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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Mac News > MacNN Staffers: What made the Mac the choice for you?

MacNN Staffers: What made the Mac the choice for you?
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Aug 25, 2015, 05:52 PM
 
Apple hardware has, generally, been solid since inception. Sure, there was the Apple III, and the Performa, but generally, the quality of the OS and hardware beats the alternative. However, besides just the Cupertino hardware, everybody we've talked to recently speaks fondly of a peripheral that really drove home the point of the platform. Most of these innovations have since made it to other devices, but for a while, the Mac was the center of innovation. Three of our more "seasoned" staffers were there for the inception of the Mac, and either by destiny or accident, made it their platform of choice. Here are their stories of the non-Apple gear that pushed the assimilation for them.

William: The Radius Pivot Monitor

It was the Mac that sold me on the Mac: the first one I used was a Mac SE, and it was so immediately great that I don't think I needed any more convincing. Yet I got some more convincing: soon after that machine was upgraded to an SE/30, I was alloted a Radius Pivot Monitor. I'd have sworn to you this was in the 1980s, but as best as I can determine now, it was launched in March 1990 and retailed for $1,690 (around $3,086 in today's dollars), sometimes without the expansion card it needed to function.

This monitor looks very strange now, like it's a distended screen with giant plastic surrounds, but what it gave me was an A4 page vertical (portrait) image. Presumably in the US that would be a US Letter-sized portrait image, but for me here in the UK, being able to see a full A4 page on the screen was simply marvellous.

The idea was that, since I was writing books that were being printed out in A4, it would be ideal to see them in that way as I wrote and laid them out in various apps. There was MacAuthor, WordPerfect for Mac, FrameMaker, FullWrite Professional, PageMaker -- we had them all in that technical authorship office, and they all looked brilliant on that screen.



Except, of course, that so did everything else. In my setup, I had the SE/30's little internal screen showing me one thing, and the Radius Pivot showing me the document I was working on. If I weren't actually writing or laying out a page, though, I could turn the Pivot sideways, so that I had a widescreen monitor. Actually, I look at the iMac in front of me now and -- no, there isn't really a similarity. This is 27-inch widescreen gorgeousness in full color, where the Radius Pivot was small and grayscale. When you'd been used to entirely black and white, the grayscale monitor added so much.

Mike: Farallon MacRecorder

As a child, I had an Apple II. On that strength, as well as a recommendation by a local computer teacher, I got hired in 1986 at a local Apple dealer -- now long gone -- as a teen. Bridging to my college years, I purchased a Macintosh SE at cost, since it already worked with the Imagewriter II that I had.

Big difference. Transportable, in a way, as I had recently purchased a car, and a compact Mac travel bag for the SE, and the keyboard. With college, came college radio. Back in the day, sound clips and whatnot came on eight-track cartridges, which -- even then -- was unwieldy and cumbersome.

I found the MacRecorder, a very simple microphone for only the Mac at the time. It, coupled with the very rudimentary sound editing program allowed me to condense all of the "bits" I used on the show, and play them through a sound input on-air. An unexpected benefit of the connected computer led to some on-air Crystal Quest insanity by my co-host.



That was my first Mac, of many. The MacRecorder was my first true peripheral I bought for it. This was the future, and all thoughts of the Apple II series were left behind.

Charles: the Laserwriter Pro 810

I was a journalism student in college, studying the traditional arts at the time of how to write for, edit, assemble, and create newspapers (primarily). It is hard to describe to people who didn't grow up with ubiquitous computer and Internet access, but back in the early 90s, the process consisted of us writing out our stories on computers (hand-me-downs from the late 80s, mostly!) then sending that file via a 300 baud modem (ask your parents) to an office downtown that had a Varityper, which would take our heavily code-embedded copy and output it on strips of glossy paper, which would then need to be trimmed with scissors to cut away the excess.

