4 November 2010
Today I was reminded of just how awesome Apple was in the past. Don't get me wrong, their new stuff is spectacular (not that I own much of it). It's just that the new stuff is all flash and "wow, that's amazing!" where there old stuff was just so understated and practical and brilliant.
I have an old G3 PowerBook (a Wallstreet) that I've retired to use solely at work, next to my massive lathe, for making setup sheets. It's simple word processing. I have OS X installed on it, but I run it in OS 9, because only OS 9 recognizes my thumb drive through the USB card that I plug into the card slot. That's right. This laptop is so freaking old that I need a removable card to give it USB ports; there are none on the machine itself.
I use the thumb drive because this laptop isn't connected to the network, so I save the setup sheets as RTF's on the thumb drive, and just pop over to one of the shop's computers to print it. It's easy.
I had discussed with the other machinist who runs a similar lathe the idea of him also making setup sheets. He was on board with the idea, but didn't have a computer at his machine. Then one day, it occurred to him that he had an old iMac sitting in a box in his basement. So he brought it in today, and I started screwing around with it.
This G3 233 iMac had OS 8.5 installed, dating back to 1998 or so, a tray-loading CD-ROM drive, and a whopping 64 MB of RAM. Right away, I knew this thing was old. It did, however, have built-in USB ports. I thought this would be no problem, until I tried a thumb drive on one of those ports. It seems OS 8.5 lacked the necessary drivers to recognize one of these things.
So, with no thumb-drive compatability, no network cabling, and (as anyone familiar with these machines knows), no floppy drive, I was at a loss for a way to get data from my laptop to the newly-arrived iMac (which, by the way, was in pristine condition).
And then I noticed something that made me remember something.
On the left speaker cover of the iMac there was a near-black little window. I checked the back of my PowerBook - there it was, another little near-black window. And suddenly there was hope. I'd never done it before, but I recalled that these old legacy machines were equipped with something really nifty - infrared network capability. Sit the PowerBook right in front of the iMac, set up the IR network, and away you go.
It took a little screwing around, but it worked, flawlessly, and data started flying around like magic. No AirPort, no cables, no thumb drives or floppies. Just a really cool solution they'd thought to include all those years ago, now extinct with the advent of standard wireless cards.
As geeky as this is, it made my day.