I'm waiting for the mailperson to deliver "Pirates of Silicon Valley," and fortuitously while I was walking the giant dog in the snow yesterday I realized I was walking past THE VERY APARTMENT I LIVED IN 17 YEARS AGO when I was in college the first time. It was so long ago I'd mostly forgotten having lived there, but I stood rooted to the spot, overcome with memories. Seventeen years is a long time, and it's a little weird to be back living across the quad from the same place, but hey, let's say I'm not only older, but also wiser. The point of my post is not to wax philosophical about aging, but rather to wax nostalgic about technology. I lived in that apartment when I got my first Mac, a Performa 550 (see photo).
I had an aging PC that died when I had a giant term paper due, and my roommate was a Mac person who persuaded me to give it a try, so I did. I scrimped and saved and purchased an overwhelming total of 8 megabytes of RAM for that Mac, and with that RAM combined with my 2400-baud modem (both of which were evilly expensive, as I recall), I felt pretty wickedly technologically forward. You had to be a geek back then to do anything on the Internet that wasn't AOL (which I tried and discarded immediately). Ah, the terminal server. Modem strings. Kermit. SLIP PPP. Telnet. Pine. Emacs. IRC. I now vividly remember those early days of the Web really taking off: anyone remember Mosaic? I made a homepage so I could be *super* cool. I think I called it "My Homepage." Because that's what everyone did.
At any rate, I got hooked on Macs. I got a job at the campus computer center eventually, so effective was my geekiness. I could troubleshoot modems by listening to the whistles over a phone line ("that doesn't sound right..."). It was the days of extensions marching across the screen, and you could make them invisible. Removing this part of the Mac OS just ruins opportunities for practical jokes. For example, I was the victim of one in which my coworker dropped an invisible extension into my startup folder that caused my Mac to randomly shriek "You're all idiots! We can't have this kind of crap!" I retaliated by putting his shutdown extension into his startup folder---a trick I still think was a pretty good idea.
Anyway, I was still the same person I am now, so predictably I went on to buy one of the first PowerPC Powerbooks, which I lugged to class and took notes on WAY ahead of its time (now everyone in a given classroom has MacBooks open in front of them). I had a Centra after that, I think, and then I had to use Windoze machines for a few years because my editorial work necessitated proprietary Windows macros.
Comparing those days to these is interesting to say the least (mind-blowing, possibly). If I could walk across the quad back 17 years and show my old self my iPhone and Air, I think my brain would implode. I was so amazed back then at those slow-ass modems that I don't know how I would have even comprehended high-speed always-on wireless access, and I'm pretty sure that social media would have caused a similar cognitive meltdown. Heck, I didn't even even have a cell phone until 10 years ago, and it's frakking amazing that flip phones have evolved into the smartphones we have now in that time. A decade isn't really that long.
But I digress. I'm sad that his Steveliness is such a sick man. His products have changed my life. They've changed the world in a lot of ways. I'm bittersweetly confident that Apple will get along just fine without him, but things will be different. Happily, we've all been trained to think different, I guess.