This week I unearthed an ancient fossil found buried underneath my studio desk. By fossil, I mean a 10-year old dual 500Mhz G4 Power Mac. So it’s a nerdy fossil.

Back in July 2000 this machine’s debut created quite the sensation. Anointed with the codename “Mystic,” it had a retail price of $3600 and boasted both a fancy-shmancy AGP graphics card and a Gigabyte Ethernet port (hence, its innovative alternate nickname, “Gigabyte Ethernet”). This dual processor workhorse machine would crush its competition, they claimed. And soon the summer air was filled with the deafening buzz of cutting-edge hipsters scrambling to fill their music studios and design firms with these blue and gray beauties. Oh, but that price tag.

Mystic G4
“Mystic”, the 2000 model dual G4 Power Mac

I was not an early adopter. In the Spring of 2004, a friend sold me his Mystic for which I paid $250, about half what they were commanding on the used market (today you can get one on eBay for $150 or less)–computer values are worse than new cars thanks to Moore’s law of exponential computer evolution. This slow horse eventually got left in the dust. But I used it heavily for a while; it was my primary music studio machine until 2006. Then I got an iMac and from there an Intel-based Mac Book Pro. I hadn’t touched it since.

Until today.

After a few unpleasant minutes crawling around the floor getting all the wires connected, it was ready to go. It booted fine, the desktop was still the same mess it was four years ago. My first inclination was to upgrade from Jaguar (10.3) to Leopard (10.5). FAIL. It seems that you need a faster CPU (at least 867Mhz). Fine, Jaguar it is. My only intention here is to turn it into an iTunes jukebox. Since I keep a multitude of backups of my iTunes library on external drives, I naively tried to start iTunes directly from the backup. FAIL. Wrong version. So I tried upgrading to iTunes 9.x. FAIL. You need 10.4.11 to pull that off. This was getting annoying. Defeated, I decided to simply import the entire iTunes music folder (with Copy files unchecked) into iTunes 7.x. That worked. But I lost all my playlists and grouping tags. Fine, my primary goal is to play music and to that end I have succeeded.

When it comes to surfing, the only suitable browser for 10.3.9 is Opera. Unlike Safari (only supports version 1.x) and Firefox (version 2.0), Opera happily accepts 10.3.9 on even its latest releases. This proved too annoying, I started making phone calls. Turns out a friend has a copy of Tiger. This also means I can run the latest iTunes.

I have since ordered an additional 1GB of RAM ($95), a new video card ($57), and a refurbished Airport card ($58). This completes the evolution from fossil to a fairly decent utility computer. It plays music, surfs the web, prints, and even runs Photoshop CS. For the principal of it, I’m happy to have this machine working again. The mandatory obsolescence inflicted upon every personal computer and software program therein continues to annoy me though.

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