My First Mac

Joy and Frustration

Bobbie Snow

Barb (Bobbie) Snow is head of the circulation department at the University of Michigan Law Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She's been using Macs nearly as long as they've been available.

I have been a Mac user since I bought my first computer - a Mac 512K back sometime in the early 80's. It cost over $2,000, but I loved it with all my heart. I used it for years and finally upgraded to a used Mac Plus, although really I was not sure I needed all that disk space and power! I was just dazzled by the 20 MB disk drive. I had boxes and boxes of floppies. I could always find what I wanted, but what a luxury not have to swap disks all the time. By then I was using Macs at work, too, even though I worked in a pretty DOS oriented environment. Then I bought a zippy Performa 450 - just before CDs were becoming a standard. Rather than add a CD drive to it, I next bought a 6200 CD, which I still use.

I never had any trouble with my Macs until the 6200, but I had a lot of trouble with the 6200.* When I tried to deal with Apple, I was aghast at how uncooperative and unconcerned they were. I was not a novice user, and I knew quite a bit about the Mac OS, but they did not even seem to listen to the problem. They gave me canned answers, some of which I immediately knew were not relevant. It usually took several calls to even start to solve a problem. Finally I asked a young man to tell me the name of someone at Apple who would care about customer comments. He said he would pass my comments on. I said, "No, I want to tell the person who's job it is to care about what is happening to customers." He gave me the name and address, I wrote a long letter and got a form letter back that gave me a number I could call. The woman who wrote the letter explained that she could not call me because her phone did not call out! But I could call this person to explain my problem - even though I had explained it in painful detail in the letter. Besides, I was well aware of how long you had to wait on the phone to get through to anyone.

Disgusted, I dropped it, but at some point I emailed a message to them. I don't remember exactly what I said, but it was something to the effect that I would like a customer rep to contact me via email so I could tell someone with a name what problems I was having. I got a canned response that said the customer service people only had the ability to get email, not send it. Good grief. I gave up. Telephones didn't work, snail mail letters didn't work, now email was out. The bottom line seemed to be that they did not want to hear what I had to say. OK. It was time to get on with my life.

Shortly after that I bought a Mac laptop, a PowerBook 190C, to use for my genealogy while traveling. After a while, it gave me problems; I surfed the net and found that my problems were shared by many - and Apple was offering a no-charge repair. I took the laptop in to the local Apple repair people, along with information on the repair program and they called Apple, but were told that my laptop did not qualify. $300 worth of repairs later, the problem was still there. I was ready to cut my losses and toss the computer -- which I figured cost be about $80.00 per day I ever used it -- but in the end I called Apple one more time. Expecting nothing, I was amazed to get an answer within the first few rings, a nice person who listened to my problem and quickly authorized the no-charge repair. There are still problems - they replaced the motherboard, but the power supply was also defective and those were out of stock for 6-8 weeks - but 1) they fixed and returned the computer in a matter of days and 2) they told me there was another problem instead of just letting me discover it when I tried to use it. They also said someone would call me within a few days and it has been more that , but I can call them if I get antsy. I even have a case number. So just when I was getting ready to totally give up on Macs, I'm rethinking it.

At this point, I don't know what I will do when my 6200 gives out. I still think Macs are much better than the Windows machines, but there just isn't as much software. Also, fewer and fewer people know how to deal with Mac problems - including the people at Apple, it seems - so it is harder to get good advice. I think it is really too bad that the Mac OS did not get to be the standard, but it didn't....

A few years ago I went out and bought a Windows machine, a Compaq, which I now use mostly for internet searching and personal business (a calendar program, writing newsletters, doing these web pages, keeping track of my money etc.). My genealogy is still on the Mac, but I will probably switch it over to the Compaq sometime in the near future, especially if I can not get my 190 to be of use. Once I do that, I doubt I will ever buy another Mac - but I will always look at them longingly.

Without Windows, I would never have switched from Macs, no matter how uninterested they were in my troubles, but I don't love Windows like I did my Mac. It is not that Windows machines gives me less trouble than the Macs, it is just that I never expected anything better. Also, there is so much competition between various hardware/software companies, they at least pretend to listen to me. All in all, Windows is not bad; it's just not a Mac.

* The 6200 was one of the first Macs to earn the Road Apple designation, due to serious design flaws. Low End Mac recommends avoiding this series, but also notes that later motherboard revisions were more stable than early ones.

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