Back to Computers Back to Home


Case O.S. C.P.U. RAM H.D. Sound Video Monitor Drives Modem Network
All in One Mac OS 10.4 G3  500 CXE 1GB 20 GB Audigy Rage 128 Ultra 15" CRT
DVD reader 56k 10/100
          For a couple of years I have been considering picking up a Macintosh. The main reasons are just to have one, so that I can familiarize myself with the system, and to be able to network, and configure a Mac, as a part of my job skills. There is also the desire to have an Apple II emulator, as I am an Apple II fan from way back. The best, and most compatible emulators are written for the Mac. Finally, as an aside, I was planning on getting a DVD player for my kitchen, and decided that a Mac, with a DVD capability would be as good if not better. I ended up paying around $50 for my eight year old iMac - less than what a DVD player/monitor would have cost.
        The iMac used a PowerPC chip, commonly referred to as a G3. Subsequent models used more advanced PowerPC chips, called G4 and G5 chips. The original version had a 233mhz chip, running on a 66 MHz bus. My iMac has a 500mhz chip, running on a 100 mhz bus. This CPU architecture was used by the Macintosh, in a series of increasingly powerful chips, from 1994 - 2006. This CPU was based upon an IBM design and architecture, going back to the 70's. These were some very powerful processors, and were even used in mainframe applications. This is a RISC based processor, like those in the Sun SPARC, and offers the potential for quite a bit of power. The chips were developed and produced by a consortium of IBM, Apple, and Motorola. Previous to the use of the PowerPC, Apple had used variants of the Motorola 68000 series CPU. Present day Macintosh computers use Intel chips, just like the PC.
        When new, this machine came with 64mb of RAM, which has been upgraded to 1 GB. It also had a 20 GB hard drive, and a CD which has been upgraded to a DVD player. This is one of the latter, slot fed machines, as opposed to the initial tray fed machines. Maximum resolution is 1024 x 768; there is a VGA port for an external monitor, at the back of the machine. It retains its original 20 GB hard drive, though it can take an IDE drive of up to 128 GB. Ports include the two USB connections, as well as a pair of firewire ports, a modem, and a standard 10/100 network connection. Speakers are built in, as is a microphone; but there are jacks for external connections for both. Wireless networking is only available with addition of an optional Airport device.
        The computer weighs 37 pounds, and has a sort of a built in handle for carrying around. This particular version is completely air cooled, and has no fan. As with all Apple products, ergonomics are great, and the machine has a handsome elegant look. Most PCs today have all the charm of a pizza box, or refrigerator. Apple is different. An Apple computer looks like a computer, rather than some sort of home appliance. It also has an integrated feel to it, as opposed to the house of cards approach taken by so many of today's PC clone makers. Everything fits, and works in harmony with everything else. The ultimate expression of this, for me, is demonstrated when booting this machine. This is an eight year old middle of the line Apple computer. I have installed the latest Apple OS on it. The machine boots within 15 - 20 seconds, and everything works. Nothing crashes, freezes up, or slows the machine down. By contrast, my new Pentium 4 computer, running at six times the speed, with 4 GB of ram, and the Vista operating system, takes a couple of minutes to load, and even then is not finished. After coming up, the computer is still slowed down by the loading of various components. IBM and Microsoft could learn quite a bit from Apple.
        The iMac did a number of things right, starting with its implementation of the USB port. This was one of the first computers ever to offer this port, and it solved a number of potential future problems for Apple. The iMac hockey puck mouse and keyboard were both USB devices, with the keyboard even having its own USB connectors, for attachment of user devices. Today, everything in the world is being offered on the USB bus, making the older parallel, and serial busses practically obsolete. What this has done, is free apple from having to develop every bit of hardware on its own, and given Apple users an expanded choice of peripherals. It also relieves Apple of the decision as to whether or not to give in, and embrace the IBM PC hardware standard.
        With only 5% - 8% of the market, at any given time, Apple hardware could be considered proprietary. Because of this, much "standard" hardware would not work with an Apple. Previous to the iMac, Apple had its own desktop bus for keyboard and mouse, used the SCSI bus, which was never completely embraced in the PC world, for its drives, and even had its own special connection for its monitors. What this meant for many Mac owners, was fewer vendors, offering a smaller selection of peripherals, at higher prices. Combined with the closed system approach of Apple, this often meant being limited to a single vendor (Apple) for peripherals. Companies like Sun, with a specialized portion of the market, might be able to endure such a situation; but for a company like Apple, selling to the mainstream, something had to change.
        There have always been two things hurting Apple, in the marketplace. The first has been its insistence on offering its computers as luxury items, and pricing them accordingly. There is a good and a bad side to this. In the early days of the computer revolution, and before, computers were absolutely a luxury item. Either you, or your parents, had to be rich in order for you to have one. In those days, computers were designed, and used, by computer people - to many, it was a golden age.
