The Mac I Couldn’t Avoid

There’s almost never a time that I can afford a new Mac — but sometimes my hand is forced. And I have to admit that when cruel circumstances absolutely require me to absorb the cost of a pricey new offering from Apple’s computer line no matter how much my bank account groans, it’s a little like having my doctor give me a prescription for three tubs of ice cream a day and sternly admonish me not to dare skip a single dose.
I purchased my first Mac, a PowerMac 9600 that came with 256MB of RAM, a year after Stuck Rubber Baby was published. My Mac mentor David Hutchison predicted that I would quickly be springing for additional memory, and of course he was right. Digital graphics applications chew up RAM like cashews. leaving you always wanting more, more, more!!!

When I told a computer geek neighbor that I was buying a Mac, he looked at me sympathetically and said, "That’s too bad." As if I had told him I had contracted a case of athlete’s foot. We fools who bought Macs as the company was about to plunge over a cliff were going to end up as stranded as early adopters of Betamax VCRs. (It’s hard to believe, but at that point many business pundits were predicting that Apple’s poor market share was a sign that the company was in its death throes. Like the Iraqi insurgency six months ago, according to the Vice Prez.)

But Steve Jobs returned from exile, and soon thereafter the iMac line was born and color began returning to Apple’s cheeks, not to mention the company’s first-generation line of temporarily candy-colored machines. The color calmed down in subsequent iMacs but exciting designs continued. In recent times Apple’s new hit, the iPod, has been hogging the spotlight, but it’s still the company’s elegantly designed and user-friendly computers that make my heart go pitty-pat.

My original PowerMac abruptly stopped working in the year 2000. The Y2K bug had nothing to do with it, I should add; it was nowhere near January 1st when my computer went belly-up. Besides, Apple, unlike Microsoft, hadn’t been complacent about building dates with the wrong number of digits into its computers’ workings. By then a capacity to execute and transmit my artwork electronically had become central to my professional modus operandi, so I had no choice but to order a PowerMac G4 overnight, hoping against hope that it would arrive and be working before any of my clients noticed the work stoppage at Howard Cruse Industries.

My credit card, already burdened by leftover debt from my graphic novel adventures, creaked under the strain, but withdrawing from the digital revolution at that point could only have made things worse. By then, like so many people, I was a slave to pixels.

For more than five years since then my G4 has been a loyal workhorse, absorbing dozens of software upgrades and a scary change of structure in its operating system. It’s contributions to my creative life have been many. But lately, signs of arthritis have been creeping into view.

I’ve jacked up the RAM, optimized everything in sight, and tried to ease the strain by ushering as much data as possible through a FireWire leading to a LaCie external hard drive. But despite all of this, my G4’s speed of processing has been getting more and more halting. Commands from my mouse or keyboard have periodically gone ignored for distressing lengths of time, as if somebody’s hearing was slipping away bit by bit, and overall forgetfulness was perhaps setting in. The possibility of a sudden disabling stroke loomed.

At this point computing power has been so totally integrated into my professional life that I have dared not risk even a few days of digital paralysis. Clearly my G4 needed to retire to a simpler life, with the torch of productivity being passed to something more youthful and vigorous. The matter was being taken out of my hands.

Hence the new iMac now sitting on my desk. Boo hoo. Poor me. I can’t afford it, really!

But boy, is that 20" display screen roomy.

About Howard

I'm a cartoonist and writer, best known for my graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, and my comic strip from the 1980s, Wendel.
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