PowerBook in 2019?

Why in the world would anyone want to use an old, single core MacBook from 2004?

My PowerBook G4 running 10.4 OS X

Science!

First a little background before I get into the meat of this.

The Apple PowerBook G4, first released in 1991 according to Wikipedia, eventually replaced by the MacBook Pro in 2006. The MacBook Pro switched from the PowerPC G series processors to Intel processors.

When this switch happened, a lot of software from the old machines stopped working due to incompatibility. Since the G series processors were not using the same architecture as Intel’s processors, the software would not work.

There are a number of sites and communities out there that still love these old machines. One of my all time favorite games, EverQuest, had a mac server until a few years back, however you had to use an old Apple PowerPC to even run the software. Sites like r/PowerPC on reddit and macos9lives are a couple examples.

I was typically a windows user as a kid and didn’t get into Apple until around the time the iPhone 4 came out. I switched back and forth many times until i finally bought my first Core2Duo MacBook white unibody in 2010. I still use this computer almost a decade later, though there have been a few upgrades to the hardware to keep it going.

So, I wanted to see what the fuss was all about.

The Journey:

I wanted to get a PowerBook. After shopping online I found a 2004 PowerBook g4 1.33GHz. It came with OS X 10.3.9 and System9 installed. This would allow me to play much older games, and some newer ones I thought.

The computer cost me about $45.00 ($60.00 ish with shipping) on Ebay. Once I got a minor password issue figured out, I went to work trying to find software.

Since the computer OS is so old, Safari would not let me browse any websites. I kept getting certificate errors, as expected. I fired up my 2010 MacBook and setup FileZilla so i could FTP files over to the dinosaur.

I got the following software pushed over and running:

– Classilla (A OS 9 web browser with enough modern features that I could go to some of the old software repositories and download stuff onto my mac without too many issues)

– Doom I and II (because, can it run Doom?) [spoiler: yes]

– Civilization III

– Halo 1

– Libre Office

– Unreal Tournament (original) 

– and other games and applications to see what this baby could do

There were a number of issues with getting some software installed, some of the games were just too old or required a wrapper/launcher to get the game to run on OS X but I was having fun playing some childhood games that I played on my windows 98 computer.

 The computer ran like a champ, and the battery still worked! But it was removable so maybe the previous owner replaced the battery recently. I get about 2 hours on battery before I need to plug in. It’s nowhere near my newer MacBooks, but it works!

Once I got everything setup, I wanted to see if I could update the OS. I bought a copy of 10.5.8 (the last compatible version of OS X for the PowerPC), and installed that. The install took about 2 hours and it still runs smoothly. Which makes since due the hardware requirements being:

– PowerPC G4 or G5: 867mhz

– 512MB ram (I have 2GB)

– roughly 6GB storage if you install everything

– cd Drive (lol)

I think the most amazing thing is how much I take for granted with today’s computers. The G4 is a single core processor! Multitasking is difficult. I can do one action very well but if i try to access a file while installing a game, the computer struggles. Granted this is also a platter drive versus a solid state drive, but it’s still funny to watch the computer scream at me when I try to do more than one action if the previous action wasn’t finished.

The Conclusion

Overall I enjoyed setting this system up. I learned a lot of things about older software and hardware and got to revisit some of the old games that I grew up playing.

If you’re looking to do something like this for yourself, let me know in the comments section and if you run into any issues, let me know, maybe I can make another post going into more detail about the setup process.

Note: Originally posted on my other site, Linuxelis

Published by Guindel

90's nerd, dad, retro computer enthusiast. I created a blog as a way to talk about things I find interesting, care about, and try to help other people in similar places. Hit me up if you want me to write about something!

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