How perfect is it that when I went to do a web search for an image of a 512K Mac such as the one I bought on Friday the 13th of September, 1985, the best one I spotted was on the web page of a friend of mine? Thanks, jerronimo!
That machine, simply put, and without exaggerating, set the course of my life. I learned how to program it (though I quit the Computer Science program after two semesters, since writing Pascal programs was easy, but writing Pascal programs to solve calculus that I didn't understand in my math class, either, was a bitch) and thus landed my first job at Cornell, programming the Mac version of a faculty member's multidimensional scaling software. (Oddly, I had no trouble grasping that. It was just the damn calculus.)
When Bill went on sabbatical and couldn't keep paying me himself, he helped me find another job... doing tech support for Cornell's Media Services department. That led directly to six years with a local computer dealer, five years in independent business with a friend, my last two and a half years at Cornell, plus twelve years writing for TidBITS and a couple of years doing reviews for MacWEEK Magazine, both of which led to my fledgling gig with Macworld Magazine. (My first review is due this Thursday.)
These days, I have a better computer -- or at least one that's many times more powerful. It has about 1,500 times the memory of the first machine, and two orders of magnitude more processing power -- on each of two CPU chips.
If it weren't for that first Mac, what would I be doing now? I was already a DOS expert. Would I be working in the Windows world? Unix? I'd kicked butt in Bio classes in high school. Would I have gone on to an MD? PhD in Biology? Would I be working in genomics? Or would I have looked at my new degree in Linguistics (yep, that was my major) and gone on to grad school? Would I be a professor now? (But I don't look good in tweed!)
Hard to guess. Hard to imagine. And here I am.