My First Mac

Mac in the Middle Ages

James Brock Clark - 2001.02.20

It has been more than 30 years since pop singer Captain Beefheart exhorted the space age couple to "flex your magic muscle." And we've been doing that, my spouse and I, here in rural Nova Scotia. We've successively turned our hands to whatever tasks were required to wring a livelihood from this chronically under capitalized region. Being city bred, the learning curve was steep. There have been few dull moments.

So I shook my head when I recently read, "life is short but the hours long." Why that poor soul! I've never found life that way. I can't remember the last time I was seriously bored. There is always so much to do. And I see to it that most of it is interesting.

What interests me? One thing: learning. I've always got to be learning (though when you get well into your 50s, it's not always something new). Maybe it's that "toolmaker" instinct that has made our species so dominant, I don't know, but love of learning is certainly the key.

We constantly hear grumbling about computers, especially among older people. Cursed things! Yet it seems everyone has bought one. They bring them home and then swear at them. Do they ever ask themselves why they are buying a computer in the first place? You can buy a lot of stamps for $2,000, and there are plenty of cheaper (and more secure) sources of "adult entertainment." I suspect that within months many of those computers become mere ornaments, a sign that says, "Yes, we were with it." The badge of the dutiful consumer.

What a shame. Under the heading of "use it or lose it," we have a near perfect exercise machine for the human mind. quoteThere is nothing quite like the process of discovery to revivify one's outlook on life. A supple mind will do more for health than a whole cabinet full of drugs. Mastering the intricacies of an operating system not only stretches the mind, it opens the door on a world of opportunity for learning. Whether building on what you already know or venturing off into the brave new world of live cams in space, the return in satisfaction seems well worth the price in time.

Learning is one of the reasons I've always loved writing. I don't think I'll ever master it, but I do get better if I apply my wits. Perhaps the situation is analogous to the man/horse relationship. If you want to have a happy time with a horse, you have to be constantly tuning it up. Everyday is school day. Do that, and your horse will respond almost intuitively to your every command. Leave the horse out to pasture too long, and you'll have a balky brute.

Learning, it seems, will always require an effort. Forgetting pretty much takes care of itself.

I bought an Olivetti dedicated word processor to help me with writing. When my older brother handed down his Mac IIsi, it was a big development in terms of facility. I discovered the pleasure of email. Perhaps I get into the mail a bit too much at times, but I know that with every sentence I write, whether e-message or essay, my ability to express myself improves.

There is the Internet, too. That can be fun if used judiciously. However, the IIsi had to give way to my current LC 520 before I could really get my feet wet. Low-end Mac users won't scoff. Those lengthy downloads are great for catching up on reading. And it is amazing what you can come up with when you need information. Low End Mac, for example.

Since discovering LEM, I've decided on acquiring a Power Mac 7600. I was able to discover a lot about the machine and its capabilities, and in the end I became convinced that I could get where I want to go more easily and cheaply by that route. Yes, there were a lot of variables to balance out, but I found excellent articles on LEM to help me answer the crucial questions. Given the 26.4k limitation of our antiquated phone lines, for example, does it make sense to spend the extra money need to buy a machine with a superfast CPU? Being into photography, I'm excited about the prospects of adding a scanner. It looks like I'll need to upgrade the RAM. Most of the information I need is out there somewhere - a lot of it on or linked to LEM. The 7600 will allow me to use a 17 inch monitor, a development I think I will enjoy.

Most of all, I will enjoy learning to use the newer OS and exploring other bits of software. When I think back to the total immersion of learning the IIsi, I feel satisfied that I've gained not only knowledge but also confidence in my ability to learn. It has been fun. I'm sure the fun will continue.

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