MacMemories From 1984

I’ve been cleaning out shelves in my office area and I came across the media packets that came with the first Macintosh we got in 1984 followed by the first Macintosh Plus we got in 1986. The Macintosh had 128K of RAM and one 3.5 inch diskette drive, no hard drive. The process for using it was 1) you booted the computer with the System diskette. 2) You ejected the system diskette and inserted the Program diskette and opened the program, such as MacPaint. 3) You MacPainted to create your graphics. 4) You selected Save to save your graphic file, which ejected the Program diskette. 5) You inserted a diskette to save your file. 6) If the diskette wasn’t formatted, then you would have to click on Yes to format the diskette, and 7) save your file.

I’m trying to remember if when you quit the Program and Shut Down the Macintosh if it asked you to put the Program diskette and then the System diskette back in before it shut down, or if it simply ejected whichever diskette was in the drive before it shut down. I think there was a lot of ejecting and inserting the different diskettes before it shutdown.

We got an external disk drive with the first Macintosh Plus, which meant we could have a program diskette in the computer and a file diskette in the external drive. Our next Macintosh plus had two disk drives. We got external hard drives for the Macintosh Pluses before the SEs and SE/30s came out with internal hard drives. When we got one Macintosh Plus and a Macintosh Laserwrtier in 1986, the pair cost over $10,000 โ€” around $3K for the Macintosh Plus and $7K for Laserwriter. That’s around $23,700 ($7.1K and $16.6K respectively) in 2020 dollars. Macintosh computers always came with the system software and at least a sample of programs.

Those were the really expensive, bad old days of computing. The first IBM PC we got, with similar specs (it had two 5.25″ floppy drives) was around $3K in 1981 (~$8,600 today) plus you had to buy whichever DOS you wanted to use, plus buy the programs, the drivers, etc. Nowadays you can easily pay $7,000 or $24,000 or more for a new Macintosh Pro. However, you get a lot of CPUs, RAM, and disk space for the money and a lot of powerful programs included in the price. But most computers today cost a fraction of what they did in the bad old days of computing.


57 thoughts on “MacMemories From 1984

  1. Crazy! I just threw out a bunch of 3″ floppy disks – funny that we still called them floppy when they were hard plastic, unlike those big-ass 5″ (or were they bigger?) I wonder what was on them…

    • Hi Dale. We have boxes and boxes and boxes of the 3.5″ floppies. The 5.25 inch floppies were floppier. The IBM minis (as in mini main frames) used 8″ floppies and main frames mostly used banks of tape drives. I go back to the days pf writing programs on punch cards. I remember the first program I wrote in SAS on a CRT monitor to crunch stats for a cartography was like “Oh wow man” as compared to trying to keep hundreds of punch cards in order. I remember getting upgrades to Microsoft Office (Office started on the Mac before Microsoft came out with Windows) that had like 20 diskettes. It took forever to install the office suite inserting all those stupid diskettes. CDs followed by DVDs and now the Internet were and are so much better.

      • My first husband was a computer nerd so we had all sorts of that stuff… I knew it wasn’t just 5″… Crazy times. I finally bit the bullet. just last week, matter of fact, when I decided to chuck ’em all.

      • Nothing comes with a diskette drive these days, and you would be lucky if any modern program could read anything on those diskettes. I needed to load an older program to read some old files. The new OS refused to read the CD’s with the program. I had to pull out an old computer from 2006 with an old OS in order to read the CD and install the program. So much for digital archives. The one good thing I can say about Adobe is old Photoshop files are still readable and PDFs have stayed viable. Otherwise, old Microsoft Office files? Forget it. If they haven’t been upgraded along the way they are toast along with a lot of other legacy files.

      • Lame games? Like leisure suit Larry in the land of the loung lizards? I’m not a gamer, I don’t have the attention span, but I remember people talking about Leisure Suit Larry. One of those silly titles that sticks to your ribs like oatmeal for breakfast.

      • I couldn’t tell you. But I’ve never heard of that one! I’ve never been into gaming, to be honest. I’ve no patience and it all looks the same.

      • Tristan showed me some of the games she does like Assassin’s Creed. The graphics are amazing on those high level games that take super powered computers to play. All the stupid games for the phones seem to be variations on the same theme of boring.

      • My kids play Assassin’s Creed (and learn a lot of history) and they did all the Zelda games and my youngest plays games as a job – tester and finder of glitches… They play other stuff but I’m clueless.

      • Ignorance is bliss. And for people like you and me blissful ignorance is a fine state of being.

      • I did a lot of beta testing back in the 80s and 90s. It’s much Different these days.

  2. Oh, the good old days. I so remember writing “programs” using the 80 column punch cards in Frosh year in 1970. Gad, one mistake on a card and that beast of an IBM computer said “Nope, aren’t gonna run that”. (It’s neat you have that old Mac stuff.)

    • Hi Maj & Sher. I remember waiting hours to get the output of the program, which usually said, error on card 285 or something like that. I had to re punch card 285, send all 500 cards through the reader and wait a couple more hours to get error on card 378, etc. until the program finally had no errors and I got the output. I have coffee stain art from back in those days. It’s a wonder I ever got anything done.

