Classic Restorations

The Joys of Classic Computing

- 2006.07.24

My most recent Restorations column, Vintage Macs with System 6 Run Circles Around 3 GHz Windows 2000 PC, was a real hit and seemed to get a lot of people talking. Thanks for the great response!

When I write, I like to have people think and talk about what I say. Let's converse a little more about issues that seem to be at the top of readers' minds.

You've Got Mail

"The test would be so much more fair if you included an old DOS PC running WordPerfect 5.1"

I'd enjoy seeing a well-documented benchmark comparing the speed of an old DOS/WP workstation to a new Windows/Word workstation.

I'm pretty sure the results would be the same as the old Mac test: Software bloat outpaces hardware innovation. Anybody have the time and inclination to do it? Email me and let's talk. I'd love to see the numbers.

As for testing an old Mac against the old DOS/WP box: I won't touch that with a ten foot pole.

I'm sure a test could be constructed to allow either side to win. That test would just restart the same old "GUI WIMPs vs. CLI Nerds" flame war. I gave up on that one ten years ago, and I recommend the rest of us do the same.

"Adding a G5 or Intel Mac would made the test more fair"

I agree! I'd love to see the old Macs beat up on both a new Mac and a new PC. Wouldn't that be cool? Here's the rub: I don't have a G5 or Intel Mac to test with.

Some less civilized readers have suggested that I'm just afraid the old Macs might outperform the new ones, so I'm hiding the results. Here's my challenge: If you've got a G5 or Intel Mac and Word X, do the tests. I want to see if it can stand up to the "raw power" of a 15-year-old Mac IIci.

The Plot Thickens

"The PC is maintained by a corporate IT department. It must be slower than my fine combed overclocked enthusiast system."

I'm sure it is! There's a whole spectrum of how well-cared-for any computer can be. I chose this system because it seems about average, according to my experience. It's moderately fast, virus and spyware-free, and almost never crashes. It's right near the middle of the spectrum of maintenance. Here are two more examples to illustrate the gamut of PC health:

A friend works for Microsoft as a Software Engineer; their Windows box is amazing! It boots in a flash, never crashes, and does everything you could ever ask. It's constantly maintained to near perfection. If every PC were like this, I'd consider switching to Windows.

My friend's parents own a new, expensive, big name PC. They think maintenance means reinstalling Windows every 9 months. Their system tray extends more than halfway across the screen. It takes 15 minutes to boot up, and its spyware is probably responsible for two-thirds of the spam emails you receive each day.

Do either of those examples typify the user experience of a modern computer? No, of course not. That's why I didn't choose them for the comparison. I'm glad your multi-gigahertz, well-groomed PC can outperform a 25 MHz relic by 20% or 40%, but please remember that not everyone is as expert a PC tech as you are!

Bringing It Home

"Modern operating systems do so much more."

Exactly! If I want to watch a DVD, I don't go reaching for a $20 Mac (or PC) from Goodwill. When the Earth needs saving from demons in Doom3, a Macintosh LC isn't at the top of my wish list. Adobe AfterEffects will run on a Quadra 800, but when I'm matting video, I'd rather pack a G5 or an Opteron (or several!).

Bigger isn't
always better.

In reality, I'm not always 3D gaming or editing film-resolution video. When I need to write an article for Low End Mac, all that extra functionality is lost on me. I need something that's stable, can check spelling, and can interface conveniently to the Internet. More than that just gets in my way. We've come to a simple conclusion: Bigger isn't always better.

I'm sure your new PC and your new Mac can both do millions more Dhrystones than the SE/30 I'm typing this article on. Don't try to tell me that they'll let me get started writing any sooner. The numbers show that sometimes "good enough" really is good enough.

If old DOS PCs are your thing, use 'em! I'm sure there are plenty of jobs for which they're nicely suited. Fanciers of Amigas, LISP-Ms, or the Amstrad CPW - put those machines to work

And if you've never gotten to enjoy using a vintage Macintosh, give one a try.

Nearly all old computers can be fun, wonderful, and productive. There are a lot of choices in the "old computers" hobby. If you're not sure where to begin, I recommend picking up a vintage Mac. They make me happy, so why not you? LEM

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