31 October 2009

PowerBook G3 "Wall Street"

As a Mac geek, it makes perfect sense for me to write about my first Mac computer as the first entry in the Heartbreak Hardware series. It was 1997 or 1998, I was recently married and living with the in-laws in Brooklyn, space was tight. I had a 486 Packard Bell running on Windoze 95, but I had no place in my room to keep it so it was put in the basement. It was accessible but I just had to make the trip from my room from the second floor to the basement. It did not help that the PeeCee, like the typical machine back then, and even now, took forever to boot up. I am sure there were instances when just as the PeeCee was ready for use, it was dinner time and I had to turn off the computer then made the trip back upstair. I also had an Amiga 3000 but without the ability to get online I left it at my parents' home in Queens. Perhaps the A3000 can be written about in a future Heartbreak Hardware article.

Twelve years ago, I had no problem recalling the specs on the PowerBook G3. These days, I only remember that it is a Wall Street model. It still works so I now know that it runs at 266 MHz. It has 530 MB of RAM but I know that is not the original. I do remember dropping it off at Tekserv to have the memory upgraded. When the hard drive died, I got a 12-GB replacement drive from Other World Computing and did the change myself. I love how the keyboard comes off easily to grant access to the hard drive. Hot-swapping was, and still is, a great feature on the PB G3. The default hot-swappable items are the battery on the left and the CD-ROM drive on the right. The Removable Media War at the time involved everyone trying to unseat Iomega's Zip drive. I sided with "everyone" and bought the hot-swappable 120-MB SuperDisk from Imation. (On the drive itself, the maker is identified as VST Technologies). One major selling point for the SuperDisk was the it could do double duty as a floppy disk drive. It was a slooow disk drive but it got the job done. Eventually, I ended up with a Zip 250 USB external drive.

Like having a first child, I bought many extra hardware for the PB G3. In no particular order, they included: a PC Card USB adapter; a PC Card Firewire adapter; a Firewire CD-RW burner that was half the size of the PB G3 itself; a $99 special cable to connect the PB G3's ADB printer port to the parallel port on an HP LJ 4L; a $50 SCSI cable, bought from DataVision (Fifth Ave. and 39th Street) so I could use the 1-GB Jaz drive I originally bought for use with the 486 Packard Bell PeeCee. The battery had to be replaced then even the second battery died.

On the software front, I upgraded the OS once to 9.2.2 and a few times in OS X. Eudora Light was my email client, Roxio burnt backup CDs or CD-RWs for me, and I tried out many web browsers, including Netscape Navigator and Camino.

Some time in 2001, possibly with great influence by OS X's ever-greater demands, I got a domed iMac and the PowerBook G3 finally got retired. Four years of life is a long duration in computer time.

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