The Mac's 30th: What's your story?

The Mac's 30th: What's your story?

Summary: I got my first Mac in 1984, but paid $4,400 for the privilege. What was your first Mac?


Tomorrow (Saturday, January 25, 2014) marks the 30th Anniversary of the introduction of the Macintosh, Apple's all-in-one beige toaster that revolutionized the computer industry. 

The original Mac development team and the Computer History Museum are celebrating the anniversary with a special event at the Flint Center in Cupertino. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. and the show runs from 7:00 to 10:30 p.m. with proceeds benefiting CoderDojo (tickets are still available). ABC World News' David Muir will interview CEO Tim Cook Friday at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the company's milestone. 

I got my first Macintosh in 1984, more on that in a second, but I got a sneak peak at what the Mac would become when I got to use a Lisa in 1983.

Apple Lisa - Jason O'Grady

While visiting a family friend in Lawndale, CA in 1983 I got my first exposure to Lisa and I fell in love with it. My Dad's friend was Manager of New Product Development at CCH Computax and his company was evaluating the new Apple computer as a possible platform for their clients. CCH bought three Lisas as an R&D project in an attempt to stay ahead of their competitor, Fastax.

My dad's friend brought home a Lisa 1 and his son and I played with Lisa Office System (a.k.a. LisaWrite, LisaCalc, LisaDraw, LisaGraph, LisaProject, LisaList, and LisaTerminal) for hours on end. It had two 5.25-inch floppy disk drives (double-sided!) and an external 5 MB Apple ProFile hard drive that was originally designed for the Apple III. This was bleeding-edge technology at the time.


In 1984 I got my first exposure to the Macintosh when I went to the mall with my Mom and the department store had one of those store-within-a-store computer stores in it and I wandered in. Sitting front and center was a desk with the Macintosh 128k sitting on it. I sat down and played with MacPaint while my Mom shopped. 

When she was ready to go, she buzzed into the computer store only to find me fully engrossed in the Mac. When she attempted to extract me, she asked the salesman how much the little beige toaster cost. "$10,000" he deadpanned. My Mom quickly grabbed my hand and said "Let's go." After begging her to stay and play with it for five more minutes the salesman's pitch became clear. It turns out that the Mac only cost $4,400, which sounded cheap by comparison. Again, she said, "Let's go."

Before we could depart the salesman handed me a copy of the premiere issue of Macworld magazine. According to Macworld the premiere issue of the magazine (below) didn't have a date on the cover because it was set to debut on the same day as the Mac itself and the editors didn’t know exactly when that day would be, so they went to press without a date on the cover. Steve Jobs is pictured on the cover sporting a brown pinstriped suit. In front of him, three 128k Macs. 


A magazine was hardly a consolation prize for the Mac that I wanted but I hit the technology jackpot later than summer when I received the 128k Mac as a birthday present. I took my Mac (packed in its custom brown bag) to my grandparents cottage for the summer and proceeded to spend hours each day tinkering with MacWrite and MacPaint, the only software available at the time. I remember having to swap 3.5-inch floppy disks in and out of the machine 40+ times just to save a file, but it was worth it.

The most valuable Macintosh peripheral: the external floppy drive - Jason O'Grady

I begged my parents to buy me the most in-demand peripheral for the Macintosh at the time: the external 400kb floppy drive (above), to save me from the laborious task of swapping floppies and eventually they found one (not an easy task, mind you) and gave it to me as a present. Later came an ImageWriter dot matrix printer and a few years later an external hard drive. Boy, that was living. I was also lucky enough to attend the first Macworld Expo in Boston and had the thrill of having Bill Atkinson autograph my MacPaint floppy disks. And the rest as they, is history. 

When did you get your first Mac? What was your favorite Mac?

Topic: Apple

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  • Mac 1984

    I wasn't lucky enough to own a Mac for several more years. However, I was fortunate enough to work for a computer retailer not long after the Mac was released.
    • +1 on time to own!

      My first 4 were all second hand.

      My dad bought home an SE without a hard drive around 93 from his office - first family 'computer' then a couple more office rejects including a tangerine ibook and a couple of (less cool, less noteworthy perfoma type things)

      When I went to uni i was able to buy an emac through an educational purchase scheme as my first bought by myself mac.
    • WWW.FB39.COM

      YOu Should open the my name then go to home page for more information
  • Learned to type on a Mac

    I was in 4th grade and our school got a computer lab, full of Macs. I learned to type with some lessons from Beep.

    I would feel terrible if my kids didn't learn to type until 4th grade, but back then it was a big step for our small town school.
  • Expensive but worth every penny

    My first Mac was the IIci which I purchased along with a Laserwriter printer over 20 years ago for $13k. Was an awful lot of money but it allowed me to start a desktop publishing business and learn Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Mac literally changed my life. Thanks Apple and Happy Birthday Mac!
  • Programing the Mac

    My first Mac was a prerelease unit sent to my employer, Sierra On-Line. We had the license to develop "Frogger" for home computers so I got the project. Part of my payment was the computer itself, and I still have it. The development was done on a Lisa, with the Mac as the target. I was even in MacWorld magazine.
  • Yeah, yeah, mac.

