Friday, February 6, 2009

Reflecting on Twenty-Five Years with the Macintosh

The Mac Released My Inner Artist.

This year, 2009 marks the 25th anniversary of the Macintosh and June the 25th anniversary of the purchase of my first computer, a Macintosh 128K. It would turn out to be one of the most significant decisions of my career, perhaps my life. I won’t retell the whole story here, you can read more about it in My Personal Digital History on my website. Suffice it to say that the computer and specifically the innovative Macintosh enabled me for the first time to effectively translate images in my head to images on paper.

From a very early age I think I aspired to be an artist of some kind. I discovered in the first grade however, that just writing with a pencil was painful. I dreaded the daily writing exercises, my hands would cramp up after a few lines. I wasn’t able to control the amount of pressure I was applying to the pencil and constantly broke the tips. I would complain but was soon “convinced” by the nuns that it must be all in my mind since no one else was had trouble.

I took some art classes in junior high but became frustrated at how difficult it was to get my hands to do what I wanted as they quickly fatigued from just holding a brush. In high school I tried drafting but that too became too tedious and frustrating as I spent more time erasing than drawing. Finally, by the end of high school I discovered filmmaking and animation which didn’t demand superb manual dexterity and endurance to become skilled image maker. While studying film at RIT I also discovered I also enjoyed creating images with a still camera. Since it was much less expensive than filmmaking I decided that it would be my primary medium.

After RIT I worked as a photographic test technician for Kodak at night and pursued my free-lance fine art photography/color printing business during the day. I bought the Mac ostensibly to create better looking documents (letters, invoices, receipts, print labels, etc.) for my free-lance business but soon discovered it might have lots of other applications.

My entry level position with Kodak as a photo technician was primarily click and wind. We had to actuate (wind and trip -10) cameras and then write test reports in triplicate with pen, with no mistakes, or start over. Five years of these activities were torture to the point I could barely hang on to a pen, let alone write my report, at the end of my shift. I would have to take breaks every hour or so to go to the restroom and soak my hands in hot water until I could move them again.

At any rate, I realized that the Mac could eliminate the hand written reports by using text entry software, database software and the reports could even be distributed over the brand new networks that were starting to appear. So I suggested with a report I created on my Mac that they automate data entry and collection in the lab.

The Macintosh and especially the ingenious mouse finally gave me the ability to draw without pain. The mouse was much easier to hold than a pen or brush and the Undo command gave me the ability to correct mistakes (and random muscle twitches) without defacing or tearing up the paper with an eraser.

So from MacPaint and MacDraw, I progressed to Illustrator, Photoshop, Strata3D and finally Poser. Now nearly two decades since I first beta tested those programs I’m still using those same four apps today. Photography is still a part of my creative process but real world photography less and less as my mobility declines. Fortunately, the computer has given rise to virtual photography as my alternative.