My Email Is Blushing

It was the summer of ’97 and the Mac world was in turmoil. Everywhere we turned someone was pronouncing another death sentence on the world’s best-loved computer. I was still fairly new to the Internet, though I had fallen in love with the Mac a few years before when, after a decade of keeping computers at bay, an LCIII wormed its way into my classroom.

It was, of course, love at first sight. And by Christmas of ’94, I had a Mac of my own. A marvelous Performa 476 complete with 230 hard drive, 8 MB of RAM, and a modem. Oh, how I looked forward to that modem. The world would be at my fingertips. With just a touch I would find answers to all my questions.

As I was well stocked with AOL stuff (who can forget those floppies that came weekly through the mail), I hooked up almost immediately. But many days and phone calls to tech support would pass before I began to realize that the world was not quite yet at my fingertips, and my many questions would go unresolved. Sadly, I let my introductory AOL membership lapse, and I settled down to doing all the wonderful new things the Mac made possible.

Then, out of the blue, the online gremlins attacked. All that summer I’d hung out on the Mac while my husband, a founding member of Topeka’s Combat Air Museum, hung out on the phone helping to organize the September Air Show. No conflict. Suddenly, just when we needed it most, the phone went dead. Nothing seemed to help. I was desperately glued to the Mac, putting the finishing touches on materials for my new special ed kindergartners. Gene was just as desperately tying up loose ends before the air show. While I buried myself in HyperStudio, he headed into the night to find a working phone.

At midnight, I turned off the Mac and checked the phone one last time. “Good news, Honey,” I said. “The phone’s back on!” And so it was, until the following morning. While waiting for the Mac to boot, I picked up the phone to make a call. Dead again. What?

Surely not, I thought. It can’t be due to the computer. No way. I turned off the Mac. Phone worked fine. I turned on the Mac. No tone. No phone. Apple and AOL assured me it had nothing to do with them. But I was no longer an AOL innocent and took nothing, certainly not tech support, on faith. I unpiggybacked the modem from the ADB port, stuck it in a drawer, and forgot about cruising the information highway.

In fact, I had pretty much forgotten the whole thing when, a couple years later, I sold the 476 to a friend, modem and all. Together we set up the computer in her apartment. Worked great. Together we, very carefully, followed the instructions to reinstall the modem and held our breath. Nothing. The phone was dead. Really dead. So dead that it never worked again. When she left the apartment at the end of the summer, the phone in the bedroom was fine, but the phone in the kitchen remained a fancy paperweight.

Which is why, in July of ’97, I was becoming a veteran Mac user, but was still an online neophyte. I had a new all in one Mac, a close-out Performa 5215 with a 1 gigabyte hard drive, 32 RAM, and a 14.4 modem. No piggybacks this time. I was online at last.

What I found was scary. Apple, it seemed, along with the Mac, was going down for the third time. I became an online junky, glued to the Internet in the same way we find ourselves currently glued to CNN searching for the latest news on Yugoslavia.

Then one night, while fiddling for fun with a story about computers and grammar checkers, I heard a voice. I had asked the Mac my favorite grammar checkin’ question: “Is there a God?” Try it yourself. Especially with the older software you get some fascinating answers. The answers were shaping themselves into a story of sorts, with no particular end in mind. When, as I say, I heard a voice.

“There is a God”
“The whisper said”
“God is Mac”
“God is dead”

Oooh. Spooky! In fact, I had to stop writing for a few moments and catch my breath. And then, there it was. A real story. Beginning, middle and end. But what to do with it?

My favorite first stop on the Internet was John Brochu’s Sitelink: Best o’ the Web which lists most current Mac sites by category. Addicted to news and rumors, I hadn’t spent much time in the e-zine section. In fact, the whole idea of e-zines seemed strange to someone who had grown up on print. But I took a look and, indeed, some of the stuff was pretty good. Best of all, there were often notes at the end asking for contributors.

Where to begin? Sitelink has a nice rating system that shows the top three sites in each category. My Mac seemed to be consistently in the top three. Hmmm, I thought. Better not start there. They won’t be needing any newbies.

One by one I tried a few of the other sites. Each time I waited, with bated breath, for that cheery “You’ve got mail!” from AOL. (I finally got smart and sent myself an email so there would always be something there.) I’d wait a week and if I heard nothing I’d try another site. After a couple of no shows and a ‘thanks, but no thanks’, I sent a story off to Tim at My Mac. What did I have to lose?

“You’ve got mail!” said AOL. And I really did. Tim had not only liked the story, he was putting it in the “Reader’s Write” column for September. Better yet, he asked for more!

Wow! I saved the email–in three locations–and wrote my reply. I saved the reply as well, of course. I called it something simple like “Yowsers! Tim Likes Me!!!” (with as many exclamation points as the Mac would allow) and sent it off.

Oh agony! Oh humiliation! What if, when Tim got it, my email opened up with a file name beginning “Yowsers!” followed by umpteen exclamation points! My email was blushing. I was blushing. I might never show my face online again.

Remember, I was still new to this whole online thing. I had only recently figured out my home email address. Don’t laugh. I had to call AOL and ask. Quick, I thought. Send something to my daughter, save it with a weird name and a bunch of exclamation marks, and see what happens. “Meg,” I began. “My email is blushing…”

In case you, too, are new, let me reassure you that, no, those odd names you attach to your own replies don’t get passed along. It’s OK to save them any way you like. Just don’t send an attached file entitled ‘Brother Bud’s a Dud!’ or ‘Sister Susie Sucks!’ to Susie or Bud. And, for Heaven’s sake, don’t put it in the subject line of your email.

My second note from Tim was to confirm the September column and to suggest a change of title. Where I had written something like “Dead Macs and Grammar Checks”, he suggested “Deus Ex Machina” as just right for the story. Not being either well read or a drama major, I had to open up Microsoft Bookshelf to find out, not only how to pronounce my first published work, but to figure out what it meant. Tim was right, though. It was a great fit.

And it has been a great couple of years. Some of the best years of my life, in fact. Imagine being able to have a place to share all the fun and funny Mac things that have happened along the way. Imagine having loyal readers to share them with. And imagine doing it all with a friendly, supportive staff that goes out of their way take care of each other.

And then… imagine! It was all begun, back in the summer of ’95, with a kid and his Mac. Aren’t Macs wonderful?

Susan Howerter

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