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Two Mac Stories

by Jay Darmstadter

Washington Apple Pi Journal, reprint information

The Macintosh Genie

Chapter One

ONCE UPON A TIME there was this genie. Bald, mid-forties, about 5' 10", 200 pounds -- typical genie. He lived in a city called Charlottesville, in the middle of a place called Virginia. One day, the genie got a flyer about a dance party in the far off land of Baltimore. He sent copies of the flyer to his dancy friends by email, and by postal mail to those dancy friends who hadn't caught up with technology. Anyway, the original invitation flyer was written in Magic Marker. Uh, like, in this day and age, who writes flyers in Magic Marker? This could could mean only one thing -- that the writer didn't have a computer. The genie decided this situation needed to be rectified, so he pulled an old Mac off the pile and loaded it onto his magic carpet and went to the party in Baltimore. Upon arriving, the host proudly showed the genie an old WinDoze computer purchased earlier that day with money. The genie was disappointed, but didn't wanna spoil the host's day by telling the host what the genie had planned on giving him for free. So the genie left the old Mac on his magic carpet, and ignored it for a few weeks.

Chapter Two

SOME WEEKS LATER, the genie went to a dance in another far off land, Shepherdstown, West Virginia. He'd known about Shepherdstown dances for 20 years, but had never been to one. The dance hall in Shepherdstown was quite nice, and there were a lotta faces familiar to the genie from other places he'd danced.

But that was later. Meanwhile, back at the plot:

The genie arrived in Shepherdstown a few hours early, and had some time to kill. So he went into a bookstore, and asked the lady behind the counter if she had a specific book, Anguish Languish by Howard Chace. The genie always asks for that book when he's in a used bookstore, because it's been outta print for 40 years, but he wants a copy as a gift for his pal Justine, and he hasn't found one yet. The bookstore lady started banging away at the computer to see if the book was in the inventory. The computer gave her difficulty. The genie stood and waited patiently. Finally, the lady lost her patience with the machine and said the magic words, "I wish I had a Mac." The genie said, "Don't go away," and retrieved the one on his magic carpet and gave it to her. Then he went to the dance. And the lady probably lived happily ever after.

Untitled Story

I take classes at a community college in Virginia. The staff and students at this college have a heavy Wintel herd mentality that is nearly impossible to penetrate.

I started German 101 in Fall, 1999. The first day of class, Frau Jassmann, my instructor, mentioned "Bill Gates doesn't realize how difficult he makes it to type German on a computer." I decided she was a prime candidate for conversion to Macintosh. I had an old IIci at home. I set it up with ClarisWorks 5 and took it to school the second day of class. Frau Jassmann was mortified. "What? I hate computers! Learn another system? I already spend more time than I want to learning the one provided here!" I took the computer home. Two weeks later, the college was having some kind of problem with the network. Printing had became impossible. I decided to give Frau Jassmann another crack at using a Mac, so I took it back to school and gave it to her with a Personal LaserWriter I also had lying around. She reluctantly accepted the Mac outfit. Her main complaint about Windows was that it took 5 keys to type German diacritical marks such as umlauts, and also which 5 keys varied depending on what word processor one chose. And, sometimes the Windows word processors would be stubborn and simply wouldn't type umlauts. (An umlaut is created on a Mac by holding down the Option key and typing u. The next letter typed will have an umlaut over it--regardless of what program one is using.) I cheated. I had rigged the old Mac to type umlauts and other German diacritical marks by pressing a single "F" key.

Frau Jassmann started using the Mac. She noticed immediately that everything about using it was easier than on the Wintel machines. She wasn't liking it--it was merely a less unpleasant computer to use. After she'd had it for about 2 weeks, she told me that she was going to make up an exam for my class and would have to do it on a Windows computer. I asked why. "Because if I use the Mac and get stuck, I'd have to ask you for help and you'd see your test." I asked, "How many documents have you created in the 2 weeks you've been using the Mac?" She answered, "About 7 or 8," to which I replied, "And how many times have you been stuck?" She thought about that. The biggest problem she'd had so far was one time the printer had run out of paper. She decided it would be safe for her to create my exam on the Mac.

Then one day something happened. Frau Jassmann had a revelation. She asked me to show her how to put pictures in her documents. I showed her the ClarisWorks libraries, and demonstrated some things things that could be done with them. The syllabi and test pages she began handing out started looking more interesting than they had in the past. And she admitted that she was now having fun creating them.

I should point out that Frau Jassmann shares an office with other instructors in the Humanities Department. There are a half dozen desks in there. All but hers have Gateway Pentium behemoths on them--that sometimes don't work. On her desk sat a little old Mac--on which she was doing things that had never occurred to the other instructors to even try--things that would never have occurred to HER to try--when she was using Wintel.

When school ended for the Summer of 2000, Frau Jassmann gave me back the little IIci. The entire time she had used it--from September to the end of May--the old machine had never frozen--not once. We attended a Macintosh sale in June and she purchased a Macintosh PowerBook 520 for her boyfriend in Germany. She spent the summer in Germany. She showed her boyfriend how to network the little PowerBook to his G4 with an ethernet crossover cable. He is very happy with his PowerBook.


Some people don't get it. The Fall 2000 semester was about to start. I had signed up for German 201 with Frau Jassmann. I didn't have her new (old Centris 650 with a 7100/66 board) computer ready for her yet. She complained to the drama instructor, "I have to type syllabi for my classes, and my Mac isn't ready yet." He replied, "You can use a Windows machine." She said "Yeah, but it's so much easier on a Mac, and also I like to put graphics on my syllabi." The drama teacher said, "Here. Lemme me show you how to put graphics on your documents." He cut a picture from a magazine with an X-acto knife and pasted it onto a piece of paper. "When you Xerox the page, the graphic will be there like it was drawn on the page."


The Fall 2000 semester began. Frau Jassmann was happily squared away with her PowerMac-ized Centris 650 and her Personal LaserWriter 300, a combination that brought derision from many of the Wintel-oriented herd of sheep that comprise the staff, as had the IIci the previous year, despite the fact that it had always worked, while the Wintel machines often hadn't. The building's Wintel network printer, which resides in Frau Jassmann's shared Humanities Department office, was often down. It wasn't unusual for a faculty member to send a print order to it from their office, walk to the other end of the building to retrieve the print, and discover this. Such was the situation one day about two weeks into the semester when an English teacher walked in to get a printout of a test. "I hafta Xerox two dozen copies of this test and administer it in ten minutes, and the printer's down!" screamed the upset teacher. "I can print it for you on my printer," said Frau Jassmann. The English teacher was aghast. "But you have a Mac and my file was created in Word for Windows." Frau Jassmann said, "Bring me the file on a floppy, and I'll show you what a Mac can do." The desperate English teacher ran to his office, copied his Microsoft Office '97 for Windows Word document to a floppy, returned to Frau Jassmann's office, and handed her the floppy. She popped it in to the floppy drive of the old Mac and opened the document in ClarisWorks 5 for Macintosh. She printed the test and saved his bacon.

Spring 2001 semester starts this week. I'm signed up for German 202 with Frau Jassmann. Over the Christmas break she converted her mother and brother to Macintosh. I hear her tell people when the subject of computers comes up, "I prefer a computer that cooperates with me rather than one that fights me." A year and a half ago, this woman hated computers; they were a necessary evil. Now she's a Macintosh advocate.

Jay Darmstadter
January 2001