Tuesday, 20 August 2013

It's not all about the future! But...Caveat Emptor!

Regular readers to the Apple Harvest will know that I'm a relative newbie to the Apple brotherhood. I first started using computers at university in 1980, first on ICL 1900/2900 machines, then on a VAX 11/780 and various micros - Superbrains, PETs, and BBC Model Bs. In my first job in the real world I started to use the original IBM PC running DOS alongside IBM 360s. Up until 1998 I was still designing and writing programmes for Windows. I'd never even seen a Mac close up until about 2004, and certainly never used one.

I bought my first Mac in 2008 and have never looked back. Until just recently...one of the downsides of being so late to the party was that I missed out on enjoying some of the classic Macs of yesteryear. But such is the engineering and design quality of the Mac that a machine that now sits on Apple's official obsolete list can still find a place in a modern Mac based network. And you can pick them up at silly prices!

The last PC I bought before my first Mac was an Asus R1F tablet. In 2007 that laptop was pretty much state of the art, and well suited my needs. While it does still work, it has no place in a contemporary office. It takes over forty-five minutes from power up to being in a position to do anything vaguely functional.

ASUS R1F tablet
Why would I mention that? Well, some three or four years earlier, Apple launched the 17inch iMac G4, the 'iLamp', which in my mind is probably the most beautiful computer ever designed. I recently bought a 2003 G4 for about £100. It sits in my bedroom, linked in to the main Apple Harvest network. Within a minute of pushing the power button, the machine is ready and waiting.

Good as new - G4 17inch iMac
I bought my G4 through a Mac specialist on eBay with a good reputation but even when you go through these channel you need to be diligent. The machine arrived a couple of days after putting the order through but on getting it out of the box and starting to set it up, I realised there was something wrong. Although specified as having both Airport and Bluetooth adaptors fitted, a quick check of  About This Mac showed neither were in place.

I contacted the seller, and very soon received a reply, excuse and apology, with instructions on how to return the machine. The next day a courier arrived an took the box away, and about a week later (this all happened over a bank holiday weekend) the replacement came. Everything appeared to be OK regarding connectivity but there was now a problem with the CD/DVD burner - it looked like there was one fitted but I couldn't get it to accept a DVD.

I didn't want the hassle of sending the whole kit and caboodle back to the dealer for a second time so I ordered a replacement DVD drive and downloaded the replacement instructions from iFixit. On receipt of the new drive I began the task of installing it. In fact there was a DVD burner installed - but the cable hadn't been connected (or it had come loose). I attached the connector and put the machine back together, booted up and nothing happened. Nada, zilch - cold sweat and that feeling of panic began to set in, until I realised I hadn't flicked the mains switch. Yes, it happens to even experienced computer users from time to time!!!!

I confess, the G4 is an extravagance. It isn't permanently switched on, unlike most of the other Macs at Apple Harvest HQ, and it's really only getting used to surf the internet and run iTunes. But heck, you'd struggle to get a tablet for that sort of price, never mind a fully functional piece of engineering history and a magnificent art deco item to boot!

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