Greetings dear readers, today we are going to cover something I worked on at least two years ago but always felt there was room for improvement. I’m of course referring to my Apple Classic, super charged with a Raspberry Pi3b motherboard inside. Now before I continue, I want to make one thing clear, I only mod old computers that are beyond repair or have been gifted to me by friends in a state worse than death. So no working or repairable system is ever broken, we don’t rip SID chips off working C64’s around here you know! Anyone found doing so would be given a stern telling off and sent to bed without any beer!
So where was I? Ah thats right, the Apple Classic! So last time we visiting this topic, I had been gifted a partially modded Classic and by partial, I mean it had everything floating loose inside the case and was in dire need of TLC. The amp cut out when you cranked it up or worse took the screen out and the RPI2B was awful slow, emulating an old mac on it was not a nice experience. It now sports a reasonably nippy Pi3B over clocked to 1.3Ghz, emulating an 020 mac the Pi doesn’t even break a sweat, idling at about 45 degrees for both the CPU and GPU. Seriously I’m sat here typing all this on AppleWorks, running Mac OS 7.5.3 and it’s pretty much like using a supercharged Classic on steroids.
I might have to cover compiling and using Basilisk II on a Raspberry Pi as there isn’t that much written online about getting a decent build. It took me a few false starts until I was able to get the emulator working without mouse stutter. This could just be down to the fact I was trying to use a RPi2, which should theoretically be powerful enough, but past experience with my AmigaPi has taught me things are never straight forward.
Ever since I finished or almost finished the ApplePi, I’ve wanted to do more. I wanted to fit an internal ADB socket so I could use a real Apple keyboard for a start. Luckily there is code available online and with a £7 Teensy 2.0 board, I was able to solder together a USB – ADB adapter. ADB is a funny socket, in that its the same pin out as S-video, which means picking up connectors isn’t that hard. Plenty of people have made these adapters but most the time they’re either inside the keyboard or inside a tiny external box. That’s all well and good, but firstly you’re modding the keyboard so that it’s no longer ADB and secondly, I lose USB pens to my sofa on a monthly basis. I’d lose my keyboard adapter and not be able to type on my ApplePi! For me there was no question how I wanted it, the ADB port would go on the back of the computer, as part of the custom laser cut rear I/O shield. It wouldn’t be a true Apple + Raspberry Pi hybrid without ADB nestled along side the USB ports.
For this mod I opted to use the source code by Shay Green (https://github.com/gblargg/adb-usb), while his code doesn’t include mouse support like some others did. I had think whether using a single button mouse was really all that practical in a modern Linux environment. I think I’d eventually tear my hair out with it’s limitations.
All in the Code
Programming the Teensy board isn’t that hard, you can do it on a Mac, Windows, Linux and the Raspberry Pi. To program a Teensy on a Pi you’ll need something called “Teensy Loader” (https://www.pjrc.com/teensy/loader.html). This software makes programming the tiny boards a breeze. On their website it says to run the program from the linux terminal, however I found this to be a fiddly method, constantly typing the same command in each time. Instead I made a script that allowed me to click an icon to load it up right away. Using a text editor of your choice, Nano (from within the terminal) or Text Editor from
the desktop. Create a text file in the same directory as teensy loader, call it something like “Teensyflash.sh”. Inside the text file paste the following, leaving out the speech marks.
Save the file off and close the editor. Now assuming you still have the window open, you should see a new file called “Teensyflash.sh”. Right click on the file and select Properties and then select the Permissions tab. Next to the “Execute:” field, click the drag down menu and select “Anyone”. Click the “ok” button to close the window and save your changes. You’ve now told Linux this file is an executable, so next time you double click on it, Linux will ask if you wish to run it. Tell it yes and the loader should pop up, voila no terminal commands involved.
Using a Teens 2.0 not 2.0++
Unpacked, Shays program is designed to run on a Teensy 2.0++, if you have one of those fine skip this part. However I had a Teensy 2.0, the same board I used to make my custom USB Amiga Joystick last year. The two boards use different chipsets and as such will not run the same programs, you have to compile a HEX specific to 2.0 and 2.0++. If you wish to use a Teensy 2.0 board, you will need to edit a file before you can compile your HEX. Inside the “adb-usb-master” folder, you should find a file called “Makefile”, open it with a text editor and edit it to look like this.
#MCU = at90usb1286 # Teensy++ 2.0
MCU = atmega32u4 # Teensy 2.0/Pro Micro
#FLASH = teensy_loader_cli -mmcu=$(MCU) -w main.hex # Teensy
FLASH = avrdude -p atmega32u4 -c avr109 -P /dev/ttyACM0 -D -U main.hex # Pro Micro
Save the file off and close it, the program is now ready to compile for the Teensy 2.0.
I’m not going to bother covering using Teensyflash, as there is plenty of information online covering the subject, however I do wish to briefly go over building the hex file. This is essentially the program you are going to load in the memory of the Teensy, without it your dead in the water. When I first tried to compile Shay’s ADB software, my Raspberry Pi threw a fit, telling me I was missing files. It took me a while to nail down what I was missing, running the following command in the Linux terminal did clear up my problems.
