Return of the 12

Ok, so as i've been wrangling with the Toshiba Portege I was reminded that somewhere in Atlanta there was a restored 12 inch Powerbook that I had parlayed for a nice carbon fiber road bike, many years ago.  I was pretty certain that the powerbook was sitting on the shelf of a friend, in exactly the same condition that it was in when I traded it.  


 We're talking pretty old school though, like as old as you might want to go.  For the sake of conversation, that being a conversation where we chat about why you might be inclined to invest in a old computer, there are some fascinating opportunities out there.  I think this scenario of seeking out an old piece of hardware is mostly unique to Apple though.  Occasionally a pc form factor will come around that is very exciting, but not ususally.  The Apple hardware spec is so high end, if you don't have a early off the assembly line dud, or some weird occasional design misstep, you have a highly reliable piece of equipment in your hands.  But why would you go backand when should you do it? 


Now we're talking right? This is the reason for me to be writing tonight. "Paul, how can I buy some old shit to fit a needless niche in my life?" Glad you asked... Maybe we’re using computers wrong.  Maybe the smart phone and the tablet should be our consumption devices and we should go back to focusing when we use a computer.  If you’re interested in that idea you’re gonna keep reading, if only to hear the idea out.  All that said, the person you should be getting/buying your old tech from is the frequent upgrader.  This person has two or hree computers, they remember exactly what they paid for each computer and that is part of the reason for why they can't part with their classic collection.  The frequent upgrader sometimes by default becomes a defacto collector cause their love for equipment never quite lines up with their acceptance of depreciation.  


The upside of getting vintage hardware from the frequent upgrader is that they have the worlds best hardware (in this instance an eleven year old computer that is still banging around,) and the appropriate software suite to compliment it.  What do we use computers for?  We used to use great pieces of software and we'd store our files on the computer.  The notion of the web as the resource for software, file storage and acting as virtual desktop is a new concept. What really muddies the water is that hardware for the last ten or so years has become "end of life" or retired cause of RAM constraints more than anything else.  And I know for some that is a over simplification, but it isn't far off.  


I guess the point is that most computers (when you're not buying cheap and underpowered) are potent for their time.  This 12 inch powerbook that i'm writing on right now is more than powerful enough to write on and do simple image editing tasks and by simple I mean I can break out photoshop, work in layers and apply filters.  I can also check my email and if I want to I can browse the web, but i can't open up twenty tabs and cruise to my hearts content.  It's an interesting idea, but it's only an interesting idea if you want a great piece of hardware that has a very limited purpose, but man oh man, Apple makes some great computers.  


This is a sneakernet thing though, while you can go online and buy an old powerbook for about three hundred dollars, you can skip the powerpc line and grab early macbooks and macbook airs for not much more money.  No, you're gonna have to find people who have old powerbooks in their house and they can't just stand to get rid of them.  The same person who couldn't bear to sell their computer for nearly nothing will give that computeraway if they think the other person will use it; sometimes we just want to know it found a good home.  


So as deals come around.  The first owner of the powerbook had really loved the computer, but they had killed it.  I then came into possession of it and restored it, my initial investment was that I traded a LCD screen for it and I think that was it.  It was a fair deal, a dead, slightly beat up 12 inch powerbook (and bag!) for a nice working LCD.  I then sourced parts forthe powerbook and got it back up and running.  It's possible I convinced my job to boot the costs, ahem...  It was my main computer for a few years, till I upgraded to a 15inch powerbook.  I then traded it for a nice road bike.  My buddy I traded it too built the roadbike out of parts he had and some ebay deals. I got the upside of that deal, but only in the sense that the old apple hardware hold value and this computer has only depreciated about twenty five percent in the six years that I traded it away.  Today i got it back and it cost me a LCD, we've come full circle.  


How can it still be valuable, but not useful? And how did I get it back for a quarter of its value.  One, it's great hardware,  my ten year old pcs have not faired as well-so there is your physical value.  Butthis computer is of no use to the person who wants to open a computer and have said computer be their looking glass to the Internet. Man, I really don't want that and there is a small contingency of people who also happen to be mac faithful who have computers which they use cause of the software, not the web-it is a novel concept.  There isjust some amazing hardware and software out there, some truly great platforms that are nearly discarded cause of the web and cause of upgrades. 


Here are the things I like the about the Powerbook 12


• Small form factor.  She's dense but a very small package.  Somehow the screen does not feel like a compromise though.  Big upside versus the Portege

• The keyboard is a keyboard from ten years ago.  They made great keyboards back then.  They're really messing up keyboards now.  This keyboard is dense, loud and has great travel.  For a qwerty writer this keyboard is really quite pleasing.  

• The mouse pad feels like something out of Germany, the click is loud and the action is clunky. 

• The screen is a TFT XGA 1024x768 and it is both sharp yet somehow warm.  

• OS X 10.5.8 is a pretty clean OS X instance from the past.  If you're not doing a bunch of web stuff, or working to heavily in say Photoshop, you're in a very stable environment. 

• Last thing.  You have audio in and out jacks, firewire, ethernet, a modem, and a superdrive

• And you get that glowing apple on the back.  



And here is the deal, mostly I want to type and leastly I want to web.  I want a computer for computering.  I know i'm writing this and putting it on the web-not sure if that is ironic, but there you have it.  I'm gonna work on both machines and see how things shake out.