eBay Purchase #21 – Apple Macintosh G3 M3979

apple-g3desktop-1eBay Purchase Price: $150 AUD

Country of Origin: Australia

Condition: Excellent

The Power Macintosh G3 marked the end of an era – the end of beige computers and rainbow coloured logos at Apple. The G3 came about at a challenging time; demand slumped and profits nosedived to the point bankruptcy was in their sights. By the end of 1997, Steve Jobs returned and warmed up to Bill Gates seeking solutions. Consequently Microsoft invested $150 million USD in stocks and remained committed to developing a new version of Microsoft Office for the Mac. From the G3, the concept of what a computer should look like has arguably not been the same since.

This G3 according to Everymac.com was released in November 1997 and rolled off the production line in December the following year. On the back of the case it hints that it was originally comprising of a PowerPC 750 266 MHz processor, 32 MB PC66 SDRAM, 4 GB Quantum IDE hard disk drive, and built-in ATI Rage Pro Turbo graphics adapter which were implemented in the last revision from August 1998. It was obvious this Mac had a few upgrades along the way however.

The case itself had been a tried and tested design that had been in use since the Power Macintosh 7200 series from 1995. Known as the Outrigger, the case was designed for accessibility to components without the need for a screwdriver. Not immediately obvious as I haven’t owned a Mac in such a case before, two tabs facing downward on the front of case needed to be pressed in order to lift up the cover. Directly exposed is the floppy disk drive and power supply unit. To the left a long plastic flap named the Card Retainer Baffle can be lifted, allowing access to the PCI slots and cards. Two latches are now then visible, and once in position will unlock the internal chassis for full access to the motherboard and hard disk drive.

apple-g3desktop-2

Testing the Mac as it was upon receiving it.

After a quick check inside since it arrived in the post, I gave it a test run in which it booted up to Mac OS 9.2. It needed a new PRAM battery, so I later removed the existing one. There wasn’t anything on the hard disk that was particularly worth saving; browsing through the files it was clear an older gentleman who had photography as a hobby was the last to use it, although this seemed to have ended in 2006. After tracking down a copy of Mac OS 9.2.2 I went to reinitialise the hard disk and start afresh.

Upon doing so, I soon found the Mac to be virtually unusable. Between the stage of displaying the Mac OS splash screen and loading Finder the system would grind to a halt. Not even the mouse cursor would respond. Since the Mac arrived functioning, I suspected a system extension may be the issue. Holding the Shift key as I started the Mac skipped all the system extensions and would now successfully come to the Finder desktop.

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Sonnet Encore G4 400 MHz processor.

As I mentioned before it was obvious this Mac wasn’t in its original configuration. In fact it wasn’t really a G3 anymore. The original PowerPC 750 processor had at some stage been replaced with a Sonnet Encore G4 upgrade processor chip rated at 400 MHz. Not to mention the other upgrades included 320 MB RAM, Iomega Zip drive, 32 MB ATI Rage 128 Pro, and USB adapter. The Sonnet chip however was the culprit to the regular system freezes. Browsing the Internet, I discovered add-on software from Sonnet was required. Once I found a copy I transferred the installer across via USB stick and installed the software. In order to do so, I would need to boot the Mac with system extensions turned off, use Extension Manager to load only basic components and to support USB mass storage drives, and then reboot with those settings applied to avoid the system freezing up. The key component from the Sonnet installer was a system extension which consequently is loaded during start up. A little utility known as Metronome provides basic processor details and current temperature. With this software installed, stability was rock solid and Mac OS 9 is a breeze to run.

I don’t envisage owning a massive Macintosh computer collection, so depending on price I attempt to go for specific models. The beige G3 is one of those for being a fast pre-OS X Mac.

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