My first Mac

It’s been thirty years since the Apple Macintosh was introduced on 24 January 1984. To celebrate the milestone, Apple have posted a Thirty Years of Mac feature on their website highlighting some of the key machines introduced over the period and stories from prominent users. It also invites visitors to enter information about their first Mac – data is collated to determine the most popular machines and how people used their Macs.

Paper Mac and PowerBook G4

This is the only photo I could easily find of my first Mac – an Apple PowerBook G4 (12-inch, 1.33 GHz) from 2004. It’s there with its distinctive glowing Apple logo behind the Paper Mac. It was miles ahead of my old Dell laptop in terms of portability, design, power… and the sheer cool factor back in the days when Apple products were still niche.

We’ve come a long way since 2004 – x86 has replaced PowerPC, multi-core processors, solid-state drives, six major releases of Mac OS X, display technology has advanced from 106 ppi TN to 220 ppi IPS, &c. – but I’ll always feel a sense of nostalgia about my first Mac.

Canberra parking meters

Whilst in Canberra recently, I came across the following parking meter on Lonsdale St – an American POM Model N housing with modernised internals. This style of parking meter is also common in parts of the Melbourne CBD, but is rarely seen in Sydney (if at all) having been superseded years ago.

Canberra parking meter

I quickly noted several issues with this traditional-style meter (not counting the fact that it doesn’t accept credit card payments nor 5c/50c coins).

1. Parking rate is not clearly marked

The rates are printed on a sticker within the “window” section at the same size and weight as the rest of the text in that section. Whilst I acknowledge that there is only limited space within that section, the text could be bold or colour could be used to draw attention to what is generally the most important piece of information to the user. (I presume a sticker affixed to the housing would not be viable due to vandalism).

2. Parking rate expressed in unusual increments

Most people have a time interval in mind when paying for parking and want to know how much it would cost to pay for that interval (e.g. $3/hour). The ACT government presumably thinks that people have a monetary amount in mind and want to know how much parking time can be purchased for a given amount – I can’t think of any other reason why the rate is expressed in the unusual manner above “10c = 2 mins” and “20c = 4 mins” (i.e. $3/hour). Also, Canberrans apparently can’t multiply by 2 and need it stated as above but then mysteriously seem to be able to multiply by 30 (to calculate the hourly rate).

I did see/use modern parking ticket machines in other parts of the city, so hopefully the city will eventually make the transition. Don’t get me started, however, on the inconsistent road signs, multiple models of traffic lights, etc. – that’s a rant for another day…

Marking the border

There are some places in the world where you barely know that you’re crossing a border – even an international one – such as when driving on the M1/A1 between Dublin and Belfast in the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom respectively. The only indication that you’ve crossed into another country is a road sign stating that speed limits are now expressed in miles per hour or kilometres per hour, depending on which direction you’re travelling. There are historical and political reasons for this, of course.

Australian state borders, on the other hand, tend to be clearly marked. Within the twin towns of Tweed Heads NSW and Coolangatta QLD, apart from the usual signs, there is the following marker on Boundary Street.

NSW–Queensland border marker, Boundary Street

The majority of people crossing the border, however, bypass the towns and instead see this abstract sculpture on the M1 Pacific Motorway.

NSW–Queensland border, M1

I suppose it has to be obvious, in case the poorly designed Queensland road signs (one of which is visible above) don’t clue you in to the fact that you’ve crossed the border!

MedSoc logo refresh

The Sydney University Medical Society (MedSoc) has a historic logo designed by Professor Sir Thomas Anderson Stuart, which has remained in use since the late 1880s. Perhaps the reason this design has endured over a century is the strong symbolism featured on it: the caduceus*, lion passant guardant (USyd, NSW, UK), waratah (NSW), and abbreviation for ‘University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine’.

Unfortunately, the original plates were lost over time and the only digital images we had to work with were two low-detail JPEG files (see images below). Even some on the MedSoc Council didn’t realise that our logo featured a lion and waratah on it.

As part of preliminary work for the Sydney University Medical Journal (SUMJ) 2010, I decided to create a detailed vector version of our logo. I looked through our Journal archives to cross-reference the general design and decided to base my new artwork on a print I found on the cover of SUMJ 1965 (vol. 54)…

Sydney University Medical Society logos – old and new

The vector logos were created using Adobe Illustrator CS4. From a design perpsective, my primary aim was to modernise the appearance whilst remaining true to the original design. Thus my 2009 version employs cleaner lines and revised geometries, which help to emphasise the symbolic elements. For example, text was set in Univers 73 Black Extended after the style of the 1965 version’s sans-serif type.

The 1965 colour scheme was very eye-catching, dominated by scarlet and jungle green, to the point of being described as ‘Christmassy’ by some. I’m not sure whether this was a true representation of Anderson Stuart’s original colour scheme, but in any case I decided that a more subdued palette was preferable for my 21st century refresh.

The new logos were officially adopted at the 2nd meeting of the 124th MedSoc Council.

*Whilst the caduceus is traditionally the symbol for messengers and commerce (the traditional symbol for medicine being the rod of Asclepius), I suspect that Anderson Stuart chose it deliberately to represent the Royal College of Physicians.

Alphanumeric route numbering in NSW

A couple of months ago I noticed new A2 route markers at various points on Old Windsor Road (and M2 markers on some of the signs on the Hills Motorway), replacing the hexagonal Metroad 2 markers.

A2 route marker
A2 route marker at the intersection of Norwest Blvd and Old Windsor Rd

The new alphanumeric numbering system replaces the existing mixture of Metroad, State and National route markers in NSW. It’s based on the British system where the letter denotes the road category and the number designates the route. Interestingly, this means that both the Sydney–Newcastle “F3” Freeway and Southern “F6” Freeway will be designated M1.

Metroad 2 transition to M2 and A2

The Westlink Motorway was the first major length of road in NSW to use the new system when it opened in 2005, being signposted with M7 alphanumeric markers, but the rest of Metroad 7 retains the previous designation for now.

M7 route marker
M7 route marker on Norwest Blvd (note the Metroad 2 marker in the background)

According to Ozroads, the transition to alphanumeric route numbering in NSW has been underway since 2004 – particularly in rural areas – with other states (except WA) mostly in more advanced stages of transition. I think that the new road numbering system is great because it provides more road information to drivers, while reducing potential confusion through rationalisation and national standardisation of route markers.

Update (May 2014): Statewide implementation of alphanumeric route numbers was completed during 2013 (along with further rationalisation and renumbering of routes). To avoid potential confusion with M1, the Sydney–Newcastle Freeway and Southern Freeway were renamed Pacific Motorway and Princes Motorway respectively.