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Origin Stories: Dave Caolo


I didn't see an Apple computer until I was in college. My family had a series of beater computers when I was young, and my first Internet experiences were with Prodigy. I thought it was fun, even when the Internet was little more than posting conversations on bulletin boards.

I wish I could say that using a computer back then was a magical experience complete with descending doves and ethereal music, but it really wasn't. Our home computers, such as they were, held my attention for short bursts here and there, and that was that.

Before that we had a Commodore Vic 20, and before that I can remember playing Pong on my grandmother's enormous, console RCA TV. You may remember those huge sets with the faux wood casing and super-cool speaker grille off to the right.

I don't remember seeing a computer during high school outside of those that were in my house. But that changed when I started attending college. The library, or "Media Center," at Marywood University had several huge, beige Macs. I can't remember what they were, but I started at Marywood in 1991, so I let you try and figure it out. I used them for little more than writing papers, unfortunately, but after four years I was very comfortable and familiar with the Macintosh operating system.

I also sent and received my first email as a freshman at Marywood, as one of my professors insisted we communicate that way. Today I recall a blinking orange cursor and lots of text commands. I also remember thinking email was a preposterous waste of time, because I could walk to my professor's office in the time it took me to send a short message.

After graduation I took at job teaching at a residential school in Massachusetts. Lo and behold, I showed up to find Macs everywhere. There was an aging SE/30 on my desk (this was 1994) and a few Color Classics here and there plus several Apple laser printers, each the size of a Honda Civic. I was immediately comfortable with those machines, a fact that later paid off.

The IT director at the time had written a data analysis system with Excel 6 and HyperCard. It was really cool, and I remember that if we wanted to work in the system, to enter data collected while working with the students, we had to boot from a certain floppy disk. There were two staff computer labs in addition to the machines on our desks, where we'd sit and beg each other for a disk so we could get some work done.

As time went on I noticed my interests were shifting from education to the Macs. I started doing little projects with the school's IT department and, several years later, became the IT director for the school. Those were fun times, as my appointment coincided with Steve Jobs' return and the introduction of those beautiful blue iMacs. We ordered lots of them, and I got to set them up and service them. I had a great time.

The design on those machines went through several revisions, which was good. Initially, there was a handle that slid everything out, save the display, in one big, heavy and unwieldy chunk of Apple hardware. Swapping a hard drive, RAM, optical drive or PRAM battery was an unpleasant battle with gravity.

I can also remember installing an AirPort Base Station with my colleague as well as the big, dumb grins on our faces when we were standing outside with a G3 iBook while connected to the Internet. Now that was magical.

Time went on and I got to work on iBooks, MacBooks, an Xserve and more. I started reading TUAW at that time, back in the Weblogs, Inc. days. A call went out for writers one day. I applied, and C.K. Sample, III hired me. I shudder to think of all the grey hairs I caused him with my typing errors and soul-crushing grammar. I still remember the day I recorded a podcast with C.K...or, I thought I did. Oops.

Then one horrible day in 2009, we were told that the school would close in six months. It actually took eight weeks. 110 of us lost our jobs, and suddenly my part-time gig at TUAW was my only income. I applied for work everywhere and was unsuccessful. I skip the gory details by saying that 2009 is a year I'd love to forget. I honestly don't know how we didn't lose the house, the car, everything. A terrible, unpleasant time.

Fortunately, my hard work at TUAW paid off and Victor offered me a full-time position with AOL. I gladly accepted and have been chugging along ever since. Today I say "yay" or "nay" to the news you do (or don't) see on TUAW during the week. The people I've worked with here are –- and I'm not just saying this –- top notch in every single sense. We laugh and have fun but we also work hard. You should see this crew swing into action during an Apple event. It's amazing.

I've been at it for a while and I hope to do it a while longer. Thanks for reading TUAW and for supporting us for all these years.

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