My Mac History

Posted by Matt Birchler
β€” 7 min read

I just bought a new Mac a few weeks ago and was thinking back on my personal Mac history. I've been a Mac user since I was 9 years old, and I have been almost completely loyal since then (I did own an HP for a year or so, but that was a horrible mistake). After over 20 years as a Mac user, I thought it was about time to go back and reminisce on each step along the way.

Below is as accurate as I could be. I don't have any of these old machines handy, so I tried to get the models as accurate as possible. As for the specs, I relied on the awesome Mactracker app. Enjoy!

Performa 630 (1995)

Memory 4MB
Hard Drive 250MB

The Performa 630 was my family's first computer. My dad saw an infomercial for it on TV and he was sold on the spot. I don't know what was in that ad, but it had a profound impact on my father. Whatever it was, we were in the car and went to Sears to buy this beast of a machine.

The computer is not held in high regard in the Apple community, as the Performas were never the best at anything. They were underpowered and overpriced. Perhaps it's no accident that this is the Mac that I remember being the most unexcited about. This machine represents the epitome of Apple incompatibility. It didn't have Microsoft Office, so moving documents between home and school (via floppy dick) was a nightmare. And games, oh the games were simply not there. As a 10 year old, that was tough to swallow.

This was also my first and last experience with eWorld, a disaster of an online interface. It's comical now, but it was the first time I got to experience the web.

My fondest memory of this machine is using it to play the built in Monopoly game. My brother and I would play each other, and it was a blast. The game's Real staying power was the ability to play against CPU controlled players. You could even let them play against each other and see who won. We would name each player after sports teams and celebrities we liked and pitted them against each other. As Monopoly tends to take a while to play, we would set the characters, set the rules, and let it run overnight. It was stupid fun, and a wildly wasteful use of a computer, but what can you do?

iMac (1999, Blue)

CPU 266MHz
Memory 32MB
Hard Drive 6GB

This was a serious upgrade. Our yellow-grey computer was gone, and this blue beauty was a welcome addition to the home office.

The most immediately notable thing about this new computer was its setup. Computers used to be a nightmare to set up with wires and software installations taking hours sometimes. The iMac had a 3 step guide that walked you through what to do. If I remember this correctly, these were the 3 steps:

  1. Plug in the power cable
  2. Press the power button
  3. There is no step 3

It was snarky in that delightfully Apple way. It was also a little simplified, as there was work to do after you powered it on, but it was overall so much easier to get going.

For all its good features, this is also the Mac that shipped with the worst mouse ever. What. Were. They. Thinking?

iMac (2003)

CPU 700MHz
Memory 512MB
Hard Drive 80GB

This is the Mac I have the fewest memories of. With that said, how good does that thing look? Damn!

It came around sooner after the gap between the first 2 Macs, but even still it felt like a huge upgrade. The 80GB hard drive felt like an expanse of storage that we could never fill.

This was also the first computer to run OS X in our house. It came with Mac OS X 10.1 Puma, and later got upgraded to 10.4 Tiger. It came with Mac OS 9 installed on a separate partition and you could boot between the two versions.

I may have accidentally erased the Mac OS 9 partition while messing around one day and then tried to boot to it. This threw the computer into disarray and we could not get it to boot into OS X again for days. My dad spent many days and many hours on the phone with Apple support trying to get it fixed. I recall one fateful day where I woke up to my dad screaming from downstairs in frustration as another day's call with Apple did not get anywhere. In retrospect, these were 1-2 hour support calls every day before work, so I don't blame him for getting a little out of sorts.

Eventually everything was fixed, and we carried on, but man was that an embarrassing week for me!

Powerbook G4 (2004)

CPU 1.5GHz
Memory 1GB
Hard Drive 80GB

This computer holds a special place for me in this list as it is the first computer I bought with my own money. It was ridiculously expensive at $2,499, and I saved up the entire year before my freshman year of college to get it.

Its PowerPC G4 CPU and dedicated GPU made it a powerhouse by any measure. It zipped through everything I threw at it like nothing I'd seen before. Even games like Unreal Tournament 2004 ran like butter on this beefy machine. And it had a DVD burner, so I could burn copies of my Netflix rentals record home videos to disk.

I took it to college and it was a great machine for a college student. It had great battery life for taking notes (3-4 hours, which was good at the time), so I could take it with me all day and usually get through 3 full class periods with it. You know, as long as I turned off Wifi and dimmed the screen.

The PowerBook ran for a solid 4 years before I felt it needed to be replaced. The big bottleneck long term was that PowerPC CPU, which seemed good at the time, but did not age gracefully. Besides, Intel Macs were the new hotness, and after going to OS X Leopard, my machine was no longer able to upgrade to Apple's new Intel-only versions of macOS.

As a side note, I recently held this thing again, and it's freaking massive! The 15 inch screen is ludacrisly big for someone used to working on a 10 inch iPad, and you get your workout hoisting its 5.7 pound body around.

MacBook Unibody (2008)

Memory 2GB
Hard Drive 160GB

This was the best MacBook I think Apple ever made. It was a one off machine, as it was all plastic before and after this model (until you get to the new MacBook, which is a whole different class even though it shares the same name). It looked and felt just like the MacBook Pros on the market at the time with its unibody design and new keyboard.

And it was more than on the surface that the MacBook compared well to the Pro line. The Intel Core 2 Duo was the same line that was in the Pros, but it started at 2.0 GHz while the Pro was 2.4GHz. You also got more RAM in the Pro model (4GB vs 2GB), but the GPU was actually the same in each entry level model, they each had the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M. And again you were paying $700 less for this model.

This was a very nice machine, and it got replaced after 4 solid years of use.

Mac mini (2012)

Mac mini
CPU 2.5GHz
Memory 4GB
Hard Drive 500GB

This was my first desktop in many years, and one that I got out of necessity more than anything else. Money was tight in last 2012 and I had to get something, and the $599 Mac mini fit my budget. I was also a few years into the iPad and was pretty happy doing my mobile computing on that, so I dove in and bought the mini.

Going back to the desktop was weird, but ultimately successful. Because the Mac was stationary, it became a tool I really only used for work. It was at my desk, and my desk was for work.

Because of that mental positioning, this became more of a strictly work machine than ever before. I didn't use it to play games (not that it could play anything released in the last 10 years well), nor was it what I used to watch videos or even listen to music. This was for Xcode, Atom, the the Terminal. It was for things that iOS simply did not do as well yet.

I used this machine up until a few weeks ago and it is still running, but now as a headless server (running macOS Server) to serve my media files to Plex. It is also a little odd that this 4 year old computer is still basically just as good as the current mini you can buy from Apple.

MacBook Pro (2015)

MacBook Pro
CPU 2.7GHz
Memory 8GB
Hard Drive 256GB

We finally get to my latest Mac. This is the first "Pro" Mac I've owned since 2004's PowerBook, and it's good to be back in front of a high end Mac. Yes, this is last year's model and signs point to Apple possibly releasing its successor soon, but I don't care. This is a beast of a machine, and it has everything I think I will ever need from a Mac. As I said last week, this could be the last Mac I ever own.

The best thing about this thing is its screen. This is old news to many, but mother of god this screen looks amazing! I have a retina iPhone and iPad, but there's something special about seeing macOS in this resolution. Wow!