It's Halloween, so today I have a tale about Frankenstein's Monster--a gathering of old, discarded graveyard parts sewn together in an unholy manner creating a new, reanimated creature all its own. I've been building this beast for months and finally, after endless eBay searches, Craigslist crawling, and PayPal payments, it's all come together. But before we begin, indulge me in listening to some contextual history.
When I began my graphic design career fifteen years ago, Apple was in its dark ages. At the time, it seemed only creative professionals--artists, musicians, graphic designers--were still using Macs; everyone else had switched to Windows 95. In the days before the return of Steve Jobs and the creation of astoundingly beautiful Macs, creative pros toiled away on boring, beige computers. The 1990s saw both the introduction and the end of the beige Mac towers. In all, there were six tower case designs sold to creative pros (not counting servers and/or irrelevant consumer products), pictured here:
The Power Mac 8500 and 9500 were the top-of-the-line Macs ($4,500 retail in 1996) when I got my first real post-college graphic design job, followed a year later by the 8600 and 9600 which were practically identical inside but featured radically redesigned cases that were much easier to open and work on. For me, these Macs represent the time period when everyone but the most die-hard Mac faithful wrote Apple off for dead. In 1996, I could count the number of Mac users I personally knew on one hand.
My plan was to take a functioning motherboard from a Power Mac 8500, whose case is a nightmare to work on, and put it into the vastly easier-to-upgrade case of a Power Mac 9600, tossing in a next-generation PowerPC G3 processor and other PCI upgrade cards as well. I know a G3 sounds laughable nowadays, considering it's two generations out-of-date in the completely out-of-date PowerPC lineage, but trust me, I have a purpose.
While I'd dabbled with Adobe Illustrator as far back as 1990, I started seriously using it as my primary drawing tool with version 5.5 in 1995. While upgrades to Illustrator came fast and furious for the next five years in versions 6 through 9, I can honestly say that since version 10 in 2001--the last version prior to the Creative Suite rebranding--there haven't been many significant changes to the core drawing features of Illustrator. Because of that, I can still sit down and get a tremendous amount of drawing work done in Illustrator 10, a ten year old app!
This Frankenstein Mac would be molasses-slow in Mac OS X, but it runs balls-to-the-wall fast in the far less complex Classic Mac OS 9, which Illustrator 10 works just fine with. And since the old Mac OS is practically useless on the Internet nowadays, it's a 100% distraction free drawing workstation.
I think there's still a couple more future upgrades I might make. There's a combo ATA-133/USB/FireWire PCI card would come in handy, and I'll probably upgrade to an ATI Radeon 7000 PCI video card at some point. The nice thing about old out-of-date technology like this is that parts sell on eBay for pennies on the dollar.
So next time you don't see me on Twitter/Facebook/etc during the work day, you'll know why. I'll be planted behind this Frankenstein Mac, drawing at my distraction-free antique workstation.
P.S. - If you've never used an Apple Extended Keyboard II (or the similar IBM Model M) which featured individual mechanical spring switches under each key, you have no idea what you're missing. It's the battleship of keyboards, easily the finest input device every manufactured by Apple.
P.P.S. - Do you think I'm crazy for using a cobbled together 10-15 year old Frankenstein Mac? Click the TWEET button and let me know!