My First Mac, the Power Macintosh G3 All-in-One, Turns 20

It was 20 years ago this month when the very first computer I ever bought was released. It was the Spring of 1998 and I was 19 years old, just months away from the end of my teenage years, when I made the big decision. What was the impetus for the purchase? I don’t quite seem to remember since I could barely afford it. The only thing I do know was that it had to be a Mac!

Power Mac G3 All-in-One

Power Macintosh G3 All-in-One

I decided to buy a Power Macintosh G3 All-in-One after I saw the one my boss got for his office, which replaced the old LC-based Macintosh on his desk. I had to get the computer through my employer because it was only being offered to education customers and besides, places like the Apple Store didn’t exist yet (though there was CompUSA, remember them?) so it was ordered for me through the school and I paid them back for it. (You know how I said I could barely afford it? I was supposed to pay it off in one school year but it took me twice as long to complete the payments.).

I can’t recall what ever attracted me to that particular model computer because looking back, it was not the best in appearance (I’ve heard it been given the nickname “the molar” because shaped like a tooth) and I’m a stickler for that kind of detail! But it was designed well with the machine contained in one package, a pinnacle of Apple products.

The computer, which was built to order (BTO), came standard with a built-in 15″ multiscan CRT monitor with an anti-glare screen, a floppy disk drive, a CD-ROM optical drive, and three PCI expansion slots. The custom configuration had video in/out ports and a 266 MHz processor (the standard was 233 MHz), which was the model that I got. A built-in Zip drive was optional, but I didn’t get it at the time. Total cost was I believe around $1,999 versus the base model at $1,499.

With its PowerPC 750 G3 chip (debuting in Apple computers the prior year) it really delivered, putting the power in Power Macintosh and was blazing fast compared to anything I had ever used before. My previous Mac, technically the first though I did not personally own it, was the family computer which was a Macintosh Performa 630CD, which had speed and specs that paled in comparison. My Power Macintosh G3 All-in-One was such a beast and blew everything else away! And it rocked to use as well!

Months later, I would come to regret my purchase with the release of the original iMac. Design-wise, as all of us Apple users know, it was drool worthy and stunningly beautiful. Plus it was much cheaper than the computer I had bought just a few months earlier. I would be angry with myself for a while after that for not being able to have gotten the iMac. (The only reprieve I had was being able to at least test drive and play around with one. Because the family computer was showing its age in technology years and getting past its prime, my parents ended up purchasing an iMac to replace the Macintosh Performa 630CD.)

However, in the years after that, I came to love the computer and did not regret it so much because of the expansion capabilities and upgrade possibilities that the Power Macintosh G3 All-in-One offered over the iMac, which I would not have been able to do had I bought the latter.

In the years that followed after I first took ownership of my Mac, I performed a number of upgrades to soup up the machine. I upgraded the stock 4 GB hard drive to a much larger 80 GB one, maxed out the memory to 768 MB RAM, doubled the VRAM, replace the CD-ROM with a CD-RW optical drive, had the Zip drive put in, and installed USB 1.1 and FireWire 400 ports in the expansion slots. The ultimate upgrade was replacing the G3 with an even faster G4 processor (I don’t remember what its speed was), an Encore/ZIF upgrade card from Sonnet Technologies.

As far as the operating system, the computer originally shipped with Mac OS 8.0 but I would upgrade to 9.2.2. I made an attempt to try to install Mac OS X, but for some reason, I could never get it to do so, which is odd because I just recently learned from the website that the maximum operating system that can be installed on this model is Mac OS X 10.2.8 Jaguar. (I even thought it was due to the G3 processor not being equipped to handle OS X and that an upgrade to a G4 would do the trick, but that didn’t work either, which I attributed to the possibility that processor upgrades weren’t supported by OS X.) So I gave up on trying to install OS X and it stayed a “Classic” machine.

I would keep the computer in use for ten years before retiring it in 2008. When I first got it, it was used at home before I brought it to work three years later, where it remained for the rest of its lifetime.

I found myself using my Mac more for work than personal things, bringing my job home with me because I did not have a computer at work that was newer, fast, and powerful enough so I decided to bring the Power Macintosh G3 All-in-One to my job. It was more helpful to me there, using it for graphic design, digital photography, and video editing. I would finally get an iMac of my own as its replacement for home use, an indigo DV 400 MHz model — my second Mac — which I got for $700 secondhand from PowerMax of Oregon.

When I left that school and moved on to a new one, I brought the computer with me and placed it in the teacher storage shed because it was a relic of sorts – but I couldn’t bear to part with it, being the first Mac that I ever purchased. Sadly, when I then left that school, I decided to leave it behind because I did not know what to do with it and had nowhere to keep it at home. I don’t know what the fate of my beloved Mac was, but hopefully, it found a good new home.

The Power Macintosh G3 All-in-One was released in March 1998 and would be discontinued only six months later in September of that year. It would be replaced by the original iMac which was favored for sale in the education market for its lower price.

With its 233 and 266 MHz PowerPC G3 processors, though high-end at the time, using this machine today would be very low-end by today’s standards. It’s hard to believe that this computer was top of the line when it was released two decades ago. (Makes you wonder how today’s equivalent Mac Pro with its 3.0 GHz eight-core Intel Xeon E5 processor will stack up with whatever Apple rolls out in 2038!).

What was your first Mac? Were you a student whose school was equipped with this computer model or a teacher who purchased one through their school back then? What was it like to use this machine at the time? Or are you a current user of this computer model as a low-end Mac? If so, how did you acquire it and what do you use it for? And finally, what/how is your experience running it in today’s environment and are there any issues, barriers, or limitations with what you can do or how you use the machine?

Let us know by leaving a reply below immediately after this article.

For more details and technical specifications on the Power Macintosh G3 All-in-One, see the page on the website, where you can also download a PDF copy of the original user manual that came with the computer.

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