Jeff Gamet: My Long Path to the Mac

| Editorial

The Mac has been a very important part of my life for years, but it took me a little while to get there because, it turns out, it didn't yet exist when I was first exposed to the world of personal computers. Once I got my first taste of the Mac, however, there was no looking back. OK, that's not true. But I knew the Mac would be something special and eventually I had one just for me sitting on my desk.

The first computer I saw, touched, and even wrote programs for, was the Commodore PET 2001 with its 4KB RAM, built-in keyboard, and a cassette player for saving and loading programs -- what today we call apps. I was captivated, and was certain I was seeing the future.

Two computers that had a big impact on Jeff's life: the Pet 2001 and Mac Quadra 610Two computers that had a big impact on Jeff's life: the Pet 2001 and Mac Quadra 610

What I couldn't understand was why the PET 2001 was kept on a cart in the math department where only a select few could see it, let alone use it. Even as a junior high school kid I knew computers should be for everyone.

In high school I got my first taste of Apple computers thanks to the Apple ][+ lab. My parents bought me a Franklin Ace 1000 my senior year, and that computer served me well through college. It was an Apple //e clone with 46KB RAM, upper and lower case text support, built-in 80-column text support, and a 5 1/4-inch floppy drive.

In college I got to see my first 128K Mac and was impressed at everything it could do, especially in such a small package. I didn't rush out and buy one for myself because my Franklin was tricked out and could do so much more and I didn't feel like I really needed a graphical interface for what I was doing.

When I had the chance to really get to work on a 512K Mac, things changed and suddenly I could do so much more. And yet I still didn't buy one. Instead, I bought an Apple //GS because it came with a powerful 68C816 processor, color graphics, great sound, a graphical interface that looked just like the Mac (but color!), and -- best of all -- could run all of my Apple //e programs as well as GS-native titles. At the time it felt like I was getting so much more for my money compared to the Mac.

It wasn't until it was time to replace the //GS that I finally bought my first Mac: the Quadra 610 DOS Compatible. Not only could it run all of the Mac programs of its day, but it also had a 486SX processor so I could jump between platforms with a quick keystroke. Yes, I was running Windows on a Mac in 1994.

The Quadra 610 was a little workhorse that lasted me up until I bought my PowerMac G3 tower -- beige, not blue and white. Had MS-DOS not annoyed me and Windows 3.1 not been such a pain, I might've ended up buying cheap beige box PCs after that, and I'm so glad I didn't.

After the Quadra 610, I made the move to Mac laptops with the Pismo G3 PowerBook, and I haven't bought a desktop model since. I've run through several Mac laptops over the years and right now my daily workhorse is a 15-inch Thunderbolt MacBook Pro, and I have a 13-inch MacBook Air, too.

The Mac's big draw for me has always been how approachable it is. Instead of dealing with DLLs and IRQs, I was writing and recording. The Mac was simply the right tool for me.

Thanks to the Mac, I followed a path into printing and graphic design, and ultimately ended up writing about the little computer that was shaping my life. That path led me to The Mac Observer and a long list of friends that I work with, podcast with, and get to see at events like Macworld/iWorld every year.

The Mac hasn't ever been about gigahertz and specs; it's always been about empowering people to do what they do best. That's the best tool for any job, and I'm so glad Apple never gave up.

30 years is a long run for most any product, and in the computer world it's unheard of. Hopefully the past three decades have been the warm up act for the Mac and even better things are on the way.

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Comments

Idon't Know

The Quadra 610 came out in 1993 so I don’t know how you were using one in 1988.  I had the Centris 610.

D R

The Quadra 700-style computer is the one everybody has been clamoring for, for the past 15 years.  Minitower, video card & expansion slot, could put another HD in it, lots of ports on the back.  Like a more expandable Mac Mini, an iMac without the monitor welded on.

Neil Anderson

Apple ][+ with a whopping 48K RAM!

John Dingler, artist

I credit my forward-seeing TA for convincing this former PC user of the superiority of Mac.

My travels: IBM486 > PowerComputing PowerBase > Jellybean iMac > Flat Screen iMac > a cylindrical PowerMac in the future.

It’s so nice to know other people who are enthusiastic about using a Mac. My regard for Macs is both intellectual and emotional. The Droid users I know are dour souls seemingly in the same category of aesthetics as the uniforms in collective farms.

mhikl

Almost exactly my run of things, Jeff, except the Commodore 64 was my first byte, handed down by my uncle.
My fav Mac was my Molar, Apple’s last all-in-one that was still beige and huge and backbreaking to move; and I, for the first time, bought the works, the best and the fastest in the line. With a card I could use a USB keyboard and other devices.
It has also been the only one I wanted to take to bed and pet.

KitsuneStudios

Heh, the Commodore PET was the first computer I ever used, I must have been 3 at the time. It belonged to my uncle.

Dad won a Vic-20 at a raffle. While it was our first home computer, I never really thought of it as anything more than a game console, since games and BASIC were about the only things we ever did on it, never actual work. Same went for the TRS-80’s in elementary school at the time.

Jumping from that to the Mac Plus with an NEC Laserwriter laser printer was a revolution. We were using MS Works and Aldus SuperPaint instead of MacPaint and MacWrite, but the thrill was the same, and seeing the crisp vector and PostScript graphics coming out of the laser printer were far beyond anything else out there.

Wayne Sander

Ah, the old PET with the calculator-like chicklet keys.  I remember there was always a two week wait on the sign up sheet, and your name was always on it.  I think I used all of my alone time with that machine to play Dungeon.  Of course the first half of my sessions were spent waiting for that tape to load.  Good times.

Black_Dog

I realize that I’m late to this party but I had to chime in because my first real experience was with a Commodore PET with 4KB RAM, a built-in tape drive and keyboard. The keyboard was infuriatingly small. The computer was kept on an a/v cart that was usually parked in the supply closet in my junior high school library. Every day after school six to ten of us would crowd around it and take turns using it. Eventually we formed a computer club, of which I was voted vice president. The PET was a primitive, but tough machine. It survived tumbling down half a flight of stairs while strapped to the a/v cart with only a few scuffs on the metal case.

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