My familiarity with Macintosh came relatively late in life. Our first computer was a Commodore PET, which my father, a math teacher, borrowed from his school. It was replaced by an IBM PC Jr, then a PS/2. My dad taught me some Turbo Pascal, and then that was it. We never got another computer. We were a DOS house, and I barely saw a GUI until 1995, when I left for college.
I had seen a few Macs, but most of them were very old. So when I got to college and saw my friend Seth’s PowerMac 7100/66, I was shocked. The screen is so big! It has color! It does things other than print layout! I was hooked. I bought a Mac within weeks. My dad thought I was nuts.
These were the days when built-in Ethernet was largely unheard of, and yet Macs had them. Most computers in the dorm didn’t even have a modem. The World Wide Web was just starting to become a phenomenon. The Yahoo! homepage was a grey, HTML 2.0 mess. There was no spam.
We didn’t just have Ethernet, though. We had AppleTalk. Every Mac user in every dorm was a click away, and not only could we share files, but through a System 7 Chooser extension called BroadCast, we could message each other in realtime. It was IM before IM.
Then, of course, there was Marathon, which also supported AppleTalk. We badged our BroadCast usernames with |M| so complete strangers would know who was up for a game.
So here we were in 1995 playing spontaneous eight-man networked deathmatches. Every night. All night. People came to our doors asking us to turn the volume down — and to stop screaming at each other.
But for me, it was more than games and chats and word processors and desktop pictures and custom icons. I wanted to understand why Apple thought RISC processors were better than CISC. How those menus and windows got on the screen. How I could make my own. And so I started flunking classes because I was too busy coding for no discernible reason. At that point, my father, bless him, said “I think you need to make a decision.” I went into college an aspiring veterinarian. I came out an aspiring software developer. The rest is, well, now I’m where I am.
The Mac made me excited about technology again. It changed and shaped my life in just about every way.
A few years after I graduated, I found a position at Apple that matched the skills I had scraped up to that point. Mac OS X had just been released, and Apple was still losing money. One of the interviewers (who is still there today) asked me, “How do you feel about potentially working for an underdog?”
I told him I spent all my savings on a Performa 6300CD, and then again on a PowerMac 8600. I got the job.
Sitting there on the east coast in a dirty dorm room with so much to learn, reading Guy Kawasaki’s email newsletter, it seemed so ridiculous that I’d ever be an Apple Evangelist that I didn’t even bother dreaming about it. In retrospect, it seems obvious.