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Mac Store, Two Notch Road: 1980s   no comments

Posted at 1:08 am in historic,stores

It's hard to remember at this remove how revolutionary Apple's McIntosh was. As I recall, I was starting grad school when the big roll-out came. Through being in computer science, I was somewhat aware of Xerox's PARC work, and of Apple's Lisa which ripped off built on Xerox's concepts, but I had never actually seen a GUI environment, and didn't expect to any time soon either. So when there was a big Apple expo down at The Coliseum, I didn't really know what to expect, but walked down anyway.

I remember vividly that there was a booth with the original 128K Mac and an Apple guy demo-ing it. He had MacPaint up, with the, at one time ubiquitous, black-and-white stylized image of a Japanese Geisha combing her hair. I was completely blown away, but tried to be skeptical by asking the guy what good such fancy graphics were if you couldn't print them out, at which point he fired up the original ImageWriter dot-matrix printer and gave me a copy of the picture then and there. It sounds primitive now -- it is primitive now, but I had the strong feeling I was seeing the future.

Not long after that, I got to interact up-close-and-personal with one of those 128K Macs as I was assigned to port an experimental computer language interpreter to it. The code was in "C", and the first C compiler had just been released for the Mac -- it was a nightmare. This amazing computer of the future did not have a hard drive. It did not even have two floppy drives as many PCs (A: and B:) did. It had one very slow floppy drive, so the process of compiling a program was something like: Insert the program disk, double click, insert the first compiler disk, insert the second compiler disk, re-insert the program disk, re-insert the compiler disk, re-insert the second compiler disk, re-insert the program disk. You get the picture. You could easily go 45 minutes and 30 disk swaps before getting your error messages. At which point you had to start swapping in and out the editor disk. Not to mention that the compiler didn't really support standard stdio calls and that 128K was just not enough RAM to support the runtime recursion that the program wanted to do once you actually got it compiled. I never did finish that assignment.

Anyway, another feature of the Mac floppy drive was that it initially only supported very special and hard to find floppy disks. I believe they were pre-formatted, though I may be wrong about that. In order to get anywhere I had to have a couple of boxes of them (which I still have somewhere) and the only place in town I could find them at first was a store in this office complex on Two Notch behind a small pond, across from The Impulse Club and next to Hi Line Imports.

The computer store (then) was on the second floor in the central piece where you can see the wooden rails. The complex as a whole has never seemed to prosper, but never fails either. According to some signage by the road, there is still a computer store there, but the original one is long gone.

The image that rocked my world is still a classic though:

Written by ted on January 23rd, 2009

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