Saturday 25 August 2018

The Macintosh and me: A long love affair


Published in the Geelong Advertiser, 11 October 2011, p. 20 as ‘My MacLove affair.’

The death of Steve Jobs and the outpouring of interest in the man and his machines sent me scurrying back to my old diaries to find when I first got involved with an Apple Macintosh. Jobs launched the first Macintosh in 1984, an interesting year in George Orwell’s calendar, and there on Thursday 15 November 1984 is my cryptic entry, simply ‘Macintosh 10.30 am’. For the following several months my boss at Deakin University, Jim Polhemus, allowed myself and a colleague, John Craig, to play with the new computers to the point where we understood what they could and could not do. It was clear that the pair of us were besotted by the new technology, but the upside was that once we could see their value to the school, and in particular the secretarial staff, who were under severe pressure to cope with the flood of course and research material being produced by the academic staff, we could assist those who were coming new to personal computing to cope with the transition.

The early Macs and Mac Pluses were transportable, though only just, so I supplemented them with a Tandy TRS-80, which was about the size of a modern laptop. It had 32 kilobytes of memory and a tiny screen on which you could only see three or four lines, yet I could do a day’s note-taking in the library or write half a dozen stories for the Geelong Advertiser on it. With the Tandy I could dial into the paper’s computer and send my story at 40 baud, which was very, very slow, but with untimed local calls this was not an issue. The material on the Tandy could be downloaded to my Mac at home and from there on to a single-sided floppy disk which could go in my pocket when I cycled to work. We thought we were the bees knees at the time as very few people had computers which were intuitive to work with and did not require the intervention of computer-speaking technical geeks (though this word had not joined the language at the time).

There is a Macwrite document on the Mac Plus I store in our granny flat which has the results of the World Cup qualification games involving Scotland in 1985, including the two games with Australia which I saw. That was the year my wife’s father died in October, and our son Ross was already in the United Kingdom with the Victorian Under-13 Country Region team, which played and trained in four countries. After the funeral in the north of Scotland, the news came through that Australia was going to play the first leg of the play-offs at Hampden Park on 20 November. So there was a mad scramble to rearrange our return airline tickets so that we could go to the game. Then we flew back and I saw the second leg at Olympic Park on 4 December. Scotland won on aggregate, but that was probably the tipping point for me as I changed my allegiance from the country of my birth to the place where I was already a citizen.

All this was recorded now on computer and, though a colleague once told me I wanted to be at the cutting edge of obsolescence, I continued to update my Macs at regular intervals. I bought an SE30 in 1990 and thought I had the best Mac ever, something I still believed until I got a 27” iMac for my desktop and a Macbook Air as my portable machine in recent times. The former let me have two full pages open side by side and made editing a breeze for my wife. The latter reduced the curvature of my spine when I was carrying laptop, printer, scanner, camera, binoculars and associated power cords and transformers around when I went travelling or to football matches. Strangely enough the Mac which is missing from the line of machines I have owned is that SE30 which I took to Cairns for our grandson many years ago. I must see if I can find one at a swap meet or old computer sale. I wonder if there are any readers who have one they are prepared to part with?

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