My vintage writing corner

My vintage writing corner

With regard to creative writing, I can say that Internet has ruined my life. Up to 1999-2000, my production (poems, short stories, two novels — a short one and a longer, more complex one) had been quite prolific and without serious writer’s blocks. Then the Web, electronic mail, newsgroups, etc., began a slow but inexorable erosion process: of my time, my energies, my ability to concentrate on a story and forget about the world outside. The time devoted to writing has grown thinner and thinner and today it’s almost nonexistent. The cruel irony is that because of what I do for a living and also thanks to my many technology-related interests, I find myself reading and writing on my Mac(s) all day, something that frustrates a lot of my creative side.

I soon came to the conclusion that it is not possible — for me at least — to creatively write sitting at the same desk, in front of the same setup where I work, read news, manage email, navigate the Web. When your main system is capable of keeping multiple applications open, it’s easy to be distracted by incoming emails and updated RSS feeds. Not to mention the temptation to search the Web by following the spur of the moment — when that happens, the best case scenario is that I find myself two hours later digesting a lot of information I found following link after link, yet without doing anything really productive.

The solution is to configure a setup without an Internet connection. No browsers, no emails, no distractions: just me, my ideas, and the word processor. Now that I’ve acquired the Apple IIGS ADB keyboard you see in the picture, which is the most compact (and robust) of the smaller line of ADB keyboards manufactured by Apple, I connected it to my Macintosh Colour Classic, and I’m using this beautiful compact Mac as a creative writing setup. Its portable counterpart is the eMate 300, which can be easily connected to the Colour Classic for text file transfers. Another mobile solution I’m working on is the clamshell iBook purchased on eBay a while ago, which I’d like to keep as a OS 9-only machine, to act as an efficient bridge between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ world.

Since I started using this setup on a fairly regular basis, the creative drought seems over, thankfully. The effect of returning to a Mac with a 10-inch screen and System 7.1 is certainly interesting. There’s calm and much less chaos in the old System 7; that, and having a single application in the foreground is almost enough to inspire the creative process. I have yet to decide which writing tool to use; Word 5.1, WordPerfect, an old version of Nisus Writer or WriteNow? They are all excellent candidates, each with its pros and cons, although I tend to prefer WordPerfect and WriteNow. For the moment, I’m taking notes with the good old SimpleText and familiarising with all of these word processors. I’ll probably stick with WriteNow — it has a negligible impact on the mere 6 MB RAM installed, and has a simple yet powerful interface.

Furthermore, I must admit that using a Mac that boots in 40 seconds is amazingly refreshing!


11 thoughts on “My vintage writing corner

  1. Make sure the processor you choose can open notes+sketches from Newton. I’ve heard MS Word does it well.

    Besides, Word 5.1 is a great piece of software. It’s so fast on those old Macs you wonder why the new version is so sluggish with such a huge memory appetite and footprint.

  2. I can completely relate. I have an SE running system 6 and no multifinder for the same reason.

    Great photo too.

  3. I’m doing something similar myself, writing on a lousy old IBM Thinkpad without wireless to avoid internet distractions. I miss the big LCD display on the other computer a few steps away, but this works out so much better, the trade-off is worth it. The only slight difficulty is getting files off the machine, if I occasionally want to work on something elsewhere, or print it on another printer.

    Found your article via and I look forward to checking out your other articles.

  4. I like this photo, largely because I have both of these machines, though my Color Classic contains an LC550 logic board (which is a very nice upgrade, making it for all intents and purposes into a Color Classic II).

    Like you, I have enjoyed writing on both of these machines. One especially pleasant thing about the eMate I use is that a small solar charger (an original Keep It Simple Systems charger designed for the Newtons) will run the machine and charge the battery while working outside in good weather – so no mains electricity needed, indefinitely. Try that with a conventional machine.

    What keyboard is pictured? I have my Color Classic set up with an Apple Extended Keyboard II (Alps switches … satisfying click, clicks … very accurate). The keyboard is, I think, one of the most important parts of the writing experience. The Extended II’s defect, alas, is its considerable size on my desk, so something smaller but similarly well-engineered would be of interest to me. How does the one pictured behave itself?

  5. beachycove: The solar charger solution is very neat and worthy of envy, hehe. Jokes aside, it’s a pity that such an eco-friendly charging solution is so little implemented in portable devices and laptop computers. My Colour Classic too contains a more powerful logic board, that of an LC575 (I also have the original one), so I know what you mean regarding performance. As for the keyboard, as I wrote in my article, it’s an Apple IIGS keyboard (part #658-4081); it’s very clicky and I love it, it behaves really well for my tastes. I specifically sought it for its compact size and clickiness. It’s the most compact of all Apple ADB keyboards, which is good when you have little room for your vintage setup!

    Thank you very much for your comment.


  6. Howdy would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re working with? I’m planning to
    start my own blog soon but I’m having a tough time selecting between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I’m looking
    for something unique. P.S Sorry for getting off-topic but
    I had to ask!

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