Page last updated at 15:05 GMT, Friday, 23 January 2009

My memories of the Macintosh

By Andrew Webb
BBC Technology Video Producer

Macintosh 512
The first Macintosh computers cost nearly 1,840 ($2,495) when released in September 1984.

This week sees the twenty-fifth anniversary of the launch of the first Macintosh and I was, more by accident than choice, one of the earlier adopters.

My college - the University of Westminster - had created a sophisticated computer lab, stacked out with the cube machines. Back then, this was cutting edge stuff.

In our first week, we were taught how to use a word processor and then print via a network. It felt like a real privilege to be in a world of cut-and-paste and spell checking.

It was not that computers were a new concept to me. I was the proud owner of an Amstrad PCW 8512 and it saw good service during my A-Levels. But once at university Alan Sugar's household PC was not up to the job.


MSN UK's technology editor Jane Douglas, who also turned 25 this year, pits her PC against an early Mac.

Essays were, on average, five pages long but as the floppy disks could only store three pages, a typical report was split between two disks.

I would plot changes using a pen and paper before an excruciating job of editing between disks ensued.

Things that we take for granted, such as the near instantaneous saving of documents, were 20 minute affairs back then.

You can imagine how the row of Macs at the Central London campus seemed like a godsend.

Amstrad PCW8512
The Amstrad PCW8512 was known as Joyce, the secretary of Amstrad founder Alan Sugar.

Mac meltdown

Then came the dissertations.

All seemed perfect until 10 days before the deadline, when something went badly wrong. Every time you saved a file it corrupted and became unreadable.

I had invented a safety system of leaving a disk with small files at home every day, so I only lost a small amount of work.

But some of my fellow students had just one file named "dissertation" stored on the network. It did not end well.

Amstrad rescue

So my trusty Amstrad came to the rescue, as I printed book references, title pages and credits over the course of 10 hours on a dot matrix printer.

The MacBook Pro is the first Mac notebook to use an Intel processor
The MacBook Pro is the first Mac notebook to use an Intel processor.

My Amstrad also proved highly desirable as a replacement for the typewriter that Chiltern Radio provided for my first job.

Lugging it around Southern England was a hassle. I once had to sing the hold music on my telephone to some rather suspicious policemen to prove I wasn't stealing from my own house at 3am.

What a far cry from today's sleek and inconspicuous Macbooks and Vaios.

Mind you, as I write, I'm waiting for Windows XP to reinstall on a brand new laptop that won't boot.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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