At the heart of each Think Retro column I have written so far has been some thing: A practical guide, a lesson from history, a celebration of design, say. At the heart of this one is heart. This week's column is nothing more nor less than an outpouring of love for one of the sweetest, most exquisite little computers of all time: The Macintosh Classic.
I know that for many the powerful and flexible Macintosh SE/30 is the pinnacle of these early compact Macs, and yes, the thick chamfers and endearingly chunky styling of the original Macintosh and its siblings have charisma far beyond mere nostalgia, but for me the Classic's purity of line is truly special. It is, in fact, classic Apple. Everything extraneous is stripped away--within engineering constraints--leaving you with just the essence of the computer. And that's not to say it is bland and anodyne. No, the Classic retains its playfulness and personality--that is part of the essence that is being exposed, that has to be retained, rather than a wacky afterthought.
It is so easy to anthropomorphize the Classic, even though when pressed you realize there is no actual eyes-nose-mouth structure that usually triggers this recognition. Look at how its face tilts up towards you, at once a smart practical trick to make the screen easier to see on a computer which will sit below your eye-line, and an evocation of nothing so much as a puppy looking up at you, begging to play.
It is easy to pick up and transport from place to place. I am too young to have used a compact Mac as my main machine, but I can readily imagine taking it into a dorm at college and then home again at the end of the semester. At 16 pounds, it is not light, for sure, but the handle built into the top means it is easy to carry regardless, and it certainly does not feel heavy.
And oh, how lovely that handle feels! I know it sounds like a silly thing to be excited about, but the thickness and solidity of the handle that you curl your fingers around, which both makes it easy to grip and makes it feel substantial, nudges you to reflect every time you pick up the Classic that it is a quality piece of hardware.
That feeling persists when you switch it on. The switch itself--easy to locate by touch, not least because it is directly above where the power lead plugs in--is not just an intensely satisfying shape but makes the most pleasing, positive, unmistakable thunk when you flick it.
When you do, you get that reassuring beep and then a businesslike whir as it boots; it feels like you have woken something up. The cathode ray tube sleepily warms up, and before long you're greeted with the happy Mac icon.
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