We would then travel to collect the strips, find uncaught code errors and have those sent (and output) again, and finally bring the lot to another place on the campus where the smell of hot wax and photo-developing chemicals (ask your parents) was ever-present. We would then spend the night developing photos, and "waxing" the strips of paper, pressing them onto template cardboard sheets (roughly 11x17 in print area) and trying to paste them on straight. These "boards" would then be photographed as a master page image to be sent to the offset printing shop as giant negatives, and transformed into printed pages.

Then, one day, my journalism professor and I were invited to a demonstration of a Laserwriter, hooked up to some form of Mac (I'm not 100 percent clear on exactly what model of either, but I believe it was the Pro 810 because of its ability to handle 11x17 paper). We were interested in technology, having to make so much older stuff work well with our system, so we attended with interest. What we saw just blew our minds.

The salesman ran through a demo of creating an 11x17 newspaper layout on the tiny screen of the (maybe a Color Classic?), flowing text in and dropping in photos using (most likely) QuarkXpress. We were already amazed and appalled -- this was the job that took us most of the week to do! But the demo wasn't just of QuarkXpress, it was of the Laserwriter and their ability to make on-screen images real. It had some 11x17 sheets loaded, and after he finished putting a basic newspaper page together, he simply pressed "print," talked for a couple of minutes to cover the wait, and produced for us a B&W master page, perfectly straight, perfectly balanced, with photos and captions and a masthead and everything.

My professor and I looked at each other with a mixture of high excitement and shock -- most of what I had spent the proceeding few years learning had just been thrown out the window. No more limited fonts of whatever was on the Varityper! No more all-night paste-up sessions! Free-from design without arcane typesetting code knowledge! Wrap-around type! It was hugely exciting, but my instructor turned to me and said some prophetic words: "you know this may mean you'll need to start college all over again."

Essentially, I did. I joke that I spent eight years in a four-year college and still no doctorate, but what I did learn was about "desktop publishing" and the software and hardware behind all that. Over time, I became the school's tech guru, handling systems from old TRS-80s to Windows 95 and "System 7"-era stuff, at least for the journalism program, alongside being the editor. The college's budget didn't stretch to buy us all the stuff we saw in that demo, but we were as impressed by the smoothness of the Mac system and its integration with the Apple hardware as we were by what came out of that laser printer that day.

The technology we saw literally changed both our lives: my professor had to start learning the new DTP systems quickly to teach them to students, and I -- who had looked at acting, radio, and then video editing as possible career choices -- threw my lot in as a journalist and tech maven, and stayed in school for a few more years. In addition to other pursuits, I've been an editor and Mac expert ever since, slowly moving away from other platforms and gradually letting my knowledge of Windows and such fall away. My destiny was handed to me by chance, being at the right place at the right time on a specific day, and seeing a perfect synthesis of hardware, software and peripherals working in harmony.



I wish I could say it has made my life easier -- once we finally got that level of computers and printers, it certainly did make the remaining college years simpler -- but it has given me now more than 20 years of new challenges and endless zig-zag job moves in an ever-evolving whirlwind of change and innovation and progress that can sometimes be quite bewildering and confusing. That last bit I expect to get worse as I plow through middle-age and you kids today come up with your newfangled whoosi-whatsits, but I really think I was born at the right time to get in on the first age of mainstream computing. I'm just glad I've gotten a ringside seat for it.

What's your peripheral? Let us know in the comments
     
bobolicious
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Aug 25, 2015, 06:34 PM
 
...for me a no brainer:
- WYSIWYG
- mandatory consistent GUI commands for all programs (sadly no more)
- fonts & desktop publishing
- photoshop 2.0
- MacWrite, MacDraw, ClarisCAD, ClarisWorks...
- early BIM
- plug & play
...the list was very, very long...
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Aug 25, 2015, 07:39 PM
 
Bob (may I call you Bob?), in general, these things were why we tried the Mac in the first place, but was there a PERIPHERAL that got you that made you say YES, THIS IS IT?
     
cashxx
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Aug 25, 2015, 08:14 PM
 
For me I am a techie and it usually just makes more sense to administrate and learn than Windows.
     
