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Happy 25th Birthday, Mac!


All of the bloggers at TUAW write about Apple and Apple products for one reason: we love Apple products.

For most of us, our first Apple was a Mac (although some of us are indeed old enough to have owned the Apple II). 25 years ago today, Steven P. Jobs stood in front of a packed house and had a Macintosh Model M0001 introduce itself to the world:

Over the past quarter century, hundreds of millions of people have fallen in love with the Mac. Read on to hear some personal stories about Macs we have known through the years, and be sure to leave your own memories of your first Mac in the comments section.

Steve Sande

On January 24th, 1984, my boss and I drove from our office in downtown Denver to a computer dealership in the southeast part of town. We had been hearing all the hype about the Macintosh -- even then, Apple was wonderful at building up excitement about products -- and we decided it would be cool to check one out in person.

To our surprise, there weren't all that many people at the computer store so we were able to get some hands-on time with this tiny beige box. I remember being amazed with how small the first Mac was (it was smaller and had less weight than most monitors at that time), at how the mouse suddenly freed me from the need to type DOS commands to do just about everything, and with just how friendly the computer seemed to be.

I was hooked, but I didn't buy one immediately. At the time, I had a Sanyo MBC-555 DOS machine with a monochrome monitor and two 5-1/4" floppy disk drives. The main problem with the Mac in my mind was the high price -- the 128K Mac cost US$2495, and since I was making the princely sum of about US$24,000 per year at that time (I was an engineer, so I was making a lot!) I wasn't sure that spending a tenth of my income on a computer was a good idea.

Finally, when the 512K Mac appeared in late 1984, I had to buy one. I sold my DOS machine, took out a loan, and bought the 512K Mac and an Imagewriter dot-matrix printer for a total cost of about US$3,000. That purchase has defined my life since that day in December of '84.

At the time I was a "special projects engineer" for a pipeline company, and I had been tasked to determine our personal computing requirements for the next five years. I had planned on purchasing all IBM products, but almost immediately started carrying my Mac into the office to do work. One thing led to another, and ten years later that company had almost 300 Macs installed. We were the first part of our corporation to have e-mail, ethernet, and Internet access, and I credit the Mac for all three firsts.

During the 80's and 90's I owned a Mac Portable (the worst Mac I ever owned), a Powerbook 140, a Mac IIcx (my favorite Mac of all time), and a PowerMac 6100. For eight years beginning in 1986, I ran a Mac-based bulletin board system called MAGIC, providing community to a large number of Mac users in the Denver area. That PowerMac 6100 was the machine I used to build my first website in 1994 and to do my first video editing.

After a 9-year hiatus during which I was outsourced to IBM, I fell away from the Mac for a short while. Towards the end of my career with IBM, I was totally unhappy, stressed-out, and depressed. I decided that moving back to the Mac, quitting my job at IBM, and working with Macs full-time was the answer. I love my work now, and I owe it all to that little beige box that smiled at me on January 24, 1984.

Megan Lavey

My first experience with a computer was in the first grade in 1986 at Head Elementary School in Montgomery, Alabama. We had a computer room full of Macintoshes, but only two machines - the Apple IIs - had color monitors. We learned basic programming and sketched a bit, but a majority of the time was spent either playing educational games or my favorite, the Oregon Trail. There would be fights over those machines with the color monitors so we could go attempt to travel among the Oregon Trail in glorious color. It certainly made writing epitaphs once the entire party keeled over from malaria a lot more fun!

I didn't appreciate Macs until my final year of college, when I received an iMac as my work computer and the iMac G4 debuted. I'd used Macs throughout my school career, but this was my introduction to OS X and the possibilities were just staggering. The problems that happened on the system weren't with the OS itself, but the crash-happy QuarkXPress (that still persisted at least through version 6!).

After being on PCs at a couple of newspapers, I found myself desiring a Mac and OS X for myself. I was so sick of fighting with Windows to do the most basic tasks and the Toshiba laptop I'd gotten in mid-2004 started falling apart within six months of the purchase. When I moved to Maine in December 2004, I decided that such a radical change in my life also meant it was time to switch and ditch Windows for good. I sold the Toshiba for around $600 - enough for a deposit on my new apartment and to buy an iMac G3 from Ebay. Kirara, my youngest cat shown above on top of that very first Mac in February 2005, took to my new machine at once. As I've upgraded from iMac G3 to Power Mac G4 to Powerbook G3 to an iBook G4 to a MacBook, Kirara has made it her business to occupy some part of the keyboard while I'm using my Mac.