    My first mac came to me from my employer in about 1987. It was better than the Selectric, but wasn't great. Took 88K per document. Boss said, "It will take you forever to fill a 30-megabyte drive." Right. When I bought my own computer in 1990, it was a Packard-Bell XT. I've had other work macs since. When I administered a mac lab in the late 1990s, two of twenty macs would always be down. Ten percent fail is pretty bad. And when they abandoned SCSI, they bricked thousands of dollars in peripherals. Not a fan.
    • How storage has changed

      I remember when they introduced the ONE GIGABYTE hard drive!! I was certain you would NEVER, in a MILLION YEARS, would you fill that up. lol How times have changed.
      • I remember buying a 40gb ipod

        Nearly 10 years ago.

        Today i can buy a 16gb one or a 160gb version of the SAME ipod.... Ball. Dropped.

        Then again when i bought my ipod with 40gb it had more storage thn my conputer. To keep up with my latest mac, apple need to release a 512gb ipod.

        (Then again a 120gb ipod classic/nano using flash is so over due it's laughable)
      • I remember thinking that 16MB of mainframe "core" memory was infinite.

        The IBM System/360 came out just as I was entering college. I had gone to a summer program at UF between 11th and 12th grades and learned to program the IBM 709 with FORTRAN via punch cards. When I went back there as a freshman, the 709 was still the primary Computer Center computer, but in my third year they got a 360/50 to augment, then replace the 709. I don't remember how much core it had (probably 750KB to 1MB), but reading the technical manual two years earlier, and finding out the instruction set could ADDRESS as much as 16MB (24 bit addresses) was amazing. The 709 could address, and I believe all of them had, 32K of 36-bit words (15 bit addresses) which contained up to 6 text characters or one number or instruction, which would be about the same size as the University's first Model 50. Of course, the 360 originated the term "byte" in documentation, and grouping the bits in fours rather than threes brought out the hexadecimal notation to replace octal.

        As for DASD space (mainframe hard drives), I have no idea of the numbers involved there, but it was probably in the hundreds of megabytes per disk drive, and a large customer like that probably had one or two dozen drives (with removable, but in that environment, seldom actually removed) disk "packs" resembling an oversized cake pan and cover that could have stacked 5 or 6 large pizzas.

        The laptop on which I am writing this has more RAM than the largest mainframe in the 1960s, probably more disk storage (internal) than the entire computing center in the same period (maybe even more RAM than they had disk STORAGE online). About 90 percent of the extra resources go to the GUI so that I don't have to have a keypunch and card reader to operate it.

        Count your blessings!
      • I used to work at Maxtor and I recall...

        ...when management said we were going to build a 1GB drive in the 1" form factor (what has been the standard 3.5" hard drive for decades). I was thinking "How will we ever pull that off?" Now we're a generation past that. Good times.

        BTW - If anyone wants a trip back into memory lane Ars has a great article on BBS / modem / warez. Highly recommend.
      • OH, the Memories

        I remember spending $500 for a 460MB (yes "M" not "G") hard drive for a 386SX desktop I owned (88-89?) and thought I had gone to heaven. Now we can get a 1TB SSD for less than that!
    • Sounds like you are bad administrator.

      In college we had AT&T labs in the EE department (running Unix) but the CS was mostly Macs. Of the 40 or so they had I remember only one time having one down.
  • Owned one of the first in Michigan

    I worked at a retail store that had just contracted to sell Apple computers just before the Macintosh came out. I was chosen as a Mac salesman and sent to Ann Arbor for special training. It was there they unveiled the Apple Macintosh. Of course none of us had seen anything like it and were just blown away. At the end of the training session, the Apple rep offered the brand new Macintosh and dot matrix AppleWriter printer to all the salespeople there for half off the retail price! I picked up my first Mac and dot matrix printer at a steal at $1200.
  • Good learning experience

    My dad got our first (and, surprisingly, only) Mac in 1985. I don't remember all the detailed specs, but I'll never forget upgrading the RAM some months later - unsoldering and removing the original chips, to replace them with sockets for the new. I just knew I was going to brick the computer and there'd be hell to pay, but happily the patient survived. In the ensuing years, of course, Apple has endeavored to make their machines far more consumer-upgradable but that first experience was intense.
    • Ah yes...

      I was too scared to do the chip replacement myself, so paid someone to do it.

      Loved the power of a full 512K instead of the original 128K!
      Phil Ramsay
  • loved my 1984 iMac

    I bought my first iMac in 1984 just after completing my doctorate, as a present to myself. I don't recall, but I paid full price for iMac, Applewriter, and a box of disks. iMac was upgraded to Fat Mac several months later, all that swapping of disks drove me crazy. After working on an IBM 1800 that took a whole room and day tapes larger than I could comfortably carry, requiring a step ladder for me to reach the power button... and took months of programming to sing Mary Had A Little Lamb, I adored the power of my iMac.
    • Happy Birthday, Macintosh!!

      mrood23, wasn't the iMac released in 1998? If you got a Mac, it would likely have been the original Macintosh, since you bought it in 1984.
    • iMac in 1984?

      No such animal called iMac in 1984
    • Faulty memory?

      The original Macintosh was simply called Macintosh, or Mac for short (no iMac- that was Steve Jobs' coinage when he came back to the company and revamped the product line for 1998). Also, there was no Applewriter. The original Apple printer for the Mac was called the Imagewriter, and Apple's laser printer (which really drove Mac sales in the late 80's) was called the LaserWriter. The 512k Mac WAS nicknamed the Fat Mac, however, so your memory isn't totally gone.