January 25, 2014
In Part 1 I talked about my first few computers. They were an important part of my childhood, and shaped the person I would become and the career I chose. When I went to college I started to build and upgrade my own PCs. Things went well enough at first, but then got a little out of hand.
Custom PC #1 (2000) Since I was still in college, I didn’t have very much money and bought some dirt cheap parts from websites that may have been run by questionable companies. These parts were leftover from OEMs and didn’t have real retail boxes. Some would just show up with a minimal layer of bubble wrap around the bare hardware. I had bought a Pentium III CPU, but screwed up putting the heatsink on it. It was too unstable to run at its advertised speed, so I had to underclock it or it’d just lock up the whole system within minutes. It could run Quake 3 well enough though at that speed.
Custom PC #2 (2001) If at first you don’t succeed right? This was the only time I strayed away from the Intel and bought an AMD Athlon processor. I had learned from my mistake and assembled it correctly, but it also had problems and would lock up at odd times. I remember trying to show my parents just what a computer could do by playing an assortment of Led Zeppelin mp3s, and halfway through Stairway it froze and needed to be restarted. I was either not a very good PC builder or kept buying crummy parts. Probably a little from column A and a little from column B.
I hit the nadir of my computer history while putting this computer together. During the assembly I saw that there were some weird red splotches on the inside of the case but couldn’t figure out what they were. More started to appear and then I realized that I had cut my hand on a sharp hunk of metal from the bargain basement case and I was bleeding all over it.
Custom PC #3 (2004) I had a real jobby-job and was earning more than the $Nothing I was in college, so I was finally able to afford computer parts that came in actual boxes, and wouldn’t require keeping a roll of bandages nearby. I went back to Intel and got a Pentium 4 to run Windows XP. This was my first DIY computer that actually ran ok. It was also the first time I used an LCD monitor. The 19” Dell Ultrasharp was a big upgrade to the cumbersome CRTs I had been using.
Custom PC #4 (2007) My last Windows PC, and also the best. My brother-in-law worked at Intel and as “payment” for taking some pictures at his wedding gave me a nice Core 2 Duo CPU. The prior one worked well enough, but was very loud. Pentium 4’s were known to run hot, and my case required a number of fans to keep mine from melting through to the Earth’s core. The Core 2 Duo was much quieter.
Honestly, there wasn’t anything very memorable about this one. It was a Camry — reliable, but otherwise unremarkable.
Things were starting to change for me. I had been a software developer working in the Microsoft stack for a long time and felt a seven year itch to move on to different things.
I never liked Apple computers. When I was growing up in the early-mid 90s, it was the “dark” times for Apple, when they kept releasing unremarkable computers with ancient notions of software. Even when Steve Jobs returned, I thought of them as too expensive and fluffed up with a bunch of annoying marketing. I especially despised the original iMac1 with the goofy colors, awful mouse, and thought that it was dead in the water because it lacked a floppy drive. This wouldn’t be the first time a technical prediction of mine was hilariously off base.
As time went on I did start to like the industrial design of a few models. The original Titanium Powerbooks (so thin!), and the G4 Cube looked especially nice to my eyes, but they were still way too expensive for my budget.
Around the time they switched over to Intel processors I started to reconsider my position. I liked that they were Unixy, making certain kinds of web development easier. Eventually, some of the more garish designs of OS X were stripped back, and I decided to make the leap.
Apple recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of the original Macintosh. I joined the Mac train in 2009, and have [mostly] liked it ever since. Next time I’ll go into the specifics of the Macs that I’ve owned, and why I recommend them.
Written by Scott Williams who lives and works in sunny Phoenix, AZ. Twitter is also a place.