The Last Macintosh
A personal tribute to the PowerPC
14 September 2006
Updated to include:
The Last Classic Mac OS
Officially deceased but won't lie down
28 October 2007
When, on 7 August 2006, Apple announced the Mac Pro as the replacement for the Power Mac G5, it was the last Mac model to transition to Intel processors. Since then I've checked the US Apple Store every day, and on 12 September 2006 (US time) the Power Mac G5 quietly disappeared from the Apple Store, thus for me marking the end of the PowerPC Macintosh line as 11 September 2006. In my opinion the Power Mac G5 was the last true Macintosh sold new by Apple, so I've written this short tribute to mark the passing of the Macintosh computer.
Except for a short technical course on the Basic programming language in 1988, my first experience with a personal computer (as opposed to remote terminals) was in my new job in 1990, where I was introduced to the Macintosh SE/30. I used a variety of professional Macs in the next few years, including a couple of flavours of the Macintosh II, the Power Mac 6100, and Power Mac 7200.
In May 1996 I bought my first Macintosh, a Power Mac 7200/90 with Mac System 7.5.3, which I personally upgraded in a number of ways over the next few years (second, larger HD; 24x CD-ROM; more RAM & VRAM; XClaimVR Rage graphics card; Voodoo graphics card, Rage Orion graphics card, and Mac OS 8.1). The 7200 has served me well, and has never let me down - I finally, regretfully, retired it early this year, when it became redundant as my scanner computer when I upgraded my MDD G4. As it contains the 90MHz version of the original PowerPC 601 chip that was introduced in the 6100/60, I affectionately call it the 'G1/90'.
My next Macintosh was a Blue & White 'Yosemite' Power Mac G3/400, running Mac OS 8.5.1, which I bought in June 1999 and later upgraded to Mac OS 8.6. This was delivered with a faulty RAM module, which was replaced at no charge by Apple some years later when it began causing startup malfunctions after I connected a powered USB hub. I also had major directory problems as a result of trying to run Mac OS 9.2 on it, resulting in the necessity to reformat the drive to reinstall a clean Mac OS 8.6. It otherwise has run well, and is able to run Virtual PC 2 & 3 Win 98, which allowed me to play older PC games through the Voodoo2 card I added (many of my TR walkthroughs were written this way, from TR II Gold through to TR Chronicles!) The only other upgrades I installed were a variety of RAM modules. I rarely use it now, but I keep it available for the occasional Tomb Raider custom level that won't run on the Mac, but will in Virtual PC 2.
My third, and current, Macintosh is an MDD Power Mac Dual G4/1.25, bought in January 2004 with OS X Panther installed. It was the last model Macintosh that was able to dual boot into Mac OS 9, a feature I particularly wanted - OS 9 booting ended with the final MDD Power Macs in mid 2004. It has developed noisy fans (surprise, surprise), mainly the GeForce4 graphics card fan, but otherwise has run very well. With the later Panther updates (I'm now on 10.3.9) it has been very stable, and rarely has an app crash or a kernel panic - I do recall them happening, but not when the last occurred, so it goes months between falling-overs. I occasionally boot it into Mac OS 9.2 but only for specific reasons like running VirtualPC 5 Win 98SE, or using the scanner, which isn't supported in Panther. I've updated it with a dual port USB 2 card, a legacy SCSI card for my old scanner (it may have been cheaper to buy a new scanner...), two RAM modules (total RAM is now 1GB), and a second HD in the rear bay (there's still room for another two drives in the front bay, just right for a 120GB RAID Mirror for backups :-) I'm very happy with the MDD PM, and it's perfect for everything I do with the single exception that it is now too slow for some of the newer games. Until TR Legend comes to Mac, if ever, this isn't a problem, and anyway I have a PlayStation 2 which is perfect for Legend.
Those wanting to know more about the full history of the Macintosh can do worse than to start with the Wikipedia article on the Macintosh. For lots of technical details on everything Apple, also check out Mactracker - it's a free utility containing a database of everything Apple ever made, and is well worth downloading for all Apple fans!
The new Apple era started when Steve Jobs dropped the gigantic Intel announcement bomb in 2005 - the best comment I ever saw on that was 'Think Same', but for the life of me I can't recall where I saw it... I want to make it clear that although I mourn the passing of the PowerPC Macintosh I do like the new Intel Macs, but they aren't true Macintosh computers - I define a Macintosh as an Apple computer belonging to the 68xxx/PPC processor family.
Apple first announced the move to Intel processors on 6 June 2005, stunning most Mac users. After the usual grieving period with weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, most of us became quite optimistic about the future of the 'MacIntel'. After all, no matter how much we loved them, PowerPC Macs weren't going anywhere, were they..? Well that's what Steve Jobs wanted us to think - seeing what the PowerPC is gracing these days, I have to wonder what the reason for the switch really was...
The first Intel Macs were the iMac and MacBook Pro (PowerBook replacement), announced 10 January 2006 (the MacBook Pro first shipped 14 February 2006).
The Intel Mac mini was announced 28 February 2006.
