My First Mac - The Unlikely iBook G4

I have a knack for finding cheap computers in odd places. If there is anything I learned from college, finding these odd balls was my highest scored class. Listing out all the computers I have bartered for or bought would probably take quite some time. Many of these computers were bought cheap and turned for a profit, while others were bought to be a part of my growing collection. As I look back, I think of my favorite score, my first actually. This is the story of how I was inspired by my first Mac.

Summer 2008 was tremendous. I had completed my Sophomore year in high school and was working part time in the sausage factory that my dad ran. When I wasn’t packaging sausage, I was driving all over town with my church friends, having a great time. One such adventure was the giant yard sale we had to raise money for a missions trip. Everyone in the church brought something to donate. I even drove around pulling things out of people’s trash (I sold some of it too). When we had brought everything together, one thing immediately stood out to me in dramatic fashion: one of the families had brought in a used Apple iBook G4.

Now Apple products were no stranger to me. I had used old System 7 Power Macintoshes going through elementary school. By 2008, I was also on my second iPod (an iPod Video 30 GB). My parents had almost been talked into buying me one of the Apple Macbooks after the Power PC to Intel transition in 2006. This was not to be because of the steep cost and my average grades (in hind site, I am thankful that they didn’t get it).

Back in iBook land, I immediately tried to buy the iBook G4. Turns out, it had a broken screen and no battery. This made my task even easier for bartering. Unfortunately, when I tried to buy it, my youth pastor told me to set it aside. He wanted to sell it for parts and get more money for it. I was devastated.

That night, I went home and told my brother Adam what had happened. Adam also loves Apple products and was immediately on my side. After some pestering and persistence on both our parts, we finally talked our youth pastor into selling the computer to us for $50 several weeks later.

Our next task was to find new parts. This is where our connections came in to play (remember, connections make things happen). As it turned out, a family friend actually ran a computer recycling center in Chicago. She immediately set to work finding us a the parts we needed. Two weeks later, she stopped by our house with another iBook G4! This iBook G4 had no keyboard, no hard drive, and no battery. Adam and I immediately found screen replacement tutorials online and set to work replacing the screen.

After several hours of moving cables, removing screws, and plucking off electrical tap, we had a fully running iBook G4 with a replaced 12 inch 1024 by 768 display, a 60 GB HDD, 1 GB of DDR2 RAM, and a single core 800 MHz Power PC G4 processor. Our “new” machine ran OS X 10.4.5 (the cat known as Panther). We shared this machine for syncing our photos and iTunes libraries until my brother got his Macbook in October of 2009. The iBook G4 was our first Mac. Many computers had been used in our family previously, but this laptop was our first Mac. The iBook G4 was the first computer we used to edit pictures, make music, and watch downloaded videos. Two brothers created, shared, and loved this old computer, even for the short time we used it.

Finding that iBook and making it something I could use is one of the biggest inspirations that brought me to being a computing professional today. I love making things that don’t work work again. I love giving life to old hardware, and breathing new air into an old piece of code that just needs some love. I REALLY love telling other people what works best for them, especially when they come to me for help. Computers create and inspire amazing things, so why not be the person that creates the modern tool of inspiration.

Today is the 30th anniversary of the Macintosh. On January 24th, 1984, Steve Jobs introduced the original Macintosh. The Macintosh changed the world. Macintosh System 1.0 inspired every computer operating system that followed. Macintosh made beautiful computing a reality (thanks to inspiration from the geniuses at Xerox Parc). We see results from it everywhere we go. What takes me aback and makes me think is the front page of today. It has the original 9" 1984 Macintosh next to a 27" 2013 iMac. It shows how far we have come.

Front page view of on January 24th, 2014

I think back to my first laptop (a Toshiba with 6 GB of HDD space and a Pentium II mobile) and my first Mac. I think of the technical gap betweem what I did with those two laptops and what I do with my iPhone, Macbook Pro, and PC desktop today. We have come so far as an industry and a society. We have created things that have changed the world, but the thought that Apple put forward in 1984 still holds true today:

Here is to the next 30 years.

Here is to the hope that someday soon a young high schooler will also find a 2014 Macbook Pro that needs some love, fix it, and become an inspired creator for the next generation and generations to come.