Our Fascinations: Pitt's 'Mac Man'

Issue Date: 
February 10, 2014

Jay Graham has more than a passing interest in this year’s 30th anniversary of the first Macintosh computer.

Graham, who is an enterprise architect for the University’s Office of Computing Services & Systems Development, collects the very early Macintosh computers, which were the first mass-market machines to feature a mouse and user-friendly, desktop graphical icons, like little garbage cans. Over the past three years, Graham has acquired and restored an original 1984 Mac—a 128k Model, the 5,502nd Macintosh ever made, manufactured during the 19th week of 1984 in Fremont, Calif. (It was rescued from a retired engineering professor in Scranton, Pa., and sits in Graham’s Cathedral of Learning office.) He also has a Mac 512k from 1985 and a few Mac Plus computers from 1986.

“When I first got into this, my family thought I was crazy and alone in my pursuit to restore vintage computers,” he says. “It’s a hobby and gives me the opportunity to understand the thought process that went into designing what was, for its time, ‘state of the art’ technology. The other reason—that I’d call semi-practical—is that much of this equipment is disappearing and that would be a loss.”

One of this Mac aficionado’s annual highlights is KansasFest, a gathering of like-minded, self-described geeks (which proved to Graham’s family that he is not alone). Last summer, Graham made a presentation at the conference about restoring old computers. Turned out that Apple Computer cofounder Steve Wozniak was in the audience.

Graham was discussing how computer chips are secured to a computer’s main circuitry board—the motherboard. With current motherboards, he explained, computer chips are soldered directly to them. But in early Macs, they were socketed. While socketing makes for easier access and repair, it can lead to reliability issues because the chip can work its way out of the socket. “I wondered aloud why Apple socketed the chips.”

Wozniak raised his hand. “Do you want to know why? I’ll tell you. I talked to [Apple cofounder, chair, and CEO] Steve Jobs and told him to consider soldering them because it’d be more reliable. Jobs wouldn’t consider it, so that’s why they were socketed.”

Well, socketing obviously worked well enough, as the Apple brand is alive and more than well in 2014. “And I’m glad to be playing a small part in preserving the hardware to make sure that the achievement that started this whole ball rolling doesn’t get lost to history,” Graham says.

— By Joe Miksch