      • CRTs and onboard copilers were so so nice. Of course today it’s simply scripting in object-oriented languages. None of that stinking machine language crap these days.

  3. Wow Tim, someone somewhere will purchase the lot of this for a good price I’ll bet. I didn’t think about anything computer until the 1990s to be honest!

    • Hi John. That’s because you are a whipper snapper in computer years. In the old days a computer could save time on calculations once you got the stupid coding on the cards right. Otherwise, it was a lot of painful hours of writing code on punch card at a time.

  4. When I put up my old IBM PC for auction on eBay about 10 years ago, I didn’t expect to earn much. Instead, I had a bidding war between an attorney in Louisiana and a technology collector result. It eventually sold for $275, about 10% of what I originally paid. The attorney won the bidding war. A technology collector from Netherlands (Holland) wanted in on the auction but the PC, outdated and obsolete, was still on the do not export list. At the time, Iran was buying up vintage systems to build out their computing capability. They were buying their vintage systems through a front company operating in the Netherlands. I sold, separately, my IBM ProPrinter dot-matrix printer for $45. I bought the printer new for around $200. I got a price reduction when I bought the PC.

    Floppy disks, the 5.25-inch size, I still have some. I have two disks which contains my master’s thesis. Of course, I have nothing that can read it. I still have a Compaq PC, with a Pentium II class processor, 3.5 disk drive. I added RAM and installed a newer hard drive. The hardware upgrades were enough to meet minimum requirements for Windows 7. Something had happened to the boot sector, where I had to uninstall 7 and reinstall XP SP3. Works good as a standalone, non-Internet PC.

    • Many years ago I was installing Linux on old PC and making good use of them. After Apple based OS X on Free BSD, that improved the Apple OS tremendously. Now they are merging OS and iOS so things are getting a bit more dicy on the OS X end these days IMHO.

  5. This looks very familiar to me… I got a lot of old Apple stuff hanging around; RAM, disks, mouse, Iomega drives… Don’t know why I’m keeping all that useless stuff. Guess I’m a nostalgic guy.
    I’ve worked with almost every Apple computer ever made. Still my favourite devices.

    • We have enough old Macs around for a Mac museum. I finally sent a bunch of Iomega drives off for recycling.

      • Maybe we should meet and make plans for an Apple expo. But keep in mind, we need a very good Virus protection app… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. I canโ€™t recall this system. Iโ€™m familiar with floppyโ€™s though. Of course the first computers I used were at work and I donโ€™t even recall what kind they were. They sure were big and bulky though. As with most things the prices come down when the the new wears off.

  7. Back then I used to store artwork for about 10 clients in a single floppy! Now I have dvds after dvds and TBs to store just a few. Amazing, isn’t it? As a designer (hence i got my mac plus early) I used to team up with so many professionals in order to get one job done. Now all these professions are obsolete and gradually, so is mine! I look back at work that great designers did pre-computers and there is absolutely no comparison. It’s like everything (including our lives) is turning into a superficial hopping about. I’ve still got a powermac and tons of floppies stored.. somewhere. I wonder why! I think floppy would eject right after pressing shut down. Not sure though. …memories!

    • I have to agree with you on the quality of the art and graphics that have become obsolete. However, I do appreciate digital recording. I used to record my flamenco guitar on a 4 track multi-track cassette recorder. What a pain that was. During my teen years in the 70s I had a couple of reel to reel tape decks that did sound on sound recording. They quality of the recordings were excellent. But again. What a pain.

      • Okay, the 4track recording was somewhat fussy, true. If you’re using live instrument recording then, other than the sound quality compromise, it’s worth it however when you start with midi recording, that’s when you get lost trying to find the perfect sound etc and a few hours later, you realize you would have spent 1/3 of the time on a 4 track. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • I was a a show and tell sales event last year and a slimy salesman was trying to tell me how all the great stuff and services his company offered could solve all my problems. I hadn’t mentioned that I had any problems, but he was sure I did. I pulled up this blog post on my phone,, and told him that was the technology I use. His look was priceless.

      • His expression must have been one for the ages. Imagine his reaction would have been if you pulled out on old Kodak Instamatic camera, and said that was your primary camera. “No DSLRs for me.” The one camera I really wanted, growing up, was a Polaroid Land camera with the adjustable bellows. Of course, I didn’t know you had to be close to a professional to get a good image with a bellows. A place for vintage camera gear are the lunar landing sites. They are littered with Rollei reflex cameras and unused roll film.

      • I still have a view camera and a press camera that have bellows. The range finders can be tricky on old Polaroid’s and press cameras. The only issue with imaging on the ground glass is composing an upside down image.

  8. My first taste of computing was on an Apple IIe. I’ve rarely used Macs over my career. Most of it was on the large multi-user Unix machines of various flavors.

    • All our servers are linux and OS X was based on Free BSD it’s all in the Unix flavor of things. Thanks, Lavinia.

    • Hi Susan. Technology is a bargain these days in comparison to 25 to 30 years ago. We’ve gone from the SneakerNet to the Internet and have all kinds of computing power. But $500, a $1000 or easily more for our devices are till chunks of change that take big “bytes” out of our budgets.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.