Apart from being the name of a great song and album by the mythical heavy metal band Megadeth, the phrase countdown to extinction accurately depicts the state of affairs of Macintosh computers which use the PowerPC generation of processors. PowerPC Macs used the G3, G4 and G5 processors in the era before Apple started using Intel processors in their computers. The PowerPC Macs were great workstations and Esthetic pieces of design, and still hold their value as reliable workstations today. However, both Apple and other major third party developers such as Adobe and Mozilla, have decided so stop supporting releases for the PPC platform. the result is having to use old software and dealing with incompatibility problems, especially on web content such as Flash. As development of new web content continues for newer systems, requirements change. This means that unsupported platforms such as the PowerPC will not have updates and eventually will not be able to show new content. Already some Flash sites require version 11 which is no longer available for PPC users. Hence the countdown to extinction is already well under way for the Mackintosh PowerPC.
Despite this piece of bad news for PPC owners, some open source development continues for the platform. TenFourFox is a modern browser port of Firefox for the PPC. You could also choose to install Linux on your PPC. And here is a great site for information about older Mac computers and the options still available for their systems: Low End Mac.
In spite of all the above, I had decided to give the two PowrPC Macs we own a second lease on life. One is a first generation MacMini g4 at 1.25Ghz with 1GB RAM, the other is a first gen g5 1.8Ghz 17″ iMac with 1GB RAM. Both were running OSX Tiger 10.4.11.
My iMac g5 was pretty much forgotten a few years ago when I got a Windows laptop. The amount of dust accumulated on it really did not do justice to the years of great service it gave me all through university. And while the MacMini was still getting daily use, the system was bogged down and slow and really needed a fresh install of the OS.
First thing I decided to do was to max out the RAM on the iMac going from 1GB to 2GB, and although by todays standards it might seem menial, doubling the RAM is more then noticed especially when using some programs such as video editing, 3D or gaming. The MacMini was already maxed out at 1GB RAM. Then I upgraded both OS’ to Leopard 10.5.8 which was the last Mac OSX to support PPC machines.
Although I am aware of the PPC limitations in today’s computing environment, I can still see many ways to get lasting value out of my old Macs. They are great machines and look awesome on a desk, they have served well for years and can continue to do so for at least a few more.
Even though the countdown to the extinction of this species has already begun, I am firm in my decision to bid for it’s survival for yet a while longer.
- I would also like to thanks Crucial for their great customer support and for still providing DDR RAM so that people like me can continue to upgrade their old systems. This is not intended as an advertisement, it´s just so hard to get good customer support sometimes, and reasonable prices for hardware that is usually way overpriced.