My First Mac: Winning Essays Here (Contest for iWoz Book, Media Creds)

On the Apple Macintosh’s 30th birthday, editor Gina Smith asked her circles on Google+ to write My First Mac essays, stories or poems. Any style. Winners here … and we’re taking entries all day long. Click inside to see where to send your entry and to find out how to win the signed iWoz book and get aND writing gig prizes. You need 50 to 500 words in any literary form. Happy Mac Day! — Jan. 24, 2014 marks the 30th anniversary of Apple’s release of the original Apple Macintosh. After I read our Jerry Pournelle’s bittersweet memories of that first machine today, I kicked off our first annual My First Mac essay writing contest.

Here’s the deal. You write about your first Mac — in any writing style — and send your 75- to 500-word entry to me. All winners are eligible to join our blogging and/or our paid reporting staff here at aNewDomain.netThey’ll also get an autographed copy of my book, the biography of Apple co-founder and inventor Steve Wozniak iWoz: How I Invented the Personal Computer and Had Fun Doing It (Norton, 2005/2013). At this writing our winners, mostly drawn for our Google+ committee are: Maninder Singh Kumar NewDelhi, India; Brant David McLaughlin New Jersey, U.S., Sue S. Brown of Alabama, U.S.;  Marco Barsotti of Nice, France and Bob Amos, another aNewDomain reader from New Jersey, U.S. 

Got the writing itch? You still have 12 or so hours to get those entries in. Just pop them to me on Google+ via my +Gina Smith account. I’m reading them all.

The first winning entry is from Maninder Singh Kumar, a Google+ contact who caught my post at 4 a.m. in the United States from his desk across the world in New Delhi, where it was early Friday evening. Within an hour he sent me the tour-de-force below. Mandy Kumar, we should add, describes himself as a 10-year IT veteran with a passion for renewable energy — and writing. That bio sounds perfect for aNewDomain, does it not? Let’s get on with it.

Got a Light, Mac?

by Maninder Singh Kumar

There must have been a million things that shot through my head that day — graphics, editing and video.  I was fresh here and waiting for a chance to show my skills, I walked over to a friends house at 3 Rofant Road, in this sparsely populated area of London. Suddenly there were noises all over. A party, maybe?

I thought: This will rest my mind. It’ll bring peace to all the things running in my head. Maybe this was what I needed — a quiet “in-house” party with friends.

Inside, there was drinks pouring from everywhere.

“Drinks NOT allowed, drinks NOT allowed, this is Krishna’s house,” some girl screamed from nowhere.

But nobody was listening. Yet I wasn’t drunk and I heard her.

applecontestpic2So I poured a drink and walked out of the house with Bhavesh, who was busy tapping on a laptop.

“Mac ?” I asked.

It was the first Mac I’d ever seen. It was beautiful, a slick white piece with an emblem across it.

“Apple MacBook Pro,” he said with a smile. It was a proud smile.


I looked at him and tapped my hand across on the back panel.  Here where we stood outside on the porch, a large tabby walked across our paths with its tail in the air.

“Meow,” she said.

That’s when Bhavesh opened up his Mac to point at the brightly lit up screen. It had a purple background with psychedelic designs on it. Bhavesh and I considered ourselves to be artists. We appreciated the finer points of a computer design more than we thought other people did. The words that came to my mind next were: “ease of use.”

I said them.

And so Bhawesh showed me the designs he had created on the machine. They were gorgeous, as gorgeous as this large house and as gorgeous as this computer he’d just introduced to me. Our drinks forgotten, we set about exploring this new machine. — essay and photos by Maninder Singh Kumar of New Delhi, special to …

Another winning entry comes from a Milford, NJ writer, Brant David McLaughlin.


by Brant David McLaughlin

I recall my father and step-mother buying a new Mac. It was 1984 or 1985 and they paid, if I recall accurately, $4,600 for it.

The 13 or 14-year-old boy who I was had not yet remembered his future as a writer. So none of the word processing or related programs on it meant much to me at the time.

But I was enthralled by the super advanced chess game software on that Mac. 

