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a tech blog, by Colin Pretorius

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My PowerBook Time Capsule

I started up my old PowerBook 520C recently, for the first time in many, many years. It warrants a write-up which I'll probably never get around to, but the tl;dr is that I got it all started up again and connected to my PC via an Ethernet adapter I got on eBay a few years ago.

I stopped using this Mac late 1997, when it got replaced by a 200MMX at home. I loved my old Mac (as just about everyone did who used one at the time), but it's the last Mac I ever used.

Starting it up and using it again (even if just to Stuff all my old files and FTP them up my PC), was a blast from the past. I'd forgotten quite what the experience was like. I have no idea whether using a modern Mac is anything like this, but these were some of the things I'd forgotten about:

  • The Wastebasket bloats when you delete files, and then shrinks back when you empty it. (UK English I presume, the US version per my newly set up Mac emulator calls it 'Trash'). Incidentally, it's on the bottom right corner of the screen and to this day, one of the first things I do when using a new PC is move the Recycle Bin (just realised it's called 'Rubbish Bin' on Win10) to the bottom right corner.

  • Icons. Yes, you can set custom icons for files and folders in Windows, but I remember it being easy and commonplace on the Mac, and the icons were always so beautiful. I even designed a few of my own (not as beautiful). It's been ages since I bothered with icons and icon themes in Windows or Linux, though I remember doing it with old Win95 and Win98 machines (invariably trying to make them look more Mac-like).

  • Put Away - the desktop metaphor was that you dragged a file or folder onto your desktop (which didn't exactly move or copy it), and then there was a Put Away command to move it back to its original location when you were done.

  • The menu bar at the top is per-app, not per window. I'd forgotten what that was like. I remember being frustrated when I first switched to Windows (and Linux desktops). You had to move your mouse to the menu bar of the particular window, which required more precision, rather than just shunting the mouse to the top of the screen. Now I don't think twice about it, and working with the Mac, found myself annoyed about having to move the mouse so far away from the window I was working in.

  • No task bar to minimise to. You could 'hide' the app, but double-clicking on the title bar just turned it into a ribbon.

  • Extensions (features/widgets) were easy to add or remove - you just put them in an Extensions folder.

  • Old screen savers! Flying Toasters, Fish! and a heap of others.

  • StuffIt and Drop Stuff and friends. I started one of these apps and it moaned at me in a big red font that I had been using the Shareware for OVER A YEAR and it was time for me to pay for it. Make that 20 years, sorry! A quick Google shows that Aladdin Systems, which made StuffIt, got renamed and bought out ages ago and is now run by a small software company. Wikipedia and the Internet don't remember StuffIt with its proprietary format kindly, and given the hassle I've had trying to get these opened outside of the Mac I feel the same way.

  • Fetch for FTP (I'm uploading all my files to back them up). I see they're still going. Good for them!

  • Archie and Gopher. Long dead. Usenet? Mostly-dead? And Ircle. As of now, dead with a poll about whether it should return. When last did I use IRC? 2000, maybe 2001 at a stretch?

  • Netscape Navigator 2.01. When I got my PowerBook, it had Netscape 1.0, but I almost immediately downloaded NN 2. NN 3 came out, but it was a bit too resource-hungry for the PowerBook so I stuck with version 2.

  • Folders and file labelling. You could make a folder green, or add a blue tinge to an existing icon, say.

  • I forgot that unlike Windows machines, Macs (or at the least, my PowerBook) didn't have an eject button for floppy disks (in SA we called them stiffy disks to differentiate from the original really-floppy disks, I learned later we were about the only people who did). Instead, you could Put it Away, or you could drag it to the trash to eject it. I'm not sure that was the greatest desktop metaphor, but anyway.

{2018.08.11 08:07}

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