Miscellaneous Ramblings

Looking Back on 13 Years of Writing for Low End Mac

Charles Moore - 2012.04.06 - Tip Jar

I've been writing for Low End Mac for so long now that I can't remember exactly when it was that my scribblings first appeared on the site. Statistics oriented Dan Knight can probably tell us, but I'm guessing that it was probably sometime in 1998 [it was Sept. 9, 1999 - dk]. My entry into Mac Web online journalism began with a bit of dabbling that led to a regular gig with the now long defunct MacTimes Network (I still think that was a great name), with which Dan and Low End Mac (LEM) were affiliated, and when MacTimes folded, I was sort of "inherited" by LEM.

Hard to believe it's been almost 13 years. I was still in my mid-40s, and now I just cashed my first Canada Pension Plan cheque last week, having opted-in at 60 at a reduced benefit, although I plan to keep working for several years yet, health permitting.

PowerBook 5300Philosophically, I've always considered the low-end Mac concept more an orientation and a state of mind than any hard-boundaried hardware prescription. When I first came in board, I was on my third Mac and my first PowerBook - a 5300 that I had picked up remaindered at the end of its production run. The 5300 was definitely low-end, the base model with an anemic 100 MHz PowerPC 603e processor, a 500 MB hard drive, and its 9.5" grayscale passive matrix display was actually smaller and significantly lower resolution (640 x 480) than the 9.7" 1024 x 768 screen in my iPad 2.

WallStreet/PDQ PowerBookMy next PowerBook was low-end as well, being the entry-level 12" display 233 MHz version of the PDQ revision 2 WallStreet G3 Series with a 2 GB hard drive. However, it was a massive leap ahead in performance from the 5300, and the price seems anything but low-end by 2012 standards, being in the ballpark of $3,400 Canadian, and that was with a discount I got thanks to being a sales agent for a Mac reseller at the time. It was definitely the most expensive Mac I've ever owned, and, ironically, the only one that ever suffered a major hardware failure while still in service as my number one Mac - a fried CPU - which was fortunately easily repaired with a scrounged processor daughtercard.

Pismo PowerBookI actually have owned a couple top-of-the-line Macs - 500 MHz Pismo PowerBook G3 that I swapped my G4 Cube for back in 2001 (and still have in regular service), and the 1.33 GHz 17" PowerBook G4 that I purchased as an Apple Certified Refurbished unit in 2006. Of course, neither of them could still claim high-end status at the times I acquired them.

SuperMac S900Along the road there were also a SuperMac S900 tower, a couple more Pismos bought as stripped chassis and screen, a 700 MHz iBook G3, a PowerBook 1400, and my current workhorse Mac, a Late 2008 Aluminum Unibody MacBook, my first (and as yet only) Intel Mac, which is now definitely low-end at this point and barely makes the cut to support OS X 10.7 Lion, which I haven't as yet been persuaded to adopt anyway.

The two somewhat breathed-on Pismos I still use daily are über-low-end, running OS X 10.4 Tiger, and my other low-end "Mac" these days is a 16 GB WiFi iPad 2, which is gradually roping me in despite it being a second- or third-class computing platform in several important contexts compared to a real Mac.

Notwithstanding being sort of a power user, I still think of myself as a low-ender, and that goes for software as well as hardware, my most-used productivity applications being Tom Bender's $15 shareware Tex-Edit Plus, the little freeware minimal database app Tincta, Bare Bones Software's free but powerful TextWrangler, the superb little freeware image resizer and basic editor ToyViewer.

On the iPad, I use the free versions of the excellent PlainText and Nebulous Notes text processors, plus Infovole's excellent trio of inexpensive text processors - Textkraft, Schreibkraft, and 1a Easy Writer, which sell for seven, three, and one dollars respectively.

Looking ahead, I'm going to try to get at least another year out of the MacBook, aided by the now nine-month-old iPad 2, which I still consider the apogee of Apple talent computer development - and preferable to the fatter, heavier, hotter-running, slow-to-charge new third-generation iPad, regardless of how nice the latter's Retina Display is.

As noted, I'm not enchanted by OS X Lion or it's Mountain Lion eventual successor. However, I'll no doubt get assimilated eventually, either when I finally buy my next Mac or if some compatibility issue makes installing it (hopefully on the MacBook's second hard drive partition) necessary.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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