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Computing With Bifocals
by Nancy Carroll Gravley

A column for people who remember what
the world was like before there was color.....

Take Your Right To A Mac For Granted? The Mac In Poland
May 24th, 2000

My column of May 17, 2000 was an allegory about growing up in the 40's, 50's, and 60's when little girls were taught we could be nurses and little boys were taught they could be doctors and how the Mac contributed, for some of us, to liberation and the realization that we could be what we wanted to be. In response to that column, I received a wonderful letter from Mr. Jacek C. Rochacki of Poland, who described himself as one of the oldest (longest) Mac users in Poland. I was truly humbled by his words and his accomplishments. He has graciously agreed to allow me to share his story with the understanding I would correct any errors related to his writing in English. There were very few. His letter began this way.

I am an artist - sculptor and metalsmith/goldsmith, and historian of applied art. For years I published texts on the history, theory and praxis of metalsmithing/goldsmithing, art and culture. So for years I used to make a lot of noise on my typewriter. Then, some 13 years ago I decided to get a computer. I knew nothing of computer science, but I knew that most of machines were PC's. I tried to learn how to use them, but it was too difficult. I couldn't get the logic which must have existed somewhere behind the PC 286. I felt terrible, because I developed the feeling that I will always be this old fashioned, undeveloped old man, despite my professional achievements.

Then I met a wise man. He told me about computers in a way that helped me to understand everything, and I learned from him that Macintosh had been created for people who can think. Then I tried a Mac Plus when I was traveling abroad - and I understood everything again, but this time in praxis. Then in 1988, with the help of my friend, I came into possession of my first computer. It was a secondhand Mac SE, with two floppy drives and an external 80 MB hard drive. I got an Image Writer II with the computer - and I will never forget, how two hours after putting this modest system on my desk, I started to work with it without any need to ask for help, or to look at the manuals.

Here I would like to say that I live in Eastern Europe, Warszawa (Warsaw), Poland. In 1989 there were these big changes in our part of the world and my Mac SE proved to be a useful Machine at that time. One of the consequences of these changes was the fact that I once again had in my personal possession my passport and the world became open again. I could accept invitations from Eastern European countries to go there and teach. So between 1989 and 1999 I enjoyed the position of visiting teacher, traveling abroad up to four times per year. I had to get another computer, because the size of my computer and printer made it difficult to carry them on trips. I bought a second hand Macintosh Classic II and a StyleWriter printer. Carrying bags were not available in Poland so I made one myself and with this Mac Classic II resting comfortably on the rear seat of my car and keeping me company, I have continued to travel and teach.

In 1997 I got a PowerBook 5300cs. Again, it was the only available secondhand Mac laptop in Warsaw. This Machine, upgraded to 40 MB of RAM and with PCMCIA fax/modem card has helped me a lot in my travels as well as when working at home where it dominated my desk on a special stand designed and made by me. I used this stand because when working at home I used normal mouse and normal keyboard from my old Mac Classic II, which I will keep forever. At that time I took the post of representative for foreign contacts of our Association of Polish Artists Goldsmiths, so my Mac began serving in our "foreign office," providing us reliable contact with the world, making and editing our modest newsletter, etc.

Then my eyes got tired of the screen of PowerBook 5300cs, and I was learning more complex Desktop Publishing and graphics, so I got my current Mac, also second hand, a PowerMac G3 beige desktop 266 mhz, with a 17" Apple monitor, 160 MB of RAM, two hard drives with a total capacity of total capacity 14 GB, ZIP, scanner, fax/modem 56K. And, partly thanks to this system, our Polish Goldsmithing Artist's Association - STFZ is co-running the European wide net of contacts (circles, organizations, and schools) of artist-goldsmiths named Ars Ornata Europeana. The AOE members meet every year for 3 day conferences. This year it will take place in Krakow, Poland and my Mac is helping to organize this event and to create and maintain our web site

Seven years ago at age 85 my mother started to play with my Mac Classic II. Perhaps it was easier for her, because she used typewriters for most of her life, but due to the cut/copy/paste functions and simplicity of the MacWrite 5.0 word processor she was able to finish some important texts, which now serve as sources for historians, etc. In my seminars I very often meet people in their eighties who are very much more creative than others in their forties so I believe the success of the Mac is not the question of age, it is the question of the difference between the old fashioned way of learning (memorizing sequences of actions to be taken without understanding the logic behind it), and the ability to think. In the case of older Macs this last one is more than sufficient.

