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The Christmas season is upon us and now is the time that some of you may be thinking of gifts for your Mac user friends or possibly yourself. Tis the season we think of upgrading our Macintosh systems. Some may be thinking of buying new Macs altogether. What follows is an essay on whether or not you should buy Apple's new and popular iMac computer.
SHOULD YOU BUY AN iMAC?
The iMac is Apple's new and highly successful entry level computer. It was announced in April and hit the marketplace in August. The iMac as originally intended, was targeted for new computer users in the educational and home markets. It has also been targeted to users of very old Macintosh computers. In the 3 months since its introduction, the iMac has successfully attracted thousands of new buyers, many of them users of older Macs. Some buyers are switching over from PCs and several are totally new computer users.
The iMac is an all in one computer with a 15" color monitor, CD ROM drive, and CPU built into a single, rounded blue and white transparent case. It comes with a keyboard and a rounded mouse, which in my opinion takes a some time getting used to. The current iMac model is blazingly fast (compared to all non G3 Power Macs and older 680x0 Macs) with its 233mhz G3 processor and 24x CD ROM drive. It comes with 32 MB of RAM, 512 Level 2 backside cache, 4GB hard drive, 2MB video ram, built in ethernet connections, and a 56Kps modem. The hallmark of this computer is that it is very easy to get it connected to the internet (hence the "i" in this Mac's name).
Despite all the nice features, the iMac lacks the following:
No serial connection port.
No ADB port.
No floppy disc drive.
Since the release of the iMac a workaround solution has come to pass. A company called iMation has released an external drive which connects up to the iMac's new USB (Universal Serial Bus) port. The iMation Super Disk drive is a high capacity 120MB removable with its own proprietary media. The drive is also backwards compatible and reads and writes to standard floppy disks. The cost for the iMation drive is $149.
The fact that the iMac does not also have standard ports is a disadvantage for many Macintosh users. The lack of standard SCSI, ADB and serial ports mean that the connection of standard Macintosh networking, printers, scanners and external devices are not possible unless an adapter is purchased. Right now there is no SCSI solution for the iMac, though one is currently in the works.
So what does this mean for you, the average Macintosh user? Well here are some scenarios you might consider as to whether or not to purchase an iMac.
NEW COMPUTER USER: If you don't have any computer (and you are probably not reading this), the solution is simple. Buy an iMac. It is one of the easiest computers to learn and use. Very easy to set up and maintain. Simplicity could never come in a better package.
PC USER: You may want to switch to iMac (or any other Mac) if you are sick and tired of Windows and its many maintenance, connection and configuration problems.
CLASSIC MAC OWNER: If you own a Classic all in one Macintosh like the Mac Plus, SE, or Color Classic, by all means get a new computer. These old Macs, while still functional for a lot of basic tasks, cannot handle newer software and operating systems. And while these Macs can connect to the internet, the use of the net is in its most rudimentary form and very, very slow.
Be aware that if you have external components such as a printer, modem, scanner and hard drives connected to your classic Mac, in all likelihood none of this stuff will be compatible with your iMac unless you get adapters to connect these devices. And even if they do work, driver software for older devices like scanners may not enable them to work on the iMac.
A new printer and/or scanner may also need to be purchased at the same time as your iMac. There are several new devices that are iMac ready.
One device you should seriously consider is the aforementioned iMation Superdisk drive. This is essential if you need to move a lot of information from your floppy discs to the iMac and back. If not, you can purchase an Ethernet to local talk bridge for $99 and try hooking up your iMac to your classic Mac for file transfers. An even cruder way to do this, is to link the two Macs using modems and Z-term software.
Seriously though, I think an external floppy or zip drive is all but required mainly so that you have a means of maintaining backup copies of your data.
If you do buy an iMac, you will find that running it over your faithful old Plus or SE will definitely be a wake up call. The iMac is a couple hundred times faster than your old 8mhz box. In short you will fall in love with your iMac just as you did with that Classic Mac from years gone by.
68020/68030/68040 DESKTOP MACS: If your computing needs on these machines are not very demanding, moving up to the iMac may be a good thing to do. If you are only doing word processing, some simple graphics, run basic budgeting software and doing some net surfing on these older Macs, the iMac may be a good investment.
The most immediate thing you will notice after turning the iMac on is that there is a tremendous increase in speed over that of your old desktop Mac. Word processing, graphics, page layout, spreadsheet and internet programs will run significantly faster than they did on your desktop Mac.
However, the same caveats also come into play regarding your investment in present components such as laser printers, inkjets, scanners and external storage devices. If you purchased these devices in recent years, it may be too soon or too expensive to upgrade these. In that case you have decide whether or not the iMac is for you... and if you do, further consider if these devices need replacing or whether an iMac adapter for them is a feasible route to take.
Another thing to consider is your software. If you are the type that does not spring for every software upgrade the publishers release, it is more than likely that some software you have running on say, your Macintosh 630 Quadra will not run on the iMac using OS 8.5. You will have to consider upgrading your software.
As I mentioned earlier, you probably will need an external storage device connected to your iMac for backing up your files and to handle transfers. However since the iMac is ethernet capable, you can connect it to your ethernet network if you already have one in place.
POWER PC USERS: Power PC Macs include all those running on the 601, 603 and 604 processors and derivatives. Most of these Macs are not very old and are still very capable machines in today's high strung computer world (though 601 users may be feeling some speed envy these days).....
