Old Mac of the Month: The Macintosh Plus

Will Hopkins is a budding IT specialist. You can find him on Tumblr and Twitter as @willjhopkins.

The first computer I remember using was a beige box with a small black-and-white monitor and a floppy drive like a mouth, lop-sided with a thumb indent. It was a Mac Plus, and I still have it.

My first Mac was our family computer, originally intended for doing taxes and the occasional batch of word processing or spreadsheet ninjary for work. Of course, we also had a floppy disk with Space Invaders, Wizard’s Fire, and (my favorite) Brickle.

This is an Old Mac of the Month post, but it’s also a love letter to Brickle. I didn’t yet need a word processor (my parents had, in fact, purchased the computer several years before I was born) but I spent a lot of time bouncing a ball at layer after layer of pixelated brick. My earliest memories of our Mac Plus mostly involve getting bored with Space Invaders, frustrated by Wizard’s Fire, and enthralled by Brickle. It was surprisingly hard for my younger self, but I persevered and learned to work within the constraints of the system.

As I grew older, I was introduced to other computers. I learned LOGO programming at school, and we owned at least one other Mac (I recall a Mac Classic). The first laptop I ever used was my dad’s PowerBook. My family briefly deviated into Windows PCs, but during college I once again returned to the fold. The rest of our computers are gone, dead or recycled, but the Mac Plus remains.

I recently called my dad to ask about our Mac plus, and learned about an interesting and rare peripheral that we also have. Evidently my dad’s employer gave him a 10 or 20MB hard drive that still sits underneath the computer. I work in IT and deal with dozens of terabytes, and it’s a humbling reminder of how quickly personal computing has compressed that 10 or 20MB of storage would be considered laughable on even the smallest portable computers today. (I don’t just mean personal computers—I wouldn’t even buy a calculator with that little space.)

While perusing that spacious hard drive, I learned about the GUI and what a file was. Long before I’d ever considered actually filing papers, I learned about digital file systems. Looking back, I barely understood what I was looking at, but I itched to learn more about them. I eagerly awaited every new computer my parents brought home, looking forward to (metaphorically) cracking them open and learning what made the ghost in the machine tick.

A computer may be, at its core, a plastic box full of somewhat valuable minerals but it’s not just that. My family’s Mac Plus may have been too early to be part of my formal education, but it certainly helped pave the way for an inquisitive spirit and a love of hands-on learning. It was, and will remain, my favorite computer.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and the Mac Plus now has difficulty booting properly. Floppy disks are a challenge to load. Most of the time the Mac Plus simply rests, awaiting those rare times we spend together. I am grateful for the time we have had together, and I can say for certain that the Mac Plus has changed my life for the better.

Want to write about an old Mac you love? <a href=“mailto:stephen@512pixels.net”>Get in touch</a>. In your initial email, please indicate which Mac model you are planning to write about, so I don’t have systems covered more than once.