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Thursday, August 8, 2013

My Life in Macintosh • An Appreciation

Just a little goofiness for the midweek. I know that some of you will just not get this. You will think to yourself, "He's insane, he's a fanatic, he's weirder than I thought." And it's true, I guess. I can't help myself. I love my computer. And I love the little apple with the bite out of the right side that has adorned its casing all these years. Yes, I am a Mac addict.

Today I'm using a late 2012 iMac that was a gift from my choir for my 60th birthday, when
they commissioned a song from me for them. I used their gracious gift to buy this computer after I completed the song, and have been able to write a couple more since then, using this baby's facilities. Yum.

I'm not even in the closet about my addiction. Fifteen years ago I was an even more aggressive proponent of the Mac, even while the idiot who used to sell sugar water was paid millions of dollars and nearly ran the company into the ground. I was crazy about an OS that crashed several times a day, that didn't have protected memory until its third decade of life, and which frittered away market share and good will until barely a trickle was left because of greed and obstinacy. Three and a half decades later, here we are, together still, and we're both happier than ever.

This year Apple Computer of Cupertino, California, celebrated its thirtieth-seventh birthday. Steve Jobs, the bête noir of the industry, died two years ago, and has experienced an apotheosis as the patron saint, if not demi-god, of the tech world. Our beloved Macs have become home to Intel processors. Apple itself has created the pathway for Wintel users to be able at last to boot their once hated operating system on our hardware. Hell has, as I told everyone of my friends and family who is still talking to me, frozen over.

We bought our first Apple computer before the Macintosh was invented. For some reason that I cannot remember, my ex and I bought an Apple IIe as our first venture into the computer thing. I thought that with a simple database building program I could create a way to store all my song ideas and library and cross reference them, for God knows what reason. I bought an early version of Filemaker, and within six months gave up on the idea AND the computer. We sold it to a choir member at a huge loss, and considered ourselves better for it. (Years later, in the Mac years, I did retool that database in the Mac version of Filemaker, and I still use it when doing my work with church music preparation.)

But Therese Marie (my ex) worked for a company that sold computers, and did bookkeeping for them. They gave her a newfangled Mac SE30 to take home, so she could work from the home. It was there that she began to teach me the wonders of Microsoft Word on the Mac, and I was hooked. We kept that SE30 as long as we could, and I'm sure I used it for as much monkey business as real work. Remember, for most of us there was no internet as yet, so whatever the computer could do, it had to do all by itself, and on a few megabytes (the gigabyte had not been invented yet) of memory.

Eventually we saved enough money to buy our own computer, and we couldn't afford the classier SE30, so we bought a Mac Classic; I bought another on for the job I had at St. Jerome Church. It was during this period I was introduced to Finale, a music engraving program in its early incarnation, and the hooks were further into my soul. Even though the SE30 chugged along at a ridiculous pace, and printing music to an early inkjet printer was a painful process. I recall with panic one particular Holy Thursday upon which I had begun printing some string parts in the middle of the afternoon, and they were still printing off during the homily of the evening mass. It would print a line of music - not a staff, a line - then think for a while, then print the next line. It was insane. Tom Kendzia had begun working with Mark of the Unicorn software, and introduced me to Professional Composer and Performer, but I never really got into the whole midi scene, and settled for Finale's page-layout approach to music making. Finale and I have grown up together, and after using it for twenty-five years, I still find out something new almost every time I open the program up.

Therese Marie and I had worked in the travel business at a large commercial agency for ten years before I became a full-time church musician. At the Phoenix company, at first called Cahill-Edmund and later renamed Woodside Corporate Travel, we learned the airline computer system, which had not been used in travel agencies up until that time, from the ground up. I started learning Telex and Holidex computers first; later, when our company became one of the first installations in the nation of American Airlines' SABRE computer system, we learned that system inside and out as well. It was a grand sense of being connected to places and people all over the world, messages racing around on phone lines, changing requests to confirmations, asking for seats on airplanes in Moscow and hotel rooms in Osaka. Good times! Those old airline systems were one-trick ponies, though, and it always felt good to get home to the Mac. These days, we all have much more access to travel information and reservations of all kinds in our homes through the internet. It's amazing how things change!

