Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Taking (Another) Walk on the Wild Side

Once upon a time, a young person really, really, really wanted a computer. A TRS-80, to be precise. For reasons lost to the mists of time - probably because the piece of crap wasn't worth the absurd price Radio Shack wanted for it - this young person never possessed one. Ah well, life is tough.*

*Yeah, I know, life didn't start with the personal computer. I spent a summer working on a DEC minicomputer, and our school computer lab had a newer DEC VAX. An aunt of mine, who worked in the computer department of a large university, showed my cousin and me the arcana of creating punch cards and feeding them into the hopper, whereby the magic machine would spit out a result (usually an error message, complaining about the user's coding). Other individuals go back even further in time, working on ancient Analytical Engines that are scarcely more than myth to me. I'm not writing a piece on how I date back to the days of papyrus, okay?

Several years went by, and the aforementioned young person was in college, just as Apple was rolling out the Macintosh, in the Fall of 1983. Some whining and pleading later, the student was the proud owner of a Macintosh in all its 128K of memory glory (and a whopping 8 Mhz on its Motorola 68000 CPU). (Ignore the external floppy drive on the unit below - you wanted to copy a disk, you swapped disks in the internal drive, over and over, until the job was complete or one of the disks sent back an error message. It was about a tossup.) A few months later, the computer went back to the campus store for a memory upgrade, all the way to 512K - the "Fat Mac."

It worked pretty well, all things considered. A hard drive would have been great, but MacWrite got the job done, MacPaint reinforced my view that fine arts were not my cup of tea, and...well, I can't recall what other programs were on it, but we had fun together, FatMac and me.

Then one day the time came to say goodbye, to go to graduate school in a science - a quasi-science, at any rate - where almost no one used a Mac. They were so absurdly expensive, too. So, with a tear in my eye, I bought an IBM-PC clone - a x386, I believe - in a huge metal tower. It was replaced by a Toshiba laptop (stolen from a carrel in the department, of all things), then a series of PCs. Each was better than the last, but Windows still looked to me like an attempt to graft the Mac OS on top of DOS.

I thought about going back every once in a while, but two things stopped me: first, the price difference was insane; second, the incompatibilities - from different hard drive formats to entirely different file structures - were just too daunting. All the work computers were PCs, too.

Then Apple switched to Intel CPUs, became a touch more competitive in pricing, and sheer processing power overcame a number of the earlier problems. I felt my resolve weakening. I needed - okay, "needed" is too strong a term; how about "found useful"- a portable computer to take care of a variety of tasks so that I wasn't chained to the desktop PC all the time.

So it came to pass that I returned to a descendant of my first love. The screen is small, and it was never replace the lovely monitor that awaits me upstairs. The quirks of the operating system will need some getting used to. And I still haven't figured out how to transfer my address book into it. Despite that, I think we'll be very happy together.


Fogwoman Gray said...

How Mac-nificent!
I am sure your new love will Mac you very happy.
*strews dried apple slices over the desktop*

Dr. Rafael Fabre said...

Awww, an old Trash-80! It brings a nostalgic tear to my eye, madam!

Rhianon Jameson said...

Mrs. Volare - It seems like a fine winter's companion: just start running a Second Life viewer and place the machine on one's feet. Instant warm!

Dr. Fabre - The funny thing is, I knew that nickname for the TRS-80, and I still wanted one. That has to be the definition of pathetic.

Mako Magellan said...

Miss Jameson, if it may allay some fears, I also operate a desk-bound PC and a MacBook Pro. Problems created as a result of using these 'incompatible' systems every day: negligible.

Rhianon Jameson said...

Thank you, Mr. Magellan, that's good to know. Thus far, my only cross-platform efforts have been to transfer files by email only, and then only Word and PDF files.

I'm still trying to figure out a good way of transferring my iTunes library without ending up with thousands of duplicates or, worse, killing off my ratings, as I did once before. I'm off to consult the Googles on that very subject.