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Getting Started
Volume Number:8
Issue Number:1
Column Tag:Getting started

My First Macintosh . . .

How does one get started programming on the Macintosh?

By Dave Mark, MacTutor Regular Contributing Author

I bought my first Macintosh in March of ‘84, during the “first hundred days”. Though it might seem silly to some, MacWrite and MacPaint changed me completely. I drew pictures of my dog. I wrote letters to everyone in my Rolodex. I was hooked.

Being a long-time programmer, my immediate goal was to create my own sizzling Mac application. I read through the doc that came with my Mac. Absolutely no help there. I asked my friends. I even asked my Mom. Finally, I asked my cousin Eldin. Bingo! He laid the whole thing out for me.

“For starters,” he told me, “you’ll need to pick-up something called Inside Macintosh. It’s the only technical documentation available. You pay $150 to Apple and they’ll send you two 3” binders stuffed with all manner of technical material. Concentrate on the QuickDraw chapter. That’s where it all starts.”

With that sage advice, I started my career as a Macintosh developer. In those days, there weren’t a whole lot of technical resources available to help me along. Now, the choices are endless. If you’re just getting started with Mac development, or if you’d just like someone else’s viewpoint, stick around. In the next few pages, we’ll explore the vast array of Macintosh development options from an economic perspective.

Spending Your Hard-Earned Money

Wouldn’t it be nice if everything you needed to program your Macintosh came with it for free. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Programming the Mac can be incredibly expensive. In this section, we’re going to talk about priorities. What should you spend your money on? What should you buy and what order should you buy it in?

For starters, you’re going to need a Macintosh with at least 4 Mb of RAM and at least a 40 Mb hard drive. You can program with less, but this is one area I wouldn’t skimp on.

If you’re going to program with MPW, C++, and MacApp, you’d better plan on at least 8Mb of RAM and at least 80Mb of hard drive space. You’d also better plan on running System 7 in 32-bit mode with virtual memory turned on. MacApp is cool, but it really sucks up memory and disk space.

Buy A Development Environment

Once you’ve installed your memory and connected your hard drive, get yourself a compiler. Although there are other alternatives, for my money, Symantec and Apple are the only real players. Symantec offers both THINK C and THINK Pascal. Apple offers the Macintosh Programmer’s Workshop (MPW), with compatible compilers for C++, C, Pascal, and other languages. In general, the THINK compilers are much easier to use and to learn, and offer faster compile times. MPW is a UNIX-like environment, offering far more power and flexibility.

Which should you choose? If you’re just getting started, there’s no contest. Choose THINK C or THINK Pascal. Aside from being much easier to learn, there are far more books, tutorials, and programming examples available for the THINK environments than for MPW. Basically, support for THINK C and Pascal is excellent and pervasive. If you run into a problem (don’t worry, you will), pick up the phone and call Symantec’s technical support line. Once you get through, you’ll encounter insanely great support - and it’s free!!!

Although Apple does offer technical support, it is limited to Apple Partners, or to those willing to shell out the bucks for dedicated phone support.

C or Pascal?

If you haven’t picked a language yet, consider learning C, by far the most popular Macintosh programming language. As of December, 1991, there were about 3 times as many C programmers as Pascal programmers. Why is C so popular? One explanation is that C is the standard programming language for the UNIX operating system, and UNIX is extremely popular. Some people prefer C because it is more flexible than Pascal, allowing you to “get away” with a looser programming style.

Pascal is a strongly typed language, requiring you to specify everything just so. One of the benefits of Pascal is its rigidity. Pascal makes it tougher to make inadvertent programming mistakes.

Why do I recommend C? Simple. Go to a book store and count the Pascal and C books. Chances are good that the C books far outnumber the Pascal books. This is a symptom worth paying attention to. If you go with C, you’ll have far more support than if you go with Pascal.

The Object Programming Option

Once you’ve chosen a language, start exploring the world of object programming. Object programming is the wave of

the future. In the next few years, every major computer company will make the switch over to object-oriented develop-ment environments. Apple and IBM, through their joint venture known as Taligent, will produce a new operating system and a series of new hardware platforms. All development for the Taligent platforms will be based on an object programming model.

If you don’t know what objects are, now is the time to learn. If you are a C programmer, move up to C++. If you plan on sticking with Pascal, move up to Object Pascal. Any investment you make in learning object programming is a wise investment in your future.

Go to the Book Store

Though I may be biased, I believe that dollar-for-dollar, your best programming investment is in books. If you are just getting started with programming, get a copy of Oh! Pascal by Cooper and Clancy (for you Pascal programmers). There is a special edition of Oh! Pascal written especially for THINK Pascal. Oh! Pascal is a classic.

On the C side, pick up a copy of Learn C on the Macintosh by Dave Mark (OK, it’s me, I admit it!!!) and The C Programming Language by Kernighan and Ritchie. Learn C comes with a special version of THINK C, tucked in the back, and also includes a coupon offering a significant savings (save more than the cost of the book) on an upgrade to the full THINK C. While Learn C offers a tutorial approach to C programming, The C Programming Language is a C language reference. It includes a complete description of the C language as defined in the latest ANSI standard.

Once you’ve mastered C or Pascal, you’re ready to tackle the Macintosh Toolbox. The Macintosh Programming Primer series by Mark (me again) and Reed offers a complete tutorial in the art of Macintosh programming. Volume I of the Mac Primer is available in both C and Pascal flavors. If you can wait till June, Cartwright and I are hard at work on the 2nd edition of the Mac C Primer, Volume I. The 2nd edition will feature lots of System 7 goodies, including Apple events and a whole lot more.

Now comes the expensive part. If you can afford it, pick up Volumes I through VI of Inside Macintosh, the definitive reference material for the Macintosh. Inside Macintosh contains descriptions of every single Macintosh Toolbox function. If you can, pick up a copy of THINK Reference from Symantec. THINK Reference is sort of like an electronic, cross-referenced version of Volumes I through V of Inside Macintosh. Unfortunately, at this time, Volume VI hasn’t been added to THINK Reference yet.

Till Next Month...

Well, I’m just about out of space for this month. Next month, we’ll get down to code, exploring some of the mysteries of the Mac Toolbox. Till then, Adios...

About the author

Dave Mark is an accomplished Macintosh author and an Apple Partner. He is the author of The Macintosh Programming Primer Series which includes: Macintosh C Programming Primer, Volumes 1 and 2; Macintosh Pascal Programming Primer, Volume 1, and his latest book, Learn C on the Macintosh. Dave is also the “professor” on the Learn Programming Forum on CompuServe. To get there, type GO MACDEV, then check out section 11.


Here’s a Macintosh shopper’s tip:

Get hold of the latest issue

of MacWEEK.

Towards the back,

you’ll find a series of

ads featuring some of the best prices around

on memory and

hard drives.

As of this writing,

1 Megabyte SIMMs

were around

$36 each.

A Quantum

50 Megabyte internal drive was only $215!

[Remember, although this is an excellent suggestion, it is definitely buyer beware territory. Try to go with the vendors with better reputations when you buy. - Ed.]


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