When I moved to Illinois in 1994, my first work computer was a Quadra 610. This was in the first generations of the Motorola 68040 chip, which clocked at 25Mh! The computer had a 40mb hard drive (yes, that's right) and a floppy drive (anyone remember those?) The 12" Apple monitor that came with the computer was, however, my first color monitor, and I have to say, it was awesome. About this time computers started sporting modems, too. In our first house in Elgin, we purchased a new Mac Performa, Apple's utility brand that was sold through Sears and other outlets stores. It was an all-in-one, the sequel to the SE30 and Classic, working for a couple of years, but eventually succumbing to corporate decisions that left it out in the cold. Following that, I ventured into the world of Mac clones by purchasing a PowerComputing PowerCenter Pro at home and a Motorola UMax computer
at the office. These computers were terrific, especially the Power Computing model, and got us through the lean years without Steve Jobs running the business in Cupertino. These were the years that Guy Kawasaki ran the Mac Evangelista group out of Northern California, "fighting back for the Mac" he would say, rallying the troops around the Apple ideology and holding the line against the juggernaut Wintel advances in computing and market share. Those were lean days, my hearties, but we had each other. Suddenly, Steve Jobs was back in the saddle at Apple, and things started popping. One of the first was the iMac, the candy-colored all-in-one that took the world by storm. We bought an iMac DV, which was a great little computer (G3) that introduced us to the world of digital photography. I finally replaced my Power Computing unit with the new
Cube, Apple's first attempt at miniaturization. The Cube is about 10 inches high, and 7 inches deep and wide, with a CD/DVD drive and 2 USB and 2 FW 
ports. I used that Cube for five or six years, though I changed the CD drive, monitor, hard drive, and added a full 1GB of memory to it over the years. It had a 450mh G4 processor, and it ran OS 10.4 like a charm. It drives a 120gb backup Firewire drive, Apple mouse, KB, and speakers, a 17" LG flat-panel monitor, and a Yamaha CD burner. That was followed by
a G4 iMac, the kind that has the swiveling monitor mounted on what looks like half a cantaloupe. It clocks at 1.25Gh, and did a  great job with movies and digital video, and computer games, so Desi used it most of the time.

Along the way, I owned a "Wall Street" G3 Powerbook, which I sold on eBay and bought a G3 iBook that Terry used for school and that we traveled with to stay in touch via email.
You know what? I think I missed a couple! I’ve used a G4 Tower, Dual G4 (Mirrored drive door), and now a Mac Mini at the office, and bought a few clamshell iBooks and a blueberry iMac for the kids.

This page has pictures of many of the Macs I've owned over the 30+ years of Apple and 28 years of Macintosh. It also sports some of the Mac Evangelist propaganda I used to put on websites to be part of the OS pissing contest.

Here's what's still great about Apple computers: they just work, They're intuitive. You
Terry's 2009 iMac
don't have to be a geek to fix them. They have imagination, beauty, and charisma. And while both we Mac fanatics and Windows users are playing with our iPods, iPhones, iPads, and Apple TVs, some cool people in California are cooking up the hardware or application that will be the next insanely great thing.

I know a computer is just a tool. But we spend a lot of time together, and my time is important to me. My Mac is a colleague, and as colleagues go, she's a fox.

It's been a great ride, Apple. Now we're sending Desi off to the University of Nebraska
with a MacBook Pro. Probably by the time he graduates, he'll be wearing all the computer he needs like some bling on his forearm, streaming the latest body-building information to his Joe Cool Raybans. I'll be sitting here in this desk, on this computer, probably, so he can call me a Luddite. St. Steven of Cupertino, pray for me.