Say, Steve, if you're reading this, want a new mascot?

I haven't looked back since. Like with Steve, deciding to work with Macs full time has changed my life as well. Not only has it increased my productivity, but the programs have made me more creative and it's been a lot easier to branch out into different areas of computing that I've wanted to explore. When I'm at work, I just see the PC there as a tedious tool in which to do my job. But every time I log into my Mac at home, I still get a bit excited and eager to see what I can explore next in OS X.

Mel Martin

I saw my first Mac in Jacksonville, Florida in 1984 at a little nondescript computer store. People were standing around the Mac with silly grins on their faces. I grabbed the mouse and made some geometric shapes with MacPaint. I also remember swapping floppies in and out, and how small those floppies were compared to the PC side of things. They made a funny little humming sound as the read head moved over the surface of the disc.

Of course the Mac was black and white only, and was part of a system that included a laser printer. It was all pretty remarkable. I didn't need the laser printer, but did wind up getting that first Mac.

Some time later I remember spending about 1600 bucks on a third party hard drive that had 10, count em, 10 megabytes of storage. I was in heaven.

There are other names that drift in and out of my now foggy memory. Imagewriter. Aldus Pagemaker. Dark Castle. Well, the years have come and gone. The current Macs still have some of the original DNA. The little Apple menu is still around, and while the menu bar is a lot more crowded, it serves the same purpose.

Over the years my many Macs have helped me find jobs, write a book, process and enhance photographic images, and just keep in touch with friends, first with email, now with video and audio. It's been quite a ride for these 25 years. I expect the next 25 will be even more dramatic and exciting. Happy Birthday Mac. I've had many happy returns.

Mat Lu

I am absolutely one of those half-mythical creatures: the iPod halo switcher. I'm ashamed to admit now, but I was for the longest time an anti-Mac bigot. My first home computer was an IBM PC XT that my dad brought home when I was about 10 and I was solidly in the PC camp through college and the start of grad school, even going so far as to deride my Mac-using friends on a regular basis. However, in the fall of 2001 Apple introduced the first iPod and I was immediately hooked.

You may recall that the first iPods were FireWire and Mac-only so after dropping an insane amount of money for that 5GB music player I took it to one of Cornell's Mac labs and proceeded to load it up with all the MP3s I had brought along on several CD-Rs. I figured that it would only be a matter of time before somebody figured out how to update the iPod from Windows XP and I was content to play my initial set of music until then. Of course that ended up taking much longer than I has anticipated, so by December I was thinking seriously of getting a Mac so that I could actually update my iPod.

This was the time of the Titanium PowerBooks and OS X 10.1. I had always hated the Classic Mac OS, but this relatively new, Unix-based, and throughly lickable operating system was intriguing. The gorgeous (and incredibly thin) PowerBook hardware sealed the deal and my first Mac was a G4 PowerBook 550, which I got in January of 2002 to "supplement" my 1GHz Windows XP desktop. Within hours I was completely hooked, and a few days later the Windows desktop was forgotten.

Since then I've gone from the G4 PowerBook 550 MHz to a G3 iBook 800 MHz to a G4 PowerBook 1.67 GHz to a 17" Intel iMac 1.83 GHz & a 13" MacBook 2.0 GHz. My present setup is a 24" iMac 2.4GHz & a 1.83GHz MacBook Pro. Like the others, I'm so far gone now I can barely stand looking at Windows. Viva la Mac!

Mike Rose

I was very fortunate that my mother was founding her first company in mid-1984, and she needed a computer for business use. While I had been bouncing between several machines in my dad's office for my schoolwork and gaming (a terrifying Lanier word processor with a daisy-wheel printer that sounded like a hailstorm; an underpowered Commodore VIC-20 with the "8K Graphics Expansion Cartridge"; an infrared-keyboard-equipped and woefully slow IBM PCjr), Mom's new machine was going to be something different. It came with a dot-matrix printer that supported graphics and a handful of fonts (San Francisco! New York!), and you had to swap the oddly rigid 'floppies' over and over again to switch from using MacWrite to MacPaint. It was incredibly appealing, and I was excited to see every new capability that was revealed -- I remember helping Mom set up her budgets in Lotus Jazz and thinking that we were really living in the future.

