The Power of Mac

Are Older Macs Lower than Low End?

Eric Schwarz - 2003.03.14

After taking a long break from writing for Low End Mac (I was busy with other things), I've got some time and decided to share some things after noticing that there isn't much talk about older Macs anywhere on the Mac Web anymore.

The oldest Macs covered seem to be the last non-G3 PowerBooks and the beige G3s. What gives?

I think there are a few explanations.

Older Macs Are Not Economical

That's right - sometimes upgrading or repairing an old NuBus Power Mac or SE costs too darn much, sometimes more than the computer is worth. People who are not Mac fanatics usually just toss them in the trash (gasp) or stuff them in a closet.

Of course, Those Who Know™ visit the LEM-Swap List, check eBay, or work with used Mac dealers for deals on older Macs that have "lost their value." These Macs usually end up getting repaired, since a lot of us have a pile of spare parts somewhere in our house, and are pushed beyond their limits with modern software, and find new life somewhere.

Older Macs Are Dying

The second explanation, closely related to the first, is that the older Macs are reaching the end of their life cycles - in some cases over 18 years. A monitor might blow, a motherboard might get cooked, a hard drive might go, etc. Since we seem to live in a throwaway society, people don't keep broken computers around.

The New Low End Macs Are Cheaper

Machines such as the Blue and White G3, the early iMacs, and the early PowerBook G3s have dropped in price greatly. Most are also more than four years old. Many who used them have replaced them with something newer, and others are picking these up on the used market for prices that Quadras fetched just a few years ago.

Lower original prices caused these Macs to sell for less used, and cheaper, standardized components have kept them going strong with a new owner.

Schools are Switching to Windows

Since many schools are switching to Windows, they don't want older Macs as donations. The older Macs that they did have usually find their way into some storage closet. I don't feel this is a major factor, but it still is worth considering.

OS X-only Booting Created a New Platform

Now that the latest Mac hardware only boots into OS X, the older Macs are almost in their own class - not different from the Apple IIs in the early 90s. People don't want something that is "incompatible" with current machines, reducing the market for pre-G3 models.

People are Moving on from Older Macs

My current Mac (it's an iBook) was released in Fall 2001, and since I received mine last March, I have rarely used any Blackbirdolder Macs. My PowerBook 540c served as a backup when my iBook needed service.

Many others who used older Macs because they couldn't afford new Macs finally have new Macs and might not have the time to dedicate to their older Macs.

Of course, there are still many who are using older Macs because they like them, or they perform a certain task really well, such as an email-box.

Older Macs Are Still Appreciated by the Public

I think that older Macs still have value, just a different kind of value. Rather than being put to use as workhorses, we will see them retired as collector's items.

Most PCs of the same age will most likely be sent to the landfill or computer recycling centers. Although the Mac SE that sits on my desk isn't worth much now, it could be worth quite a bit later on.

I don't want this article to sound as though I'm saying older Macs are junk and not useful anymore. It's just that many of the old Mac enthusiasts have newer old Macs to be enthusiastic about, such as the first generation of G3 machines. LEM

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