About two weeks after you could buy them, I bought a 128K Mac and an external floppy drive at a Computerworld store in Monterey. At the time I was working on the Atari ST at Digital Research. I’d somehow latched onto the series of loose-bound chapters that would later become Inside Macintosh, and I really wanted to program the beastie. I really admired the cleanliness of the internal design (compared to the internals of GEM), and I wanted to get my hands dirty.
But a clean design with awful tools isn’t a wonderful experience.
Programming the Mac proved to be more painful than I was willing to put up with. There was an assembler, but it was slow and every development turn required about 18 mouse clicks. I tried a version of MacForth and quickly remembered how much FORTH disgusted me. My roommate had more perseverance and actually wrote something — a terminal emulator, I think — in some interpreted Pascal environment published by Microsoft. LightSpeed C and its awesome scale-of-seconds turnaround time wouldn’t exist for a couple of years, and you needed a ten thousand dollar Apple Lisa system to do “serious” development in native Pascal.
I upgraded the 128K Mac to a 512K “Fat Mac” over a weekend in one of the labs at Atari. You needed a pretty beefy soldering iron because the circuit board had massive +5 and ground planes that rapidly sucked heat away from pins you had to desolder. Getting the Mac apart took some ingenuity; Torx drivers were not common then, and the only one I could find was too short to reach the screw heads in their wells in the plastic case. I finally bought a too-short Torx driver anyway, extended it by ramming the barrel of a ball-point pen onto its handle, and used a pair of vice grips to apply torque.
But even having 512K didn’t solve the tools problem. I wound up selling that first Mac within the year. I admired the Macintosh system software, and to some extent the hardware design (though the ST was even cheaper and leaner and arguably better if you just looked at the chip-level stuff and not the packaging). But actually developing on the thing was the misery of shoveling snow; tons of mouse clicks, no automation, lousy debuggers. I got my money back, and then some, with an ad in the paper.
About two years after that I was working at Apple, on tools.