Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Despair and 10 Salutes

Today I must mourn the passing of a dear friend - my old Mac 4400/200 PC Compatible. It has served me well, loyally and effectively, since somewhere in the vicinity of September 1997. I have invoked this delightful machine before - in this paeon to Word 5.1 namely - for good cause. I have blogged from it, once or twice! It was - until this week - still rolling along.

It was a matter of time, of course. All it needed was something like what happened this week - a blown fuse - and now, it won't do a thing. No life. That is typical - these machines, macs from the mid to late 90s, were notorious for that very problem. Actually, for two problems - losing the ability to power up, and hard drives that stop spinning. This is the second 4400 in my experience to suffer this fate - the power supplies stop working.

I may get it back someday - or find a working chassis and move the hard drive... But I am resigned to accepting the end. I loved this machine, as much as one can love a machine. I have not used it in the last year - this one (17 inch i-mac - another fairly wonderful machine, that has given me no trouble and better, is a positive work of art) is actually fast enough that I can stand to use it for routine word processing. Amazing. Anyway, in honor of the passing of this wonderful machine, I will post my top 10 favorite pieces of computer related hardware and software. Appalling sentimentality! but if you can't be sentimental at a time like this, when can you be?

1. Microsoft Word 5.1b - this is number 1. Other than spelling, it is still the best word processing program I have ever used. I would probably still prefer it to Word for OS X if it had comparable spelling and macro features. Hell, it had them, back, pre OS 7 or 7.5, or something - somewhere in there, the add ins I was using stopped working. That was when I had to move to another machine to be able to spell... But even without it - it ran on that 4400 as well as Word for X runs on this machine - and probably (with its complete customizability and its magnificent full text searching) had a better feature set. It is by far the best piece of software I know of.

2. Mac 4400 - this machine lasted 7 years. I used it for 3 years at work, then brought it home (we switched to Windows), and used it 4 more - 3 of those years as my main writing computer. I switched tot he internet on other machines maybe about 2001 - but used the 4400 to write on. Great machine. Reliable, fast... it did have power problems sometimes, so I left it running all this time... I knew it could not last forever. I managed to wean myself from it okay - but I will miss it. And - it had word 5.1 on it - and I will miss that more.

3. Mac II-ci: I had one of these for a couple years at work. Most of those early 80s macs had their issues - some because of their architecture (something about their bus capacities, I think); some had bad hard disks, some had unreliable power supplies.... This machine did not give me trouble. I beat on it - I crammed everything I could get into it, used it hard - the system got corrupted every 6 months or so and I would have to reinstall everything - that was a fact of life in those days. But the machine - wonderful thing. Reliable, and probably just as quick with word 5.1 as the machine I have now is. I had to give it up when the powermacs came out - I was disappointed. Partly because I knew that getting the first powermacs off the line meant I would have all the problems, and be the last one to get a new, good one - but partly just because I loved my CI.

4. I have to give props to what I have, though - this 17 inch i-mac is perfectly reliable, and by god - it is beautiful! It really is. Every couple years apple comes out with something just stunning. This is the model. And it works.

5. Powerbook 170 - these were sweet machines as well - great keyboards, reliable, sturdy. I still have one, sitting around somewhere. Unlike my beloved 4400, it still boots up. And runs word like a charm. Surprise surprise!

6. Compaq Armada: There is not much in the windows side of the world that I think is even remotely worth using - but this machine is one. Looks like one of those old PB170s - black, blocky, kind of heavy, but indestructible, reliable, powerful enough. You can’t break them. Great computers. And the last machine of any importance with both floppy and CD bays built in. There are times, even now... Thank you Compaq!

7. SE30. Indestructible little things, quick, functional, and you could get a real monitor on it with a little work. But even without it - those luggable macs had some merits. I would not turn one down now.

8. My new 12 inch powerbook. I know. I love it. Sorry. Tiny, sleek, quick, beautiful. Wonderful machine.

9. Hypercard - this is one I would have to think about some. But when I started using computers - macs - at the end fo the 80s - this was a hell of a program. You could do things with hypercard - I remember building my own spreadsheets, back when I was starting out, and didn't have excel for some reason. I built databases that still work better than databases built in access. It was a great piece of software... I did end up using it mostly to build databases - these days, File Maker has a lot of the same functionality and works about as well - efficient, quick, reliable, easy to work with. I don't know if I can put FileMaker here, but it has a lot of the same appeal. Especially compared to crap like Access.

10. Mosaic. Less because it was a perfect piece of software than because it did things that pretty fucking literally changed the world. The way we interact with the world. Obviously, the way you and me right now are interacting in the world. There may be software that did this back in the 80s - excel maybe - but since I started using computers, this is the one program that, single-handedly, just changed things. And hey - it worked. It did what it did.

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