Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mad Macs

It's almost hard to believe that I've been using a computer for half of my life.  My first computer was the second generation of user friendly Apples - the Macintosh 512K Personal Computer.  Brook had been telling me about this little computer and I saved up for it.  My little Mac had only a few applications, MacWrite and McPaint.

I remember the evening that I brought it home.  I removed it from the box and set it up on the living room coffee table.  Dan Noojin dropped in about that time and we both played with it.  It was pretty cool and exciting stuff for that day.  The text in the front of the manual instructed the Mac owner (me) not to worry about reading the manual.  Now that's my kind of manual!  The manual also instructed me to just play around with it and get to know it.  The Mac 512K was very user friendly.  The manual did say to refer to the manual only if I had trouble doing anything with my friendly personal computer.  It was a very sharp looking manual. I never read beyond the initial instructions on the first page.  I never went back to it.  I never knew what eventually came of it.

I remember Dan watching me as I highlighted a word on the screen.  He just marveled at the cool flickering effect and asked me if it would print out that way.  It was all so new and high tech.  And for a moment I sat there looking at the flickering fonts in amazement.  I actually had to think about it for a moment - then told him, "I don't think it will."

With the computer, I purchased a dot matrix ImageWriter printer.  It was a pretty sturdy unit that never jammed on me, never gave me a lick of trouble.  I will say that I envied the new HP LaserJet printers when they came out.  I didn't own one till years later.  I did get to work with them in various jobs.  Nothing was the same after I saw the high dpi output of a laserJet.  I simply could not afford one when they first came out.  The technology was so new that to own one was almost like having to buy a car.
The reason I bought the Mac in the first place was to write a book that I never finished as well as eventually own a design program called Aldus PageMaker.   The PageMaker thing was to come later.  For years I had been doing page layout the old school way, with rubber cement, ruler, X-acto blades and art board.  The Mac and PageMaker was what was going to revolutionize the graphic design business.  And it did.

I packed my Mac in the car for my venture to Art Institute of Atlanta.  At the time, the school had old school computers in their computer lab.  It was a big room that was always locked with the lights turned off.   All I could do was press my nose up to the big window - and peer deep into the dim lab where computers seemed to sleep eternal.

Word quickly got around that I had a Mac.  All my fellow art classmates wanted to come over to my apartment to touch it.  I had a huge closet in my apartment that I facilitated as a workstation - as well as a closet.  I did several art projects with it, printed out in crappy dot matrix in all it's splendor, and matted.  Nevertheless, my McPaint rendered projects were always a technological marvel to my instructors as well as fellow students.  If I didn't render entire projects on the Mac, I used it to typeset faux body copy for others.

After Atlanta, I came back home to work with Jamey Moore as Creative Director / Vice President of Jamey Moore Productions.  I continued to use my Mac through out the rest of the nineties.  It was so small that I'd take it back and forth from home to office.  I used it to develop comps for brochures, text for storyboards, etc.  It was a little work horse.

It made a funny little work horse sound.  I can still hear in my head.  It went eeee-UURRR eeee-UURRR.  It really worked hard for me.  eeeee-UURRRR - eeee-URRRR!  I really needed the computer to do more for me, but couldn't upgrade the machine, and couldn't afford a newer model.

My Mac entered into my marriage with Gina.  We drove up to Kentucky with it in September of 1990.  I used it for a few more years.  I got a job at Western Kentucky University doing layout in 1992.  There I worked primarily on departmental brochures.  They had lots of work stations with little Macs loaded with PageMaker.  Though I had been a designer for well over a decade, it was a wonderful learning experience for me. I learned more in that job than I did in Atlanta thanks to a great fellow (my benevolent overseer) Tom Meacham.

It wasn't long after that that I crossed over to IBM compatibles, loaded with Windows.  At the time Mac had established itself as the industry standard in multimedia production.  It still does.  It's just that Macs are so darn expensive that I ended up staying with flawed Windows all these years later.  The good thing about it is that the world changed for me with the advent of Adobe Acrobat.  It didn't matter what kind of computer you had, almost any printer would accept and publish four-color CMYK from a PDF.

I don't remember when I eventually let go of my Mac.  Either I sold or gave it to my sister Irene for her kids to play with.  If I sold it, it was for a song.  It gave me many good years of service and traveled with me on many a creative venture.

By the way, it was my Mac 512K and ImageWriter that was used to print out many of those old Christian Brother's / Skylight newsletters back in the late '80's and early '90's.  Sloppy but fun.  Hard copy and rubber cement.

I love the smell of rubber cement in the morning!
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