A few years later — it was 1987 — I was a little closer to remembering tomorrow. That’s when I read Faerie Tale by Raymond E. Feist, still my favorite horror story. The father in the story was a professional author who had made it big. And he used a Mac for writing — and for playing Zorn. I became a lot more interested in the power of the Mac — and in WordPerfect — then.

But to this day, I still have never owned a Mac. — Brant David McLaughlin

Here’s another winner — this one from Nice, France-based Marco Barsotti. On his Google + page, he describes himself as a strategic planner, marketing executive, senjor numerisateur and “FinalCtPro” user. He sure can write. His essay came in untitled, but I’ll have to take creative liberty here and give his a title. It needs one.

How I Built a Better Mac with Aladdin

by Marco Barsotti

My first encounter with a Mac was on the Atari. 

Aladdin was its name.

Yes, we all knew about the magic of the Mac back then. After all, we all read BYTE. But where was the $2,500 — anzi, cinque milioni di lire! — to get one? Nowhere.

But a beautiful $799 machine already existed: This was the Atari 520 ST. It was stylish. In my opinion, it looked more beautiful than the Mac. And it had a larger screen and a smarter all-in-the keyboard design. Software was good, though less elegant than Apple’s Bill Atkinson/Andy Hertzfeld so-called “system.”
And the Mac was the machine to own. What to do?
Fortunately, it turned out that the Mac and the Atari used the same exact processor.
So the solution was simple. Let’s get an emulator!

There were two possibilities here. The first one — the “legal” one –needed something called “MAC ROMS.” Apparently, that’s tech with Atkinson’s Quickdraw routines on it.

But those were impossible to get. We would have had to have bought a real Mac, take it apart and then use its “ROM” for the emulator, which would have brought the total cost up to $3,299.

But the second solution — I still don’t know why — did not need the ROMs.
You just copied this “Aladdin” thing onto 3.5-inch floppies. I got mine by personally heading to a friend of mine’s house in downtown Milano. That lucky guy was equipped with two — count them, two! — floppy drives. Then I just fired it up. I had to wait for the Aladdin lamp to disappear and, then, insert an “original(..) “system disc.”
And … wow. It was a Mac.
But this Mac was faster then the Mac — really.
It had more screen real estate.
Plus Microsoft Word.
And the Red Ryder.
And the Talking Moose.
Happiness was easy to grab back then. — Marco Barsotti.
Moving on, at 10:30 PT, an hour and a half  from deadline, Mantua, NJ-based aNewDomain reader Bob Amos zinged me an email containing what he said was his rapid write-up of My First Mac essay contest entry. He just caught my message about it on Google+ minutes before. Wow, you’ve gotta love the 11th hour stuff.  Shows to go you that deadline writing often delivers powerful results. Like all winners, he’s getting a signed copy of the Steve Wozniak biography I wrote — and an opportunity, if he wants it, join us at aNewDomain. Here goes.

Ode to My RISC-Based 1990s Era Mac PowerPC: Because It Just Worked, Really

by Bob Amos

The Apple Store geniuses always exalt their wares by saying “It just works!” And considering the premium dollars I’ve lai out for a huge array of Apple computers and gadgets over the years, it darn well better.

