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ATPM 18.05
May 2012





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Segments: Slices from the Macintosh Life

by David Ozab,

About My Particular Macintoshes

1999: the last year of the last century—or not, depending on where you start counting—was the year I bought my first Mac and wrote my first Segments piece for ATPM. Apple was still in transition in 1999. Steve Jobs had returned to the fold a mere three years earlier, and the iMac had put Apple back in the forefront of personal computing for the first time in a decade. The nadir of Apple had passed, and the once-beleaguered company was on its way back to financial success and cultural dominance. This path has been chronicled in many publications including this one, and now as the run of ATPM draws to a close, I offer my own look back: at three great computers and at one great publication.

Macintosh the First: Blue-and-White G3 (1999–2003)

The desktop that ended the reign of the “beige box.” I remember the condescending remarks when the Blue-and-White G3 first came out: “Isn’t it cute? It looks like an iMac!” I also remember wanting one as soon as I saw it. I’d worked for years on beige boxes—in studios and in computer labs—going all the way back to the Mac SE in 1987, and to be honest I was sick of beige. Such a bland color; unworthy of an operating system as innovative as the Mac OS and a company as innovative as Apple. But then again, beige might have been the perfect color for the Sculley-era Apple. Bland, boring, and passé. The future was Windows: every bit as boring, but a whole lot cheaper. Then came the iMac.

I loved the look of the iMac—think different, look different, be different—but I had no interest in buying one. I wanted to interface with external audio hardware, and in 1999 that required PCI slots. The G3 had three, and I was hooked. I also had money—a rarity for a grad student—and was looking to buy my first computer and spend less than 12 hours a day on campus. I bought it that summer through the University Bookstore, and saw a lot less of the Music School’s computer lab after that. I can’t say I missed it.

The Blue-and-White G3 was my computer through the rest of graduate school, and it was a great computer for its time: a 350 MHz PPC CPU, with a 6 GB HD, 1 GB RAM (maxed out), and an internal Zip drive. I added a MIDIMan multichannel PCI sound card and I was set. The G3 got me through school, gave me the means to create my first CD, and was a bridge to my involvement with ATPM.

I never would have joined the ATPM staff—or probably even become a regular reader—without a Mac of my own. Yet in the fall of 1999, I was given a platform to voice my opinion on what at the time seemed like a pressing issue: floppy disk authorization.

By the way, this is point at which anyone under the age of twenty asks: “What’s a floppy disk?”

Following the success of the iMac, the Blue-and-White G3 was the first “professional” desktop computer to dispose of this formerly ubiquitous but outdated peripheral device. Looking back, it’s a wonder why it took this long. 1.4 MB of storage? Really?

The good news—for those of us who owned boxes of 3-1/4-inch floppies—was that a market for external USB floppy drives quickly sprung up to meet the demand. They even came in color schemes designed to match the new iMacs and G3s. The bad news—for those of us who also owned software requiring key disks—was that key disks didn’t work on external floppy drives. Of course, companies quickly solved the problem, as nothing motivates a business more than the possibility of lost sales.

The best news—for me—I got my first Segments piece published, which led to more segments and, after a few months, a regular column. For a musician who’d never written anything for public consumption beyond college term papers and program notes, it was a big opportunity. For the editors of ATPM, it was a big chance on someone they didn’t really know, and I am grateful to them for giving me that chance.

Macintosh the Second: PowerMac G4 (2003–2009)

“A New Computer, a New Column, a New Life.” That’s how I described the transition I made in 2003. I left school, I got engaged, and I bought a new computer to replace my hard-working but outdated G3. A PowerMac G4: Dual 1 GHz CPU, 80 GB HD, 512 MB RAM (expanded to 2 GB within the year), and a fan that sounded like a jet at takeoff: “WOOSH!” It was nicknamed the “Windtunnel,” but it was the one G4 that would dual boot into Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X—and I owned a lot of legacy software purchased at student pricing—so I traded quiet for convenience.

It was a transitional computer, and I was in a transitional phase myself. I was still writing music and still working in digital audio, but I was also designing Web pages and editing video. I was looking to teach with my degree, but I was also looking to create and make money at it if I could. The change of my column title most clearly reflected that. Beyond the Barline took an old computing paradigm—“beyond the box”—and placed in in the context of music: a “barline” separates measures of notated music. The Desktop Muse envisioned the computer as a creative tool regardless of the medium. From 2003 to 2005, I explored that concept both in life and in writing.

Then I became a father, and I had a whole new set of priorities. My time was far less my own, and I had to sacrifice some old commitments to make way for new ones. So I left ATPM at the end of 2005. I never expected to return.

Macintosh the Third: MacBook Intel Core Duo (2008—Present)

But I was still a Mac user, and when the time came to replace the G4 I looked in a whole new direction: portability. My daughter was two by this point, and I was out with her a lot more than when she was a baby. Having a laptop at hand was more than a convenience: it was a tether to the rest of the world and a means to maintain sanity. It also provided a platform for a new career direction.

In the last ten years, I had transitioned from graduate student to freelance composer, Web designer, and videographer to stay-at-home dad. Now I was beginning another transition: to writer. In 2009, I got the crazy idea to write a book, and I had the tool to do it: my MacBook.

2.4 GHz Intel Core Duo, 160 GB HD, and 2 GB of RAM (which I haven’t needed to expand yet, though I’m thinking about it). It became my portable office—going wherever I needed to go—and my laptop muse. That would’ve made a great name for a column, but when I approached ATPM last year—looking for another outlet for my writing —I didn’t ask for a column. I already had a blog where I could rant as much as I wanted. Instead, I asked to write reviews. I always enjoyed writing reviews for ATPM, and it seemed like a good opportunity to expand my clips.

And they gave me that opportunity once again. For the last year, I’ve written a review about every two or three months. I’ve wanted to do more, but I have so many writing commitments now that it’s hard to fit them all in. I had hoped to do more, but neither I nor the publishers and editors at ATPM knew a year ago that this would be the last year of the publication.

The Future?

I’m not sure what it holds. I am hoping to get at least another year—possibly two—out of this laptop, which is why I’m considering doubling the RAM. Even after that, it might work well as a first Mac for my daughter. She currently has a rebuilt HP desktop at home, but uses both iMacs and iPads at school. By the time she’s ready to move up—and old enough to be responsible for a laptop of her own—I may be looking to buy. Who knows?

As for ATPM, this is the right time and the right way to bring it to a close. It’s been an amazing run: 17 years, of which I was present for a six-year stint at the turn of the last decade and then another year toward the beginning of this one. I’m glad I had a chance to make a contribution, however small, to this excellent publication.

I’m hoping for something new to take its place. The monthly e-zine format that was so cutting-edge in 1995 has reached the end of its days as a model for an online publication. I’d love to see a blog—and I know I’m not alone here—but it’s up to the community as a whole—the publisher, editors, contributors, and readers—to decide together what if anything will come next.

No matter what, though, we’ll always have the archives and the memories.

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