iBook G4 – a Life Well Lived

Sometimes my vintage and professional Mac lives collide, and I wind up working on a consulting job involving a system old enough to be in the Mac Museum. Such was the case this week with an iBook G4 I encountered, which appears to have had quite a life.

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This particular system is a 2003 12-inch iBook G4. It started life as the business laptop for a professional dancer, and endured a decade of being lugged around the world and used as a daily driver in the field before it got too old to be of use as a primary computer.

It then passed on to her husband, a painter, to use in his studio (an outside shed) for displaying and projecting photographs. Unheated in winter, un-air conditioned in summer, the little iBook lasted another several years while acquiring the most amazing coat of random paint droplets I’ve ever seen on a computer.

A few weeks ago, destiny called. My clients’ house was nearly hit by a lightning strike. Fortunately the bolt hit the ground nearby instead but still fried some electronics, including the iBook G4 in the backyard studio. After taking stock (nobody was hurt) and dealing with insurance, I was called in to help recover photos from the backup drive and erase any data which might remain on the internal hard drive.

Now to be honest, the iBook has never been one of my favorite Macs. The G3 model introduced WiFi (Airport) and translucent plastics to Mac laptops, but the top heavy design looked like a toilet bowl seat painted in garish day-glo colors. The all white rectangular G4 models were much more civilized, but getting the hard drive out of a G4 iBook is an unnecessarily difficult, swear word evoking exercise.

However they are designed for rough use and built like tanks, so on a hunch I decided to try booting using a different AC adapter before tearing apart the computer. Lo and behold it started on the first try! Chime, a slow boot cycle, and then a dim desktop appeared behind the flecks of paint. I just had to bring the brightness up and the system was a good as – err – a decade and a half old computer.

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I recovered the remainder of my clients’ data, then erased the hard drive. I think this iBook can finally be retired in honor: truly a Life Well Lived. However, it may now qualify as a work of art given the extremely unique paint job it proudly sports!


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