Over the past three decades, I have owned three Macs, two Airport devices, an Apple iPod Nano, and three Apple iPhones — one a replacement due to a water mishap.
But it all began with one Macintosh: a beige 1990-era Macintosh PowerPC 6500.The Macintosh PowerPC 6500 was a fun machine. I bought it fro the now defunct ComputerTown, which was located somewhere in New Hampshire. I bought it during the pre-Steve Jobs comeback era, too. USB,  Firewire and OS 9 were on the horizon, but the Mac PowerPC 6500 pulled me in by its unbelievably cheap price, bundled software and an HP printer, too.
But get this: It also came with a small footprint Visionneer SCSI sheet feed scanner, elegantly tucked in between the monitor and keyboard.
As always, I ditched the included one-button mouse and ordered an Orbit Trackball. Hey, I’m cutting edge.
And there’s more. This incredible value of a PowerPC had twin stereo speakers and a sub-woofer built into the CD tower. It only ran System 8.5. So no iTunes.But you know what? Its included Mech Warrior 2 CD-ROM looked and sounded awesome!
The beige, RISC-based tower system eventually did became quite limited. But what it did, it did exceedingly well.applecontestpic3It took a little while longer for me to get the beige box on the so-called  “information super highway,” as the media called the Internet at the time.
This was due to limitations on our 1990s-era household phone lines. But the good news is that it all changed when the original Airport Base Station touched down.
Remember wireless dial-up? No, it’s better to forget that. But here’s my final point — and that gets up pretty much up to date in current times.
This past August I took a phone call to finalize summer baseball weekend plans — it was just a phone call — but I returned to my desk aghast. There was that dreaded flashing yellow light on my Apple Time Capsule.
The slow, noisy, rather hot beige Mac PowerPC I leaned on so long did serve me well.
It shepherded smooth system migration from a Powerbook 17 to my current Powerbook 15 in MacBook Pro SSD — with a wireless backup even.
But I wanted to maintain my present Airport network while awaiting replacement equipment on order.
So yes, for a just a few days, myAirport “Flying Saucer” flew once more.
My trusty beige tower, that early 90s Macintosh PowerPC with RISC-ADB-SCSI technology that I loved so much is pretty much gone. It’s just sitting in the attic gathering dust.
But the Apple Airport UFO, with those three, weird, tiny white flashing lights brought back memories of my first real Mac.
Did it just work? Pre Steve Jobs return, it did.
And the PowerPC lived up to the insufferable slogan, too. It did just work.
And in some ways, I bet it still does. — Bob Amos
Pictured above left: The original Airport Base Station temporarily pressed into action this past summer. Doing double duty. Credit: Bob Amos
And, as we get closer to the deadline, here’s another winning entry to inspire you to get yours under the wire. This one is from It consultant Sue S. Brown in Alabama. It’s got panache to spare. Check it out below.

The Day My Boyfriend Drowned My Mac

by Sue S. Brown

The year was 1986, I think.

I was working as a copywriter at an ad agency in Miami. All was going great except for three things. Maybe four.

One, my IBM Selectric at home was lousy at churning out the amount of jewelry store brochure copy I needed to bring in to work every day. I didn’t type well and my bipolar boss demanded crystal clean typewritten pages with no Whiteout.

Second, I didn’t have money to buy a computer for my home. I used one at work, though. Everyone was telling me I needed to get an IBM PC with WordStar. I had no cash for anything outside of my weekly daquiri allowance, and that allowance was growing necessarily bigger with every week I spent working for my crazy boss.

And third, I had this incredibly-jealous boyfriend who was positive I was dating a copywriter at the agency. It was true I hung around my co-worker a lot. He was an older guy — 30s, probably — and he was teaching me the ropes of jewelry brochure copywriting. How many ways can you describe a pair of diamond stud earrings? There are and must be endless ways if one is to keep her $12K-a-year job.

I befriended this mentor at my peril, though. My raging boyfriend was sure the friendship really disguised a secret romance. Nothing I said could convince him otherwise. And he was starting to show up at work — to stake my co-worker out, maybe.

So there I was. Worried about my job, my friend, and … well, mostly my job. But there was nothing I could do to convince my boyfriend I wasn’t involved with my copyediting genius of a writing coach. When I told my boyfriend the copyeditor was helping me keep my job, that only made my boyfriend madder.

Enter the Mac. Literally. One hot rainy Miami day, unannounced, my co-worker showed up at my un-air conditioned apartment with something giant wrapped up with towels.

“It’s called a Macintosh,” he said cheerfully, as he unwrapped the components. “Now you’ll be able to fix all your copy at home — right in the word processor — and then show it to me before you turn it around.”

The two of us set up the Mac and we admired the parts. Basically, it was the Mac itself, the keyboard and a mouse. “Thank me later,” he added, “for saving your job.”

He left just in time. Minutes later, as I was poking around on this thing trying to work the CTRL, ALT and DELETE keys — and where the DOS prompt went to no avail — my jealous boyfriend walks in. I had just rearranged the chassis part of the Mac to where I liked it and the keyboard to a comfortable typing position, and at the same time I was wondering what a smiley face was doing on the screen.

My boyfriend looked at the computer and grimaced. He was suspicious, and a giant red vein started throbbing on his over-sized neck.

I think fast.

“It’s called a Macintosh,” I say.

But my voice sounded too bright and false in my ears. It sounded like a fake, formal introduction of something I’ve yet to fully grasp. And who made this Mac? Was it Commodore? Atari? The name escaped me. But now was not the time to ponder.

I continued, “Joe gave it to me to help with writing the — ”

And that’s when it happened. My boyfriend dumped his full 7-11 Super Big Gulp Diet Coke right onto the top of the Mac, as its weird smiling face stared plaintively on the screen. He kept pouring the Diet Coke onto the display — the entire cup.

The face kept smiling.

Then my boyfriend walked into the bathroom, fished water out of the toilet with his Big Gulp cup, and poured that on.

The face kept smiling, and I wondered why my IBM PC clone at work never had a smiling face. Just the prompt. And Wordstar. And dir *.* readings whenever I lost a file, which was often. But never mind. My boyfriend had drowned the computer. He kept yelling at me and the Mac.

It finally tuckered him out, I guess. “Say you won’t be taking any apples from this guy,” he said. I replied nothing because, oddly, that smiley face was still up. What was up with that?

At this point I am torn between worrying about how I am going to explain an expensive broken computer to the co-worker helping me keep my job and pondering what I just realized. Apple. That was it. It was the Apple Macintosh, people. The computer was an Apple Mac. I knew that.

No wonder I couldn’t find a DOS prompt on that thing. I’d heard Macs hid the DOS prompt from you. All menus and stuff.

But back to my story. Finally my boyfriend stomped out. Smiley face? Still up.

I was afraid to turn the computer off because the smiley face was still on there. And that Mac actually kept running for two more days — maybe longer. I don’t know. It worked until I unplugged it.

In the end, I got nervous and wrapped up the components in the towels they arrived in and carried them outside to the parking lot. I tucked them into the back seat of my old 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. All the parts fit great on the floorboard. Like they were made for it. They sat plush up against the velour of the seat.

The excuse I gave Joe, my co-worker, was that I just couldn’t get used to an Apple system after using a PC at work. Too hard! He nodded with pity and understanding.

“A lot of PC users say that,” he said. “It’s okay.” He grabbed the Mac, the keyboard and the mouse, popped them into his Honda and drove off.

So the drowning came off without a hitch. And I didn’t lose my job.

I did end up buying — but this was later — a PC XT used, off the back of some guy’s truck for $800. It had a 20MB hard disk and ran a game called Typing Horse that vastly improved my typing. And it ran Wordstar beautifully.

Funny, but Joe never mentioned if the Mac eventually failed in the short time I knew him after that. I think, actually, he didn’t speak to me much after he drove away in the Mac-filled Honda. The Mac should have died, I know now, with all that liquid poured onto it. Maybe the water my boyfriend poured onto the Mac — after the Diet Coke — somehow cleansed it? Maybe the lack of a fan combined with my hot apartment burned it all off? You know, like maybe it dried it up before it corroded the wires or magically just no liquid touched a working circuit during the initial pourings?

I’ll never know the long term outcome.

A month later, I was transferred to Atlanta and I never saw either Joe or my vengeful, Mac-drowning ex-boyfriend again. Good riddance. 

But the Mac was cool for those first few minutes. I didn’t dare type with it with all that liquid on it and possibly in it. But it was strange and different and new. It was compact. And it smiled.

Not that it matters, but I’ve been a PC user since 1988. I never use a Mac. Though I’m struggling now with Windows 8 and thinking about moving my shop to Linux … but that’s a story for another contest, right?



UPDATING. You have till midnight –12 a.m. PT — to get your essays in. We’ll pick the best ones, with no limit on the number. Close-but-no-cigar winners will get a free aNewDomainTV t-shirt and another chance some other day …

Good luck. You need not be present to win! For, I’m Gina Smith.

Gina Smith is the New York Times best-selling author of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s memoir, iWoz Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer and Had Fun Doing It (W.W. Norton, 2005/2007/2012). With John C. Dvorak and Jerry Pournelle, she is the editorial director at Email her at, check out her Google + stream here or follow her @ginasmith888.