So far this is all pretty simple right. It probably sounds similar to what many of us experienced when we first discovered Macs. I asked Jacek to tell me more.

To the best of my knowledge we didn't have any Macs in Poland in 1984. They appeared sometime between 1985 and 1987. The first Solidarity movement of 1980 was ended by the introduction of martial law on 13 December, 1981, but the informal underground oppositional activity was continuing to grow stronger so from the point of view of many of us all that period till the changes in 1989 was the time of democratic opposition in the underground, continuing the ideas of Solidarity. During these times old Macs, because of their size and simplicity, were brought home in private ways (sometimes smuggled), often in order to serve in our informal underground educational and publishing activities, making their contribution to the big changes of 1989 when the former regime collapsed. My own Mac SE was brought in privately, but not smuggled. I know that other Polish scholars lecturing abroad were bringing home their own Macs in private, but often legal ways.

I think that if most of us (at least here in the US) are honest with ourselves we would have to admit that we might not be able to exhibit the strength that it took to "get" Macs, much less to use them as one tool to fight a communist regime. Fast forward to today. In 1989 the first official Mac dealer opened in Poland. A growing number of young professionals in Poland (mostly graphics artists), are now Mac users. Jacek continued:

On my small street alone in the old nice district of Warsaw there are perhaps 10 homes using Macs, but these and other users are very frustrated. I believe that Macs would be much more popular in Poland if somebody at the top of Apple would take a thorough look and analyze the situation in Poland, particularly the way the authorized Apple dealers and representatives operate. Many peripherals, models and software which we see advertised on the internet are not available. The sellers in the Apple retail shops should know more about the products they are selling. I would love to go to one of the Apple shops in Warsaw to buy what I need for a price comparable to those in other countries. But reality forces me to find what I need on the net in USA and ask one of my American friends to buy and ship what I need to me in Warsaw. The electronic department of the Polytechnics School in Warszawa was 80 to 90% Macs, but they were getting what they need directly from USA, despite the fact that we have here authorized Apple representatives. Now they have switched to SAN computers. I would be very grateful if you could suggest to me who and where I can find people interested in Apple customer service abroad who could help improve the services and availability of equipment here in Poland.

I have no answers to Jacek's question, but surely there are those who do and who will take the time necessary to be sure that the appropriate people at Apple hear of this problem. Poland has one magazine devoted to the Mac. The English version of the name is "Macworld and Publish" (not related to Macworld Magazine from Ziff-Davis). Perhaps this publication can assist in any solutions.

Meanwhile Back At The Ranch

About that review of PageMill: Boy do I have egg on my face. Lets see, who can I blame. Oh, I know, how about my son. He is the one who loaded and set up Adobe PageMill for me. I should be able to blame him because I didn't know there was a user manual for the application included on the installation CD that would have told me that Adobe PageMill does indeed have a Spell Checker. Not only that, the application comes equipped with dozens and dozens of background patterns for users to have when making web pages. Yes, I will blame him. As my boss likes to say "No good deed goes unpunished."

Seriously, I didn't know about the manual, but common sense should have told me that if Adobe made the software, it would include something as basic as a user manual. My apologies to Adobe and my thanks to reader Nancy Blossom who took the time to set me straight. Sigh, I might as well get all of this out in the open right now. The check spelling option is right on the Edit pulldown menu, as big as life.

If you have any tips, suggestions, or other comments about this, or any other Mac topics, send them to me so that I can share them with other readers.

Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions  for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping.   To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.

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Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!

A Capacious Catalog Of Computer Tips

Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color, covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.

Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.

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