Is the iMac for you?
Well if you are planning to purchase an iMac as a second or third computer for your home or firm, then definitely yes. All Power PC computers have built in ethernet networking. If you are on an ethernet network, then you can just add the iMac to your hub and it can share the printers and other networkable devices with your present Macintosh setup. If you don't have an ethernet network, then you may need to invest a few more dollars to set one up.
If you are planning to REPLACE an older Power PC (say a 601 based box), then some of the same caveats regarding lack of floppy drives, device connectivity again come into play...
On another hand if you still envy the speed of the iMac but don't want to spend the big bucks it takes to replace your Power Mac, then an upgrade card may be something to consider. Many Power Macs can be simply upgraded to a G3 processor buy buying an add-on, replacement daughtercard which you can plug into your computer. These start from $499 on up depending on the speed of the card and model of your Mac. Even if you bought the cheapest upgrade card, the speed boost should be quite noticeable.
Going the upgrade card route will leave you with all of the compatibility enjoyed with your present Power Mac and not worry about USB and all of the issues the iMac brings with it.
Finally if you are a high end power user on say a Power Mac 8600 or 9600 or one of the many Mac clones, the iMac for all practical purposes is NOT for you to buy as a replacement computer. Power users should consider either upgrading their present boxes though a daughtercard purchase or getting a more powerful G3 Mac with all the bells and whistles (including floppy drives, SCSI ports, ADB, serial, expandability options, etc.) we have all come to know and love.
So in the end, before you rush out to the local Macintosh boutique or super store, consider the many factors that come into play regarding the purchase of Apple's iMac computer.
The numbers quoted in this article are taken from the latest MacWarehouse catalog. Shop around because prices may vary. Local taxes not included in price quotations.
iMac COMPUTER*...................................................... $1299 (includes CPU, monitor, keyboard, mouse, modem & software bundle) iMation Super Disk USB Drive........................................ 149 (uses proprietary 120MB media and is compatible with floppy discs) Iomega USB Zip Drive................................................ 149 (required if you want to use Zip discs with your iMac) Epson Stylus Color Inkjet Printer .................................. 279 (one of several USB ready printers for the iMac) Ethernet to Local Talk Bridge ...................................... 99 (Allows you to transfer files between iMac and standard Appletalk Macintosh network. May not be needed if you are on ethernet) LaCie USB External Hard Drive..............................Starts at 299 (hard drive solution on USB Bus.. not as fast as SCSI)
* NOTE: The price of the current iMac model may be reduced to $999 in February according to some reports. With this price reduction comes a new iMac model, known as iMac C, which will be faster and sell for the same price as the current iMac.... $1299.
The question of course is, should you buy now or wait? You decide.
The following are a couple of tips to help you use your Macintosh computer.
CLOSING ALL WINDOWS IN THE FINDER AT ONCE: You can do this buy holding down the option key and clicking on the close box of a window at the same time. By doing this all open windows on your desktop will immediately close.
TAKE AN ONSCREEN SNAPSHOT: You can save any screen on your Mac's desktop from within any application program by simply depressing the (COMMAND) + (SHIFT) + (3) keys at the same time. This will create a Simple Text file named PICTURE 1 on your hard drive. You can open this file to view it or print it out with the Simple Text application that comes with all Macintoshes. Users with OS 8 or higher can select snap a screenshot by using the (COMMAND) + (SHIFT) + (4) key combination. Screen shots are pict files and can also be opened and edited with image manipulation software such as Photoshop and the Claris Works draw modules.
VIEW THE FINDER CREDITS: A little known hidden command can be used to view the credits of the people who were responsible in creating the Mac OS system. To do this go to the Apple menu from within the FINDER. Hold down the OPTION key and select the item immediately under the Apple menu that says ABOUT THE FINDER. Instead of the standard Mac OS dialog box you will be greeted by a picture of a green mountain with the names of the Macintosh development team slowly scrolling upwards.
SAVE ALWAYS: As you do your work on the Macintosh it is very prudent that you SAVE your work as you go along. A good habit to get into is to constantly press the (COMMAND) + (S) key combination every so many minutes. Most application software use this key combination as the SAVE command. Always save your work when you leave your computer for any time, and do back up your work to an external media when you are done for the day.
Happily no new viruses have been released to the Macintosh community since the last edition of this newsletter. However do be diligent and check with the Macintouch website (http://www.macintouch.com) on a daily basis for the latest Mac news and virus alert updates.
If you are serious about your Macintosh, you may want to check in with the following Macintosh oriented sites:
Apple Computer From the mother company of our computers, the latest news, tech updates and an online store is here.
Macintouch The best place to check for daily news regarding the Macintosh platform. Extensive coverage given to the iMac, viruses, and Mac OS 8.5
Low End Mac News pointers and information for older Macintosh systems.
Mac Made Easy: Website to one of Hawaii's Macintosh only stores.
Jag's Classic Mac Archive - resources for anyone using an old Mac Plus, SE or II series. Excellent place filled with info and files.
Mel's Macintosh Universe - Budding Mac site with selected articles, information on Mac Plusses, SE's, IIsi and Power Computing clones. Extensive links page with more Mac leads. This is the place where archived copies of this newsletter are now stored. (You're here already!)
You can subscribe are at this newsletter by dropping an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Copright 1998 Melvin Ah Ching Productions. Last update: December 8, 1998