Monday, November 27, 2006

My first Macintosh Computer

I've been programming computers since 1980, starting with a class at RadioShack learning BASIC on TRS-80 Model IIIs. Those machines pack a whopping 2 MHz of processing power, but it was enough to amaze me (hell, I was 7, so lots of things amazed me!) Over my 26 years of working with computers, I've accomplished lots of things over a wide variety of areas -- I've programmed in a dozen different languages including BASIC, 6502, Z80 and MIPS assembly languages, Pascal, C, C++, Java, Perl, Awk, Sed, Python, Ruby, Smalltalk, Haskell, Miranda, CLP(R), Prolog, Scheme, Lisp, JavaScript, XSLT, and others that I can't even remember. I've published in both industry magazines (e.g., Compute's Gazette, Run, InformIT) and in top tier international conferences and academic journals (e.g., WWW Conference, UIST, IEEE DCC, Software Practice and Experience, AAAI, TOCHI, IEEE Transacations on Software Engineering). For Google, I've built systems that are used by millions of people, and led teams that are responsible for a huge portion of the online performance advertising market. But one thing I've never done is own an Apple Macintosh computer...

There's never been any compelling reason not to buy Macs, I just always found the raw computer performance of PCs more appealing to my sense of value than the premium that Apple forces consumers to pay for their glitzy white machines. I should clarify that I've used Macs a bit here and there through my professional career. Perhaps most notably I taught Algorithms and Data Structures to a great bunch of junior high-school students at Johns Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth using Macs back in the summer of 1993.

Two primary changes in technology made me finally consider the Mac as a viable alternative purchase. First, Mac's OS X, first released in 2001 (so I'm still behind the game) is based on BSD Unix -- finally, a real operating system on top of which all the great UI features are built. I've been a Linux nut since 1993, so OS X, at least under the hood, is already very familiar to me. Second, Apple finally switched to using Intel x86 processors in the Mac. This more recent change means that I can dual- or triple- boot the other OSs I care about on the same machine -- if I decide the Mac is not for me, I'll just install a new GNU/Linux distribution to play with or try Windows Vista in the spring. That means there's no risk of the new machine becoming a doorstop like my Commodore Vic-20 became 20 years ago when my mother bought a Commodore 128.

So, this past long holiday weekend, CyberMonday came early to me, and I decided to order my first Apple Macintosh computer -- a decked out Mac Mini I accessorized with a TV tuner, a 23" HD CinemaDisplay monitor, a .5TB external drive, and a MIDI cables to USB adapter so I can plug in my music keyboard, too. Apple still hasn't sent me confirmation of the mini shipping, but everything else is on its way, and I'll report back here later about my first experiences.

No comments: