Sunday, June 21, 2009

Project iMac

My first computer was a brand new Apple Mac SE with a whopping 20MB hard drive for my birthday my senior year of high school. At the time, that hard drive seemed HUGE. Not so much today.

Through most of my college years, I had the trusty SE with it's 9" B&W monitor and massive Imagewriter II printer. I eventually got an accelerator card for it and maxed out it's RAM at 1MB. During one of my "extra" senior years at WPI, I upgraded to a Centris 610 with a huge 13" Sony Trinitron monitor. Many a game of Hellcats over the Pacific with my Gravis mousestick were played.

Soon after graduation, I got a job at a small local computer store in Maine and learned the art of building an IBM-compatible PC. At some point I sold the Centris went fully to the Dark Side as PC user. Since '94 or '95, I haven't had a Mac.

A few weeks ago, I was poking around a Goodwill in Gilbert, AZ, and came across an Indigo iMac. I grabbed a power cord from a nearby rack and plugged it in in the testing area. I booted immediately and everything seemed to work fine. I'd been looking for a project to amuse myself during my spare time, and for $25, I couldn't pass up the little guy.

I found a Mac-compatible keyboard at another Goodwill near home and with one of my old USB mice, I had myself a fully-functioning, Summer of 2000 iMac G3 350Mhz in all it's glory. Mac OS 9.0.4 on it's 7GB hard drive with 192MB of RAM. I researched the latest compatible OS the little G3 could support and it turned out to be OS X 10.3.9. I was able to round up the install discs and after installing a larger hard drive I had hanging around, I got it installed no problem. I found a faster system board on eBay located in Queen Creek, and after verifying it was a compatible board, I bought it. The part number said it was a 450MHz board, but it turned out to be a newer 500Mhz board. The board also added FireWire and had double the onboard video memory. I swapped it out and it runs 10.3.9 pretty well.

I'm still trying to track down some compatible memory to max it out at 1GB of RAM, but it's turning out to be quite an ordeal. The first place I tried to order from "lost" my order, but I later found it wouldn't have worked in any case. A couple days ago, I got a call from my credit card company and the card that I tried to use had a ton of suspicious charges. Go figure. Luckily they rejected most of them and have filed fraud claims on the remaining ones.

The second company I tried to order from (the memory was explicitly listed as Mac-compatible) never charged my card or shipped memory. I tried calling and emailing, but they cancelled the order with no explanation. Great company, huh?

I found some that seemed to fit the bill, but when it arrived, the iMac didn't recognize it. I found a stack of memory chips at a nearby Goodwill yesterday, and was able to marinally increase my memory. I've loaded OS X 10.4 on it, but it runs pretty slow, as it is using all the available physical memory. I'm going to keep looking once I get paid again.

I did get a kick today when I was looking around a nearby pawn shop and found a much older Tangerine iMac marked at $100. Mine is way faster and I haven't spent nearly that much.


Anonymous said...

Crucial has the memory for it in stock - I am on my third G3 imac upgrade to Tiger (gave away the other two) and it never ceases to amaze me - I find these things in the trash or someone just leaves it by the side of the road and the OS on the harddrive (one HD was toast from a hardware problem) is 9.0 - not 9.1 and the firmware was not upgraded on any of these to run OS X. So far no problems on the slot loading imacs getting the to 1 gig. Runs well - I understand leopard is a possibility by tricking the installer but I never bothered - at least not yet.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm....Now that I have gone and opened my big mouth my slot loading imac current project is recognizing the memory but is unstable at 1 gig - is a REV A board so it should.

Ah well - guess Im stuck at 512MEG for now - good enough.

Better prices on RAM here:

Anonymous said...

And even MORE weirdness - Tiger system profile is recognizing the RAM as PC133 (it is but usually it says PC100)

It will recognize the full 1 gig of memory but is only stable with 512 meg.

Interesting but this little iMac seems peppier then the last two I did and they had faster drives....wonder if it really is using the 133 RAM speed instead of the usual 100MHZ.....NAH!