Old Macs Never Die

Its true. You can find a lot of them out here in Southern California.

Out here, where we are in the Mojave Desert, there are numerous small towns and villages among the mesas and foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. All of them congratulate themselves for their fortunate position, in the middle of the most beautiful land there is, and for being part of an economy that is far less expensive than down South in LALA land, or indeed, all the rest of California.

Older folks, and folks that can’t afford to live elsewhere, make the most of the inexpensive living conditions out here. Some even buy homes, which are priced way below the rest of the market in Southern California.

Many of these people have been here for a long time. A lot of these folks bought Apple computers a long time ago. Most of them are still using them. Of course, some of them bought Windows PCs, but you know those old things are not around any more.

Besides these long time denizens, there are about a hundred thousand PhDs and egghead physicists and scientists from the Naval Weapons base hereabouts, all live with cutting edge computing out here in the Mojave. Most of these people use old Macs too, but they use them on their jobs.

WiFi is big out here, and most everyone connects to the Internet via cheap cable modem, rather than DSL or dialup. Satellite modems are coming out soon, as well as cutting edge television and on-demand movies and entertainment over optical cable. This place is wired!

As I said, this great contingent of people, those retired people, the poorer ones, and the egghead/scientist, use older Macs. I’m talking about the Mac SE and LC II kind of older Macs.

But there are also all the other kinds of Macintosh Computers out here. You could start a museum, if you wanted to, but a lot of these are still up and running, and doing daily work on base.

There is the original Mac 128K, the Mac 512K, the Mac XL, the Mac II, the Mac Plus, the Mac LC series, the Mac SE, the Mac SE/30, the Mac IIx, the Mac IIcx, the Mac IIci, the Mac IIsi, the Mac IIfx, the Mac Performa, the Mac TV, the Mac Quadra, the Mac Centris, the Mac Classic, the Mac Color Classic, the first Mac Portable, the original PowerBook, PowerBook Duos, G3 and G4 PowerBooks, the original Power Mac (in Bondi Blue), Power Mac G3s (in rainbow colors), Power Mac G4 Cube, as well as all the newer eMacs, iBooks, iMacs, the new G5 Macs and the Apple Xserve.

Most of these old Macs come from the Naval base, where at one time, the Navy was purchasing around 33,000 Macs a year from Apple, to run all its scientific and phase testing labs, here on the largest military base in the world.

Where did all these old Macs go? Well, in spite of the new Naval Directive to move everything into Win-duh-ohs PCs, the scientists out here are a loyal and rebellious lot. They kept their old Macs, and most of them are still in use, doing 24/7/365 production work. The few Macs the Navy was able to get rid of, ended up out here on the streets of Ridgecrest, mostly in swap shops and thrift stores.

You can still pick up an old Mac, with monitor, keyboard and mouse, for less than $20, which is where a lot of people who can’t afford a new computer gets theirs. Of course, their old Macs are reliable and still useful. I believe my wife ended up buying most of these nearly free Macs for her famous (infamous) Mac LC computer lab at the private high school where she teaches.

Actually, she has less than 20 of them, but my wallet tells me she must have bought most of them, as well as all the spare SCSI connectors and AppleTalk modules and connectors that were left in Southern California.

She also owns a nice collection of Apple inkjet and laser printers, of every description – all of which work flawlessly in her lab. These are all connected with the old reliable AppleTalk network. Her collection is quite beautiful. All these old Macs, that daily sing in time with the tentative keystrokes of the young hands that touch them, with their very own imaginations and dreams.

The few lucky kids that are in her class are learning what their parents discovered, so long ago, about desk top publishing, and all the creative Zen that comes standard with every Macintosh. In all of this, I take issue with Jef Raskin’s recent rant about the Macintosh.

Jef was one of the original creators of the Mac, and he invented “click-and-drag.” A fine and gentle fellow, and very bright. However, he said something today that doesn’t fit at all. It was his statement that there is “only a little difference between OS X and Windows XP today.” The article containing the comment, found in the link (above) is from the Guardian, reported by Jason Walsh, on Thursday October 21, 2004.

In it, Jef says that “The principles of putting people first, and designing from the interface to the software and hardware, are as vital today as they were then.” But then he says, “My original vision is outdated and irrelevant.”

Jef continues by saying, The Mac is now a mess. A third party manual (Pogue’s The Missing Manual) is nearly 1,000 pages, and far from complete. Apple now does development by accretion, and there is only a little difference between using a Mac and a Windows machine.”

Jef elaborates on this last statement. “There has been immense progress (over the last 20 years in computing), primarily in the richness of applications. But all this power is lost on many people, and impedes the utility of it for the rest, because of the unnecessary complexity of using computers.”

Jef concludes by saying, “The quest for CPU power has been largely defeated by bloated software in applications and operating systems. Some programs I wrote in Basic on an Apple II ran faster than when written in a modern language on a G4 Dual-processor Mac with hardware 1,000 times faster.”

First of all, Jef is wrong about OS X and Windows XP being nearly alike. Believe me, I know people who use Windows, and there is a world of difference and pain between XP and the Macintosh experience with OS X! Don’t even go there, Jef! But I’m completely with Jef about the fact that you don’t need a G4 or better to do simple word processing or desktop publishing. Hardly anyone can type faster than an old Mac can display the type on its screen. And that was back when Macs only ran 25Hz CPUs!

However, I do love the power of the new Macs. Yeah, you can take my new Mac, (running live video and animations, music, and real time photo manipulation) from me, when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

But Jef is right about one thing.

There is a lot to be said for a simpler Mac, and the old user interface that it once had. After all, people dreamed their dreams and felt empowered to pursue them, even on the original old Mac Plus, right? In fact, I have a wonderful old Mac Color Classic, with its tiny 9-inch built in monitor, and it serves as my web server, and sometimes game player (Shanghai and Klondike). Its screen saver is Satori, and it has a complete set of fonts for desktop publishing. I could run a business off this little thing, and its like every other Mac because its built like a tank, and will probably last a hundred years.

If you have an old Mac. Don’t get rid of it. It’s too nice a machine for the landfill. If you don’t wish to use it anymore, donate it to a kid, or to a school. Or give it to one of the organizations that send computers to kids in backwater countries.

Chances are, that old Mac of yours will outlive us all.

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