The recent articles by Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica and later by Riccardo Mori were very interesting to me. They include two sides to a discussion on whether or not old Macs remain useful for work. As a life-long Mac user growing up in the 90's Mac OS 8, and 9 were my bread and butter. In 2001 when the Titanium PowerBook G4 was announced, I remember wanting a poster of it for my wall. I certainly never felt like any of these technologies were mediocre or average. They were exactly what I wanted to use for all of my work.
The laptop I took to College was a PowerBook G4 "TiBook" 667 MHz model with 768MB of RAM. My freshman year I treated myself to a brand new 7200 RPM Hard Drive (I think it shipped with 4200). That same year, in 2005, I installed Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger". This was my primary laptop until 2011 and the same machine with the same hard drive and the same installation of OS X Tiger is still working to this day.
The remarkable thing to me about this machine is that it continues to remain fully capable to this day of performing one of the required capabilities for my job as a freelance photographer: selecting and editing photos at an event to publish to a website. To this day I could pack up this laptop, take it to an event, and select a dozen images from my Canon DSLR to edit, caption, export, and submit to a client. And I could still do it all in under 15-20 minutes without issue.
There are a few key characteristics about this machine that enable this. One of them is Firewire. Having a Firewire card reader gives you great performance reading straight from a CompactFlash card. The other is software. Two amazing apps continue to run very well on OS X Tiger and were the key components to my photography workflow:
Even today in the field on my iPad, or on my Mac Pro at home, I replicate that workflow on Photo Mechanic in other apps. The basic premise is simple:
- Browse through a memory card's image folder and tag 10-20 interesting images
- Evaluate the 10-20 to make sure they are sharp
- Apply slight color correction/crop if necessary
- Name each image in a descriptive way, usually with the subject's name
- Export each selected image at a specified size, compression, and color setting
Photo Mechanic made those first few steps extremely easy, and integration with Photoshop CS4 and Droplets completed the process. Narrowing down to those images and emailing them out was a piece of cake.
I think the last event I shot with my "TiBook" G4 was a Texas Basketball game in 2012. The folder of those named and exported images is still on the Desktop when I boot it up.
There are many other memories I have of work I did on that laptop. Countless hours in the CS labs at UT. Organizing photos during summers at Philmont. Even recording and mastering an album for some aspiring musician friends. And much of that more than 7 years after the machine was built.
I really loved using that Titanium PowerBook. That it has continued to work so well for so long speaks volumes about the quality of it's engineering and the quality of Mac OS X 10.4. When I first saw the Ars Technica article I saw the link to a tool called Leopard Assist that lets you upgrade older machines to 10.5. I thought to myself, "man, I could have been using Leopard all of those years?" But upon reflection, I'm glad I didn't try that. I'm glad that I left that machine exactly the way it is. For the work I was doing then, and for the work the machine is still capable of doing now, it was perfect the way it is.