VooDoo One: Calling all PowerBooks!

This was truly the Summer of the Trailing Edge, with marvelous buys on everything from close-out clones to high level G3s. But for the female side of the family, it became the Summer of the PowerBook when the Desktop Dilettante* tossed kith and kin into the AppleCart and enticed them to go for broke.

VooDoo One: Calling all PowerBooks!

Early this summer my sister and her daughter arrived from London for a family wedding, their well-worn 140 and 170 in tow. Both had served them faithfully. The 140 saw my niece through school and into marriage. My sister had been so fond of her original 170 that, disappointed in her new 5300, she traded it, the next trip home, even-steven, for a used 170.

Naturally, not long after landing, they found themselves at Haddock Computer Center in Wichita checking out the latest Mac stuff.

Day One: There they were, fighting jet lag and browsing happily among the Macs, wishing they could upgrade, but knowing the prices would stagger the budget. Then, Voilà, they saw them. A couple of close-out PowerBooks at fire-sale prices. The last ones in stock, until the new, second generation, G3s arrived.

An expedition to CompUSA turned up a lone 1400/166 as well as a speedy light-weight 2400 (great for travelers, but no CD). Wichita was down to a dwindling handful of PowerBooks.

Call to the Dilettante in Topeka. Should Allison (sister) get a close-out 1400 and let Kate (niece) have her 170? Well, you know what we said. “Quick! Grab one! Before they disappear!”

After all, I knew Sis was good for it. She had recently gotten an advance on a self-help book she’d written. Something she had intended to call ‘Lifestyles of the Normal Neurotic’ though Lord knows what the publisher would call it in the end. Regardless, her advance would have covered a G3–with a little something left over for RAM.

“But which one do I get?” she moaned, as Mac Lovers do when we have to make a choice. “I just want to write, do email and surf the Web. One machine is cheaper, but they assure me the other, only a few hundred more, is really the better buy. Faster, I think, and there is something about the screen.”

“Ah,” I say, smug in my growing knowledge of computer jargon, “probably Active Matrix. Easier on the eyes. And the better machine no doubt runs at 166 vs.133.” I’m determined to strut my stuff. Well, why not? She has an advance. I don’t even have a nibble.

“Either one would be fine for word processing, email and the Internet.” I add. “Don’t shilly-shally around, though. Deals like this won’t last. Oh, and make sure you have them add another 16 RAM before you go.” It was as good as bought.

Day Two: Second phone call. Says Allison, “Shhhh! Don’t tell. Haddocks must think I’m crazy. But I bought them both. One for me and one for Kate.

And so she should. If it hadn’t been for daughter Kate’s persistence in peddling the manuscript, there wouldn’t have been any advance. Let alone a book.

“You got both?” Ah, happy visions of setting up not one, but two, brand new 1400s. And all while the bourgeoisie fiddled around getting their nails done for the upcoming wedding. “So who gets what?”

More gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair. “I hope I did the right thing. It’s a lot of money just to save a few dollars on long distance. I can’t even decide which one I prefer. The faster one, the one with the better screen, seems bulky. Hard to hold on to. And almost no software.”

“No Software? They both ought to have the same stuff. They certainly ought to be the same size!” Hey, I know those PowerBooks. I window-shop Macs like some folks window-shop cars. “What does the sales receipt say?”

We work our way through a maze of numbers. Slowly. Numbers aren’t our thing. “Well, this is odd,” she says finally. “It says here something about $1899 next to something about 3400. It might be the price of the two computers together, but…”

“3400!” I squeal. “You mean you just got a 3400 for $1899?” I’m breathing hard and thinking fast.

Panic stricken, she asks, “Is there something wrong? Did I blow the deal? Visions of creeping back to Haddocks to eat crow flash through her mind.

“Hardly!” I say. “But that 3400 is far too good for you,” Okay. Maybe I shouldn’t have put it quite so bluntly. But we were badly in need of a fast, graphics capable PowerBook for our own daughter. A 3400 to be precise. I’d been scanning the Net for a cheap close-out for weeks.

The wheels started spinning. Once committed to a new Mac, there’s no turning back. But the 3400 really was overkill for ClarisWorks and email. And, as a frequent transatlantic traveler, Allison was already concerned about weight and size. A wily sister might turn this to her advantage.

“You’re having the old Impulse Shopper’s Second Thoughts Panic Attack, right?” Note: I am leading the witness here.

“Check with CompUSA,” I say. “If they’ve still got that 2400, get it. We’ll pay you for the 3400. Even go halves on a CD. It was a win/win sort of thing.

Day Three: Allison slips into Haddocks with her third PowerBook. (Wrapped thoughtfully in a plain brown wrapper.) Now they know she’s crazy and the upgrade department is on overtime. She mumbles something to the effect that it’s all her sister’s fault.

Her sister, she says, is some sort of Mac maniac emanating that hypnotic Mac Voodoo that causes innocent bystanders to break down and snarf up an entire city’s supply of PowerBooks.

(This is now known as the ‘iMac Phenomenon’ due to numerous reports of people so entranced with the new blue beauty that they leave the store trailing more iMacs than their cars can carry.)

The salesman pulls out the original two PowerBooks and places them side by side on the counter as Allison stands transfixed by the enormity of what she is doing. With three PowerBooks staring back at her, all on the same charge card–hers–it’s hard to know where to begin. But she has her instructions.

She pulls out her list, checking it twice. It puts Santa to shame. Gamely, she takes a deep breath and begins.

“Could you please put that 16 RAM thingy in the 2400 instead of the 3400 and add another 64 RAM to the 3400. And, don’t forget, we still need an additional 16 RAM in the 1400. Let’s see now. Where were we? Oh yes. We could use an extra battery and a couple of those handy airplane adapters. And um, there was something else. Wait. I know I’ve got it here somewhere.”

She digs around in her purse for a second list. “Found it! Kate needs one of those nifty pocket Zips and I need that little PCmodem doojiggy.” She stops, briefly, for breath.

“Oh! I almost forgot. We better get some of those whatchamacallit cables to hook it all up. And a bag to carry it in. Two actually.”

“Anything else???”

Um, well… Could they be quick about it, please. The plane leaves for London on Monday.

Email from London: 6/98

Yo Susan! Wow! This new 1400/166 is Marvelous. Would you believe that even my Scottish born, IBM toting husband is impressed! It rocks!

Mom will email you as soon as she can get AOL figured out. We spent five hours with her last weekend trying to get her up and running. Think she’s about got it.

Thanks for everything. Kate

AppleCart: 9/98
Hey Sis! I’m waiting.


* Why Dilettante? In addition to writing for My Mac, I’m now doing a bimonthly column for MacTimes Network as the ‘Desktop Dilettante’. The what? The Eternal Amateur, in love with the Mac for what it allows even the klutz among us to accomplish. You will find us at: http://www.mactimes.com.

Or go straight to the ‘Desktop’ for:
“IMAC EVE! A Sure Cure for the Dog Days of Summer”
“Hello! From the Desktop Dilettante” with risqué iMac Cartoon


Susan Howerter

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