There was a time when I was a rabid, drooling, Mac fanatic. During that time, I hungered for every new Mac model that came out and (I believe) bought a new computer once every year or year and a half. It's reached the point where I can just barely remember the parade of machines bearing a little Apple icon with a bite taken out of it. I still prefer to use a Mac by and large, but I'm no longer Apple's bitch.
I realize this is probably the geekiest post I'll ever make and be of limited interest to those who aren't all that into technology (or Macs), but it'll go some way toward explaining how I went from trying to sell everyone on Macs to being indifferent. It'll also give me a reference point as my memory of my Mac experiences continue to fade.
Note: I don't have pictures of my ancient, discarded Macs so many of these were Google search photos.
When and Where I bought it: My husband and I bought it secondhand from my father-in-law in 1988 or 1989 for a sum I can't quite recall, though it wasn't cheap. I think we paid about $500 for it. It had been upgraded with more RAM and a hard drive which was an Apple-made box with the same footprint as the computer which the computer itself sat on top of. We bought this mainly because my husband wanted it. I wasn't incredibly interested in computers at this point.
Why: At that time, we were selling secondhand KISS records that my husband had brought back from Japan after he'd spent a year here. We used the computer to keep tabs on correspondence and make lists of items.
How I used it: I used it to run Photoshop 2.5, Pagemaker 4.0 (maybe...), Microsoft Word, and some ancient games. I think we played Prince of Persia and Civilization (the original) on it. My husband and I also used GEnie to take part in on-line communities and to handle e-mail. The interface was all command line (no pictures, no web as we know it). At the time this was our main machine, we used to take part in a sumo community on GEnie and made epic posts about bouts we watched as we were avid sumo fans at the time. We also used it to make little catalogs of our expanding KISS business selling Japanese collectibles and to write correspondence to customers.
Where it ended up: I sold it to a co-worker. We actually carried it over from the U.S. when we moved to Japan and used it for several years here.
OS: I believe it started off with OS 6 and we later upgraded it to 7, though I was not proficient enough to do it myself. My brother-in-law talked us through it.
When and Where I bought it: I believe we had it sent over from the United States by my in-laws. I can't recall when we bought it, but it must have been in 1993 when this model was released (or possibly 1994).
Why: I had been working in a Japanese office for about a year and there was considerable down time during the off-peak season where I had little to do but sit in my cubicle and read or write. I wanted something to write letters on as well as toy with graphics and layout.
How I used it: This was the computer that ushered me into understanding how Macs worked. When I first bought it, I didn't even know how to turn the sound off on it and recall having a Star Trek (TOS) screensaver that would kick in and embarrass me by making weird sounds. After having this for awhile, I started to buy every Mac magazine I could (MacUser and MacWorld) and read up on how it all worked as well as did the aforementioned correspondence, graphics, layout, business work, and simple gaming. I don't believe we bought a model with a modem so we couldn't use it to get on-line.
Where it ended up: I think I sold this one to someone as well, possibly to my former boss, but my memory of what happened to it is exceptionally hazy.
When and Where I bought it: At an electronics shop (possibly Bic Camera) in Shinjuku, probably in 1994. At this point in time, Mac models in Japan ran about a year behind models released in the U.S. I think we bought this later in the lifecycle of this model. It came with a Japanese Mac OS, but I replaced it with an English one. By this time, I knew how to do that, but the process was still a little intimidating for me. It also required quite a few floppy disks.
Why: We wanted a primary desktop computer with color capability as well as more power. I wanted to run a newer version of Photoshop (3.0?) and we were becoming more interested in running games in color. We chose this model because my brother-in-law had the same one and he recommended it. The "pizza box" footprint was actually pretty good design for the time because you could put a CRT monitor on top of it, but it was pretty low profile.
How I used it: Pretty much the same as before. I bought a SCSI scanner to use with it for about $500 at a Canon shop in Shinjuku. It was substantially discounted, and I really wanted to learn more about graphics as well as start making illustrated catalogs for our collectibles business. I scanned in a lot of KISS record covers. We also used an external (14,400?) modem on this.
Where it ended up: I don't remember. I do recall trying to sell it to a third party through what eventually was called "Metropolis". Someone came over and looked it over, but I don't remember if it ever actually sold.
When and Where I bought it: We had my father-in-law buy it and send it over in 1994. Nowadays, a laptop can have its keyboard swapped out at the shop so you can get a Japanese or English one, but in those days, you were stuck with what you got. If you've ever used a Japanese keyboard, you know that the bottom row is different so it's confusing for touch typists. The space bar is smaller and there are one or two extra keys so those of us who don't have to look at the keyboard or hunt and peck are completely thrown off by the differences in size and layout.