ADeweyan
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Aug 25, 2015, 08:19 PM
 
Truthfully it was probably the LaserWriter -- some friends and I were desktop publishing a little magazine.

But one peripheral I remember from back in the day as the Thunderscan scanner head for the ImageWriter II -- you replaced the printer cartridge with this device and it scanned the paper in the feeder. Scan quality was very poor by today's standards -- but back then, when real scanners were prohibitively expensive (at least for this student), this was amazing.

And poor quality or not, I still think it was pretty clever.
     
SDBeckwith
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Aug 25, 2015, 08:27 PM
 
Graduated in 1983 from RIT, worked at Xerox in town. Had 21" bit-mapped screen with 3 button mouse playing missile command at lunch on my desk. We ran Dylan environment, sometimes the Star setup (luxury of a bit-slice machine). So the natural choice for me was a 128K FAT Mac, external floppy, image writer printer. Upgraded 2x: 512K memory + SCSI port. Second was 4M RAM + faster SCSI port. Next Quadra 700 next, then Mac Clone, then G4 when OS X came out. Couple of notebooks since (orange "toilet seat" and white iBook). Now have 15" macbook pro. Have MBP at work as well, run VBox as well. Been using Mac/Linux past 3 years, I can't stand Windoz anymore. . . most reliable systems ever used, and the software is rock solid. what else do you want?
     
Deezy
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Aug 25, 2015, 08:40 PM
 
There were plenty of peripherals that made the Mac special, but the main one that sold me was the Laserwriter. It gave a freedom of expression to folks that previously were limited to typewriters and carbon paper. When it struck me what freedom that device would bring then, and I believed for years to come, that sold me on the Mac.
     
bobolicious
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Aug 25, 2015, 09:50 PM
 
...well I remember the Radius Pivot, and had an SE30 with a PDS slot video adapter & 19" 'monster' monitor to see WYSIWIG page layouts & 3D models, just as SGI was making waves... While Apple 'native' I remember the integrative promise of the GeoPort, and a 1g Treo with quasi iPhone like synch & portability... 2 ton epoxy held that puppy together well past its expiry date until the iPhone arrived...
     
mindwaves
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Aug 25, 2015, 11:01 PM
 
Never had a computer until long later. Always used to go to the local library and use their Apple 2s and Macs. Played Oregon Trail, typing games, math games, etc. Had a lot of fun. Also did my typing homework on them. Stuck with Apple to the present day.
{{{ mindwaves }}}
     
coffeetime
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Aug 25, 2015, 11:59 PM
 
It's the capability of doing art and graphic that drew me in. No other computers were like it. MacPaint, Photoshop and Aldus Freehand ruled. Very upset when Adobe killed Freehand. Illustrator is a joke comparing to Freehand (even today).
     
cache22nz
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Aug 26, 2015, 12:37 AM
 
I got started in the mid '80s, teaching myself programming on a Sinclair ZX81, then ZX Spectrum. Played around with friends' Vic20's, C64's, Spectravideos and Apple II's. Got in trouble for hacking (in the original sense) my school's suite of BBC model B's to do things they supposedly couldn't do. Then I decided to take a 1 week summer course in programming, run by a local university. My first exposure to a Macintosh. It had a mouse. It had a GUI. The B&W screen was tiny, but so crisp and clear - black on white instead of the other way around, it just seemed so natural. I was hooked. By the end of the week, I had that machine running through some simple drawing routines that I wouldn't have thought myself capable of before. The whole experience was mind expanding. Most kids have posters of bikes, or cars, or celebrities tacked up on their walls. I had the printouts of those programs.
     
sunman42
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Aug 26, 2015, 11:44 AM
 
Sorry, if this is a too geeky or not quite applicable answer, but it was two peripherals: the 8•24GC NuBus graphics card and the floating-point coprocessor card that transformed a Mac II into a IIfx, which was both a desktop machine capable of running (for its day) impressive text and graphics editors, but also perform decently as a scientific computing engine. Had a lot more apps available than the faster VAXstation IIGPX, which was limited to 8 bit color.
     
