Mac Daniel's Advice

Leave It Be

Dan Knight - 1998.11.02

In response to your email about the decision users need to make about old Macs, I fear you left out one important possibility: Leave it be.

Some older Macs turn into rat nests of complication, conflict and entanglement because owners try to make them into super machines. I have seen more problems caused by people trying to put speed, ram and CPU accelerators into their older Macs than might be solved by using such artificial means to speed up such machines.

So here's a thought. When these older Macs came out they were usually designed for a specific market. They did their jobs admirably and quickly. The software they used worked without a hitch. They flew, by contemporary standards.

I was amazed when I got hold of an old Mac IIx and put some familiar programs on them. With new system software and fresh, untangled applications they did most of their work very quickly and flawlessly. For most writing applications they were easily as fast as my fingers.

As a result I have decided that it is cheaper and in some ways more practical to just buy or restore older machines and use them for specific jobs. For instance, today I was expecting a fax from a business but I didn't want to tie up the computer line all day waiting. So I hooked an old SE up to a 14.4 Global Village Bronze modem and walked away. The machine took the fax, hummed away all day using little power and needing no attention. I put the fax on an 800K floppy and stored it on my Power Mac for future reference.

The IIx is a great machine (with those two floppy drives) for formatting floppies, making backups, word processing using an elegant word processor like WriteNow or Mariner Write. So I think my words will migrate down there to get backed up or stored on floppies. I am experimenting with putting the household accounts on the IIx because right now it seems to be deadly fast with just storing information. I don't do a lot of intensive graphs and reports.

And then there are the kids. I have three in school and they were pestering the life out of me every Sunday night when they had papers due. So I got three SEs and put word processing on them. Now they can work in the quiet of their own rooms and bring disks to the big guy for printing. An SE fits perfectly on a kid's desk. It can even go to a friend's house for those invariable study parties. The SE/30, with a 100 MB internal drive, holds the American Heritage Dictionary. The SE is also the perfect kitchen computer.

The new fast guys are much better for drawing, manipulating images, crunching large financials and probably ought to be used for that. But you really can't type, store or edit the written word much faster with a Power Mac than you can with an older machine. So my alternative solution is to divide and conquer, keeping each system as simple and clean as possible.

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