My First Mac

Classics, Performas, iMacs, and G4s

- June 2002

My first Mac was a Performa 5320, but it was far from being my first computer. That dubious honour belongs to a Commodore VIC-20. This was followed a few years later by an Amstrad CPC 6128, which was probably the first computer I actually did anything much on.

However, by this stage my school had been kitted out with a selection of Macintosh Classics. Oh, how desperately I wanted one. I got an Atari STFM. The pain of switching between the Mac during the day and the ST in the evenings was palpable.

Moving onwards and upwards (?), I was given a Tandy 386 laptop, stupidly swapped it for an ICL 386 desktop, and finally, in 1997 I bought my first Mac. That Performa 5320 cost me £850 sterling second hand. This was probably one of the worst machines Apple ever produced, but I didn't realise that at the time, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it came with a boatload of software including, essentially, Quark Xpress 3.32 and Photoshop 3.0.

Secondly, by this stage I was studying for my degree in Fine Art at the University of Ulster, and though I was using exotic machines from Silicon Graphics and top of the range Power Macs every day, they were so badly clogged with garbage that they were no faster than my faithful little machine.

Most days I would take my work home with me on Zip disks and work in Photoshop in the evenings. That is, until I got connected to the Internet at home.

Prior to this, I'd been using the Internet for largely research purposes in the rarefied atmosphere of the library at the Queen's University of Belfast. However, I wasn't actually entitled to use their computers, being a student at a different institution - it just so happened that their campus was closer to my abode. Sometime around 1997 they installed password protection on their systems, and my freebooting days were over.

Once I had a phone line installed in my grotty student flat, work ground to a halt for several months. It was during this time I discovered that the Internet, far from being a panacea for all of the ills in society, is a mixture between a very boring lecture and an open sewer. Still, it has its uses, even if it does confirm that I'm not very interested in most things.

During the latter half of my degree course, I started working as a video editor for a local company. Their setup was primitive, to say the least, being an assemble edit system consisting of two high end Panasonic VCRs, a mixing desk, a titler, and an edit controller. I managed to Power Mac G4persuade the boss to upgrade to a nonlinear system based on Adobe Premiere running on a Power Macintosh G4/400. Well, actually we ordered a G3/350, but it never arrived, and the reseller, now bankrupt, was so embarrassed that they gave us their first G4 for the lower price of the G3. The G4 is still in use today, cranking out video productions every week.

Last year I went through what can only be described as some sort of technological nervous breakdown, and bought several old Macs, including a French PowerBook 1400c (well, I was in France), an LC, and even a little Mac Classic, just like the ones I'd used in school.

To tell you the truth, I rarely use any of them these days and don't really know what to do with them. My iMac Rev. B and two SGI workstations, an Indy and an Indigo 2, keep me busy enough.

My career has been schizophrenic, to say the least. I'm a practising new media visual artist, which is why I own the SGI boxes, a working journalist, and a doctoral candidate at a university in Ireland. Aside from all of this, I've also worked for the government and in a field tangental to nuclear medicine, albeit in a rather dull capacity.

It's difficult for me to explain how I feel about Macs. Like most Mac users, I have an almost emotional attachment to my computers, but I still think that the Mac zealotry which I come across is terribly annoying. They're just machines.

Perhaps it's just because I'm not a geek; I make my living largely by writing, and the computer is for me a cross between a typewriter and a canvas. I'm sure that in 50 years, social anthropologists will have a lot to say about the Cult of Mac. For better or for worse, I fear I'll never be a member.

In case you're wondering, the Performa is now in my father's possession, and he's gradually learning to use it, despite being constantly busy for no immediately apparent reason, and to this day I've never actually bought a brand new Mac.

has a wide range of interests and shares his thoughts on Linux on PowerPC Macs with his weekly PPC Linux column here on Low End Mac.

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