December. Every time I headed from bed to bath, the Mac glowered at me. Always on (it made a handy night light), but rarely acknowledged. Having been brought down by pneumonia in the middle of frantically marketing a book, writing one too many columns and trying, single-handedly, to set up a Mac lab in my new school, the computer had become less a friend than a bedside guilt machine.
“Checked your email yet?” Mac nagged as I stumbled past at midnight. “And what about that deadline? It’s almost the 10th!” I would shut my eyes and hurry past.
On the way back, Mac would catch my eye again. “You haven’t been on-line for days,” it would whisper as I fell into to bed. “Don’t you want to know what Steve has up his sleeve? What’s new for the iMac? What rumors are buzzing the Net? Don’t you even care what Microsoft is up to?”
“NO!” I would groan, pulling the pillow over my head, only to fall asleep with fever dreams of lost sales and bits of unwritten columns pursuing me through the night.
Surely, I thought, once this is over, I will get back on track. Hang out on the web. Write happy Mac stuff. But no. Writer’s block had set in with a vengeance. When the doctor said major surgery was going to be necessary, my first thought was (I kid you not), “Well at least I’ll have an excuse for not writing!”
After surgery, the Mac continued to light my way through the night, though more cheerfully now that I’d remembered screen savers were more soothing–and a lot less accusing–than a blank face with an AOL dialog box. But, except for occasionally switching from Fish! Pro to Swirling Magic, five minute stints at the keyboard to check out email were all I could manage.
Worse, they were all I cared to manage. The heart had gone out of computers. They were simply big plastic boxes taking up space and daring me to engage. I still enjoyed contact with friends via email. And the support of the My Mac staff was wonderful. It made all the difference in those dark days. But the thrill was gone.
Why had I spent the last five years glued to the Mac? Why had every penny I owned, and quite a few I didn’t, found their way into software, hardware, books and magazines–not to mention the trips to far away places to stock up on more software, hardware, books and magazines?
Since I wasn’t currently teaching, there was no incentive to make nifty projects for my students. And when it came to writing, I found I had nothing to say. Oh, I might have written something witty about the joys of hanging from a cavernous belly-board, supported only by breastbone and incision line, during interminable treatments. But when it came to computers, even the Mac, I was running on empty.
Then one morning our preschooler said he wanted to read. He wanted a book just for him. To read by himself. Read? In my heyday, I could teach a stone to read! But all my carefully made materials were packed away in the basement–on the top shelf.
Well, maybe my little homemade readers were out of reach, but not my Mac. Waiting patiently inside HyperStudio were the templates I’d used, not to mention the shoe boxes full of stickers I’d scanned into my own private clip art for kids.
And so, for the first time in months, I sat down at the Mac and actually used it. Not to write about it or to worry about it, but to do the things that make Macs great.
What a joy to find the Scrapbook full of the tidbits that had once made my daily computing a breeze. Arrowing through, my life passed before my eyes. (I tend to move old scrapbooks from one computer to another which really helps keep the past alive.) There was my capital ‘I’ (the one with a nice top and bottom, so as not to be confused with 1’s and L’s) in three handy sizes just waiting to be cut and pasted into primary readers.There were old URLs mixed in with email addresses, pictures of last year’s class, Christmas and Mother’s Day mockups from ’95 to ‘98 and, of course, photos of the grandsons at various ages. A real scrapbook.
Screen Shots and SimpleText–how does anyone get along without them? My hard drive fills with quick snips of email, web stuff, columns in progress and work that needs to be temporarily stored or moved from one program to another. Every now and then I have a grand clean up, opening, reviewing and discarding megabytes of picts no longer needed.
But when it comes to the simplicity of moving things from one program to another, it’s hard to beat the Mac with it’s classic Clipboard. Windows may have a clipboard of sorts, even long file names (and it’s about time), but I have never found it possible to coordinate multiple, unrelated programs to build a stand alone project without using the Mac. Even I, the eternal Desktop Dilettante, am able to slip things in and out of HyperStudio, ColorIt, PrintShop, ClarisWorks and assorted clip art packages to make great stuff for the kids. I felt like a pro from Day One. Well, maybe Day Two.
As I began designing the booklets for Little Squirt, I found myself marveling once again at the convenience of desktop duplicates and aliases; the pleasure of personalized labels and icons; the ease of just plugging in scanner, Zip Drive, Wacom Pad, and three external hard drives. There was the joy of rummaging through all those drives to find half-forgotten files–just where I expected them. And oh, the power of being able to fill those extra megabytes with CDs running straight from the hard drive. Try that with Windows.
You may guess from this that I am not yet an iMac-er and still find 7.6.1 just right for my needs. But whatever the machine or the System used, it’s hard not to find a good friend in the Mac. (Pesky, infuriating little demons they so often are!) I may never again find Apple’s rumors as enticing or the Microsoft saga so irresistible. I may not even buy an iMac.
But once my fingers find the keyboard, I just can’t keep from falling in love all over again.