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PowerPC Laptop Obsession

June 4th, 2023

On May 17th, I recieved an untested/for parts iBook G3 500MHz that I had purchased on eBay a number of days before. The charger for it had arrived the previous day, and putting the two together presented me with that wonderful chime that Macs have been known for for the last three-ish decades in some form or another. While it didn't include a hard drive, I already owned a 40GB hard drive that I could put inside, and use a burned Mac OS 9.2.2 installer CD to get it running for real. This was the first of several PowerPC Macs that I have purchased.

One of the first modifications I made was to create a DIY heat spreader for the GPU on the underside of the Main Logic Board. It was made from a random SATA 5'25 drive bay to 2.5" drive adapter that wouldn't even fit in the optical bay of the machine it was intended for (My Thinkpad T44p). To make the machine more capable of running 3D games and newer versions of Mac OS (including OS X Tiger, which is what it runs now), I added a 512MB stick of RAM to bting it up to a total of 576MB. Following that, I purchased a pair of working batteries, and have been carrying it around as a bit of an e-Typewriter, as I don't have an original AirPort card. it plays old games and allows me to type up documents without the temptation of the wider internet waiting in the wings.

I have named her "Baby", as she was my first and most smallest vintage Apple laptop.

The second laptop I obtained (and the third one I actually bought), was a 2004 PowerBook G4. It showed up on the same day as the other G4 I also bought, and arrived with 512MB of RAM installed, along with its original 60GB hard drive. I also discovered that it was the 1.33Ghz model, and that my luck had paid off again and presented me with a working laptop. A little less working than the G3, but not dead.

The two flaws I found with the machine are as follows. 1: The trackpad click button does not work, and 2 (more crucially): the display backlight inverter is broken. I did manage to solder it back together but it only worked for about 15 minutes before fizzling out again with a weak flicker to DARKNESS. Lucky for me (again), both of these parts cost $15 together on eBay, so hopefully in about a week, I will have a new trackpad cable and button, and a new backlight inverter board.

I have named her "Alice", as the first two letters are shared with Aluminum.

That leaves the last of the three PowerPC laptops I have bought, the 1GHz iBook G4. I recieved it and immediately noticed how heavy it was, first and foremost, when compared to the 12-inch iBook I had already been using, and even being heavier than the Aluminum PowerBook G4. And secondly that it seemed not to have an OS installed on it even though the pictures in the listing on eBay implied it would. After getting OS X Tiger installed on it, along with getting some apps like Halo: Combat Evolved, InterWebPPC, and Microsoft Office 2004 copied over from my G3 in Target Disk mode, and using it to clone an OS along with these few apps over to Alice, it experienced some really janky behavior, including general slow system performance, not ever really mounting USB drives for whatever reason when I wanted to copy XBench 1.3 to it to compare against Alice's results and a first-gen MacBook Pro belonging to a friend of mine, and then having OS update installs either crash the system completely or fail partway through.

I swapped some RAM around when I got it, taking the 1GB stick that was installed in this by default, a maxed out RAM configuration of 1.25GB, and putting it into Alice. This meant that Alice now had a 1.25GB RAM configuration. I put a 512MB stick of DDR I had from a laptop I found in the trash a while back into the G4 iBook, giving it 768MB. I didn't really start playing with the laptop until after Ihad changed the RAM configuration, so I assumed it was the fault of the RAM, so I moved the spare 256MB stick from the PowerBook into the iBook, and tried booting it up...

...This showed me a question mark folder. The boot picker shows no options, and the disk utility in my burned OS X Tiger installer shows no drives present other than the CD itself. The hard drive must have died. I have since removed the hard drive for later experimentation, and after re-shuffling the RAM around to give Alice 1.5GB of RAM, and when I put a SATA SSD into the PowerBook, I will move the 60GB HDD into this iBook.

I have named her "Ghost", for being incredibly cursed.

So, where does it stand?

I have also preemptively decided that if I get a G4 Titanium PowerBook, it will be named Tina, for the same reason the Aluminum powerbook is named Alice. The elemental symbol pun. Other names such as Monster and Titan might be reserved for PowerPC desktops, if I ever manage to get any of those.

Until next time: Annika LaFey