• Category Archives Macintosh
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  • Digital Archaeology: 12″ 1.07 GHz iBook G4

    I’ve never been a big fan of Apple desktop computers because I prefer to build my own. Far more options both in terms of hardware and in terms of software (including the OS) that way. Apple laptops I have more mixed feelings about. I didn’t care for the early PowerBook 100 series. The later PowerBooks (most of them anyway) were nice computers but usually vastly overpriced. In some cases you could buy a nice used car for the price of a PowerBook. The iBooks…some were nicer than others but they at least tended to be reasonably priced. The early MacBook Pros were pretty nice. But ever since they have decided to glue everything into place I’ve pretty much decided they are overpriced, poorly cooled pieces of junk (at least the last one I’ve used from a few years ago is).

    This particular iBook model was released in early 2004 and has the following stats:

    • CPU: 1.07 GHz PowerPC 7447a (G4)
    • RAM: 256 MB (expandable to 1.25 GB with the addition of up to a 1 GB PC-2100 DDR SO-DIMM)
    • Video: Mobility Radeon 9200 with 32 MB (4X AGP), 1024×768
    • Hard Drive: 30 GB 4200 RPM Ultra ATA/100

    It also includes 10/100 Base-T ethernet, V.92 modem, 2xUSB 2.0 ports, 1xFirewire 400 port and an optional Wireless-G Airport Extreme card.

    When initially released this particular model came with OS 10.3.3 (Panther). Up to 10.5.8 can be installed with a minimum of 512 MB RAM. The original retail price was $1099 (with 256 MB of ram and no wireless). On the PC side of things, the Pentium-M was the relatively new thing at this time. You could get a low end Pentium-M based system for about the same price. It would give you about the same performance while using less power in most cases. However, if you had Altivec optimized apps on your iBook, they would outperform equivalent software on the Pentium-M. Often by a lot.

    The Altivec vector processing extensions in the G4 also made it pretty good for certain BOINC based projects back in the day (einstein@home comes to mind). However, support for PowerPC has almost vanished from BOINC related projects. I found exactly two projects that still work. Seti@home and Moo! Wrapper. Check out this iBook’s current progress with seti@home.

    There’s still quite a bit of support for the PowerPC macs out there. There is a modern port of Firefox called TenFourFox and a relatively modern port of Thunderbird called (you guessed it) TenFourBird. While the last version of Microsoft Office to support the PowerPC was 2008, recent versions of LibreOffice are available for that platform. Linux is also still available with Lubuntu being a popular choice.

  • iBook G3 (“Clamshell”)

    iBook G3 (“Clamshell”)


    The iBook G3 Clamshell model was the first portable entry into Apple’s revamped computer line. It closely mimicked the design of the iMac that had been released the previous year, including polycarbonate construction and bright transparent colors. The iMac was initially released in August 1998 while the iBook was released in June 1999.

    People either loved or hated the iBook but there is no doubt it is a large part of what changed Apple’s fortunes. Without the iMac and iBook there probably would have been no iPhone or even Apple today. Leading up to the release of these machines, Apple had a confusing array of computer products that were rapidly becoming dated and Apple was in relatively poor shape financially. The iMac and iBook started to turn all of that around.

    The Good

    The original iBook represented a major design change from the previous Power Book Line and offered a number of innovations. The biggest was being the first laptop sold with integrated (albeit optional) wireless networking. Today you wouldn’t dream of buying a laptop or any mobile device without Wi-Fi capability but the iBook was the first laptop to offer it as a built-in option. Owners of all other laptops at the time would have to buy a PC Wi-Fi card in order to add Wi-Fi capability to their laptop. Around the same time Apple also introduced the AirPort Wireless Base Station that you could connect to your router or modem to add wireless capability. Also, while the iBook wasn’t necessarily the first laptop to offer USB and built-in ethernet, it was among the first popular consumer models to do so.

    The Bad

    The biggest downside to the iBook was that it was a relatively expensive and relatively modest performing computer. The hardware was not as impressive as the PowerBook models that were released earlier in the year though the iBook was cheaper than those. The initial price of the iBook was $1599. A CompUSA ad from the time period the iBook G3 was introduced has a Toshiba laptop with a Celeron 400 processor that would have been modestly faster than the iBook in most tasks and it was roughly the same price. In addition, it had twice as much RAM (64 MB vs. 32 MB standard in the iBook) and a larger hard drive (6.4 GB vs. 3.2 GB standard in the iBook). But then it is still true today that you can generally find equivalent hardware in a PC laptop quite a bit cheaper than in a MacBook.

    Another downside to the iBook was that it was harder to upgrade. There was a slot for the AirPort card that was easy to get to so that could be added or upgraded with little difficulty. There was also a RAM slot that was easy to access, however the RAM the system came with was soldered in so it was less upgradeable than most PC laptops. The hard drive could technically be upgraded but it was relatively difficult to get to, requiring the removal of 40 screws.

    The Controversial

    Then there were the design decisions that really divided people. The most obvious is the physical design. Some people loved the clamshell design and fun colors of the iMac like design, including transparent blueberry and tangerine colors initially. Others compared it to Barbie’s toilet. At the end of the day though, enough people liked it to make it a big seller for Apple. They were certainly very distinctive and popped up in movies and TV shows at the time fairly frequently. The other controversial decision was the removal of legacy ports. Previous Apple laptops typically included a SCSI port, PC Card slot and infrared. The iBook did not have these and initially also did not have firewire though this was added in later models. While removal of these ports was a good thing in the long run, initially for those that had significant investment in SCSI hardware or PC Cards it would have made an iBook an expensive upgrade.

    The original iBook G3 Clamshell included the following hardware:


    • CPU: 300 MHz PowerPC 750 (G3)
    • Level 2 cache: 512 KB @ 150 MHz
    • Bus: 66 MHz
    • RAM: 32 MB standard (soldered)
    • Video: ATI Rage Mobility (2x AGP)
    • VRAM: 4 MB
    • Display: 12.1″ 24-bit 800×600 SVGA 83 ppi color active matrix
    • Hard Drive: 3.2 GB UltraATA-33
    • CD-ROM: 24x
    • USB: 1 USB 1.1 port
    • Ethernet: 10/100Base-T
    • Modem: V.90 56k
    • Wi-Fi: 802.1b AirPort (optional)

  • Winter Games (Epyx, 1985)

    Winter Games (Epyx, 1985)


    As I mentioned in my previous post on the subject, the Epyx Games series were my favorite sports games of the 8-bit era. Of those, Winter Games was probably my favorite.


    Like Summer Games, Winter Games was developed first for the Commodore 64 and then ported to a wide variety of computer and video game platforms. This ad explicitly mentions the Commodore 64, Apple II and Macintosh so I suspect those were the first three available. Again, the events available varied slightly depending on which version you were playing but the original Commodore 64 version includes Hot Dog (freestyle ski jump where you do tricks), Biathlon, Figure Skating, Ski Jump, Speed Skating, Free Skating and Bob Sled.


    Though the events are different, the setup is just like Summer Games. One to eight players, practice, compete in some or compete in all events, etc. My favorite events were Hot Dog, Bob Sled, Biathlon, Ski Jump and Speed Skating. That’s most of them but then that’s why this is my favorite of the series. I like most of the events.


    Interestingly, the original Commodore 64 version of the game was released on Nintendo’s Virtual Console in 2009. Unfortunately, I believe it was a European only release. However, like Summer Games it was also available on the C64 DTV. If you can’t find on of those and don’t live in Europe and you want to give it a try, you’ll have to track down an original copy or an emulator and disk image. Make sure you are using a decent Atari style digital joystick for best results though!