The Webb Chronicles

Boomerang: The Blue and White Power Mac G3 That Kept Coming Back

- 2008.05.08 - Tip Jar

This is a story about a Blue & White Power Mac G3, which eventually became known as Boomerang. I purchased this machine in the summer of 2003 after my first Mac (an iMac DV SE) died. I was in the middle of switching over from Windows and had just started to teach myself video editing, so I needed something with FireWire and decent hardware - for cheap.

So this is where my time with Boomerang began. I don't know how it spent the first four years of its existence, but it was mine now, and our journey would be unique, to say the least.

I soon found out that it was terribly slow when working with iMovie under OS 9. I started tinkering with the hardware, eventually bumping the RAM up to 256 MB and overclocking its 300 MHz PowerPC 750 to 400 MHz. Still, it was to slow, and I ended up using my Pentium 4 Dell for video editing, yielding less than spectacular results. Boomerang sat in a corner, occasionally being booted up for fun.

It wasn't until I bought my first brand new Mac in January 2005 that Boomerang would be a useful member of my network again. It was time to use it as a learning center for OS X 10.4 Server. For a period of 3 months that year it was a good home server, until finally it crashed. A 400 MHz G3 just wouldn't cut it anymore.

Given Away

I decided to load OS X 10.3 on it and give it to a friend. It served as a general purpose machine, pretty much for iTunes, iLife, and Safari. Its new home lasted for a few months, when it was replaced by a shiny new iBook G4. Boomerang was returned to me, and I scratched my head finding a new purpose for it.

I was in my sophomore year of college and had just landed a job as a system admin for a local aerospace engineering firm. The old G3 found a new home in my office, functioning as an email machine - and an oasis from the constant trouble of the Windows world. At this point, OS X 10.4 was running on it, but not for long. Kernel panics became the norm, and I soon realized that this was a revision A machine, plagued by a faulty IDE controller. Boomerang went back home with OS 9 installed and of little use.

By now I had a PowerBook G4 and a Power Mac G4. There was little I could do with the old G3, so I decided to try to get the most performance out of it without a CPU upgrade. I purchased a PCI SATA controller card, put an 80 GB SATA hard drive in it, and reloaded OS X 10.4 - this time with 1 GB of RAM. It worked like a charm, and this gave it a decent performance boost.

Given Away Again

Blue & White Power Mac G3By this time, another friend needed a computer, so I gave her Boomerang, hoping it would finally have a permanent home. Six months later, I got it back with a completely corrupted hard drive. I simply couldn't get rid of this machine, it was, indeed, a boomerang!

I removed the SATA controller and hard drive, installed a 20 GB IDE drive, and loaded OS 9 on it. I figured it would be nice to have a Classic-only machine to run my ever-growing collection of classic games - and to assist in rebuilding the 40 or so vintage Macs I had recently picked up with the intention to donate. At least now it had a purpose.

By early 2008, I had given away or sold all my "obsolete" Macs, and Boomerang was the last man standing. This is it, I thought, I'm giving this thing away, and I don't want it back! I didn't hate the machine, I just had absolutely no use for it anymore.

...and Again

Once again, the SATA controller came back, this time paired to a Western Digital Raptor 10k RPM hard drive (only 36 GB, too little space for my needs). I loaded OS X 10.2, ran all updates, then installed Office and a couple of simple games. This time it went to a home in an underprivileged neighborhood outside of Philadelphia. It was beloved by its new owners and really worked well despite being almost a decade old.

Alas, one Monday morning Boomerang returned again. But this time it was different. Its logic board had completely failed, the power button wouldn't work, and it simply refused to load any OS. Boomerang was dead.

I suddenly felt guilty for sending it away so many times, almost as if it were a person. As I took out any useful parts from its dead chassis, I couldn't help but wonder what more I could have done for it.

After an hour of deliberating if it could be salvaged, I came to the conclusion that it was time to let go. Boomerang found its final resting place in a dumpster behind my office building. If I had it my way, and if it didn't make me look crazy, I would have had someone play Taps as I laid it to rest.

After nearly 10 years of service, countless roles and makeovers, a once great Mac has been permanently retired. It had a good run. LEM

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