Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My old Mac Classic, circa 1991

I was watching an excellent documentary series, Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires and grew nostalgic for my old Mac Classic, which I bought instead of a car back in May 1991.

I began writing a few years before that, using a program called Pocket Writer on a Commodore 64. The machine only had enough memory to accommodate four pages of text. When I hit the bottom of that fourth page, the cursor would go no further. But Pocket Writer allowed me to connect documents for printing purposes, which was good, but as my short stories got longer, it became unworkable. So, I graduated to an IBM clone; it's outer shell was made of the same material that shields the outside of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. It had no hard drive, but came with a 3.5 and a 5.25 floppy drives, respectively. I wrote using a program called WordWriter, which seemed to have no page limits or restrictions. It didn't look as good as Pocket Writer, but all I was interested in having was a digital typewriter that would allow me to edit onscreen.

As my writing progressed, my technological needs increased -- or, at least, my inner geek wanted more horse power. So, in May 1991, I bought a Mac Classic. It came with a 40 MB hard drive. For a few extra bucks, I was able to soup that up to 44 MB. As quickly as I could get the computer out of the box, once I was home, and assemble it on my desk, I was up and running, writing and printing on my LaserWriter printer.

The word processing program I used on it was FullWrite by Ashton Tate -- the same program Douglas Adams used on the final installment of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. For the first time, what I saw onscreen matched what I would print out. No more glitchy surprises after I got rid of my Panasonic dot matrix printer. By the end of June I had written a 440 page novel on my Mac Classic. That novel went through numerous versions, but ultimately became my suspense novel, Randham Acts, which came out in 2006.

The computer not only worked flawlessly, it worked the way my mind worked: simply. I worked steadily, daily, hourly, on that machine right up until 1997 when I moved overseas and simply couldn't bring the machine with me. Just before leaving, though, I do recall my LaserWriter printer breaking down. I had printed thousands of pages on it, and it had been a very reliable workhorse. I took it into my woefully ill-equipped Apple dealer, who said that it just needed a part to continue working. Could he get the part? No. I called the 1-800 Apple Customer Service number in Canada and was mystified to get a recorded message telling me the number was unlisted.

While away, I used whatever computers were available to me for my writing. All of those were Windows machines. And when I finally returned home, the only machines available to me were Windows machines. When I got around to buying my own, I went with a Windows machine because it was substantially cheaper than an Apple.

As of last year, I'm back on an Apple: a MacBook. I also have an old Dell PC.

After seeing that wonderful documentary, Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires, today, I just had to pull out the old Mac Classic. If I had a workable printing option for the machine, I'd still use it to write.

1 comment:

Mike Cane said...

>>>Pocket Writer on a Commodore 64. The machine only had enough memory to accommodate four pages of text.

Huh? You should have used EasyScript. I got more than 4 pages of text out of that at a time!