Boot Camp (Apple supported Win XP booting) was announced 5 April 2006, shortly after Win booting was successfully hacked on an Intel Mac. In their usual form, Apple simplified the very technical hacked Win boot into a user-friendly and elegant process, which indicates that they must have been working on it for some time while all the time saying they wouldn't support Windoze booting on a Mac. Despite being a beta release Boot Camp was almost fully functional and largely bug free, including good graphics drivers that allowed the playing of virtually any Win XP game (the sticking point with previous Win-on-Mac solutions, Intel or PPC, since VirtualPC dropped game support after VPC3 back around 2000)!
The 17" MacBook Pro was announced 24 April 2006.
The MacBook (iBook replacement) was announced 16 May 2006, thus completing the portable lineup.
The Education iMac (eMac replacement) with integrated graphics, was announced 5 July 2006.
The last Mac to transition was the Mac Pro (Power Mac replacement) which was announced on 7 August 2006 (along with the Xserve, which is technically not a 'Mac' so doesn't really count).
The iMac Core 2 Duo (the first Core 2 Duo Mac) was announced 6 September 2006, including what I consider to be the most exciting MacIntel announcement so far, a 24" Core 2 Duo iMac. I want one :-)
The Power Mac G5 quietly disappeared from the US Apple Store 12 September 2006. This was the final PowerPC Mac offered for sale by Apple as a new machine. Thus, to my mind, the true Mac era ended 11 September 2006, after a roller coaster ride lasting more than 22 years since the official announcement of the first Macintosh in the famous '1984' advertisement at the Super Bowl on 22 January 1984, and its release 2 days later on 24 January 1984.
However the IBM PowerPC processor lives on in all the next generation game consoles! For example, the Xenon processor in the Xbox 360 is a 3.2GHz triple core IBM PowerPC. I have to wonder just how nice that would have been tucked into a Mac! Both the Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 3 also have processors based on the IBM PowerPC.
And don't forget that one of the original AIM (Apple/IBM/Motorola) PowerPC partners back in the early 90's was Motorola, who are doing very nicely thank you in the communications market, although they spun off their semiconductor manufacturing into a separate company, Freescale, in 2004, who continued to develop the PowerPC G4 processor.
And a final note. Sonnet have just announced the first MDD Power Mac dual G4 processor upgrade, with a top of the range dual 1.8GHz priced at $US600. If I were to upgrade my MDD with the dual 1.8GHz G4, a Radeon 9600 Pro graphics card, and a 23" Apple monitor, it would cost me about $AUS2,870, only slightly less than a base model 24" iMac at $AUS2,999. The base 24" iMac would have the far better 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo, the far more powerful GeForce 7300 GT graphics, and a larger screen. It would take up far less space, and could be optioned up off-the-shelf for even better performance. There's no comparison, even though my MDD before any mods is quite capable, even today! I've shelved any upgrade plans along those lines for the MDD :-)
24 January 1984 - 11 September 2006
Gone but never forgotten!
Officially deceased but won't lie down
28 October 2007
The release of OS X 10.5 Leopard on 26 October 2007 marks the end of Apple's support of the classic Mac OS. Leopard no longer supports PPC Mac Classic mode, so anyone who still relies on a classic Mac app is out of luck with Leopard. So here's my modest tribute to a legend.
Although Classic has been less and less useful as time goes on, there are sure to be some PPC Mac users out there like myself who still need to run classic apps, either because an update or replacement doesn't exist, or because they can't find a suitable replacement for a much loved classic app. I'm likely to upgrade to Leopard sometime, but it will be on a separate internal hard drive alongside Panther, for dual-booting. I can't bear to be parted from Panther, just yet, for reasons such as these classic apps:
- all the Mac Tomb Raiders up to The Last Revelation (TR 4). None of these (7) games have been confirmed yet for Carbonising by Aspyr, but although I'm not hopeful I've not yet ruled it out. These alone lock me into Panther for some time yet!
- Claris Home Page, which was discontinued in 2001 with v3. There may be better WYSIWYG website design packages these days, but I'm happy with the utility and ease of use of Home Page. It may be very basic by today's standards but what it does it does well and has been running this site since day one. Anyway, who needs templates or rollovers :)
- SoundApp PPC, which was a very useful freeware audio converter, capable of handling one of the widest range of formats at the time. The developer, Norman Franke, moved on to other things and the last release was v2.7.3 in late 2000. Although there are other audio utilities for OS X, none to this day have the simplicity or practicality of SoundApp PPC.
- The older F/A-18 Hornet flightsims, of which only F/A-18 Korea can be run in Classic with the help of MacGLide. The later F/A-18 OIF may be OS X native but for sheer flightsim fun on a Mac nothing can beat Hornet Korea. Well, except for Hornet 3 which won't run in Classic...
- I also have occasional use for a few odd things like my old GME97 Encyclopaedia (and some other references) and my faithful old Agfa scanner. Unfortunately the Agfa scanner will only work by booting into OS 9 as the SCSI connection doesn't work properly in Panther.
So the end of Classic support by Apple is, for myself and many other long term Mac users, an event to rank up there with the last PPC Mac. Hence my modest tribute to an operating system family that may not have always been cutting edge, but will always be fondly remembered.
24 January 1984 - 26 October 2007