        Those days are long over, having ended a decade or two ago. Today, everyone uses a computer, at work, at home, at the library and school - everywhere. The Internet seems poised to displace television as the most popular form of indoor entertainment. Today, you can get a really powerful PC machine, for half or even a third of what you will pay for the least expensive Mac. This has always been an issue with Apple, even in the old days of the Apple II, and there is no reason for it. An Apple is not a particularly expensive machine to make, when compared to the cost of a PC class machine; but it has become a very high margin product. The way that Apple maintains its market is by making its customer base very label conscious, and by being very aware of the design of their machines. Apple computers are quirky, individualistic, and always seek to maintain an identity apart from the standard PC.
        On the other hand maybe there is a better reason, a very good reason, that Macs cost so much. I have an eight year old iMac computer, that I was able to plug in, and use, immediately. This machine runs the latest version of the Mac operating system - imagine taking a PC from 2000, and running Vista on it. It plays DVDS, it runs Office, and it gets on the net - with no problems, and no frustrations. I have also noticed a very definite difference in the swear ration, when using my little iMac. The swear ration is the proportion of yelling and swearing at your computer, computed against the actual work that you get done. The swear ration at my PC, on which most of my web pages are written, is about three per page. So far, on the iMac, it is zero. On my computer at work, the swear ration is off the charts; but this is mostly due to lousy company owned software, written by underpaid semiskilled contract programmers in India, and so can not entirely be blamed on the PC. Here is probably the big difference - The IBM was designed as an office computer, a sort of an entry level computer for business, and this is where its whole philosophy is centered.
       The Apple was not designed as an office clone to be used by a procession of faceless office drones. It is very attractive, some have even said cute. Apple has stated that the back of its computers look better than the front of anyone else's. It is comparatively easy to use, and fun to use. This may all stem from a difference in philosophy, between the way that Apple makes computers, and the way that everyone else does. It is the original philosophy of the original computer revolution, that computers should be designed to free people, rather than to increase their productivity or further enslave them.
        Apple is also run by computer people - Steve and Woz. These two have been part of the computer revolution since its beginnings, which were largely a result of their early efforts with the Apple II. This company was literally started in a garage, by a couple of guys who liked to tinker with computers. This has always given Apple just a little bit different perspective, than companies run by groups of MBA's.
        One of the very interesting, and very smart, things that Apple did was to base their operating system on an old standard - Unix. This operating system has been around in some form, since the 1970s, and is rock solid. It has become the standard operating system of mainframes,  supercomputers and the servers that make up the Internet. The only thing even close to a competitor is its little cousin, now all grown up, Linux. Even so, Linux is only competitive in the home market, and really does not challenge the Unix monopoly of servers and large computers. In many ways, the two are variants of the same thing, a sort of a universal computer OS.
        Where Windows is constantly being remade, kludged together, and having additional bells, whistles, and so called features added, Unix has been constantly refined and improved over the years; but has not been remade and changed to capture every trend. Unix is stable, well documented, and has a huge base of knowledgeable developers, and users.
        The OS X operating system is based upon BSD Unix. The Mac GUI is essentially an application running on this Unix platform, with a large host of tools included. The BSD underpinnings of OS X are open source, and are a genuine flavor of Unix, and can run complaint Unix applications, and run as a Unix machine. There are Unix toolkits, and developer tools built right into the OS, and others which can be easily downloaded. So this is a Unix machine with an Apple Mac GUI as a sort of a bonus. Most of the Mac users out there will never touch the Unix tools, and will never see the bare Unix portions of the OS; but it is nice to know that it is there for those of us who are interested.
        New Macintosh computers use the same Intel chips as everyone else now. The break up of the Apple/IBM/Motorola consortium which launched the Power PC, kind of forced this decision upon them. This was probably destined happen anyway. In more than one instance, introduction of of new models was delayed due to problems getting chips from Motorola. So it was a stormy relationship at best. I was so impressed by this little, old Macintosh, that I am now searching around for a newer model. These are great computers. As an old computer guy, from way back, and one of the original users of the original Apple II computers, I never quite forgave Apple for abandoning their first child, and my first computer love; but I suppose it is time to let bygones be bygones.
        Networking this machine was pretty simple. It has a built in Ethernet port, as well as a built in modem. For wireless networking, which was still pretty cutting edge back in 2000, it requires an Airport Card. the Airport card is Apple proprietary, and looks a bit like on old PCMCIA card. the old tray loading Imacs can not use this card; but the slot loading types, like this particular example, can. Still, for years Macs have had built in wireless networking, and so it is getting difficult to find add-ons to give this capacity. The best choice has generally been to pick up one of the original Airport cards. The problem with this is that they are getting harder to find, and thus more expensive. These computers do have USB ports, and there are a number of USB wireless adapters out there; but they are all made for the PC type computers, and though they should work in a Mac, in theory, they do not have Mac drivers. Recently, Netgear, along with some others, have begun to write drivers for the Mac. Though they are not officially supported, I had no problem getting mine to work. For my Mac, I sued a WG111v2 USB wireless adapter, mostly because I have a few of them laying around the house. The driver for this adapter can be found at . Other drivers for other wireless adapters are also available, if you are willing to search around a bit.