Retro Computing

This post was written on a retro “G3” iMac in the corner of the junk room we somewhat convincingly call the “Study” at home. We bought the iMac from eBay about four years ago, and for the majority of that time, it has sat on the floor. It was originally sold in about 2002 as far as I can figure out, and then left in the store room of a school for the best part of a decade until somebody cleared the school, and sold it to us.

When originally sold, the iMac would have been the height of trendy sophistication – the kind of computer you would often find on the desk of design company receptions, purely so it might be seen by visitors. I remember seeing the ads for the iMac when I visited my family in California in 1999. Driving past Golden Gate Park, the highway was bombarded with towering images of the machines, in colours such as tangerine, and raspberry.

The surpring thing about the old iMac is that it could give still give a cheap PC a run for it’s money. OSX “Tiger” running in 512Mb RAM boots faster than Windows 10 with 4Gb of RAM. Go figure. It also picks up the internet connection automatically via the DHCP server, and Safari (almost unbelievably) still works. Of course, I’ve installed FireFox, FileZilla, and Thunderbird, and a few pieces of Abandonware (writing this in “TextWrangler”), but otherwise – it’s a fine computer, and looks kind of retro-cool.

The only negatives you might level at the old iMac are that it’s screen is a little blurry (it’s a CRT!), and the hardware emits the constant wine of fans deep inside the case. We must have become immune to the wining sound of computers in the 1990s, because I don’t remember them sounding this bad. It’s not immediately annoying, but in the quiet of the night, it chips away at you. I think perhaps the 15 year old hard drive is the culprit, which should be an easy (and cheap) replacement. Before doing that I would need to somehow image the machine though. Thankfully I know a Mac sysadmin on the other side of the planet that might be able to answer my questions.

I went shopping briefly this afternoon to buy the requisite parts to bring the old iMac back to life. Although the system unit and it’s associated kettle lead had resided on the floor for the last several years, it had no keyboard, no mouse, and I seemed to remember a distinct lack of USB ports – so I wandered into a local computer store, and started looking around. After a few moments a be-shirted sales guy approached me.”Can I help you?””Actually, yes you can. I want the cheapest half-decent USB keyboard, mouse, and ethernet cable you have”I was directed to a shelf with many, many keyboards, and it transpired the only difference between the no-name make, and the a Logitech keyboard was a few pence – so I bought the well know make. When I got home I looked into the study at the after-market keyboard attached to the old PC we affectionately refer to as “Trigger’s Broom”, and discovered it was exactly the same make and model. Go figure.

Anyway… I’m slowly falling asleep while writing this. It’s been a long day. Perhaps time to hit the sack.

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