40 years has passed since Apple’s Macintosh first went on sale, so now is a good time as any to go down memory lane and share some feelings about a computer. It wasn’t until I wrote this that I realised so many of my major life events revolved around the Mac. It’s how I made lifelong friends, it’s the reason I got to travel around the world and it’s how I was able to get employed. The Mac has been good to me, even if I haven’t been paying much attention to it lately.
My relationship with the Mac started as a work experience kid at an Apple reseller on Spencer Street in Melbourne some time between 1998 and 2000 (I can’t remember the exact year!). I’ve loved computers from a very young age but was never really exposed to Apple stuff besides the Apple II at primary school until that work experience gig.
I spent a week out back in the workshop, surrounded by colourful iMacs that needed upgrades, blue G3 Power Macs getting kitted out for video editors, dozens of eMates dropped off by school computer techs for repair and a random assortment of beige boxes with Apple logos on them. The staff gave me a folder of CDs full of technical documents, one of those colourful iMacs, a bunch of broken computers and told me to get them working again.
To everyone’s surprise I was able to get them going - thanks to the excellent documentation! - and I managed to use Mac OS without anyone really showing me. I had questions from time to time and the real techs probably had to re-do my work when I left for the day, but I loved that job and it was my first realisation that there are different types of computers out there than only Windows PCs. I’m pretty sure I got that work experience job because of a teacher at school who loved Macs and had a hookup at that reseller where he got his gear from. Mr. Stewart, if you’re reading this, thank you/this is all your fault!
Mac OS X really kicked off my interest in the Mac as it combined the cool command line UNIX stuff I was discovering with my Linux PCs with a GUI that looked great on sexy hardware like the TiBook, the PowerMac G4 and the lampshade iMac. I would go to Apple resellers around Melbourne and collect the little booklets and pamphlets on Apple products well before I owned a Mac. I even had an iPod (3rd-gen 10GB, purchased with a student discount!) before I had a Mac!
My family couldn’t afford a new computer, let alone a Mac, so I persisted with Windows until I managed to save up enough cash from selling pirated Playstation and PC games to students (and teachers!) at school to buy very first computer with my own money - a PowerMac G5 in late 2003/early 2004 off a bloke on the aus.mac Usenet group for I think around $2,000 suspiciously cheap but still a lot of cash for a 19 year old from St. Albans!
The Mac had a cool little ecosystem of indie developers making wonderful apps that were a joy to use. Even Apple’s iLife apps were so fun that you just wanted to get out there and do something with them. That’s not to say interesting software wasn’t on other platforms, but the Mac had (and still has) a higher hit rate of software that was so good you couldn’t help but do stuff as an excuse to use it. It’s a different way of thinking about a computer. Instead of thinking “okay I want to do this, how do I do it?”, the Mac inspired “this program looks interesting, what can I do with it?” in a way that Windows did not.
Around this time Apple was far from being the world’s most valuable company they are now, with a miniscule market share and often ridiculed by PC users as toys for graphic designers. But the iPod was popular, Steve Jobs was in full swing getting rid of the 90s malaise and people were excited about Apple for the first time in a while. It was this, plus a fascination with my new computer that led a random bloke I met on the OCAU forums and I to start AppleTalk (later renamed MacTalk) in 2004, as a place on the internet for Australian Apple dorks to talk about their computers as there wasn’t really anywhere that wasn’t full of USA Americans and/or Windows users.
MacTalk was responsible for getting me a job at Computers Now in Malvern during 2004-2006 while I went to TAFE and ultimately dropped out of uni. For someone that loved Macs, it was an awesome job. I got to see all the new stuff Apple released, including the first Intel Macs, and got paid to do so! They even let me borrow gear to review for the site. It was fantastic despite being the lowest performing sales person on the floor, which was why they didn’t give me a full time job when I decided to quit uni.
I ended up at RMIT University playing with Apple Xserves used for a podcasting system called Lectopia, but spent most of my time on MacTalk writing articles, finding sponsors and moderating the community as the influx of new users grew rapidly. Once the iPhone was sold in Australia, MacTalk eventually made more money each month from affiliate links and sponsorships than my job at RMIT, so I quit and fully indulged in Apple nonsense. By this point the Mac was a sideshow to the huge amount of traffic generated by the iPhone and iPad.
After going full-time with MacTalk, I went to my first (and only) WWDC in 2010, where Steve Jobs and I locked eyes as we walked past each other in the Moscone Centre. I got to travel to New York to buy a bunch of iPads when they were new too. I even slept outside the first Apple store in Australia so I could be in the first group of people to go inside. I got to go on radio, TV and be featured in newspapers because I was the go to guy for any news story about Apple. None of this is Mac related but the Mac is why it happened.
Over the 8-ish years I was involved with the community I made so many friends, many of who I am still friends with today! While most people my age were partying or traveling or doing whatever is people in their early 20s do, I was immersed in Apple and its culture, most of it revolving around the Mac. I was burned out and decided to sell the site off as kind of a redundancy package. Niche Media ended up making the best offer and made so many promises to keep the community going - which they totally fucked up and ruined.
My connection with the Mac slowly faded away after selling MacTalk and as Apple got richer and richer. I get more joy tinkering with Linux to be honest. Apple is no longer the outsider I can identify with, but very much an insider and a bully. Arguably there’s never been a better time to be a Mac user with Apple Silicon and all, but I can’t help but feel that the reason I got into the Mac 20 years ago - the indie app scene - is a shadow of its former self in 2024 thanks to Apple’s business practices since the iPhone made them richer than God. The Mac is probably no longer the place an 18 year old outside the mainstream that’s interested in computers gravitates towards and desktop computing has passed its golden age, but the Mac persists and I persist using it.