Why ‘Low End’ Mac?

I received an interesting email yesterday.* The writer asked, “Where is the low end in Low End Mac?” Ouch.

History

This site began because I couldn’t find a single comprehensive resource for older Macs on the Web. So I started collecting information from books and other sites, creating the most complete profiles of Macs from the Plus through the 68030-based desktops.

No coverage for the earliest Macs. No Quadras. No PowerBooks.

Remembering a defunct ezine by the title Low End User, which covered the same models, I named this section of my personal website The New Low End Mac User.

New Low End Mac User graphic

It was definitely low-end. No ads, no tables, no sponsors, no editorials. Just information on older Macs, many of which I had to support at work.

Changes

That was a bit over two years ago. The site has obviously evolved since then.

Within a month or two, I’d added the Centris and Quadra machines, then started coverage of pre-PowerPC PowerBooks.

I think it was in August 1997, when Gil Amelio was under fire, that I wrote my first editorial, Gil Amelio: Facts & Speculation. I tried to take a hard look at the facts behind the speculation and give his tenure a positive spin. After all, he kept Apple out of the fire, even if he couldn’t get it out of the frying pan.

The closing paragraph reads, “I wish Apple well in finding the right leader to take it into the 21st century. (Can an Apple CEO last that long? Time will tell.)”

I have a feeling iCEO Jobs has already answered the question.

About the same time, Low End Mac (yes, I’d shortened the name) was getting attention and links from other sites. We even got our first award, becoming the Apple A Day site for August 29, 1997.

Mac Hottest 5One of my first technical articles, covering the different environments expected in Rhapsody, Red Box, Blue Box, Yellow Box, was a Mac Hottest 5 winner in late September.

The First Move

In July 1998, the owner of the MacTimes Network contacted me. He wondered if I would be interested in joining with his news site as the core of a new network. In November 1997, Low End Mac moved from my personal website to take its place on a “real” Mac site.

Quadra 610We also added ads at that point. I’d never really considered that I could make money doing this. In early 1998, I got my first check. Over the course of the year, this helped replace a dead printer, a nearly dead monitor, and a simply too slow Centris 610.

Macintosh IIxI also grew my Mac collection. When the site started, I had my Centris and my wife had a PowerBook 150. As we started to auction off old Macs at work, I added a Mac II, followed by an LC and LC II (for the kids), a IIcx, and a IIsi. I managed to set up the Mac II as a mail, web, and list server in my home.

Today, that IIsi runs the Low End Mac family of email lists. Pretty good for a machine nearly 10 years old.

During 1998, I added a Mac IIfx, which replaced the Mac II in hosting my personal domain. Several months later, after discovering that the IIfx doesn’t automatically restart after a power failure, I replaced it with a Quadra 650.

Macintosh PortableAmong my fun but impractical acquisitions were a Mac Portable 5/40 with a dead battery and a Mac SE with 1 MB RAM and a terribly slow 20 MB MiniScribe hard drive. I found an inexpensive third-party battery for the Portable. And I upgraded the SE with 4 MB RAM, a faster 40 MB Quantum hard drive, and an ethernet card.

Enter the iMac

Steve Jobs introduces iMacBut everything Macintosh changed in May 1998: Steve Jobs unveiled the iMac.

The JetsonsThe Bondi blue and ice computer looked more like something out of The Jetsons than like the beige computers the world was used to. Now in its fourth revision, the iMac changed the face of computing.

The all-in-one styling goes back to the Commodore PET and the original Macintosh, by way of the Color Classic, and then heads straight for the twenty-first century.

Within weeks of the iMac announcement, iMac sites began to spring up. The first was iMac iNfo, which lasted from late-May until September or October. Before I discovered that site, I had already started the iMac Channel on MacTimes. A while later, I also found The iMac NewsPage, which beat me to second-site status by five days.

Although most of my energies had been on older Macs, a fair bit of attention was now invested in the iMac.