Why: We had bought old models or low end models up to this point and I was ready for something higher end. At this point, color screens were not common and high quality ones even less so. We bought this computer with the idea that we'd go top of the line and it'd last us awhile. It cost $5000. We were so naive.
How I used it: Pretty much as before, but I do believe I was able to connect a scanner and external CD-ROM drive to this. I recall buying a variety of very expensive SCSI to PowerBook adaptors to be able to connect devices to this. Apple's propensity for proprietary connectors was a costly thorn in my side. I believe I ran Photoshop 4.0 a lot on this and spent a lot of time digging ever deeper into how to really make things work in that program.
Where it ended up: When it was rapidly surpassed by leaps in technology, we kept it around the apartment as a back-up, but made the mistake of storing in a shelf under our air conditioner in the bedroom. One day, the air conditioner dripped water all over the shelf and the computer was destroyed.
OS: 7.x and 8.x
When and Where I bought it: Akihabara in 1996 or 1997. This was another machine on which I replaced the Japanese system. By now, it was becoming old hat and I was thoroughly comfortable tweaking and messing with the system. I think I may have put up with the keyboard for awhile, but eventually replaced it.
Why: At this point, my CH and I were seriously in need of two machines at any given time and neither of us wanted to use a significantly older machine. The LC III was showing its age and I wanted a Mac that used a PowerPC chip instead of the old and much slower 680x0 series. The prices were going down and the speed jumping up so, we took the plunge on this machine.
How I used it: Same as before, but I think this may have been the first machine we started to seriously game on. I believe that Warcraft II and Diablo (the original) were heavily played on this machine. I recall this was the first machine on which I upgraded the RAM myself. I recall spending a whopping 64,000 yen (about $600) for a 16 MB chip in Akihabara. Obviously, this was another Photoshop machine since I needed more memory.
Where it ended up: This was easily the crappiest Mac I had owned to date. It was the first one which had had a component fail. The hard drive failed and I had to have it replaced. By the time I had stopped using it, the CD-ROM drive had failed as well. I will note that this series was released after Steve Jobs was canned and marked the start of Apple's conversion to much cheaper parts (from SCSI to IDE) in order to compete more effectively with the PC market. When I was done with this, I gave it away to a Japanese salesman at my office. It was too much of a heap of junk to sell with a clear conscience.
OS: 7.x, 8.x, and 9.0
When and Where I bought it: My father-in-law knew someone at Apple and Apple was unloading these models at a discount and he acquired one for us and sent it to Japan. It wasn't cheap, but it was notably cheaper than its usual price. It had to have been in 1996 since the model was discontinued in September of that year and we bought it just before Apple stopped selling it. The computer had early difficulties with batteries and cracked cases which tainted perceptions of it such that Apple was keen to unload them, but later versions were trouble-free, if equipped with somewhat crappy screens that looked a bit washed out.
Why: Our former color PowerBook 540c was top of the line, but it had an outdated processor. We had this chance to pick up a PowerBook with a PowerPC processor for about $2800 so we went for it.
How I used it: This machine was mainly used by my husband for e-mail and Internet-based tasks as well as the odd game. At this point in time, we were rapidly developing into a pattern where I always used the desktop because of all my add-ons (scanner, tablet, etc.) and he usually used the laptop so he could lie down in bed and use it.
Where it ended up: We sold it for a pittance (about $50) to a coworker.
OS: 8.x, 9.x
When and Where I bought it: Akihabara in 1998. One shop had English language models for sale at a cheaper price than Japanese ones. I recall that this was the first time my husband and I sat down and really questioned the necessity of spending the money on a new computer. I even have a vivid memory of us sitting down on the curb in Akihabara and talking it over for awhile. I had a hard time justifying it to myself, and maybe the fact that the shine was dulling on my Apple fanaticism was a part of it. After some lemons, I was more cautious and less enthusiastic about Macs.
Why: I was unhappy with my crash-happy, failing Performa and this was significantly faster. I think that I also was into Kai's Power Tools at the time and they wouldn't run on my Performa.
