Now and Then -- What's On My Desk

I’ve written about my first computer before a Commodor 64 that my Dad brought home when I was very young. Since then, I’ve had many others and I thought it would be fun to fill you in on my computing history (in chronological order).

Beginner: Commodore 64

Ah the good old Commodore 64 with it’s dot matrix printer and mega floppy disks. I still remember the keyboard command chants I memorized as a child “shift-l-shift-o-shift-a-shift-d-space-shift-quote-shift-4-0-shift-4-comma-8-return-shift-l-shift-i-shift-s-shift-t-return or better know as

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The Commodore was more an assembly of different boxes that clicked and whirred more than a Kitchenaid mixer. My little fingers had to work extra hard to press the keys on the heaviest keyboard you could imagine. A big steel case acted as a both a container for the parts and a stand for the TV/monitor. My big heavy steel joystick was well worn from hours of playing Jumpman but wold probably still work today if I could find a DE9M to USB adapter (do those actually exist?). The funniest thing is the monitor is still alive, hooked up to a dusty old VCR in the basement of my in-laws along with an original Nintendo!

Learning: Macintosh LC

The LC’s screen was tiny at 512x384 but I didn’t care because it was a million times better than the Commodore. The LC gave me my first real experience with graphical computing and desktop publishing. I spent hours learning how to use it, breaking it and fixing it. I remember specifically preparing a repot for school, learning all the ins and outs of Page-Maker and document layout. I did so well that my teacher actually commented on how well done it was but also said that it looked like I had a lot of help (which I hadn’t)—a life lesson learned there.

A few years later in high school, I applied for a job in the composing department at the local newspaper. They still relied heavily on X-Acto knives and wax to assemble the 40 page bi-weekly paper but the expertise I built up at home, fiddling and working with the LC, gave me the knowledge to transition the paper to an entirely digital workflow, with a few networked Power Macintosh 7200’s and some new gumdrop iMac G3’s.

Creative: PowerMac 7500

In the later years of high school my entrepreneurial bug hit and I decided to go into business for myself doing desktop publishing. The LC with the Apple StyleWriter printer wasn’t cutting it anymore so we acquired the Power Macintosh 7500 along with an Apple AudioVision display. This was a big heavy machine relative to the LC but it lasted many years and served it’s purpose well, earning me enough money to pay for university and continue my desktop publishing career. If you happen to have lived in southern Ontario and read the Nassagaweya News during the late 90’s it was designed and produced on this machine.

Misfits

At this same time, I also had a PowerMac 5400CD and a PowerBook 140 that I’d acquired second hand. Neither were as powerful or as useful as the 7500 but served as a secondary and somewhat portable machines to work the growing pile of peripherals I was acquiring such as scanners, EZ Drives, Zip drives and various printers.

Student: PowerBook 2400c

I went to Ryerson University in Toronto, about an hour commute there and back everyday on the train. I didn’t want to waste the time staring out the window so I invested in the PowerBook 2400. This machine came without a CD drive which made it relatively small and was easy to carry in my bag. The unfortunate thing was that the battery malfunctioned after only a year and a half but I was unable to get it fixed because the model was only distributed in the US and I was in Canada. It worked well plugged in but lost the usefulness of a portable computer. It also lacked an ethernet port so when the internet was starting to become popular it eventually became a paperweight. I still have it and switch it on every once in awhile to remember the good old days of System 7.5.

Entreprenure: PowerMac G4

Near the end of university I started to get more serious about desktop publishing as a career and picked up a new G4 and a nice Lacie monitor. I had this great machine for several years, tinkering with upgrades and learning a lot about how computers work in general. Though it wasn’t really “portable” the case design with the handles allowed me to lug it back an forth to work every day (to the office of a web design company I started). Today, it still runs but is mainly used by my in-laws to sync their iPods with their music.

Deskjob: PowerMac G5

This wasn’t really “my” computer but was the one we acquired at work so that I could stop lugging my G4 back and forth. I lovingly nicknamed it the “wind tunnel” for the roaring sound it would make when all the fans kicked in. It didn’t happen often but when it did you could hear it four or five offices away from mine. It was a nice fast machine but I don’t think I ever really took advantage of the quad processors.

Writer: 17” MacBook Pro (discrete)

Along with the entrepreneurial bug, I also began writing so I needed something portable. The MacBook was great and had a beautiful monitor however, over time, I found it too large and bulky. Carrying around a 17” MacBook isn’t comfortable long term and I never found the 17” necessary when I was away from my desk. A smaller screen and bigger external monitor is a much better solution.

Family: 27” iMac (Late 2011)

With kids and a wife also wanting a decent computer at home, I’m now using a new 27” iMac. I really like the Machine, the monitor is wonderful but I’m kicking myself for not getting the SSD option. At the time I’d had never used SSD and didn’t understand the performance increase it provides. If your considering an upgrade definitely, without thought, choose the SSD option. It will make a world of difference.

Professional: 13” MacBook Air (Late 2011)

This is my current Mac and probably the best Mac I’ve ever had. The size makes it extremely portable and light but still useful perfectly useful on the go in PhotoShop or XCode. With the SSD drive it feels much faster than my iMac for daily tasks. The only time is feels slower is when I’m doing a processor intensive task such as encoding a movie. If you’re looking for a new Mac I’d highly recommend trying and Air.

Mixed in with the above were several other machines that belonged to either my parents, sister or in-laws which included 4 different gumdrop iMacs, a Clamshell iBook, a SuperMac clone and some Macintosh SE’s and several IIcx’s.