The Macintosh is 30. Like so many other people I am asking the same question: How the hell did that happen?
I remember the first time I used a Macintosh. I was a junior in high school in 1988 taking a basic drafting and architecture class. In the corner of the classroom was a small bank of Macs all loaded with illustration and CAD programs. Students who achieved a high enough grade got to use those computers for their projects. I was getting an “A” (one of my precious few at the time) and so I scored some much-ballyhooed computer time.
When I sat down in front of the Mac, I had no idea what it was. I don’t think I had even heard of it until I walked into that class. This will likely sound cliche but the whole experience was intuitive right from the start, from creating a new file, drawing the lines and shapes with the mouse to create the machine part plans, to saving the file, and the rest. I was always good at visualizing things, and the Mac was the first computer I had ever used that spoke my internal language. I could use my hand to draw and I was finally able to make a connection between the files I saw on-screen and the data on the disks. I loved using the Mac.
At home, I had a Commodore 64 and all I knew how to do with it was really basic BASIC programming and run games, both bought and pirated. When the 8-bit GEOS operating system was released, my use of the Commodore really took off because all of a sudden it could be used just as easily as the Mac. All of these disparate applications were finally unified in a single interface. I had a joystick as opposed to a mouse—if a mouse existed to use with GEOS I never knew about it—but that didn’t matter. Mucking about with files and navigating to the apps I needed to write papers and do homework was a lot easier. GEOS really brought value to the Commodore for me, more than anything I had ever done before, but it was never as streamlined an experience as using the Mac.
Around 1993, I finally got a Mac at home (thanks, Mom) and the Commodore went into a closet. Many years later, 2000 I think, I sold the still-unused Commodore and all of my software at the MIT Flea Market to some random college student for $50. I never looked back.
Part of the appeal of getting into graphic design for me was that the Mac was so prevalent. I knew that if I got a job doing graphic design that I could probably get my company to buy a Mac for me to use. Honestly, if it weren’t for the Mac, I’m not sure what I would have done for a living. As I proceed down the path to getting my computer science degree, using a Mac has yet to hold me back and I see a lot of Macs in the classroom, so I look forward to another 30 years of use.
Happy birthday, Macintosh.