Seeing Mac OS 8 emulated in a web browser today brings back some pleasant memories of my years as a Mac tech in college. Most of the machines I worked on for that job ran OS 8 or OS 8.5, which to my Windows-centric mind were beautiful and fun to work on.1
For two years, I worked in the theatre building with one of my best friends. We were in charge of keeping the theatre professors’ computers—and almost all of the computers in student areas, working. That entailed defragging hard drives, installing productivity software, setting up backups, installing RAM, replacing laptop keyboards, performing OS upgrades, and so on.
When I first got the job, I had never even used a Mac before. The only Apple computers I had ever touched at that point were the Apple II and Apple IIGS in my middle school and high school, which I had used almost entirely for word processing. I would not have gotten the job if my friend had not vouched for me during the interview process. It turned out that my experience messing around with Windows software (warez mostly, at the time) and reinstalling Windows every six months after inevitably bogged down, made me somewhat overqualified. If anything, fixing problems on a Mac was a lot easier than fixing similar problems on my PC.
My friend and I—and eventually a third person who I only met a few times—whipped the theatre building’s computers into shape within about a year. In my last year of college, the job became a make-work job for me. I set my own hours and did largely whatever I wanted to. People approved of my work, but a lot of it probably didn’t need to be done.
That year, I spent many hours working in FileMaker Pro to build a sophisticated inventory system for the theatre’s hardware and software. I was a bit obsessive about it. Some nights I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking too much about solving programming- or database design problems. Well after midnight, I would get out of bed, walk across campus to the theater building, find my way inside2, and program in my little office for hours.
Meeting those theatre students—most of whom I would never have crossed paths with if not for this job—was one of the pleasures of working there. I remember that grad students were especially friendly and chill; they seemed like students from a completely different school than the competitive, stressful one I attended. The best part of the job, though, by far, was that I got comped two tickets to every show at the theater—whether they were student productions or professional ones. I went to every single show, which otherwise would have been far outside of my budget, and loved almost all of them. The experience kicked off a life-long love of theater…and of Macs, too, of course.
A few of the older Mac in the building ran the last version of System 7 and had monochrome monitors. Even then they seemed like relics. Still, I learned a lot about Hypercard on them, so I have a soft spot for them, too. ↩︎
After hours, the theatre building was always locked. If you worked there, though, you knew how to get in. Even after midnight, there were often students doing theatre work inside, and none of them were supposed to be there, either. ↩︎