That first Mac -- at this moment, I can't remember if it was a true 128K original or the 512Ke "Fat Mac," but it was a long time ago -- helped shape the course of my life and my career in many ways. Along the line, as I upgraded through a long string of Macs (SE, SE/30 which of course is the best Mac ever made, IIsi, Power Computing PowerCenter, iMac DV, G4 iMac, G5 iMac, and today's Intel iMac + MacBook Pro) I never lost the sense of excitement that has always been part of my Mac experience.

Dave Caolo

When I was young lad in the 80's, my father owned his own business. His company went into hospitals and doctors' offices and automated their billing by installing computers and software (see? I've got "geek" in my blood). As a result, there were always computers in various states of repair in our house and around my dad's office. I'd putter around with them until I got bored or frustrated (Abort, Retry, Delete?).

Then, one day, it happened.

I stopped by the office one afternoon to get a ride home from school. Everyone was crowded around a small table, obscuring my view of what they surrounded. As you may have guessed, it was a Macintosh. It had "pictures" on the screen. It had a "mouse." It wasn't the size of a small suitcase, and it was unbelievably fun to use. As an impressionable, young geek-to-be, I was smitten. Imagine seeing that knockout redhead from across the room. Yeah. Like that.

Like Mike, I can't remember exactly which model it was, as I didn't really pay attention back then. "Macintosh" was good enough for me. Years later, my college used Macs exclusively, which only solidified our relationship. After graduation, I purchased my very first Mac: A 333mhz G3 iMac in "strawberry." Oh, how I loved that machine.

Until that fateful day in my dad's office, I was destined to be a DOS nerd. Thank goodness I saw the light!

Robert Palmer

I started using a Mac in seventh grade, and I hated it.

My dad (whom you might remember) was a PC guy, and I had a hand-me-down 386 to type up reports. I was convinced that Macs were underpowered toys. My middle school had mostly Mac LCs running System 6, which looked and felt slow and unpolished next to Windows 3.1. Give me a break: I was 12.

Once I entered high school, a favorite teacher finally introduced me to why Macs were awesome: interface customization. I became addicted to finding Kaleidoscope themes and custom cursor extensions, even though I didn't have a Mac. Finally, when my 386 died, I convinced my Dad to get a Mac for the house: Dad wanted to see Mom learn to use a computer, and Dad wanted to edit home video digitally. So, we got a Performa 6400/200 Video Editing Edition.

I was hooked. After Dad's interest in video editing wore off, and Mom decided she wasn't interested in computers at all, the 6400 became mine. I took it to college after installing a Sonnet G3 upgrade card in its Personality Slot.

It became My First Mac. It was eventually replaced by a Power Mac G4 -- The First Mac I Bought. The Performa went to a good friend of mine in 2001 that was looking for something simple for Internet browsing. I don't know if she still has it; I'm guessing not.

Ever since My First Mac, the Mac experience for me became less a relationship with a particular computer, but instead a relationship with the operating system: The workflow, organizing files, and using applications. The hardware was a sideline, since the real power lay in the operating system.

So as for all my past and future Macs, they're really just points on a continuum of the concept of the Mac. Constantly evolving, but always familiar; Simple, powerful, dependable.

Brett Terpstra

I clearly recall the Apple Computers of my youth. I remember monochrome screens and clunky mice, and the evolution of such. I spent a fair amount of time with them at school, and over at my friend Gilbert's house playing Dark Castle. I'm sure I did more with them than travel the Oregon Trail and snap whips at bats, but I spent considerably more time writing Logo programs on PC Jr.'s. As I grew up, I shunned Macs, running BBS's off of home-built 386 machines. These machines soon became Linux boxes, and I developed a disdain for Macs in general.

I began working at a digital prepress during High School, where I was the late-night backup guy. All alone in a room full of Macs running OS 9 on huge monitors, I had little else to do but teach myself Quark, Photoshop, Illustrator and generally learn my way around the OS. It didn't convert me, but I realized I liked Photoshop on a Mac better than the copy I brought home for my PC.

