Happy 40th, Mac

By Jason Stoff

Although the Macintosh and I were born on the same year, I didn’t own a real, usable Mac until 2010.

(I bought the 2009 15" MacBook Pro with high resolution display and matte screen in early 2010, after I landed my first real freelancing gig and before I was officially hired at Atomicdust. I also bought the first iPad at the same time)

That’s not to say I’m a newcomer to the Mac — while I’ve only owned a Mac for 14 years, I’ve been steeped in Mac culture for most of my life.

Early on, it was simply present. I remember seeing MacPaint in a neighbor’s basement computer room, and playing black and white games on my cousin’s Mac in their home office. It was utterly unlike the PS/2 in our own computer room, which took 15 minutes to boot up and displayed CGA colors in low resolution blocks.

I remember marvelling at a friend’s Mac: how disks would eject after dragging them to the trash, and how emptying the trash made Oscar the Grouch sing. It was whimsical, it was fun, and it was so very different from the Windows computers that were at home.

In school, I used Macs, and began to resent the way they worked — because they were locked down with At Ease, which I now see as a direct precursor to the iOS Springborad. Performas, LCs and all-in-ones were scattered far and wide in my school district (though the typing lab was crowded with Apple IIs). Eventually, our middle school art classroom recieved the first Bondai Blue iMac, and I remember marvelling at the design choices.

The iMacs kept coming. First to our school library’s computer lab, then to an adjacent lab, then to each classroom. At Ease remained frustrating, and disincentivized me from wanting to use the Macs at all outside of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Plus, I could run those programs on my custom-built gaming PC at home.

I joined the yearbook club my senior year, and tucked away in our back room was another iMac — but this one was somehow different. It ran OS X, it looked utterly different and new. It was fun! It was also slow as dirt, but no matter, I was interested in Macs again.

My college years were during the Mac’s G4/G5 era, and the Classic/OS X era. I had a PC in my dorm room, and I went to great lengths to customize Windows to look more Mac-like. My department lead kept a G4 cube on her desk, and the PowerMac G5 towers that arrived in our design lab were astonishingly fast, with impeccable fit and finish. I used the Mac Mini on the art department’s reception desk to pass the time, but a $500 computer was out of the question for me.

Post-college, I joined a marketing agency. We creatives used Mac towers, as industry standards dictated, but my first work computer wasn’t a top-of-the-line PowerMac G5. I learned to love my Bondai Blue PowerMac G3, a machine that would have been new(ish) in my high school years. It could run Quark, Photoshop and Illustrator, and it could follow Apple websites’ liveblogs just fine. I followed the “Switch to intel” liveblog from that machine.

And after leaving that job, I needed a new computer.

So I bought a MacBook Pro for myself, for the first time.