How I used it: For everything, including my first forays into making web sites with Adobe GoLive and some heavy gaming and being involved in alt.games.diablo. I used this computer longer than any other Mac I've owned. It's hard drive and CD-ROM drive failed, but by this time I was able to buy the components and cheaply replace the failed parts myself. This was by far the best investment in a Mac I ever made. It was capable of running everything well and that was the big reason I didn't migrate to OS X for years. Why buy a new machine just to run OS X when OS 9 ran every piece of software speedily on my G3 DT/266? I even upgraded the processor with a 400 mhz NewerTech ZIF upgrade (the first and only time I upgraded a Mac's processor). I loved this Mac and it served me very well for 6 years.
Where it ended up: I gave it to my former company to use as a back-up to their horribly old Macs.
OS: 9.x. I tried using OS X on it, but it ran very badly and was incredibly unstable. I hated OS X because it took my wonderful fast Mac and turned it into a blue-screened, crashfest of sluggishness. Apple at this point was really losing me because they claimed OS X would run on G3's and it seemed they only meant it in the most literal sense. Technically, it ran, but it was so awful as to be useless. I was angry because advance word on OS X at the time I bought this model was that it'd be good to go on G3's. Later, Apple was sued in a class action suit for falsely claiming OS X would work on machines with G3 processors, but I don't think anything came of it.
Note: During the period of time that I used this Mac, I went dual platform. I bought a PC that ran Windows '98 and learned how to use and maintain Windows as well as Macs. I kept my first PC for 4 years then got another one which ran Windows XP which I still have today, though I recently replaced it as a primary gaming machine with a newer model (also running XP). I gave away that first PC to a coworker (it ran for 2 more years then the power supply conked out, but it was a $300 emachines model that ran for 6 years). I bought the PC because I didn't want to have such a narrow user experience. It helped me see how the Mac OS in subsequent versions of OS X was slowly gravitating toward a more Windows-style user interface with every incarnation. Many of the changes were incidental (keyboard shortcuts, shift, option, and command key configurations), but they showed that Apple would choose forcing faithful Mac users to change user interface conventions they'd used for over a decade rather than force "switchers" (PC users swapping to Mac) to learn Mac interface idiosyncracies.
When and Where I bought it: Akihabara in 1999. It came with a Japanese keyboard which we replaced. It came with one of the stupidest mouse designs ever, which we also replaced. It also came with a Japanese OS, which I replaced.
Why: My husband had been using the craptacular PowerBook 5300c and the iMacs were a cheap way to replace his old notebook with something of equivalent power to my beloved DT 266. He was staying at home during the year a lot of the time at this point so it wasn't a problem for him to use a desktop.
How I used it: Mainly, I fixed it when things went wrong and installed software on it. Otherwise, my CH used it for AOL chatting with friends back home, gaming, and Internet. I had to replace the CD-ROM drive and we sent it to Apple to have the monitor fixed because of a factory defect.
Where it ended up: I also donated this one to my former company after it had done a lengthy stint in my closet. I sent it to them after I quit working there. This one got put aside when my husband got a newer, faster Mac laptop to replace it.
When and Where I bought it: Akihabara in 2000. Models with English keyboards were available.
Why: This was purchased for me to continue to expand my knowledge of all things computer while at work. In particular, to open up my graphics vistas.
How I used it: I played a ton of Diablo II on this computer at lunchtime and on Saturdays. I also set up a web site for strategy guides for the game and seriously dived into using Illustrator. In fact, I believe this is the machine I finally learned the fine points of using vector graphics on. I also used it to do all of my work at the company because they were too damn cheap to buy us Macs for our textbook layout work. I even used my own scanner to scan pictures for the company's books. I still have that scanner, which is about 6 years old now, and use it with my PC (the driver doesn't work under OS X).
Where it ended up: I still use it in my teaching (the picture is my desk set-up for lessons today). I use it on the desk to reference articles or course content so I don't have to make multiple print-outs and waste paper and ink. It's essentially a document reader, but it works fine except for the fact that the battery is dead and the CD drive is so wonky as to be useless.
When and Where I bought it: Akihabara in 2001. The keyboard was swapped for an English one.
Why: This replaced the CH's aging iMac. It was twice as fast and relatively cheap. By now, we'd learned our lesson when buying computers. It is better to buy low end and expect to have to trade up than to buy high and expect it to last. Macs no longer are built to last like they used to even though the pace of technology has slowed down. The CD and DVD drives always fail or become unreliable within 2-3 years and the hard drives always fail within a similar time span.
How I used it: Again, mainly, I maintained it, but after my husband replace this notebook with a Dell laptop (yes, he went Windows), I used it for awhile instead of the tangerine iBook, but crappy hardware quality eventually intervened.