I went off to college with the intention of majoring in Computer Science, a field which isn't generally known for Mac-friendliness. I lost touch with Macs for a year, until I realized that I was absolutely incapable of sitting through Calc II recitations. With my earlier self-guided study of design applications under my belt, I headed off to the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and was suddenly immersed in labs full of Macs and classes taught on nothing but. I learned to love them there, but kept my PC in my dorm room for activities other than design and interactive development. I graduated with a BFA and headed out into the world.

I had gone through a couple of jobs, all using Macs extensively, when the age of OS X dawned. 10 minutes on the new OS and I was hooked. The power of UNIX and a UI that far surpassed what I'd spent years hacking my XP and Linux installs to do. Over the next few years, my collection of PC's began dwindling, soon replaced by a single PowerBook. By the time I went into business for myself, I was the opposite of what I was in high school; I was a Mac zealot and a PC hater. To this day, I shudder and die a little inside when I have to work on a PC, even if I'm just testing web pages in IE6 through VMWare Fusion. I decline all requests to do friend-and-family tech support on PC's (Windows networking ... seriously?), and have persuaded 4/5ths of my immediate family to drink the Apple Kool-Aid.

It took me a while, but I sincerely doubt I'll ever go back.

Chris Ullrich

My first exposure to Apple was before the Mac even existed. One of my teachers brought in an Apple II+, with an at the time mind-boggling 64K of RAM, for us to take a look at and play with. Once I saw that NEC green screen monitor, giant floppy drive, dot matrix printer and beautiful blinking cursor, I was hooked. Somehow I convinced my parents that I needed one of those Apple Computers (mostly because I told them it would help me with school) and they graciously got one for me.

From that point on I was in love with all-things Apple. Soon after, around 1984 or so, I saw my first Macintosh at a friend's house (his father was an engineer and loved computers) and I fell in love all over again. Once again I was able to convince my parents that I needed to have this new, exciting computer called a Macintosh. Once again, for whatever reason, they agreed and on a sunny Thursday afternoon, I brought my new friend home and started what would become a 25 year partnership full of new experiences, adventure, creativity and even a little work now and then.

Since that afternoon in 1984, I've had many more Macs including an SE 30, an LC II, a Performa, several laptops, including the 1400c and the Wallstreet and many others. But like your first beer, your first time driving a car, your first kiss and the first time you fall in love, I remember fondly my first Mac. Fortunately, if I ever miss it terribly, I can always pay it a visit, along with the rest of my Apple computers, because I still have every last one of them. And yes, they all still work perfectly. That's just one of the many reasons I love the Mac.

Victor Agreda, Jr.

Like Chris, my first Apple was before the Mac. It was an Apple II my dad bought in a bike shop -- because there were no computer stores in 1978 where we lived. I still have the computer (later upgraded to an Apple II+ internally), plus our first Mac: an SE/30 we upgraded later to 8MB of RAM, a ZIP drive and support for a 2nd, color monitor. My own machine at the time was a Laser 128, but my dad's work machine was the SE/30, and when I came home from school it was all mine. Unfortunately, I gave the machine a virus! I had downloaded several Monty Python sounds and in one of those lurked something bad... But Disinfectant saved the day.

When I went to college I bought a Centris 610, the "pizza box" Mac, and one of Apple's "ergonomic" keyboards that split in half and had big handrests. When I graduated, I bought a Powermac 8500 with Premiere and After Effects pre-bundled. The AV inputs and outputs on the 8500 were like a revelation, and for some time I used it as a TV (hooking up a VCR as the tuner).

Of course, ultimately I needed a laptop, so I wound up with a G3 iBook, the first ones to lose the clamshell case. It had a whopping 10GB drive in it, and yet was the "perfect machine" for iTunes, iMovie and, uh, OS X (eventually).

I think the power of the Mac platform hit me when, in high school, we used a Mac IIfx (I think) to put together the yearbook. It was the very first edition ever assembled entirely in digital form. We used Freehand and Pagemaker, and I believe each was a version 1.0 release. Even the Apple and Laser ran The Newsroom, a primitive but powerful desktop publishing bundle. From those early steps to working with DV on my G3 years later, the power the Mac put so easily at my fingertips are what has kept me on the platform these many years.

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