Digital Fossils

The Old Mac Blues

- 2008.07.23 -Tip Jar

If you look towards the top of this page, you'll note that the titleof this column is "Digital Fossils". As those words would seem toindicate, I have a strong affinity for older Mac hardware andsoftware.

I think my vintage Mac geek cred is strong. I mean, I spent myafternoon playing Lords of the Realm II, a 12-year-old game, ona Power Macintosh 7100, a14-year-old computer. This column itself has been written on hardwareranging from a WallStreetPowerBook and a PowerBook2400 to a ColorClassic and a PowerBook Duo280c.

But sometimes it gets hard to stay strong in my faith....

Take now, for example. I just didn't feel up to stringing AppleTalkcables or transferring files via sneakernet, the PCMCIA WiFi card wasin the wrong old Mac, and swapping it out would have meant hooking upthe AC charger to eject it and, well, it was just so much easier tofire up the iBookwith its built-in AirPort and let the zeros and ones flow through theether with no muss or fuss.

jellybean iMacsI look atthe new Macs, and part of me sneers. How am I supposed to make therequisite snide comments about "Wintel" machines if I'm working on aCore Duo Mac? OS X, for all its good points, doesn't give me thesame warm fuzzies I get from seeing the old Happy Mac at startup. Andthe styling has even slipped a little: Compared to the jellybean G3 iMacs or theiriLamp successors, the new aluminum ones remind me a bit too much of amore slickly executed rendition of the old MonorailPCs fromthe late 1990s.

But then I look at what they can do....

Boy, those are some neat tricks. It would be awfully convenient tohave a dedicated media server in the house. And I may scoff at newgames as being mostly eye candy, but eye candy sure does have a certainappeal at times. An iPhone is tempting, and MobileMe looks reallyneat.

I can do a certain amount with what I have on hand, but no matterhow I amp up my most "modern" Mac, the fact remains that the old G4 tower is just abit too long in the . . . er, "Sawtooth" (get it?) to get thefull use out of the Web. Furthermore, it looks to be a near certaintythat the next iteration of OS X is going to leave it behind forgood.

As for properly interfacing with new hardware, well, I'm alreadytrying to sync an iPod nano through a USB 1.1 cable; I can onlysacrifice so much for my loyalty to my old Macs.

So where do I go from here?

As a starving artist, the sensible thing to do would be to hope thatthe current and coming changes will drop the prices on used units. Witha bit of scrimping and saving - and some good luck on eBay - I could probably upgrade my working laptop to a G4 TiBook and pick up a Mirror Drive Door Power Mac orG4 iMac for not too much morethan it would cost to keep the Clamshell and the Sawtooth in the game.It would definitely be cheaper than trying to get out ahead of thepower curve.

The danger for me there is that the changes in the coming all-IntelSnow Leopard era could be more revolutionary than I'm anticipating. I'dfeel more than a little bit silly if I was left with a newer G4 towerthat was, for all intents and purposes, as outmoded as the Sawtooth itreplaced, other than being able to run Leopard.

I could hock a kidney and just buy a new Mac. That would solveeverything - except for the part about me feeling like a traitor to myDigital Fossils ethos. Being able to play new games and zip about theNet without getting bogged by the almost-daily spinning beach ball ofdeath would dull the pain somewhat, I imagine, but only somewhat.

One other alternative would be to cheat a little and pick up a usedMac mini to use as a 'netappliance. This would combine the virtues of low cost with it beingsmall enough to hide someplace on my desktop so that I won't beconstantly reminded that I bought an Intel Mac.

The fact remains, however, that with the coming changes in the Web,my existing hardware just isn't going to cut the mustard, at least notwithout a lot of work. In a year or two it would not surprise me to seemy single G4 tower become as awkward a 'net interface as my early PowerMacs are now, and that pains me.

Oh well, that is then, and this is now. I still have that saved gameof Lords of Magic to get back to in the morning, and you knowwhat? My Power Mac 7100 will be not one more iota obsolete tomorrowthan it is today. LEM

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