My Turn

Mac Nostalgia: Why Apple Should Introduce a Modern Pismo and SE/30

- 2006.06.14

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

I wrote an article for My Turn a couple weeks ago, MacTablet, MacBook mini, and MacDock: Resurrecting the Dockable 'Book, about Apple bringing back the Duo concept in a dockable Tablet computer. I was surprised both to see it make it to the site and at the feedback I received from others who said they'd also love a Tablet Mac.

Imaginary products like the Tablet Mac are usually found only on fan sites.

Anyway, all of that got me thinking of other products from the past I'd like to see updated.

It's a Retro World

Have you noticed lately that car companies are bringing back their most successful designs of the past and updating them? The new Mini Cooper, the new VW Beetle, the PT Cruiser, etc.

Wouldn't it be great to see Apple bring back limited edition versions of their best designs over the last 30 years?

I recently decided to sell off my large collection of Macs and keep only my absolute favorites. I live in NYC, and my apartment, quite frankly, was starting to frighten people. I don't have a couch anymore, but I did have 26 working Macs spread out in every room.

When I started collecting, I actually used all the machines I had. I was the poster child for low-end Macs. I had a Color Classic for email, and an iMac for use as a DVD player. I had a PowerBook 3400 serving as an iTunes jukebox in the kitchen for when I was cooking and doing dishes.

But once they started adding up, I wasn't able to actually use them all anymore. I'd buy them, restore them, and then they'd just stayed there stacked on top of each other.

What are some of the machines I kept?

The answer to that is also the answer to what Macs I would like to see Apple remake as collector's editions.

PowerBook G3The PowerBook G3 Pismo

The PowerBook G3 "Pismo" was the best PowerBook ever. I think if there was a poll taken from Macheads worldwide for the best PowerBook, the majority would second my nomination.

There's little that can be said about the merits of the Pismo that hasn't been said a thousand times before. It's sleek. It's light. It's drive bays allow an absurdly diverse amount of hot-swappable expansion goodness. The keyboard is dynamite. Even today you can bring it up to 550 MHz G4 and SuperDrive status if you're willing and able to spend the cash.

MacBookThe current black MacBook is almost a Pismo flashback, but not quite. What it does prove is that people are willing to pay a heavy premium for style - 200 extra bucks only getting you a little more hard drive space. You're paying for the black, plain and simple.

Imagine an Intel-powered Core Duo Pismo Nuevo with stronger hinges than its predecessor, drive bays, an ExpressCard slot, and a modern LCD.

Just like the new Mini Coopers, there wouldn't be much you'd need to change in a remake of the Pismo. It was perfect then, and it'd be perfect now with some modern muscle.

Macintosh SE/30The SE/30

In its time to put all the power of a desktop into a tiny all-in-one computer.

Today's iMac holds its own in many respects for everyday tasks compared to the Power Mac (and the Mac Pro will no doubt follow suit in that department), but it's a big sucker. The form factor of the original compact Macs is iconic at this point; mythical even to an entire generation of users.

With an update, Apple could jam pack a workhorse in that cubic form while using a small, crisp LCD instead of a CRT. You could fit about four Mac minis in an SE case. A small compact like that would be practical for dorm use - or as a powerful server that had the benefit of its own small screen, like the original SE/30.

But most of all you'd have a lot of nostalgic people who grew up with the compacts who would love to trade some of their disposable income for a flashback Mac like that.

Mac Style

Apple has been so concerned with style from the beginning that virtually any Mac made could be updated like a classic car.

Most of the designs coming out today are instant classics. All three iMac lines, for example, regardless of how well their "lifesaver colors" or "Barbie make-up mirror" designs hold up to today's tastes, are still iconic and invoke a lot of nostalgia for the era in which they were produced.

Not to beat a dead horse about the overexposed iPod, but what other piece of technology could possibly be more ingrained into the collection unconscious? Someone says "remember the 60s?", and just about everyone thinks of Woodstock, love-ins, The Beatles, etc. Fifty years from now the same short list of "remember the turn of the millennium?" items will no doubt include the little white music player.

Some designs become so popular and distinctive that they develop a life of their own. Long after they've ceased production, they are immortalized in our culture.

The VW Beetle was always there waiting to be made again. And everybody wanted one when Volkswagen started making them in their updated form.

In another couple years every television show ever made will have been adapted into a movie.

We are obviously a culture drunk on nostalgic. Isn't it time Apple brewed up a fresh pot of something old for us?

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