#MARCHintosh ¾.2 Update

Content Warning: This post is more “personal” than I usually get here on my blog. However, I’m coming to an awareness in what quite frankly will be the latter years of my life (at 55, I’m hardly likely to be considered “middle-aged”!) that, basically, “I’m too old for this shit”.

Understanding and learning about my experience over the last year, and more recently (and much more dramatically) that I likely have PDA, has allowed me to be more open about my experiences and behaviours, and the repercussions across my whole life and experience are continuing to be felt and will do so for some time to come.

This blog will not become a “Living on the Spectrum” or “Living with PDA” blog – I have an alt Mastodon account (PM me for details) where I delve more deeply and personally into that aspect of my life.

But, quite frankly, I am too old to not acknowledge the impact my lived experience has on how I enjoy my life and my retrocomputing hobby. And this is just one example of that experience

I have to admit, I think there’s a certain degree of expression of PDA in my not having progressed my first 2024 project, the preservation/recreation of my 1991 MacViruses article.

Progress on Project 1: Start, make significant early progress, get distracted, feel unable to return.

Status of Project 1: Stalled.

That could almost be my life mantra.

And it’s not just “real life got in the way”. Read my other 2024 updates and you will understand I have applied a not insignificant amount of time to GlobalTalk…and virtually none on Project 1 since I recreated the article screenshots for that project on 5 March.

I do not regret the time spent on connecting to GlobalTalk and the offshoot adventures/projects, nor on documenting them in my not-entirely-short updates. I’ve had a blast this month, and if I do nothing else on Project 1, I know I have still engaged in a lot of enjoyable retrocomputing this month.


PDA is not about productivity or lack of it. It’s not about effectively prioritising one project above another after meaningful consideration. It’s not about “chores” vs. what I enjoy. It’s not about important vs. frivolous. And it most certainly is not about procrastinating.

It’s about a feeling arising at any given moment of not having control of my actions, or of a crippling paralysis which can rear its head at any time of the day, week, month, year, my life.

I honestly do not how I am going to live with this understanding, but I’m going to describe what it’s like to have a task/project/ToDo I am heavily, emotionally, invested in completing falling by the wayside, but trying to move it forward.

Project 1’s completion would fulfil a lot of my motivations for being in the retrocomputing community in the first place: knowledge sharing, and the preservation of information. I’d be stoked to have it completed.

But here I am, seven days away from the end of and I have not progressed anything on it for 19 days.

There’s absolutely a part of this which is distraction by the technical thrill of getting onto GlobalTalk via emulation. But often distractions serve avoidance, not the completion of those distracting tasks in and of themselves.

There’s a part of me which understands that, should I be able to do so, I could literally knock this project over in a day, easy. Like, please, it is not that hard.

But it sits there, neglected, day after day. Sometimes I sit at my computer just looking at the screen (or lay in my bed) and I am literally unable to do anything…for minutes…hours…days…forever. And I’m not being overly-dramatic here – I mean a literal inability to do one single action to move anything forward. Some tasks fare better than others.

Even now, I feel the resistance/paralysis to reach to the desk directly behind me, pick up the article, and walk the two metres to scan and OCR the text for the reproduction. I want to do these things. I want to complete this reproduction. I know I will feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction to have it done.

That simple first step has sat there for 19 days. I’ve sat with it every single day since 5 March. The inaction is hanging over me like a Sword of Damocles. But when that sword drops (often when it’s too late to undertake a given task), it will leave at least a sense of inadequacy, and sometimes that inaction has major life consequences.

So, for the purposes of describing what this is like, I’m going to pull away from the keyboard, and grab that article, and scan it…

As I work on the practical issues of scanning and OCRing the article, I feel the obligation to do this, not the personal motivation or enjoyment. Sometimes I can do what it feels I’m obliged to, sometimes I can’t. At the moment, I can do this thing, but I constantly reflect on the other things I “should” be doing today – they almost haunt me, and I feel incapable of finding a balance which is comfortable for me…

As with anything retro, there are roadblocks, hurdles. I don’t think I’ll be able to get VueScan to OCR the article without taking the print version apart (it’s glued on the spine like a notepad) – it’s not auto-rotating properly…

When I’m dealing with PDA, these hurdles are more likely to stop me working on the project at hand, and leave me sitting motionless till I move to do something else. I try to commit to returning to it another time, I often know I won’t, no matter what I “want”.

I love troubleshooting, I adore overcoming technical obstacles. Can’t OCR without separating the pages? I’ll try to recognise the text in Preview. When that doesn’t work, I try on my iPhone – I’d try other things if I need to, but the iPhone works…

I work through the large TIFF files – I’ll have my text soon, no doubt needing proofing and correcting, but better than retyping. My god, I could not face retyping this right now, that’s so…so primitive, and involved! I do not need that sort of “involved” right now.

