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ATPM 8.12
December 2002





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Segments: Slices from the Macintosh Life

by Sylvester Roque,

Me and My Macs

In the short time that I have been writing for ATPM I have noticed one thing: Sometimes it takes me longer to come up with an idea than it does to write the article. Well, that’s what happened this month. So, uncharacteristically I asked for help. That’s when Michael suggested writing about why I became a Mac user and what I do with the Mac. After all, you can tell a lot about a person by what they choose to do with their computer. Well, here goes nothing. Perhaps you will find something either instructive or interesting in this journey. As always the best place to begin any journey is at the beginning.

In the Beginning There Was the II

I celebrated my fortieth birthday just a few days ago, and in preparing to write this article I realized that I have spent half my life using Apple computer products. In the early days I probably used every incarnation of the Apple II to come out of Cupertino. The first computer I ever owned was an Apple IIGS. This was in the late 1980s and at that time if you were a home user interested in graphics or education this was the best way to go. In fact, my first introduction to the Finder came on the GS and not on the Mac. I loved the GS and resisted the transition to the Mac for a long time because I felt money that should have been devoted to improving and marketing the GS was being diverted to improving the Mac. At that point I was not willing to give up my Apple II with color display for a Mac with a smaller black and white display. Eventually, it became increasingly difficult to find software specifically for the GS, and I could see the writing on the wall. Sooner, rather than later, it was going to be time to look for a new machine and that would mean looking for a new platform.

Despite the fact that my platform of choice was on the computer equivalent of life support, I continued to resist change. I finally gave in when my wife needed a computer to replace her Tandy. She wanted to do some desktop publishing, and Windows was definitely not the way to go at that time. We eventually ended up with an LC II that we continued to use long after we should have upgraded. Once I accepted the inevitable, the transition was an easy one since most of what I learned about troubleshooting the GS also applied to System 7 on the LC II. Almost immediately I found that I actually liked using Macs. I guess a little change is a good thing. Eventually we outgrew the LC and had to move on to something a little more powerful. We currently have two iBooks, a G3 that has been upgraded to a G4, and a Wall Street-era PowerBook that needs repairing. Somewhere in between we also owned a 6500. The one thing that all the machines have had in common is that we hate to part with them when we have outgrown them.

As you can tell I am a devoted Mac user and the only computers that my wife has liked as much as her LC II have been the current iBook and a Commodore C64 that she owned years ago. Unfortunately she has gone from a full-time Mac user to a sometime Mac user.

How, you may ask, does one go from loving the LC II to being a sometime Mac user? Well, I bear some of the responsibility for that situation. You see I like to tinker with Macs, and the instability that sometimes results is not something she wants to experience. Over the years our Macs have been rock-solid, dependable, members of computing society—until I get hold of them. While I bear some responsibility for this situation, the remainder of the responsibility must be shared by people who do not understand just how much can be accomplished using a Mac.

You Can’t Do That With a Mac, Can You?

Several years ago my wife developed an interest in developing multimedia software. While exploring the possibility of getting a degree in some area related to this, she was left with the impression that it would be impossible to complete such a program without a Windows machine. After much soul searching, she purchased such a box only to discover a few years later that all of the requirements could have been met using a Mac with only occasional forays into the Windows world. Most of the things that can be done using Windows can also be done successfully using a Mac. Here are some of the things she and I have done during the time we have been using Macs.

The first Mac that we owned came into our lives because my wife wanted to do some basic desktop publishing and graphics work for a quilting book. At that time she found the Mac a much more intuitive platform for such tasks. The quilting book never quite got written, but over the years we have tackled many other jobs using our trusty Macs.

I spend much of my Mac time on basic word processing and spreadsheet tasks. I have used Windows machines for these same tasks but when I have a choice I choose Macs. When I’m not writing a paper or calculating spreadsheets there are so many other more interesting things to do with a Mac.

A few years ago we set aside basic word processing and spreadsheet tasks in favor of something a little more creative. Our Power Mac 6500 played an important role in developing an educational CD covering some aspects of the history of North Louisiana. All of the sound editing and some of the graphic editing were completed on Macs, although the final product was done using Director for the PC (due to the fact that our task was to create a player that would run on a PC). We could have built the entire project on a Mac but would not have been able to compile the final PC version for playback without using the PC version.

Partially as a result of working on that instructional CD I have rekindled an interest in graphics and sound. Currently I have three projects going that I would like to work on if I had more time: restoring old family photographs, digitizing some audio files that I have on tape, and a family history DVD. I want the pictures for sentimental value and the audio files because the tapes are degrading and I doubt this material will ever make it to CD. Once I have acquired the skills during the first two projects, the DVD should be a lot easier. If anyone’s interested I could write about either of these projects in more detail at a later date. Keep in mind though that what I know about these areas has been self-taught and primarily through trial and error.

One other task that I have been using the Mac for lately is PowerPoint presentations. Over the last couple of years I have taught a course on public speaking at the local university. One of the assignments requires students to produce PowerPoint slides for use with their speech. I have often found that plugging a presentation projector into my iBook is much simpler than trying to make the connection with many PC laptops.

Speaking of presentations, twice now I have had a Mac PowerBook come to the rescue at conferences. In both cases the PC laptops being used were experiencing problems and someone ended up using our PowerBook. Maybe my next startup sound should be Mighty Mouse singing, “Here I come to save the day”?

• • •

Well, that’s my journey as a Mac head. It’s not everything I have done with a Mac, and it’s certainly not everything that can be done with a Mac, but maybe it will give you some ideas.

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Reader Comments (3)

Trixie McGuire · December 4, 2002 - 20:26 EST #1
I enjoyed your story. I have dabbled with almost every Mac, but do much of my internet stuff on PC. For things besides the web (I mean actually producting, creating, etc.), Mac is the only way to go. Thanks to Hotline, my teenagers have our 30G Compaq loaded with pure junk and it has never produced one creative project. My little 4G 6500, which is our graphic machine, has pictures and projects bursting at its seams. I need to find a bank to rob or project to complete to get the money to get that dual processor G4 and 23-inch monitor I drool over!
HS · December 21, 2002 - 22:14 EST #2
I started my computer career exclusively on Windows PC, worked only on Windows PCs for 6.5 years, and, 3 years ago, I went from 100% PC to 100% Macintosh. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. To me, it was a win-win situation because, with the Mac, I have all: Mac OS X with OS 9 support via Classic, Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP (via Virtual PC), and YellowDog Linux all on one machine. Even Windows is easier to manage and use via Virtual PC than on a real one. I don't see why I should buy another PC again. Of course, I spend 99.9% of my computer time on OS X. The other platforms are mostly for testing purposes. As you put it, my Mac can do everything I need to do plus much more.
Sylvester Roque · December 24, 2002 - 12:32 EST #3
Thanks for the feedback HS. I would love to hear more about your experiences with either Virtual PC or Linux. My wife is thinking about using Virtual PC and an older version of Windows to run a few games that no longer run well on Windows XP.

For me, this is one of the great things about Mac life. On the off chance I need to run an alternative OS, I can.

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