panjandrum
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Aug 26, 2015, 12:09 PM
 
My experience started when I began supporting computer users early in college. At the time there were still 4 major players in the US market: Atari (ST era), Commodore (Amiga era), Apple (Mac 512/Plus era), and of course various Microsoft junk (which was for anyone not actually enthusiastic about computers). My first Macintosh was my Atari ST Mega 2 (later upgraded to 4) with the Spectre 128 and later Spectre GCR and a 20mb hard drive (boy did that cost!). Over time I ended-up supporting end-users (students and staff) and managing the Macintosh network for an entire department (RevRDist, anyone? anyone? Over Appletalk, anyone?). I also worked on CAD-CAM and CATIA systems for an engineering department and worked with, I believe, one of the world's first 3D printers; housed in the basement of the department, and filling a 20x20 foot room! (This was now the mid/late 80's I guess, it's been a while and I forget the exact dates). During this time, the majority of my work revolved around Mac systems, although my personal preferences were remained for the Atari and Amiga systems, as they were simply far more capable than any Mac or PC of the era, as well as being much more affordable. I was also interested in Desktop publishing, which was a fairly new field, but gave that up as the Atari and Amiga platforms slowly became marginalized. (At the time, the available Mac desktop-publishing software was becoming the industry-standard, but this was the kind of industry-standard like DOS with the industry-standard - the least-capable software was becoming the norm. Anyone using Calamus, Calamus SL, or Page Stream on the Atari or Amiga platforms could only look at the Mac and PC desktop publishing software and laugh; the Mac and PC software had maybe (and this is being generous) 1/3 the features, and was easily 4x slower than the amazing DTP software available on Atari and Amiga platforms of the day). Unwilling to work with crap software after working with such great products, and with the DTP industry moving from individuals to larger businesses, I gave that up. Slowly the Atari and Amiga more-or-less died off, and I continued to support Mac systems professionally, and usually recommended Macs to users as the best widely-used system. (There was brief hope that a real enthusiast's system would make a comeback with the Be, but they made some major blunders and it didn't happen). Eventually the Mac finally caught up to the Atari and Amiga systems of a decade before, and Windows was still a nightmarish beast of unpleasantness. Thus I came to the Mac as my third personal-choice but my first-choice for most end-users, and stayed with it as the last great computing system in common use.
     
panjandrum
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Aug 26, 2015, 12:16 PM
 
Oh, and I should have finished that with: No, there was no ONE peripheral that made me stick with the Mac; it was simply the only good platform to survive the platform wars and remain in wide-spread use.
     
driven
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Aug 26, 2015, 12:35 PM
 
I bought an iMac for my kids circa 1999. I bought it used. Something was wrong with the sound board. CompUSA was unable to fix it. I finally had to call Apple. Apple called CompUSA who already had the PC for a few weeks at this point. Within an hour Apple called me back and told me they were shipping me a brand new iMac (with much better specs than I had) and asked me what color I wanted it in. It was amazing customer service.

I then bought a G4 Cube so I could get a jump start on OS X (Unix!) It had a minor issue with the power button. Apple sent me a box to ship it to them. I had it back within 48 hours. Again, amazing customer service.

It was simply due to their fantastic service that I've stayed with the company. To date I've never been disappointed.
- MacBook Pro 15" Core i7 2.3Ghz / 256SSD (Work laptop)
- iMac 3.2Ghz 1TB
     
JackWebb
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Aug 26, 2015, 01:54 PM
 
Sticking to peripherals it would be the less expensive GCC laser printer that was not postscript and hooked-up to the back of the Mac II via SCSI. Beginning with System 7, GCC began allowing background printing with their 4.0 driver in the Chooser which I downloaded from a local BBS. I had great fun publishing 8.5x11 trifold satirical & humorous pamphlets for distribution at college.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Aug 26, 2015, 02:01 PM
 
Oh! I loved the GCC line! I had one in 1992 with my Mac Classic.
     
   
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