Stupid when I consider how involved I need to be to get this done in any fashion. And that retyping may well be more accurate and quicker. Hint: do not think on that unless you want another source of paralysis…

I actually get in a groove. This is familiar work for me, pulling together disparate sources of copy to prepare for layout. I did it for years, I was good at it, I have a good eye for detail and work quickly relative to the hurdles in front of me.

This is my territory – if I get in a groove, I will be able to apply myself for hours and hours to completion. Even days, if it will take that long.

However, these grooves are interspersed with sometimes days of little or no productivity. If I wasn’t über-productive when I am able to get in these grooves, I’d probably be destitute.

I’m adept at finding efficiencies, at automating tasks. I’d previously described it as being lazy as it allowed me to do more with less effort, but that doesn’t do justice to what I do. If I had these grooves across 100% of my work life…it’s literally depressing and confronting to consider where I could be.

But I’m me, and I’m finally accepting that more than I ever have before. I will never be a 100% high achiever. I feel like I will always be the “less good MVP” – the Minimum Viable Product. It’s gotten me this far, and maybe I can subvert the process now I understand it better to achieve at least a slightly better outcome. Sometimes it feels very late to be having the understanding I have right now. Is it too late?

Now I’m stimming as some frustrating hurdles appear. Nothing major, but pauses and repetitive corrective actions which take some time cause me to physically “fill in the time” or express frustration. I’d only been vaguely aware of my stimming before my acceptance of being on the spectrum. I’m now more likely let it go where it will (especially when I’m alone, as I am now), but sometimes, I really feel weirded out by the little physical expressions I do to stim.

I’m also stimming to try and reduce the stress of working against my PDA. I’m having to have to wait for a sync process now which is taking ages – it’s triggering my desire to abandon this task. Stimming helps to allay the stress I’m feeling. So close, and yet I’m stuck for the moment from moving forward.

Damnit, why is this sync taking so long! I try and access directly from phone to iMac – still the upside down version! Gah!

Then, for the heck of it, I try something – how about that, the iPhone can OCR upside down pages! I grab the last page’s text and make sure I have everything now. Yep, seems that way.

Time to fire up PageMaker to import the text and graphics and get this things done. I feel like I’m within reach now.

Now I’m dealing with line endings and text encodings. I really don’t want to be dealing with line endings and text encodings. In macOS Sonoma I replace all line endings with “@@@”, import to PageMaker, then change “@@@” to “^p” – boom, baby!

Text is flowing, new Styles are being created (or old Styles recreated), I’m back in the groove, or in a very old comfort zone. After so many years, this comes so naturally to me. It doesn’t feel like a demand at the moment.

I’d worked out so many shortcuts and scripted so much automation back in my desktop publishing days the demands felt much less present. More so than any other time of my life. And I don’t think any of my employers ever had a more productive employee than I was.

I know there’s an “ideal” lucrative existence out there for me somewhere – I think the closest I have come to feeling comfortable in my work, life and skin so far has been the entirely financially unsustainable “just a desktop publishing operator”.

I left that job 27 years (half a life!) ago – it was low paying, and in many ways probably not entirely allowing me to reach my full potential. But it utilised my brain in a way which felt entirely comfortable. It suited me. Throw in some writing (when I could do that to deadline!) and I felt like I was in heaven.

The Apple consultancy work scratched many of the same itches of interest, but there were too many external demands around “running my own business” and dealing with other people which I was ultimately incapable of meeting. Everything since has not hit the same mark even though I’ve loved every job I’ve had.

Wow, so there’s an insight.

Test laid out. A Style or two to create/modify, some boxed text to lay out, then bring over my recreated screenshots. Then, I think I’m done.

The push to avoid this demand has reduced the more I’ve gotten into it. It’s like the face of the wave is more daunting than the actual riding of it, especially the closer you get to the crest.

But it doesn’t matter how many times I might have that insight – PDA will still strike on tasks I have a handle on as much as those which are new to me. For now, I’ll just work towards completion of this task…

O.M.F.G! Am I done?! I think I’m done. Five hours. Like I said, within a day.

What mixed emotions – it feels like not a celebration because of the delays, but it feels like a celebration for the finishing. This is what it always feels like:

“Why didn’t you just do it earlier?”

“Why did you actually find that so hard?”

“What is wrong with you?”

Those questions are being asked less, but they’re often still there.

I’ll do a quick cross-check/proof of the file, then create the PDF, upload to Internet Archive, and I’ll actually be done.

I’m honestly numb. IYKYK.

And at the end of all that, I’m happy to report that Project 1 for my is now complete – the MacViruses article I wrote in 1991 is now preserved and archived to The Internet Archive.

What a journey, thanks for joining me on it.

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