“sudo apt-get install libusb-dev gcc-avr binutils-avr avr-libcapt-get install libusb-dev gcc-avr binutils-avr avr-libc”
I think Shay’s code might expect the command line version of Teensy loader to be present in the same folder as his code, because after my Pi successfully compiled the hex, it threw up an error about not finding Flash. Don’t be too concerned about this as the HEX has still been created and is ready to load in the GUI loader.
Once you have Teensy Loader up and running, it’s just a case of loading in your HEX file, pressing a button and a mouse click later the program is stored on the tiny board. With the code loaded in the memory of the Teensy, it’s just a matter of wiring the correct pins together between the board and the four pin s-video connector. Given the size of the connector, I highly recommend using some heat shrink around your solder joints. This will prevent any of your wires shorting and frying your Teensy or Keyboard. A Data line is no place to stick your 5 volt input and certain components might take offense and die as a sign of protest. Then my friend you be wading in the brown smelly stuff without any wellies on! Don’t forget to solder a 1k resister between the data line and your 5v. Apparently some ADB cables suffer with signal drop and the 1k resister helps, if a jobs worth doing, do it right and fit a resistor!
After it was all wired up, I had to modify my rear panel as there was no hole for the ADB port. With a lot of cursing and armed with a dremmel, I was able to make a half decent circular hole, just wide enough to accept the end of the ADB cable. Oh a word on plugging your Teensy to your computer, make sure you use the cable that came with it. I made the foolish mistake of using a spare mini USB cable I had laying around, the darn thing wouldn’t load up properly. Twenty minutes spent testing for breaks in my wiring and it all came down to a tiny USB lead.
When it works, the ADB-USB adapter is amazing, switching from a Bluetooth Apple Keyboard to an original Apple Keyboard II is a massive difference. It feels better, keys are spread out and in general I’m not finger typing any more. It also looks a million times better in front of the ApplePi, seriously you would be forgiven for thinking it was a real Apple computer when Basilisk II is running. Shay Green has my thanks for posting the code
up that made this hack possible. Were it not for him, I wouldn’t be sitting here typing to the sound of klacky keys! Thanks dude!
Next up I shall be designing a rear panel to cover the holes left behind by the old power switch and power socket. In their place, I plan of installing a control panel for the IPS screen, allowing me to change the brightness, contrast etc.
The Power Macintosh 8200 was the first Apple I ever owned, bought around 2004, I used it a lot when I first moved away from home. It was an excellent computer for design work and I used it to design my first website. However after six months, the internal 120mhz PPC processor was already beginning to feel restrictive. The internet was slow, games struggled and disc access was sometimes painful. Back then, the best place to get help on anything Apple, was “Everymac.com”. The website had a healthy community of users and a very active forum. Which in later years, for reasons I’ve never been able to grasped, was closed down. But in 2004, it was still going strong and I made some good friends via the forum, who helped me upgrade my 8200 in to a 8500.
Both models share the same case, so it was a simple job of switching the motherboard out of my 8200 and voila, a fulling working 8500. The upgraded meant I could actually pick and choose a new processor for my machine, the limit being only what I could afford. In the months that followed, I bought a secondhand Sonnet Crescendo G3 333mhz, more ram and finally an ATI Radeon video card. The upgrades prolonged the life of my 8500 for quite some time, until I eventually caved and bought myself a G3 350 Blue & White Powermac. But I never forget the little beige mac, my first Apple machine.
Last year I brought my old 8500 out of the loft, cleaned it down and set it up on my desk. My plan was to make sure it was till working, play a few of the old games, like Quake, Star Trek: Final Unity etc. What actually happened was it ended up staying on my desk and being used for everything from getting email, graphic work and writing. It began first as an “I wonder?”, because I was sitting at my desk, looking at the old mac and pondering if I could actually do my everyday jobs on the machine. The only task I knew the 8500 couldn’t do flat out, was rendering. There was no way I’d go back and suffer the slow rendering speeds of the 90’s. Todays computers make CGI much easier to bare. But for everything else I threw at it, the 8500 managed it pretty well. Even going online wasn’t all that bad, so long as you didn’t visit complex, CSS/Flash heavy sites.
It was while doing all of this, that I realised my PowerMac was severely short on ram. Sure it had 176mb, but even in 2000 that wasn’t all that much, especially when you consider the 8500 can hold 1Gb. I started looking around for ram modules, but had difficulty finding them in matching pairs. That’s when a friend on 68kmla came to the rescue.
Having recently fixed up an 8500, he’d discovered he didn’t have much use for it, so the machine was sitting around not doing much at all. After seeing some of my post on the forum, he contacted me, wondering if I needed any parts. In the end, I bought a Newertech G3 400mzh daughter and enough ram off him, to upgrade the 8500 to 640mb!
