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Mac emulation and insights

I’m scaring myself. I’ve been playing around with Mac emulation on my PC at home (I can get an old Quadra or something from work for nothing or virtually nothing, but finding space to set it up properly in these cramped quarters would be an issue, especially since I’d have to give it its own keyboard and mouse and possibly its own monitor). My Celeron-400 certainly feels faster than the last 68040 I used, and I greatly prefer my clackety IBM keyboard and my Logitech mouse over anything Apple ever made, so this emulation setup isn’t bad. I’ve got MacOS 8.0 running on my Celeron 400, though on an 040 (especially an emulated 040), 7.6.1 would be much better if I can track down an installation CD for it by some chance.
Of course, there’s the issue of software. A lot of the ancient 68K Mac software is freely available (legally) these days, and it raises the old “Are we better off now than we were 10 years ago?” question. I don’t know. I still think the software of yesterday was much leaner and meaner and less buggy. By the same token, programs didn’t necessarily work together like they do today, and the bundles of today were virtually unheard of. Software ran anywhere from $99 to $999, and it typically did one thing. More, an outliner from Symantec (not to be confused with the Unix paging utility), made charts and outlines. That was it. And it cost around $100. The functionality that’s in MS Office today would have cost many thousands of dollars in 1990. Of course, the very same argument could be made for hardware. You couldn’t get the functionality available in a $399 eMachine for any price in 1990–there were very high-end machines in 1990 with that kind of CPU power, of course, but the applications weren’t there because you don’t buy a supercomputer to run word processing.

Messing around with this old Mac software gave me some insights into the machine. One of the freely available packages is Think Pascal. In high school, we did computer applications on Macs and programming (at least the advanced programming classes I was taking) on IBM PCs. So I know Pascal, but this was my first exposure to it on the Mac. Reading some of the preliminary documentation on programming a Mac in Think Pascal gave me some insight into why the Mac has (and always had) such a rabid following. I don’t really find the Mac any easier to use than Windows (and there are some things I have to do that are far easier in Windows) but I won’t deny the Mac is a whole lot easier to program. Implementing “Hello, World!” in Think Pascal on a Mac is much easier than implementing it in C on Windows, and the Think Pascal version of “Hello, World!” makes more sense to me than even the Visual Basic version of “Hello, World!” on Windows. It’s more complicated than the main() { printf(“Hello, World!\n”); } you would use in DOS or Unix, but if you use all available tools and put the dialog boxes and buttons in resources it’s not much more complex, and programmers can rough in GUI elements and get on with the code while they shove the GUI elements off to artsy people, then it’s easy to use ResEdit or another resource editor to put the final GUI elements in.

And, bite my tongue, it would appear that programming the Mac was easier than programming the Amiga as well. I wrote plenty of command-line tools for the Amiga but I never mastered the GUI on that platform either.

I’m not saying anyone can program a Mac, but having attempted unsuccessfully to learn how to program effectively in Windows, I can say people who wouldn’t program in Windows can (and probably do, or at least did back in the day) program the Mac. My friends Tom Gatermann, Tim Coleman and I stand no chance whatsoever of being able to develop a decent Windows app, but we would have made a decent Mac development team with Tom and Tim handling the GUI and me writing code and all of us contributing ideas.

The next time I need a computer to do something for me that I can’t find a readily made program to do, I’m apt to load up Think Pascal on a Mac emulator and take a crack at it myself. My simple mind can handle programming that platform, and I suspect some of the innovative programs that appeared on the Mac first may have originally been written by people like me who have ideas but don’t think like a traditional programmer.


From: Robert Bruce Thompson

“I can count on one hand the number of people I know who’ve ever built anything from discrete components, myself included…”

You’re hanging out with way too young a crowd. I’m only 47, and I used to build stuff from discrete components, including ham transmitters, receivers, amplifiers, and so on using *tubes*. You probably wouldn’t recognize a tube if it bit you, so I’ll explain that they were glass things kind of like light-bulbs. They were available in hundreds of types, which one used for various purposes–diodes, triodes, and so on. When they were running, they lit up with an orange light. Very pretty. And they did burn out frequently, just like light bulbs.

And I’ll be that if I were pressed hard enough, I could even remember the resistor color codes.



Too young and too lazy. But I do know what tubes are–they’re still used in audio equipment, for one, because they give a richer tone than transistors. And I remember when I was really young, there was a drugstore we used to go to that still had a tube tester in back.

But I remember the eyebrows I raised in high school when I was building something that needed a particular logical gate, and I couldn’t quickly locate the appropriate chip. I had a book that told how to build the gate using discrete components, so I did it. Actually I raised eyebrows twice–once for building the thing that required the chip in the first place, and once for making the chip stand-in.

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