Low End Mac

My First Mac

PC Techie Finds Macs Great

Luc Delorme

I thought that my first experiences with the Mac would be interesting to share, as I have been and still am an avid PC user. However, I now use a Mac daily, and I am liking it very much.

First off, let me clearly state that I am a hardware junkie, and I love it (which is why I chose to study Electrical Engineering - I graduate in a year). I spend more time tinkering, configuring, and upgrading my computers than actually using them, and that's fine with me. This is why I've been a PC user for about ten years.

My first time using a Mac was circa 1993, when I had done some work for a buddy's father, scanning some books and documents for a few days. I was really impressed by the machine at that time. It was a Quadra (don't remember the model) with 40 MB RAM and close to 1 GB of hard drive. That was a phenomenal computer back then, and it smoked any PC I had ever used (at the time, I had a 16 MHz i386 PC with 1 MB RAM). But I did not have much money, so a couple years later I bought a PC. I stuck with the platform since then.

Fast-forward to Y2K. I now run an AMD Athlon-based Windows PC, overclocked from 600 MHz to 750 MHz, using a self-crafted overclocking card. I'm almost finished building a thermoelectrically water-cooled enclosure for the above system. The video card is maxed out, the hard drive system is top-notch, and I find myself with very little hardware to work on.

That's when about a month ago, I saw a newsgroup posting from a local store that was giving away old compact Macs. I went and grabbed the two last Macintosh Plus machines that were left. I figured I could at least disassemble them and use some parts. It turns out that they worked fine, and it was even possible to do some light work with them.

This started to bring back my interest for Macs. I started looking around for older Macs and parts, and I was lucky enough to stumble on a post from a guy who was cleaning out his garage full ou older Mac stuff. For $100 Canadian (about US$65), I got two carloards full of stuff, including a Mac IIx, an LC III, a Duo 210, and original Portable, another Plus, a few displays, books, external drives, adapters, cables, and loads of boards, to name a few. And I got a Mac IIsi with a 14-inch Trinitron display and an LC II for free just by asking around.

I've been learning the inner workings of Macs in the last few weeks, and I've managed to get almost all the systems up and running with a clean OS. (I had to throw away two Mac 512ks with blown displays.) Well, one thing led to another, and I wanted a more powerful Mac to be able to download software to install on the older ones (I needed ethernet, as all computers in my house are connected via a cable modem router). So I started to look around, and eventually a great deal came up. About two weeks ago, I bought a Power Macintosh 9500/132 with 64 MB of RAM and 4 GB hard drive along with an Apple Trinitron 17-inch display for $500 Canadian(about US$350). You can really get great deals on local buy and sell newsgroups!

I've been using that computer for Web and email since then, and it is just great. I've found that IE 5.0 for Mac is much better that it's Windows counterpart (ironic, isn't it?). I don't know what it is about OS 9, but it is really attractive and friendly-looking. And I'm impressed by the performance of a 132 MHz CPU, which is expected to be really slow in my PC world.

In the days to come, I'll probably add an Ultra-Wide SCSI card with larger disks and see if I can't upgrade the beast to a G3 without breaking the bank. In the meantime, I still look for old Macs to fix up (along with the regular host of PCs I rebuild now and then), and every single one has proven to be a learning experience. Just the other day, I picked up a Power Mac 6100/66 for free; the person that had it said it would not boot. Turns out that there was a dead battery on the motherboard. After a quick replacement, I have a working Power Mac 6100. Add in 64 MB of RAM (a remnant of a older PC) and a 2 GB hard drive borrowed from the 9500, and you've got a system that remarkably useable - with a 66 MHz processor. That's really impressive!

It was the hardware that drew me into MacLand, and once there I discovered a great OS to go along with it, which I will keep using to get real work done.

It will, however, take quite a bit of convincing to tear me away from my Athlon box for gaming.


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