Where it ended up: It's currently in the closet. The "delete" key fell off. The "shift" key grew sticky and the screen started to go dark all the time unless you squeezed a spot just in front of the keyboard on the left. The darkening issue made it impossible to use unless you squeeze it at relatively frequent intervals. It may still function and I guess it could be used as a reader if my tangerine iBook dies. I think I could rig up an office clip to permanently pinch the spot where you have to squeeze it to brighten the screen (but it could never be closed again). However, it's essentially a doorstop. This was by far the worst Mac laptop we've ever bought. The quality and durability drop between the tangerine clamshell iBook and this fragile model was crystal clear to me given that one was used longer and harder than the other and is still ticking with only a hairline crack in the hinge (which affects nothing) and this one fell apart after far less use.
OS: 9.x though it came with 9.1 and OS X. It ran like a snail (despite having upgraded RAM) under X, so I didn't use X on it much.
When and Where I bought it: In 2005, we had my father-in-law buy it for us. We could have bought it in Japan, but I was concerned about issues with RAM and it was actually cheaper to buy it in America and send it over than to get it here. I'm not squeamish about cracking open computer cases and tinkering inside with them, but the Mini is a different beast that required special tools (which I didn't have easy access to) for the RAM upgrade. So, I just asked my father-in-law to take care of it and he kindly did so.
Why: It was becoming increasingly obvious that I couldn't avoid OS X forever as new software was released which would not run on OS 9 anymore. I didn't want to give up OS 9, but my hand was being forced. I bought this because it was the cheapest entry point to OS X.
How I use it: Initially, I used it rather little since I had an eMachine running Windows XP which was my primary computer most of the time, but eventually, I started doing everything on it (except games). Now, it's where I blog, deal with graphics, chat, do layout, make materials for and keep records of students, and keep my work calendar. I think a big part of the problem was that I didn't like X.3 (Panther) much. When X.4 (Tiger) and later X.5 (Leopard) came along, I warmed up to the Mini.
Where it ended up: It's on my desk. It's showing its age though and its hard drive failed just shortly before its two-year anniversary. I replaced it, but its DVD drive is starting to get wonky enough that I've had to connect an external DVD burner to it to make discs and to read some DVDs and CDs. It's days are definitely looking limited, but I'm resisting buying a new Mac until Apple puts out a mid-range tower (hah!). Instead of buying a new Mac, I bought a new PC which I currently use for gaming, but can use as a back-up if the Mini buys the farm.
OS: X.3, X.4, and X.5
When and Where I bought it: Apple Store, Shibuya, June 2008. The Apple store swapped the keyboard for an English one.
Why: The only thing worse than any Mac laptop is a PC laptop. My husband bought a Dell to replace his dual USB iBook then about a year and a half later bought an Acer to replace the Dell which crapped out pretty quickly. The Acer lived about the same length of time and we bought the MacBook because I'm sick of crappy PC notebooks which are about the same price or only slightly cheaper than Macs. Also, now that the Mac can run Windows, it can serve two purposes so my CH can do what he wants.
How I use it: This is my CH's computer. My main function has been installing Windows Vista on a separate partition and installing what felt like thousands of applications on both the Mac and Windows side. I don't use it at all as I could never wrestle it out of his hands. His Acer is in the shop now, so maybe I can do some maintenance on it after it comes back (if it comes back working).
Where it ended up: It's my CH's primary machine for now. We're trying to protect it and bought a fancy shock-absorbent case for $40. Given that it is similar to the old dual USB G3 iBook structurally, I have serious doubts about its longevity and durability.
The MacBook is actually the smoothest working Windows machine I've ever worked with. The Mac OS side was exceptionally ornery with the software my husband wanted. In fact, no games that my husband wanted to use worked on it at all, even those that should have and had low graphics demands. It's still smooth as silk and speedy for other things, but clearly anyone who games will want to have a copy of Windows on hand to dual boot the Mac.
If you've been paying attention, you'll notice a trend in my experiences. Early Macs lasted longer, had no failed components and were sold intact after use (the Classic particularly lasted forever). Later ones had failed parts which I replaced and the most recent ones started to fall apart to the point where I couldn't sell them and either had to give them away, or sock them away or consider trashing them. This is part of my disappointment with Apple. I'm not comparing Macs to PCs. I'm comparing Macs to what they were before and what they are now.
This article wouldn't have been possible without everymac.com which allowed me to check the dates and specs on various machines against my memory. It's a really handy resource if you want to take a trip down Mac memory lane.