Dave Hamilton: The Mac Is The Reason I’m Here

| Dave Hamilton's Blog

Of course that title's not actually true. I'm older than the Mac, so it's not like the Mac was responsible for my conception or anything. But it has been a big part of my life, for a long time.

The very first computer we owned was a Timex Sinclair. With its touchy-feely keyboard and its one hertz screen refresh (connected to an old television, naturally), it was a lean, mean, flight-simulator machine (after waiting a half-hour for Flight Simulator to load). But hey, we all gotta start somewhere.

The first real computer we had was an Apple //c. I had been working on Apples in school for years, even borrowing one on the weekends to bring home and tinker with. That's where I really began to develop my programming chops. Being able to manipulate what the computer did was Pretty Darn Cool.

With the //c, though, we eventually got a modem (first a 1200bps Popcom, then a USR 2400). That was life–changing. I was able to find and connect with like-minded people (we geeks were int he minority back then!). I could call bulletin board systems, and then ran my own for several years (203 area code, represent!). Some of my best friends today (including John F. Braun, with whom I now host Mac Geek Gab) were met in that way back then.

In 1989, though, things changed again when my first Mac, an SE/30 with 1MB RAM and a 40MB hard drive, arrived. I actually bought it through the Reed College purchase program via a friend that went to school there (it saved me about $500 at the time; thanks, Jason!).

The Macintosh SE/30

I had tinkered with a GUI before with some of the ProDOS-based apps on my //c, but the Mac was a whole different world. It was very different, but it was SO fast. It was quite a paradigm shift to have the computer spending a not-insignificant amount of its CPU cycles on just how it looked. But the CPU was fast enough to accomplish that alongside whatever I needed to get done.

It was on my SE/30 that I first connected to the Internet and again things changed profoundly. The internet allowed me a way to (legally!) connect with people all over the world for free (or a flat cost, anyway) and with IRC and FTP sites replacing the BBSs of old, I was off to the races in semi-familiar territory.

Over the years I've owned a lot of Macs, including several clones. That original SE/30 will always hold a special place in my heart, but other notables include:

The PowerBook 540c that I took with me on tour with Hypnotic Clambake in 1995. That combined with a true acoustic coupler modem tethered me back home for email and various reports. It was pretty cool to have a portable, color computer that did everything I needed.

The Power Computing Power 100. I bought this shortly after we moved to Austin (and right when it came out) and I dare say that our Austin-oriented love of Power Computing machines is what bonded Bryan Chaffin and I together. That friendship, of course, resulted in The Mac Observer being formed several years later.

My current 11-inch MacBook Air. Never before have I had a laptop that I wanted to hold on my lap. That thing's freakin' perfect!

Without computers and specifically without the Mac, I honestly don't know what I'd be doing today. But I certainly wouldn't be typing this retrospective to all of you while on a plane bound for Cupertino where I'll be playing my drums tomorrow night at the Mac 30th event. Of that, I'm certain!

Thanks to all of you who have created the Mac for all of us. And thanks to all of you who use the Mac and come here to TMO or listen to MGG. Together you make my charmed life possible. I couldn't do it without you, nor would I want to.

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6 Comments Leave Your Own

DocRoss

Thanks Dave. I’ve appreciated your voice for years—many of which were wilderness years. I don’t remember if you were part of the original Webintosh team with Bryan, but I’ve been reading this page since then.

My own Mac history is similar to yours:
SE w/ 2 floppy drives (who would ever need a hard drive!!)
LCIII
PowerMac 7300
Performa 6400 (POS)
G4 Tower
G4 Cube (Loved loved loved it)
Titanium PowerBook
White Intel iMac
Aluminum iMac
Mac Mini (2013)
iPad 1
iPad2
iPad Air

My god, if I had actually skipped some of those, I’d have a lot more money today!

geoduck

The first time I saw a Mac was in 1985. I’d played with Commodore Pet and 64 systems and to be honest I thought the Mac was a toy. Real computers used arcane commands in MS-DOS or ProDOS, or CommodoreDOS. A couple of years later I got my first computer (I’d wanted one of the Timex/Sinclar systems but as a poor college student I couldn’t afford one even at $99). After looking at Compaq “IBM Compatible” systems, which were firmly vetoed by my wife we got a used Apple Iic. This was followed a year later by a used Apple IIe. Finally after seeing my wife using a Mac SE at work and playing with it a bit we broke down and got a Mac Classic which we used for several years. From then on it was just Macs.

