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Drug Testing News

The Old Mac That Went to Pot


By Leander Kahney

Giving new meaning to the term high tech, a couple of stoners have turned an old Macintosh into a bong.
"Agapornis" and "Prozac," a pair of 29-year-old computer nerds from Austin, Texas, traded chips for hits when they transformed an old all-in-one Mac into a device for smoking marijuana.

"It has a lilting touch of death-like intoxication," said Prozac. "It's treated us well."
The Mac Bong, or iBong, is made from a water-filled bong mounted inside an old Mac SE 30. The bowl of the bong protrudes from the front of the computer, just below the screen. The mouthpiece sticks out the back.

"It looks like any other dingy Mac," said Prozac. "But it doesn't draw as much suspicion if you do have to take it outside the house. We haven't taken it to Macworld, but it has been to a couple of computer swap meets. People like it. They laugh. It gets the usual, 'Whoa, dude, that's crazy' reaction. Everyone wants to try it."

The iBong delivers a killer hit, according to the pair. After smoking the iBong one evening, Prozac wrote about the experience and posted it online.

"My bong burnt bright," he wrote, "electrifying fractals dancing in the raging embers, smoke curling like a halo around my bowed and fatal head.... The restlessness of a millennium's solitude soared through my rushing blood, the roar of being alive skipping like a jumping spark through my brain."

The iBong was inspired by the MacQuarium, a famous modification of Apple's old one-piece Macintosh computers that turns them into fish tanks.

"We saw the MacQuarium and said, 'Let's put a bong inside one instead,'" Agapornis said. "We were probably stoned."

The two have actually made three iBongs. The first was made in 1992 and attempted to incorporate both a fish tank and a bong within the casing of the old computer.
"We were working on a way to make an aquarium with the bong inside it so that the person taking the hit could watch the fish," Agapornis explained, "but the aquarium took up too much room."

They also found the stem was too long, which made it difficult to take a hit; it required drawing in too much air.

The second model, which had a shorter stem, was too harsh. "It was like a pickle-jar bong," said Agapornis. "It was pretty painful."

The third attempt was just right. "It's not bad," Agapornis said. "It's pretty easy hitting."
But after 10 years of perfecting the design, they are smoking less and less pot; they've gone from chronic to occasional smokers. "We're not going through four quarter bags in a weekend -– each –- like we used to," said Agapornis. "We're not into a void like we used to be 10 years ago."

Still, "the Mac bong is the best thing to have around when you're listening to the first four Burzum albums," he added.

Burzum is a Norwegian black metal band.

There is a strong connection between Macs and pot. Both are countercultures, in the loosest sense of the word, appealing to people who are creative or artistic, people who, as a particular ad campaign might say, "Think different."

"The entire personal computer revolution came out of the San Francisco Bay area and was pioneered by pot smoking members of the counterculture," said Steven Hager, editor-in-chief of High Times. "Because these people tend to be highly creative and because Macs are the choice of most art and video professionals, I guess that's your story."

A couple of veteran journalists who covered the creation of the Macintosh in the mid-1980s claim pot had a profound influence on the design of the machine. That's a claim denied by others, including Jef Raskin, the head of the Mac's design team.

"The Mac building was a very loose outfit," said one journalist, who asked to remain anonymous. "The building was permeated with a certain odor."

Another journalist -- the former editor of a famous Macintosh magazine -- said the Mac's engineers and programmers were always smoking weed.

"There were people out the back in the parking lot smoking pot all the time," said the editor, who also asked to remain anonymous. "The IBM PC was created by people who drank alcohol. The Mac was created by people who smoked pot."

The editor noted that many in the Mac's original development team were pretty young; the average age was about 25, he said.

"The personal computer industry was an outgrowth of the 60s' counterculture," the editor said. "It was a rock-and-roll business in those days. Look at (Apple's famous) 1984 ad. It symbolized a generation shift. The IBM PC was the computer of the establishment. The Mac's purpose in life was to be the computer of the anti-establishment. I mean, it had the psychedelic interface: 'Wow man, good visuals.'

"If they hadn't been smoking pot, maybe they wouldn't have invented the Mac," he said. "It would have been another Apple II, or an IBM PC. It would not have been the Mac. Who would have thought they wanted a computer to be cute?"

Half joking, the editor suggested further evidence of pot's influence could be found in the Mac's stoned, smiley startup face, the rainbow colors of the Apple logo, and early software like MacPaint, a drawing program perfect for drug-induced doodling. Nothing like it existed on the PC platform, despite the fact that a lot of Windows programmers –- some now very rich and famous -– were also dopers, according to the editor.

"We all noticed this when we were covering this stuff," he said. "At PC Expo, people smell like booze. At Macworld, people smell like marijuana."

The editor said there's even a special pot smoking area around the back of San Francisco's Moscone Center, the long-time venue of Macworld Expo, known as "the office."
"Ten or 20 people are there all day long," the editor said. "CEOs, programmers, authors. People say, I'm just going to the 'the office' for a couple of minutes."

However, the editor's claims were strongly disputed by Raskin, the "father" of the Macintosh.
"As the creator of the Macintosh project, and the guy who named it 'Macintosh' after his beloved McIntosh apples, I can firmly say that pot had nothing to do with it," Raskin said in an e-mail. "Unlike our previous president, I have never even brought a reefer to lip, much less inhaled it. I also do not use alcohol, tobacco or any other recreational drugs, and never have."

Raskin said to the best of his knowledge, there was no pot smoking at Apple by the Mac team during his tenure, and no other drug use.

"I never saw Steve Jobs or Steve Wozniak use pot," he wrote. "What people did at home or after I left Apple is, of course, beyond my knowledge, but even at our social occasions, drugs were not a part of the scene. Pizza, yes. Puns, yes. Play, yes. Pot, no.... I even prefer my apples unfermented."

Raskin was backed up by David Bunnell, the founding editor of Macworld magazine, who said he saw no pot smoking at Apple.

"I never saw any evidence of that among the people who created the Mac," he said. "And I was there. I was intimately involved with the Mac development team. I had free access to the Mac building. I don't recall seeing any evidence of people smoking pot while they were developing the machine."

Bunnell conceded that any pot smoking may have been witnessed only by those who were sympathetic to it.

"They didn't invite me," he said. "Maybe I was too straight."

But Bunnell noted that if pot has been smoked at Apple, it could account for the machine's relatively sluggish performance.

"Maybe that's why Macs have been slower all these years," he said.