 25 years. That's like a million years in computer age.
I first encountered the Mac, the lowly 128k, 8Mhz Motorola 68000 Macintosh. (There was only one model back then) in Singapore. I was on holiday there after my form 5 exams in 1985 and I encountered a couple of Macintosh computers on display in a mall. I think it was some sort of promo for kids to 'Draw your Christmas present for Santa' with the Mac. Ok, no big deal these days, but this was 25 years ago.
The counter was empty, so I asked for permission to muck around with it. The screen was only black and white, 9 inches across and 512x342 pixles. But as soon as I put my hand on the mouse, and clicked on MacPaint, suddenly everything made sense. In a world of green characters with the fake apple II's, PCs with DOS, and sinclairs connected to TVs, and DOS, it was an epiphany, a moment of crystalisation. I just knew right then, that this was the future of computers. Of course the PC crowd denied this for another decade until Windows 95. No wonder, I generally disdained those who clung on to PCs and DOS. No revelation.
After that brief encounter, I met up with the Macintosh again in college later that year. Yes, computer class was on DEC PCs running DOS, but there were a couple of 512K Macs in the student center with dot matrix printers attached which I could use. Imagine, multiple fonts on the same page. Different sizes even. Stuff we take for granted today was very revolutionary with MacWrite back then.
Later, the computer center got its first Apple LaserWriter. Again, this was 20 years ago. A laser printer was a very, very big deal, and it cost something like USD8000 before the education discount. Not that any of us could actually afford it. But suddenly, Desktop Publishing became very real. Anyone could create professional looking documents with integrated pictures and graphics that didn't have the jagged edges of a dot matrix printer. This was the first desktop revolution. What previously required big printing presses and very expensive facilities could now be done at your desk.
Around the same time, saw the introduction of the Mac Plus, which still ran at 8 Mhz, but RAM was now an amazing 1 Megabyte and the floppy drives now held 800kbytes and it had a SCSI port in the back which allowed you to attache the 20 Megabyte Hard Disk. Yes 20 Megabytes. I think my friend Bill paid something like USD800 for 20 Megabytes of storage. Yesterday, I bought a 8Gigabyte thumbdrive for MYR49.50. which is like USD15.
Nonetheless, it was amazing tech for its day.
The following year saw the Macintosh SE and my very first computer. I think my parents made huge sacrifices for me to get my first computer. So, thanks are in order.
The Macintosh SE I had had two floppy drives. One for the system and apps, and another for data. Pretty amazing for its day. Hahah. I eventually swapped one of the floppy drives for a 40 Megabyte hard disk. I also upgraded the RAM to 4 Megabytes. Cost me like USD250.
Around that time, my friend Ken got a Macintosh II computer. This was a very big deal. It was a separate modular computer as opposed to the all-in-ones, ran at 16 Mhz Motorola 68020, had colour (haha) and if you could afford it, could support 2 monitors at once. This was followed on by the Macintosh IIx (16Mhz 68030) and IIfx which was described as being 'wicked fast' with its 40Mhz Motorola 68030 CPU. It also cost something like USD$12,000.
Apple later updated the SE with a 16 Mhz 68030 which should have resulted in it being called the Macintosh SEx, but for obvious reasons, it was the called the SE/30. And yes, it was fast. I remember it launching Microsoft Word in 4 seconds. And how long does MS Word take to launch now? Sheesh.
The dorm I was living in was also the first dorm on campus to have a computer network. Appletalk/PhoneNet required an adapter that plugged into one of the Mac's ports but amazingly it used normal phone wire. It only ran at 230.4 bps, but it was enough to send messages, print, chat and to play Maze Wars, which was probably the first network game for the Mac. The graphics were simple and it only supported 4 players but could actually play against other human beings. It was probably the first, first person shooter.
Of course the network was also used for things like running SPSS/X statistical regressions off the College's VAX 11/750 Minicomputer names Watson and Holmes.
The summer after I graduated, the regional NeXT education rep stopped by our campus to demo's Steve Jobs' new project the NeXT Cube. It was again, expensive, but it was even cooler than the Macs back then. It had a 25Mhz 60830, and 8 Megabytes of RAM. The CPU was a very cool black Magnesium alloy cube, it had a Magneto Optical Drive, the monitor was connected to the CPU by a single cable and the keyboard, mouse and audio plugged into the monitor. It also ran a graphical interface over Unix. If that sounds like OS X, well OS X is based on the NeXT Step Operating System. That's not the only reason its historically significant. Tim Berners-Lee of CERN created the first web browser and web server on a NeXT Cube and John Carmack also built Wolfenstein 3D and the original Doom game on one.
In 1989, I moved to Los Angeles and started working there as the MIS Manager/trouble shooting/desktop publishing/warehouse manager/forklift driver. I managed to wrangle a Macintosh IIcx for myself. It was also a modular Mac, but it came in a much smaller form factor than the Mac II. It had a 16Mhz 68030, 3 NuBus slots, and was assembled with no screws. I also got a sweet Apple Portrait Display. I don't know why they don't make Portrait oriented monitors anymore. When you consider the written page and most websites are designed vertically, a widescreen laptop monitor doesn't make sense unless you're super Excel geek or only use your laptop to watch movies.
I also attended my first MacWorld Conference in San Francisco. Steve had been fired from the company at that time, so I've never heard him speak live. Going to MacWorld is something everyone Mac fan needs to do. Its just amazing to be surrounded by amazing people, great products, and people who agree with you. hehe. I remember a product demo by Mitch Kapor who founded Lotus which was famous for Lotus 1,2,3, a spreadsheet before Excel. He demoed a product from his new company On Technology. On Location was a search engine which quickly found stuff on your computer's hard disk. Again, a big deal back then. Then again, XP still couldn't find squat on my office PC. Vista sorta finds stuff. If you use a Mac, you know its no big deal. Hasn't been for a long time.
I sold off the SE before I returned to Malaysia, so I was Mac-less for a while. :( More on my post US Macintosh experience tomorrow, or whenever I get around to it.
(pics are off wikipedia)