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I saw on the news this morning that it is the 30th anniversary of the first Mac computer, which was introduced back in 1984.

This brings back some memories! I did not have one of those original Macs from 1984, but I do remember visiting a computer store with my dad and playing around with MacPaint on one of their demo machines. I’m not sure when it was, but it was definitely an early model. And I decided right then that I really wanted a Mac myself.

We actually had a computer back then, an Apple II+ that we had since I was in grade school. At the time this was pretty unusual; none of my friends my age had computers at home, and I don’t think we had any at school, either. I used to plunk around on that thing all the time, mostly playing games, but also occasionally experimenting with programming in BASIC.

I was motivated to learn how to type for real because I got tired of the hunt and peck method every time I wanted to type in the command to play Space Invaders.

It was a big deal when my dad installed a chip in that thing that gave it the ability to display both upper and lower case letters, rather than just all upper case.

I also have this vague, excessively geeky memory of checking out computer magazines from the library that contained the code for various games and programs…and then typing all that code in. I find it hard to believe today that this was something people actually did. Just to make sure I didn’t imagine this, I had to look it up. Yes, it was a real thing, and I really did this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Type-in_program

A few years later, in 1987, I worked out a deal with my parents to get a Macintosh SE. I know I helped pay for it, but I suspect they footed the majority of the bill. The Mac SE was an upgrade over that initial model – it had two floppy drives instead of one, and it had the “superdrive” that could read 1.4 MB floppies. So you could store an entire megabyte of data on a single disk! Megabytes. Not gigabytes. How far we have come in 30 years!

Mac SE

Mac SE (photo from Wikipedia)

I was a junior in high school in 1987. I used that Mac for all sorts of things – typing out school papers, writing short stories, writing letters to my sister in college (I used Microsoft Word to format the letters in columns, like a newspaper, and called it The Waubonsee News since that was the name of our street. I wish I still had copies of those letters.), making greeting cards and big posters that I printed out on our dot-matrix printer.

That computer came with me to college, where I kept it in a computer cabinet that my dad built (he was really into woodworking in those days). I remember the convenience of having my own computer and only using the computer lab when I need to print on the laser printers.

Eventually I splurged on a 40 MB hard drive so I didn’t have to keep swapping floppy disks in and out of the drives. Again, megabytes, not gigabytes. And at the time it seemed like way more space than I would ever need.

A little over a decade later, my first iPod could hold 500 times more storage. And fit in my pocket. What a difference!