Over the years we’ve had a couple of LCIIIs, a PowerMac5200, G3 and G4 PowerMacs, and then we went portable. Wallstreet, Pismo, G3 and G4 PowerBooks including a 540c, several Intel MacBooks, and most recently iPads. It’s been a great ride.

About ten years ago I got into rebuilding old classic “compact” macs. I found or was given several SEs and messed around with them for a couple of years. Finally though, I lost interest because they were so limited. It was amazing how much had changed in the first 20 years. Now after another decade, with phones that have a thousand times the power of my first Mac, we aren’t even on the same planet.

geoduck

Oh I forgot to mention that back in the day I craved an SE/30. As much power as a MacIIci but in a compact case. An internal HDD, capable of driving an external monitor (if I remember correctly), it was a really sweet system for the time. But a wife that wanted to keep the house over out head prevented me from fulfilling my dream.

<sigh>

brett_x

The SE/30 was my first as well.. as a hand-me-down.. intended to be a word processor for me at college. It had Mac OS 6 on it when it became mine, and I borrowed OS 7 from the computing department at school (legally.. Apple allowed it for education).  I think it was about 8 floppy disks.
Once I was on OS 7, my friend and I were able to get it online in all of its 256 gray color glory. I had it upgraded from 4 MB to 20MB of Ram, which was 1/2 the capacity of the internal 40MB hard drive.
Yes, geoduck, the SE/30 had an expansion slot in it (proprietary, of course) that you could add a video card to for an external *color* display. That was the first upgrade I ever did to a computer myself, and ultimately what put me on the IT path that I have followed since then.
So yeah, the SE/30 holds a special place in my heart as well. And it is because of that individual machine that I am where I am today.

furbies

Desktops:
First Mac was a friend’s 512Ke, then my Dad’s Mac Plus, then I got an SE/30 for my very own. Then a 6200CD, then a G3/266 Desktop, then a G4/400 tower, then a G5 Dual 2.3 Tower, and now on a Mac Pro (2009)

Laptops:
Powerbook 1400cs, then a G3 12” iBook, and now a 2008 15” MacBook Pro.

I still have the SE/30, the G4/400 tower (as a standby backup server), and the iBook.

The SE/30 got upgraded a bit. It now has 10base Ethernet courtesy of the PDS slot, and 12 (I think) megs of RAM, up from the 4 it came with.
I brought the RAM of eBay several years ago, just because I wanted to see if I could improve the performance….

wab95

Many thanks, Dave, to you and the rest of the TMO team. I’m glad you made that choice, and created a place where Mac enthusiasts (and now iOS enthusiasts), geeks, and the generally curious can meet and exchange ideas.

TMO itself is a powerful tool for disseminating information and thought, and you deserve to be proud of what you and the team have accomplished here. TMO has become my preferred first stop for anything Mac/Apple related, not because you’re first to come out with a story (generally you’re not), but because you take the time to get it right and provide detail, commentary and context. The commenters here provide richer detail and a reality check. It’s great stuff, and although, like you, I cannot imagine my life at work and play without the Mac, I also cannot imagine living that Mac-oriented life as richly as I do without the added value of TMO to give it context, support and a dynamic community with which to share it.

That said, like many others, I too wanted the SE/30. In 1986, I had just started medical school in the USA, and all around the campus (most were not med students of course) this was the number one hot seller. I’ve always tried to be fiscally prudent, and as much as I wanted the SE/30 (I still want one - just to put up in my study and look at it would be a dream come true. I almost took one - had they given consent - from a dorm I used at University of Aberdeen in the UK years ago and which were out of service), I couldn’t bring myself to put down the money given my tuition and living expense outlay. Fortunately, they had SE/30s in the Stanford Med School computer lab, and I would use one there.

Although I persuaded myself to switch to IBM compatible computers (by 1988 I married by beautiful wife and in 1990 we purchased our first desktop - a beige Gateway with 1 MB of RAM - a tale of woe for another time), given my interaction with the US NIH and CDC during my professional education and training years, I switched back to the Mac while I was chief resident on the advice of two of my residents, both avid Mac (and Newton) users in 1996 and never looked back.

What I wouldn’t give, however, to have gone ahead and bought that SE/30. It would have made so much of my professional education and training life so much easier, and not doing so robbed me of participating in a bit of cultural history. It’s a mistake I learnt from, and will not repeat in my professional life.

Here’s to many more years of continued TMO.

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