Why I Still Use an Old PowerPC Mac in 2020

Why I Still Use an Old PowerPC Mac in 2020

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Matthew Hughes
2020-08-01 02:40:00

A vintage Apple Powerbook G4 laptop on a wooden table.
Thinagorn Thongloy/Shutterstock

Final month, I purchased myself a “new” Mac, and it solely value me $50. How is that this attainable, when the most affordable Apple pc (the Mac Mini) prices $799, or 16 instances what I paid?

As a result of I purchased an outdated 12-inch iBook from 2003 that runs a long-obsolete model of Mac OS X on the steam of an 800 MHz G4 PowerPC processor. Whereas this machine could be considerably long-in-the-tooth, it’s surprisingly helpful as a each day workhorse.

PowerPC Productiveness

The trendy office is full of distractions, from official enterprise purposes, like Slack and Microsoft Groups, to social media frivolities. These are extra keenly seen than ever with so many people working from residence.

After all, it goes with out saying that my historic iBook can’t run Slack, which was created virtually a decade after my laptop computer left the manufacturing facility meeting line. In reality, for causes I’m but to discern, my iBook’s inside AirPort Wi-Fi card can’t hook up with fashionable Wi-Fi networks—they merely confound it.

In essence, it’s utterly air-gapped. And that’s excellent for lengthy marathons of undistracted work, throughout which on-line interruptions merely aren’t attainable.

It additionally helps that the iBook is beautiful to kind on. It hails from an period when laptops had been profoundly cumbersome. Consequently, its keyboard has loads of journey, with well-spaced and contoured keys. I’d even argue it’s extra nice to make use of than Apple’s newest Magic Keyboard.

For writing, I exploit AppleWorks 6.0, an workplace suite that was largely supplanted by iWork. It features a phrase processor, spreadsheet, and displays app. You can even use it to make web sites, though they wouldn’t look significantly good by at this time’s requirements.

After I end engaged on a chunk, I copy it to a USB flash drive and transfer it to my most important internet-connected pc.

AppleWorks helps a number of Microsoft Phrase file sorts, with the newest being from 2003. These open natively on the newest model of macOS with TextEdit, so I didn’t need to obtain a conversion instrument.

Predictably, I’ve discovered that having a devoted, internet-free laptop computer has helped me develop into extra productive. No distractions means I’m capable of focus higher on the duty at hand. This alone has made my iBook price each cent.

AppleWorks 6.0 running on an old Mac desktop.

Previous Mac Video games Nonetheless Run, Too

After all, it’s not all enjoyable and no play. An honest quantity of video games had been launched for PowerPC Macs, and you’ll find lots of them on-line. Two video games I’m presently having fun with are the cell-shaded shooter XIII (which will probably be re-released later this 12 months) and Star Trek: Elite Power II. Whereas the gameplay and graphics don’t fairly meet the sophistication of at this time’s video games, they’re nonetheless pretty enjoyable.

You may simply discover outdated Mac video games on eBay. Some are even free to obtain on numerous web sites. Since my Mac struggles to connect with the Web, I obtain them on my most important pc and replica them over with a USB flash drive.

Keep in mind that some web sites supply video games for obtain as “abandonware.” This implies the proprietor isn’t actively promoting them, however they’re nonetheless underneath copyright and can’t legally be distributed. Use your finest judgment when downloading video games from such web sites.

For the reason that FAT32 file system used on many flash drives limits information to four GB, you’d be well-advised to reformat the drive to MacOS Prolonged (also known as HFS+). It’s able to storing a lot bigger information. You’ll have to repeat information over by way of one other Mac, nevertheless.

Historic Context

My iBook was created at a time when Apple bought computer systems with processors made by IBM. The PowerPC microarchitecture was genuinely groundbreaking on the time and handily outperformed the equal Intel silicon.

Nonetheless, these benefits had been short-lived. Intel quickly regained floor, significantly when it got here to multicore designs and energy effectivity. By 2006, Apple had transitioned away from IBM’s processor designs. Though that prompted some short-term turmoil—significantly when it got here to utility compatibility—it was unquestionably the appropriate resolution.

The change to Intel chips allowed Apple to make thinner, extra environment friendly machines, just like the MacBook Professional. Additionally, for the primary time because the launch of the Energy Macintosh 6100/66, it was attainable to dual-boot Home windows on Apple computer systems.

PowerPC isn’t useless. It prevails in a couple of area of interest areas, like high-performance computing and embedded techniques. NASA’s Curiosity Rover, for instance, used a PowerPC processor specifically designed to face up to the cruel circumstances of Mars. In the meantime, three of the top 10 supercomputers on the planet use a by-product of the outdated PowerPC structure.

In 2019, IBM formally open-sourced PowerPC, permitting those that used it to take the lead in growth and create new chips with out having to pay big licensing charges. Improvement of the usual is now managed by the OpenPOWER Foundation, underneath the purview of the Linux Foundation.

Does this imply we’ll see one other PowerPC desktop pc or laptop computer sooner or later? Not going.

An OS X 10.3 desktop on an old Mac.

RELATED: Deja Vu: A Brief History of Every Mac CPU Architecture

Sizzling to Get Your Fingers on an Previous Mac

There are many locations you’ll be able to snag a legacy Mac, together with thrift shops, storage gross sales, and eBay. After all, relating to the situation it could be in, the mileage will range.

I received fortunate with mine. Not solely is it pretty freed from scratches or any visible blemishes, however the battery additionally nonetheless holds a cost.

If you happen to’re in search of a simple expertise, search for an iBook or PowerBook manufactured after 1999. Not solely will these run Mac OS X (and, due to this fact, be extra acquainted), additionally they usually include built-in USB.

If you happen to’re extra adventurous, you will get a fair older Mac. These may include a pre-OS X model of Mac OS (Mac OS 7, 8, or 9). A few of the first PowerBook G3 laptops didn’t even embody USB, though that is simply fastened with a Cardbus growth card. I discovered one on eBay for $10 within the authentic packaging, with the driving force CDs.

For a fair higher cut price, you should purchase a “spares or restore” Mac. These will seemingly require you to do a little bit of tinkering, although.

Some older Macs that refuse in addition may solely want the PRAM battery to get replaced. If you happen to’re snug with the method, you may as well do a teardown and take away any inside mud that could be inflicting the machine to overheat.

Whilst you’re in there, you may additionally wish to change older thermal paste with a contemporary squirt. Once you’re carried out, you’ll have a strong (if barely archaic) workhorse.

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