Happy birthday, Macintosh

I believe the Mac’s 40th birthday really deserves a celebration and I hope Apple will do something special tomorrow (not that special, a nice home page will do…).

As much as I would like to say I’ve been here for the whole journey, that would have made me a pretty precocious 2-year old

The oldest memory I have of the Macintosh is from a few weeks before Christmas 1992 when I was on the market for the first computer my parents were going to purchase for me: an early adopter friend of my brother, who later became my brother-in-law, showed me his Quadra 950 with a gorgeous 20” monitor; I was enchanted, but then he explained I would hardly have any game to play on it and recommended I buy a PC instead.
As a 10-year-old, that made lots of sense (games!), so I specced out a 486 DX2 66Mhz with 4 megs of RAM, 170 megabytes of hard disk, and a mediocre 14” monitor and went on with my days of Monkey Island, Syndicate, Theme Park, Scream and so many more games I fondly remember… But rest assured, to this day I still give my brother-in-law grief for that suggestion, which I suspect had more to do with him not wanting to provide tech support to a pestiferous kid!

Then, I didn’t really pay much attention to Apple Computers inc. for many years, with the Newton being the only Apple device in my home in the late Nineties; the first iMac looked interesting, but maybe a bit of a toy to the eyes of a M$ teenager busy installing Windows 98 over and over on a Pentium II with the case open more often than closed.

Jump to 2006, when Windows betrayed me for the last time (I’m still mad), costing me all the data on my Vaio 17” “laptop” (this thing), which at that point was work stuff, so quite a big deal.
I instantly decided to pull the trigger on a PowerMac G5 Quad, with an essential factor being the instant love I developed for the 30” Cinema Display (and true love it was: I ended up buying two more in the next couple years, becoming a true Al Gore… and two of those displays are still in use today!).
I remember like it’s yesterday that for days – weeks really – I admired in disbelief Tiger’s interface while enjoying so much screen real estate I wasn’t really sure what to do with it… (spoiler alert: I’ve found plenty of ways!) And don’t get me started on how it looked when you opened it, so clean and beautiful (on this front, I believe Apple peaked with the 2019 Mac Pro, a true masterpiece, and a computer I’d really love to purchase used someday).
Back to my first Mac, I’ve never smiled so much at a computer since those days, which is kind of a good sign for my mental stability, but also a very fond memory.

From that moment, I’ve never looked back: at the time I worked in a city and lived in another 200 miles away, so the next year I purchased a Core 2 Duo iMac for home, by far the least used computer of my life because the CPU was miserably slow and having a second desktop computer – before cloud sync – in a different city wasn’t the best laid out plan in the first place.

In 2008 I “promoted” my G5 to the role of server at work because the Mac Pro 8 core was just too tempting. And I was right… wow, what a computer it was: fast like anything else I’ve seen before, 16 GB of RAM, 4 SAS drives in RAID (hardware!) spinning at 10.000 rpm, 3 GPUs (one per monitor, I don’t know why I did that).
That Mac Pro lasted me a really long time, months shy of TEN years, during which I added RAM, replaced drives and graphic cards, bought new batteries for the RAID card, and even replaced the logic board after a storm. You know, the things we used to be able to do with computers. And when Apple stopped providing OS updates, dosdude1 saved the day. Dude, thank you, really!

I’d hate not to mention the 17” MacBook Pro I used for work between 2009 and 2013, the best built and most solid laptop/military ship I’ve ever seen, which of course I destroyed carrying it around daily, and a 2011 Dual Core Mac Mini which I used way too much considering how not-fast it was.

Then there’s an odd parenthesis (betrayal!): when my Mac Pro was starting to get long in the tooth, especially for the Swift compiler, I didn’t really find a Mac that was in my budget and my dreams at the same time. But leaving macOS wasn’t – isn’t, ever will be – an option, so I did build a couple Hackintoshes – one for home, one for work – and extracted years of great performance for really little money. No regrets, really, because I still had what really mattered to me, the Mac’s soul, macOS.

But then came Apple silicon and Cupertino won me back on the hardware side as well, and they did so big time.
I had a hunch it was going to happen when I got a DTK for starting early development of a native version of GlanceCam: if an iPad chip ran macOS like that, the future of the Mac was really bright. Exciting times ahead, just a few years after a dark period in which we all worried Apple wasn’t invested in the Mac anymore.

Obviously, I resisted only a few months when the first M1s launched, and then purchased a maxed-out M1 Air, a computer I still find hard to wrap my head around: performance-wise, it had nothing less to offer than my liquid-cooled, overclocked 70 pounds i7 Hackintosh, but in a feather format with mind-blowing battery life.
To me, the best Mac of my life will probably always be the 2008 Mac Pro, but the best Mac EVER has to be the M1 Air.

And yet just last week I sold the best Mac ever, after getting a nice M3 Max in December. And oh, I have so. much. to. say. about this computer. Anyone around me knows I can’t stop talking about it 😬: tech life is all about tradeoffs, and I am happier than I’d have imagined to have given up the silent feather for this ferociously fast beast with an amazingly bright display and definitely noticeable fans. I’ll probably blog about this computer in a few weeks, for now I’m still measuring up what it can do, and I find no end.

In a way, it seems to lack perspective to close a “happy birthday” post for the Mac by praising the last computer Apple launched, but it’s also a testament to the journey the platform had: like the Ship of Theseus, with 4 CPU architectures and two major operating systems, the Mac changed every bit and component, but at its core is still exactly the same: the best computing platform by 10.000 miles, capable of empowering people to do anything they set their mind to while remaining beautiful to look at (even tough macOS is a bit too grey for me these days, and I won’t cry the day Alan Dye will retire) and easy to use.

You are truly a unique technological wonder, Mac. Happy birthday, and keep smiling!