1998: The price/performance ratio of the Power Mac G3, especially after recent price cuts, is simply amazing. And somehow Apple has packaged the technology into the G3 All-in-One for as little as $1,500. The rumored $2,000 PowerBook G3 also sounds like an incredible value.
How About Something Really Affordable?
I’m an old-timer when it comes to personal computers. The first one I used was an Apple II+; the first I owned was a Commodore VIC-20. Much as I wanted an Apple II+ system, the price was over $1,500 with a floppy drive and green screen monitor. The VIC-20 with tape drive set me back about $200.
As computer users often do, I slowly upgraded my system. There was the Panasonic dot matrix printer with a Commodore-to-parallel adapter, the 170 KB floppy drive, the expansion chassis and memory cartridges, the amber monitor (so I didn’t have to tie up the TV). Then I replaced the VIC-20 with a Commodore 64. Except for the memory and expansion chassis, which were no longer necessary with a 64 KB system, all my old hardware worked with the new computer.
A few years later I started selling PC compatibles in a Heath/Zenith computer store in Virginia Beach, VA. I had to learn DOS in a hurry – and did. I eventually picked up a refurbished Z-151. Over time I added more RAM, turned it into a Z-158 (8 MHz!), a clock/calendar, an EGA card, a hard drive, an EEMS card, and a 3.5″ floppy drive. When the old Panasonic printer gave out, I bought a C. Itoh. When I needed better quality, I bought an HP DeskJet 500.
Eventually, I got my first Macintosh, a 1 MB platinum Mac Plus. With MacPrint, I could use the DeskJet 500 with my Plus. Over time, I bumped RAM to 2.5 MB, then 4 MB. I borrowed a second 800 KB floppy from a coworker and later bought one. I got a 40 MB external hard drive and later added a 44 MB SyQuest drive in exchange for my old Zenith PC. Best of all, I had Brainstorm install its motherboard modification, which let me run at 16 MHz.
When I got my Centris 610 in mid-1993, it was easy to port over my files. I sold the entire Plus setup to help pay for the Centris, retaining the DeskJet for printing. Eventually, my wife bought a PowerBook and brought the DeskJet to work, so I added a DeskWriter. I bumped RAM in the Centris from 4 MB to 8 MB, then 12 MB, and finally 24 MB. (I maxed VRAM the day I bought the 610.) When the DeskJet died, I replaced it with a StyleWriter 4100.
I’m a budget computer user – part of the reason my site is called Low End Mac. I’d like to be able to replace my CPU with a 233 MHz G33, but $1,700 is out of my price range. I would have liked a $995 Umax C500/200LT, but they’re long gone, and the newer, faster models are several hundred dollars more expensive.
If Apple can sell the G3 All-in-One for $1,500 with a built-in 15″ multiscan color monitor, there must be some way to sell a G3 computer without a display for about $1,000. But how?
- Minimize. Sell it with 16 MB of RAM, a 16x or slower CD-ROM, a 3 GB or smaller hard drive, and less VRAM if this can significantly reduce the price.
- Strip. Sell a stripped version for current Mac owners seeking an upgrade. No keyboard, no CD-ROM, no hard drive. Let us use our old keyboards and drives if we want to. Let us add components as we need them.
- Think Cheap. Maybe use the Power PC 740, the one that doesn’t support an inline or backside cache. Put a cache slot on the 66 MHz motherboard that we can fill later. Eliminate one or two PCI slots (it’s a Mac, how many will we use?). Use a less expensive case, maybe with an external power brick (brick varies by country – no need for an expensive universal power supply).
I miss the days when you could buy a basic computer (CPU, keyboard, floppy drive, video card) for under $500, sometimes way under. Everyone assumes we need that plus the kitchen sink (24x CD-ROM, 2 MB or more VRAM, 4-6GB hard drive, 32 MB RAM).
Apple, why not let us decide what we need, even if its less than what you consider a minimum configuration?