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An outpouring of love for the playful, personality-filled Macintosh Classic

Christopher Phin | June 17, 2015
At the heart of each Think Retro column I've 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 do mean greeted' too. It is a little pathetic, but our hard-wiring and cultural conditioning means that when I see a pattern of pixels making up a crude face, at some level I parse it as a person, and get that little tickle of recognition and fellow-feeling. Hello, little Mac! What shall we do today? 

And that screen! That dinky, sharp, perfect little screen! There is something fundamentally honest and pure about a 1-bit, black and white display, and the crispness of the pixels is a genuine delight even in these days of pixels so tiny we can't actually see them. The low resolution itself of the display means that each pixel on screen is sharp, unlike with the fuzziness of the higher-resolution, color CRTs that were to follow. I will never stop loving the 1-bit interface design of these early Macs, or the tricks its designers pulled to imply drop-shadows and shades of grey.

It is clean and spare and elegant, but despite having to cram everything into what by today's standards is a minuscule screen, it still has still bags of personality and charm. Witness, for example, how the rounded edges of the UI echo the rounded edges of the bezel surrounding it. 

So yes, I completely adore the Classic form factor. It's such a captivating, self-contained bundle of happiness. So compact, so totable. I just want to tousle its hair and pinch its cheeks and call it slugger.

Counter-intuitively, despite its bulkiness and old-fashionedness, it actually feels smaller than modern Macs, and not just because of its diminutive 9-inch screen. Its small footprint means that a Classic plopped onto a desk both looks neat and discreet, and also doesn't dominate and demand attention in the way that even the smallest of the modern iMacs--its direct descendants--do. 

The original Classic was criticized for its low power and lack of expandability (and where have we heard that recently?), criticisms the Classic II largely answered, but it's the external aesthetic of the Classic and Classic II that I love so much.

It was the first vintage Mac I ever bought, and it will always have a special place in my heart. Which Mac holds that place in yours?

 

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