Why a Mac?

I have a Mac. It was a conscious decision that I made when I was a Windows programmer not to have anything that I was going to fight with at home. Just turn it on and use it as a tool to get whatever job I wanted done. And curse other programmers when the thing crashed.

Actually it goes back further than that…

I remember reading about the Lisa with awe while I was still at school. Then a rich farming family I knew bought a Mac back in 1986 and I was hooked. I wasn’t until 1988 that I saw a Mac again when I was able to specify the first three Macs bought by the college I was then working for (Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology (CCAT), now Anglia Ruskin University. I used to give Pagemaker seminars on one in their Computer Centre.

Finally, about 8 years after I’d seen my first Mac, I bought one of my own. It is the first computer I’ve ever owned (discounting the Cambridge Computer Z88 now sitting in the bottom of a drawer, sadly dead). The Macintosh LC had already been discontinued in the States, but was being bundled with the excellent Apple Colour Display in a effort to shift the last stocks in the UK. Since I expect to mainly be using it late at night, screen quality was more important to me than performance.

It had a memory upgrade (4Mb to the maximum of 10Mb) and a disk upgrade (from 40Mb to 520Mb). But after 5 years it really was in need of replacement in order to run the latest large, memory-intensive software.

So I bought a new clone: a Motorola Starmax 4200 (just as they were being discontinued too, this time as Apple shut down all its clone licensees). It was big and fairly zippy at the time, it’s saw me through nearly 5 years too.

In August 2002 I was tempted though by Apple’s new much faster PowerMac G4 – the “mirror door” model. Unlike my previous purchases, I bought what at the time was the fastest Mac you could buy: a dual 1 GHz (the dual 1.25 Ghz had been announced but – surprise, surprise – weren’t yet shipping). And with it came the whole wonderful world of MacOSX: the main advantage was that it gave me a similar unix development environment to the one I use at work (Apache/PHP/MySQL). Add in broadband, and it was a great machine.

9 years on in August 2011, and there was no denying that I needed a new, faster Mac. This time round I chose the newly released Mac Mini (the first one without a DVD drive). A different tack: the cheapest Mac you could buy (though my version was one up from the very bottom, given its discrete graphics processor). It seems unlikely that this will last me as long as the last one (but an upgrade to an internal SSD a few years ago has helped), but it was less than half the price. We’ll see.

What’s Yours Called?

I’d always planned to call the first computer I had “Lintilla”.

Lintilla is the name of three clones in a radio episode of Douglas Adams‘ “Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy”. They are the “shoe archaeologists” on the planet of Brontitall: a story which doesn’t appear on the record or in any of the books. So you have to have heard the radio transmissions (as I did) or own the tapes or CDs (as I do) or have the “Original Scripts” (as I do too).

I never understood why the Lintalla episode didn’t make it into the “novels”. For me it’s the best of the lot. It’s hard to explain what an effect Hitch Hikers had on my formative, impressionable late teenage years. But I know it did, and “Lintilla” reminded me of that whole phase every time I used it.

The next computer, however, was called “Vannevar” which has nothing to do with hitchers and everything to do with what you’re reading at the moment (well, what it might have been, if Tim Berners-Lee’s version hadn’t been the one to make it). Then its disk died (October 2000), so when I rebuilt it with a new “heart”, it became “Nelson” (the natural succession to “Vannevar”, of course).

And the one after that? Why, “holm” of course. And currently “theodor”.

Further information

You mean you haven’t got a Mac and you still think Apple‘s about to go bust? Shame on you! 🙂

All of my Macintosh/Apple news comes to me via various websites (including Daring Fireball), Twitter, and podcasts (primarily ATP).