Friday, January 24, 2014

My Mcintosh Turned 30 Today!

Can it be possible? The Apple Macintosh turned 30 years old today!  I bought it when I was going on 30 years old, so, perhaps you can understand why I am nostalgic and a bit surprised.

If you watched Super Bowl XVIII between the Washington Redskins and the Los Angeles Raiders, you would have seen a boring game and one of the most compelling commercials of all time, directed by Ridley Scott, who also directed my favorite dystopian film, Blade Runner, in 1982. The commercial ended with, "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you will see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'" Referring, of course, to the George Orwell classic, 1984.

What you see pictured above is my vintage 1984 Macintosh, which is still working like it did in 1984. Note the instruction manual showing how to use a mouse. It was a new invention then. Note the fonts on the screen, which had a white background, like a sheet of paper. I have since replaced it with multiple models, but I kept it because it changed everything in the tech world, which I was immersed in at the time, and I used it at a time in my midlife when everything was changing for me. 

Macintosh was my tool of choice for writing weekly newspaper and monthly magazine columns and it accompanied me to architecture school where I used it to illustrate an architecture book about Frank Lloyd Wright's formal language for one of my professors and edit the nation's first monthly sustainable architecture publications for architecture students. 

I purchased it with the proceeds from teaching beginner computer classes and royalties from my 1984 book, Personal Computers: A Complete Handbook for Beginners. The Macintosh cost $2495 in 1984 dollars and, to do any serious work, you also needed the hard drive and the equally expensive Apple dot-matrix printer. So for $5000 you could have a serviceable home computer set-up. 

Pundits of the day thought this was crazy when IBM PCs were less expensive. But PCs lacked the graphical interface, the type fonts, the mouse, and so many other cool things that I HAD to have. For that investment, you got 128 kilobyte RAM, no wireless, no Internet. By contrast, my latest computer has 125 times more RAM for less than half the cost and my phone has 5000 times more storage and is connected to everything everywhere. 

I was doing some consulting on the side for a law firm at the time and one of the partners asked about investing in Apple stock, which was at $18 per share. I said BUY! He did. I didn't. As I recall, my lawyer friend bragged about selling his 1,000 shares later at $64 per share for a gain of $46,000. APPL was down today to $546 per share. You do the math. Perhaps he should have held onto it. If he asks me again, my answer will be the same. BUY!

My Macintosh now sits on a shelf in my basement family room alongside my mother's Underwood typewriter, which also still works. Above it is a Kenwood stereo receiver purchased in 1976, which also still works - blasting through a couple of heavy Pioneer speakers of the same vintage, with an analog quality that is difficult to replicate today. I decided to switch the Kenwood on as I write this to play the top hit from January 1984: Owner of a Lonely Heart - by YES. Of course, I could have just called up iTunes or Pandora on my current iMac, but there's something about vintage electronics that appeals to me. Perhaps that is due to my vintage and my childhood memories of Dad's man cave filled with glowing tubes of radios and oscilloscopes. 

Thirty years is a very long time, but it seems like only YESterday.