The iMac Channel

Sensing it didn’t really fit as part of Low End Mac, the iMac Channel grew as a separate part of MacTimes.

lowendmac.net

To protect the site’s name, we registered the domain lowendmac.com. In January, I began looking for a host. Innovative Technology came highly recommended. Not just Mac friendly, they hosted sites on Macs. Low End Mac was hosted on a Power Mac G3 from mid-February until early June 1999.

During that time, Low End Mac and my other MacTimes subsites (the iMac Channel, MacInSchool, Mac News Today, Online Tech Journal, and Mac Merit Badge) moved to lowendmac.net and, as of April 1, the site became completely independent of MacTimes.

Over the past weeks, I’ve joined the infiniMedia Network, which includes Mac Mania and other sites. The only glitch is getting InterNIC to change their pointer for lowendmac.net so it sees the infiniMedia server.

That should be any day now.

Is It Still Low End?

Enough history. Has the site remained true to its name?

Apple LisaI think so. I’ve added coverage for Power Macs and PPC PowerBooks, but also for the earliest Macs and the Lisa.

Last Fall, I added the Mac Daniel advice column. My offer to provide upgrade advice met with an overwhelming response. I’m months behind on that email, most of which asks what kind of upgrades make the most sense for older Macs.

Email Lists

Beyond that, I manage ten Mac-related email lists. The oldest, Quadlist, goes back to November 1997. I started it because Classic Macs Digest covered pre-68040 models and several sites and lists specifically covered PowerPC Macs, but the 68040-based Quadra (along with its Centris and Performa cousins) seemed left out.

My basic philosophy as “listmom” is to create an environment, give things a bit of a jump start, and then sit back and watch it evolve. Quadlist quickly developed a reputation as one of the best tech lists for Mac users. Topics ranged from early Macs through Power Macs and international gas prices to chimps and porcupines.

The list grew so large and the volume so numerous that I spawned off sister lists in June 1998. One was for pre-68040 Macs, another for Power Macs, and a third for PowerBooks. This covered the available Mac spectrum – and each list shows the same traits that made Quadlist a winner.

Umax J700June 1998 was the month I bought my first Power Mac. Actually, a Umax SuperMac J700. And I found that, while a lot of Mac webmasters used these machines, no site or email list existed to support them. So I created both. The SuperMacs list was soon populated by angry SuperMac owners (Apple had just axed their license) and a few men who worked in the Umax SuperMac division.

At the end of June, I also created an email list for discussion of the yet-to-ship iMac. Membership skyrocketed – and when the iMac finally shipped in August, the community was ready to help new iMac owners.

In many ways, I consider the lists my highest achievement. Creating a site visited by tens of thousands each month or writing a column that thousands will read is very gratifying. Frankly, it’s a real ego boost. But seeing strangers create communities in cyberspace is fascinating. I basically provide a living room, an environment where they can interact. And they do – sometimes in heated battles, but mostly with helpful comments.

Thousands are participating in these lists, talking with and learning from Mac users all over the globe. They’re solving each others problems and building solid communities in a way nobody could have envisioned a generation ago.

More than my editorials, more than the hardware profiles, these living communities are Low End Mac. They embody the vision of Mac users helping other Mac users solve computer problems.

Although the focus doesn’t remain exclusively on older Macs, most of the site and most of the lists are about getting the most from “outdated” hardware, whether it’s a Color Classic or Revision A iMac.

Sure, like many Mac owners, I like to muse about the next generation iMac, PowerBook, Power Mac, or consumer portable. And because the best low end stuff is already on the site, I don’t feel I’m shortchanging anyone by writing about the G4 or suggesting what models Apple should make to expand their market.

But not only do I offer support for the older Macs, I also use them every day. My personal web and mail server is a Quadra 650. My email lists are run on a IIsi. A Centris 660av connects my network to the Internet. At work, I’m still supporting a lot of 68040-based Macs and early Power Macs.

Fact is, sooner or later every Mac becomes low end. I just anticipate that when covering the new Blue and White G3 and Lombard. 😉

* This article was originally published on June 4, 1999 – just over 16 years ago from the date I reposted it using WordPress.

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