Old School Mac: gforce, the iBook G4

The iBook G4, circa 2004
I bought this Mac back in 2004, when I was running my business out of my house. I had just spent the last five years or so using Windows and Linux computers for my work, and I was thrilled to be back on the Mac for professional reasons. This was my first Mac with OS X. It ran OS 10.4, and still does today.

I've made some upgrades: I maxed out the RAM to a whopping 1.12 GB by adding 1 GB to the 128 MB built into the logic board, and replaced the battery with a third party battery a couple of years ago. It's still in heavy use for writing, and I even use it for some web surfing and email. It rarely uses more than a couple hundred MB of RAM, and runs very cool, which means the battery lasts for hours -- up to six, which beats my newer MacBook Pro, SilverSurfer, by a huge margin -- more than twice the battery life.

I can overtax it, though, with too much video, or if I try to run too many apps at the same time. Some web sites really punish the RAM usage and the CPU, too, mostly poorly coded sites that use lots of JavaScript. Like Gmail, which doesn't use a lot of RAM, but really works the CPU.

Ultimately, that's what made it impractical to use it as my primary work computer: it worked great until it bogged down, and then it was painfully slow. But, now that I don't need to use it for everything, it's great to use it for the things it's really good for, mostly: writing. It also runs an older version of Pages and Numbers quite well (version 08) so I can still use it to do all kinds of work. Depending on the web site, it's a pretty reasonable web surfer too.

It's a pretty decent size, not too big, but it's pretty heavy, compared to newer models. The screen resolution isn't that great, but it looks fine in the native resolution of 1024 x 768.

I did need to install the iScroll2 System Preference Pane so I could scroll with the two finger swipe. This hack enables this first and most fundamental multi-finger gesture on the computers from this bygone time. The trackpad uses ADB (Apple Desktop Bus) instead of USB, which Apple switched to for all models in 2005, and does not support the two finger swipe with Apple software.

Stats from http://www.apple-history.com/ibook_g4

Family: iBook
Codename: ?
Gestalt ID: 406
Minimum OS: 10.2.8
Maximum OS: 10.5.8
Introduced: October 2003
Terminated: April 2004

CPU: PowerPC 7455 "G4"
CPU Speed: 800/933/1000 MHz
FPU: integrated
Bus Speed: 133 MHz
Register Width: 32-bit
Data Bus Width: 64-bit
Address Bus Width: 32-bit
ROM: 1 MB ROM + 3 MB toolbox ROM loaded into RAM
RAM Type: PC2100 SO-DIMM
Minimum RAM Speed: 266 MHz
Onboard RAM: 128 MB
RAM slots: 1
Maximum RAM: 640 MB
Level 1 Cache: 32 kB data, 32 kB instruction
Level 2 Cache: 256 kB on-processor

Screen: 12.1 or 14.1" active matrix
GPU: ATI Mobility Radeon 9200 (4x AGP)
Max Resolution: 24 bit 1024x768
Video Out: mini-VGA

Hard Drive: 30/40/60 GB
ATA Bus: ATA-66
Optical Drive: 24x/24x/10x/8x CD-RW/DVD-ROM or 24x/16x/4x/8x/2x/1x CD-RW/DVD-RW

USB: 2 (2.0)
Firewire: 1
Audio Out: stereo 16 bit mini
Speaker: stereo
Microphone: mono

Modem: 56 kbps
Ethernet: 10/100Base-T
Airport Extreme: optional
Bluetooth: optional

Power: 50 Watts
Dimensions: 1.35" H x 11.2" W x 9.06" D
Weight: 4.9 lbs.

The 800 MHz model had a Maximum OS of 10.4.11. The 14.1"/1.0 GHz model consumed 51 W of power, weighed 5.9 pounds, and had the following dimensions: 12.7" W x 10.2" D x 1.35" H.

Introduced in October 2003, the iBook G4 was the final piece in the transition from the G3 to the G4 processor. In addition, the iBook G4 included a slot-load Combo drive, better graphics, USB 2.0, AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth support, a faster bus and memory architecture. The iBook G4 shipped in 3 configurations: 12.1"/800 MHz/256 MB/30 GB/$1,099, 14.1"/933 MHz/256 MB/40 GB/$1,299, and 14.1"/1.0 GHz/256 MB/60 GB/$1,499. All models were discontinued in April 2004


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