Hey! It’s been 40 years since the start of a product line. Let’s celebrate. Yay capitalism!
Sarcasm about our product-obsessed culture aside, I’ll gladly leap at any excuse to write about computers I used to own. It feels great remembering the little adventures me and the plastic thinking boxes had together. I have been obsessed with Macs in particular since before my teen years, and it’s hard to curb my enthusiasm for them. Some people were obsessed with collectible card games and Nintendo, I was obsessed with Macs. Same thing.
Macs I’ve owned
When I volunteered at a thrift store as a teenager in the late 2000s (wow that feels weird to type), they would send me home with old computers that wouldn’t sell or didn’t want to fix. This included a lot of Macs, unusual PCs, and even a Sun SparcStation. I had no money and couldn’t buy parts for these machines, so I built up a collection and would swap parts around to get one working.
My first Mac was a Quadra 840AV with a dead hard drive. This model had RCA video-in ports which was super cool on its own, but especially cool to a teenager with no TV in his room. I would boot System 7.1 off a CD and use it to watch VHS recordings of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I loved the motorized eject on the 3.5” floppy disk drive, but found the CD caddy tedious. The power button had fallen off the motherboard, and lacking a soldering iron I used shoe glue to reattach it over the pads. Still surprised at how well that worked, shoe glue is incredibly durable.
My second Mac was the pizza box-resembling LC III, also with a dead hard drive. I had tons of IDE drives sitting around, but these Macs used SCSI and I never found a working drive at the thrift store. I did find a SCSI ribbon cable though, and I carved it up in a failed attempt to make it work with an IDE drive. I’m not sure how I didn’t short anything out. There were SCSI to IDE adapters available online, but those cost money, so the LC III took on a role usually reserved for phone books and became a permanent fixture underneath my CRT monitor.
The third was an Indigo iMac G3, with a Ruby one appearing shortly afterward. Both were missing their memory modules, but I had some SO-DIMMs from an old ThinkPad. I watched Avatar in 2010 on the blue one because it matched the movie.
Next was the big Graphite Power Mac G4 with no hard drive—but at that point Macs were using IDE, and you could use this cool thing called Target Disk Mode to hook your Mac up to another Mac and boot the former using the latter’s hard drive, which is what I did to get OS X installed on the new rusty platter box. This G4 had been upgraded with a dual 2 GHz CPU from Sonnet with a purple heatsink and woefully tiny fan. It had an AGP slot with an ATI Rage 128 Pro, which struggled with OS X Leopard later on and I went back to Tiger. The irony of the beefed up CPU with the stock GPU is not lost on me. It became my primary computer for a couple years when the Nvidia 7600 GT in my main PC died. I used TenFourFox as a semi-modern browser and Adium to send my friend well-crafted messages about his mom.
Oh, and the Cube! I almost forgot about the Cube. The G4 Cube was a precursor to the Mini and I absolutely loved the design. The previous owner had it sitting on its rear on a desk, which is understandable if you look at the case. It was designed to stand vertically with the cables coming out the bottom and to the rear, and the heat would rise out of the top of the case, similar to the Trashcan Mac Pro and the Xbox Series X. Unlike those machines, the Cube shipped with no fan. A combination of sitting horizontal and the Texas summer caused it to overheat a lot, and the frustrated owner gave it to me. It came with a matching CRT monitor and speaker set, but I had to get rid of the monitor for space reasons and the proprietary DVI connector turned the Cube into a brick. I disassembled it to discover there was no room to fit the full-size GPU I had on hand in there. And a GPU that would have fit cost money, so I stashed the Cube in The Closet. I’m not sure what happened to it, but that’s one computer I wish I had held on to. The compact case would have made it easy to keep around, unlike its big brother G4.
I lost most of my old computer collection in 2011 to parental separation, and the ones that survived included the big G4 and Cube. I gave the big G4 to a friend in 2019 and it’s still trucking along, serving as a dedicated iTunes machine for their iPod Classic.
In 2020 I bought a Mac for the first time, a 2018 Mac Mini, which remains my least-favorite Mac out of all them due to how terrible the integrated Intel graphics were. I traded it for the 2021 14” MacBook Pro I use now, which has been great.
That’s it for Macs I’ve owned! Now it’s time for
Macs I wanted to own
I had a small Mac collection going and like all collections, they must grow. I never ran across these models at the thrift store, but every day I hoped I would.
- Macintosh Classic II
- iMac Flat Panel with the gooseneck
- Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh—I thought this thing was so sick and using one at a conference several years ago confirmed it
- Power Mac G5—that case design had me going for YEARS
- 2009 21.5” iMac—this was never going to appear at the thrift store, but I often thought about how to make enough money as a 14-year-old to buy one
Hope you enjoyed the list of old Apple clunkers I littered my room with. I had around thirty computers at the height of my collection, many in various states of disassembly. I don’t think I could ever do that again, but I glanced around the room I’m typing this in and already counted ten. Computers have a habit of piling up around me.
Also wow, Mactracker is still going?! I had it installed on all my Power Macs, time to install it on the MacBook Pro.