Beyond ][s

In late 1983, a harbinger arrived to herald a new direction in the computers I would use in the years to come – while working part time during the summer holidays at our semi-local Apple dealer, Computer Lighthouse, I got to use a Lisa for the first time.

As were many others, I was blown away by the GUI, and fell in love instantly with it. Unfortunately, our family’s budget for computers couldn’t stretch to a Lisa, and I continued to plug away on our ][europlus at home.

However, I was primed and ready for the Mac as word of it spread – I avidly collected news stories about it and I anticipated the day I would get to use one regularly.

That opportunity, or at least the opportunity to use one semi-regularly, came in mid-late 1984, when my senior high school (John Paul II Senior High School, now part of St Andrews College) purchased a Mac for the Industrial Arts Department. I wasn’t doing any industrial arts subjects, but I was at the time heavily involved in the nascent school newspaper (The Papal Bull) – a bit of fast talking and we were able to convince the relevant teacher, Mark Samuels, to let us use the Mac during lunch breaks to lay out the newspaper.

What a joy it was – we used MacWrite, MacDraw and MacPaint, did some paste up, but, most of all, just swapped floppies (one drive only, initially). However, the results spoke for themselves and the end result was far and away better than the typewritten first couple of issues. I still have copies of all the issues I worked on (if you hadn’t guessed, I’m a bit of a hoarder).

As I headed towards the Higher School Certificate (Australia’s leaving certificate) exams in 1985, I had to scale back my use of the Mac and involvement in the newspaper at school, but just before my final exams I caught my Dad reading some Mac manuals and he confessed he’d bought a Mac, but I wasn’t allowed to use it until I’d finished my exams. It wasn’t even at the house, so it at least wasn’t something I had to actively resist. Unfortunately (in retrospect), the ][europlus moved to an in-law, who passed it on to a cousin and I then lost track of it – I really wish we’d held onto it.

Those summer holidays happened to be one where my parents visited my oldest sister in New Zealand (she lived there for a few years), so the Mac moved onto the desk in my room and I went crazy, delving into as much of its (software) workings as possible. I learnt about resources pretty early on and used ResEdit to craft new Trash icons, add menu shortcuts, correct interface elements’ names/descriptions to UK English spelling and just generally mucked around.

I especially enjoyed the design- and layout-type work – I bought disks of fonts, played with MacPaint and MacDraw and drew up the family tree (which when Dad saw it, prompted him into his great genealogical adventure, much to our occasional chagrin).

When I started Uni, I joined the Mac user group that met in the Uni grounds (Club Mac, still around today) and started buying disks of public domain and shareware software. After a year and a half of Uni, I realised it wasn’t for me, and, on reading an Australian Macworld article about desktop publishing bureaux in Australia, I decided to try and get a job at one.

I did my resumé on our Mac (of course), printed it on the Uni library LaserWriters, and sent it off, not really knowing what to expect. I landed an interview with the mid-level bureau from the Macworld article, Creative Computer Company, and they agreed to give me a two week trial. After one week, they offered me a full time job.

My desktop publishing career was up and running, and would see me through the next ten years, which will perhaps be the subject of another post.

I know some readers have never stopped using their Apple ][s, but I’m pretty sure all of them have also moved onto other computers. I’d be interested to hear about other users’ transitions to their first post-][ computer/s.