Since the last upgrade in 2006, I didn’t honestly think I would ever find another processor card for my mac. But it just goes to show how wrong you can be! The Maxpowr card has surprisingly improved the speed of the machine more then I’d expected. Perhaps having 512k of L2 cache as well as being 60mhz faster, has something to do with it. One thing is for certain, the old beige box is back to being a power tower, albeit a vintage one. But for 1998, it’s blazing!
Going on holiday, you always face the invertible question of what tech to take along, well I do. Being the geek that I am, the question can ultimately prove a tough one to answer. Last year when I visited Scotland, I took my G4 iBook along with me for the ride. The laptop’s 1.33Ghz processor is still pretty snappy and does everything I needed it to. So this time around, I decided to take the Pismo, with a 550Mhz G4, it’s more than half the speed of the iBook. So I was curious how it would fare and whether I’d be going nuts before the end of the week.
Now anyone who knows me, will tell you, I’ve something of a soft spot for the 1999 Powerbook. It’s true, I really do love that little laptop, the shape, the design, even the white upside down Apple logo and most importantly the bronze keyboard!
‘I do have are a very particular set of skills.‘ – Taken
While studying IT at college, I learned a lot of unnecessary things, such as how to type pretty quickly and how to format a word document. Office skills that a future computer engineer really doesn’t need. But as I get older, I’ve come to appreciate the benefits all those hours typing in MS Word 4 have given me. So when it comes to writing my blog, the Pismo is a machine I tend to fall back on for writing out long articles. It’s easy to use and very functional, typing on the Pismo is a lot easier than on any of my modern machines.
On the 68kMLA website and the Vintage Computer Forum, you will see threads about something called the “Retro Challenge”. The challenge is to try and get by for a month with only a vintage machine for doing your day to day tasks. Essentially replacing your modern computer with a piece of 10-20 year old tech and seeing if you can get by. Now you might think that sounds easy, but it’s worth pointing out that using your phone is considering cheating! Personally, I think anyone using a computer or laptop that is 15 years old, should be given some slack. If it’s still useful to that person for a job, great! It’s certainly better then it sitting in a landfill. I love hearing about the things people use old tech for, it’s inspiring to see people not giving in to the “Throw away” mentality.
So for the past two weeks, maybe three, I’ve been using my Pismo for day to day jobs, going online, chatting to friends, emails, playing music and writing. Aside from Tenfourfox crashing when ever I hit a Flash heavy site or had too many tabs open, it performed surprisingly well, getting the jobs done, albeit a little slower then on my dual core HP DV7.
Thanks to the kind folks at Adobe, I have Photoshop CS2 on my Pismo free of charge, which means I can edit photos and work on art projects using my PPC laptops. Superseded by much newer versions, CS2 still remains an amazing piece of kit to anyone on a budget. But how does it run on a G4 550mhz? Can you still be productive with and outdated piece of software running on a 15 year old laptop? Well last Saturday I found myself on my own, as my partner was busy. So I decided to set myself an arts and crafts retro challenge, or as I like to call it ‘Crafty Retro Challenge!’
After going to see Jurassic World last week, the dino bug was once again stirring in my veins. Going online, I decided I might buy myself a t-shirt. But none of them really caught my eye, which is when I remembered the t-shirt I’d owned in the 90s, as a kid, back when the first movie came out. A quick search later and bingo, I’d found it. Now I recall this shirt pretty well, because I wore it until I physically grew to big for it. Whether it was the velociraptor’s head that sold it or the mocking text I don’t know. To this day, I’m not sure how anyone can have ‘a nice day’, while a dino is chewing their leg.
So I’d found the shirt, except would you believe it, the darn thing was too small, 20 years later and I’m still to damn big for it! Not one to be deterred, I didn’t give up hope that I might actually get myself one of these original Jurassic Park shirts. But if it was going to happy, it would have to involve rolling up my sleeves and some DIY. I loaded up Photoshop on my Pismo, which by the way, came out six years after the original movie premiered. There was something a little poetic about doing 90s artwork on a late 90s laptop. For the most part, photoshop ran without issue on the Pismo and much to my surprise, when I installed the Jurassic Park fonts, I discovered I didn’t have to close and reload photoshop for the fonts to appear inside the app. This is something I’ve always had to do in Windows, but this 15 year old machine didn’t have a problem with it. After a couple of hours I ended up with something I was pretty proud of and might actually considering getting printed. So long as I can afford to have it done, yay I could be 13 again!!
And here we have it, a side by side comparison of the shirt and the image I created on the Powerbook. The Jurassic park logo has since been changed to red, to match the shirt. But over all, I’m pretty darn pleased with how it all turned out. The only problem I had with making this on the laptop, was finding a USB mouse as using the trackpad would have been a nightmare.
So can you design nice things on a 15 year old computer? Yes. Will it handle Facebook, probably not. Do I care much about the latter? Nope! Facebook like Myspace, is rapidly feeling like one of those fads, which thanks to my Pismo’s limitations, I’m able to avoid.
Till next time, keep on geeking!
It’s a good question and one that as an iBook owner I can answer with a definite yes. The chances are we have the late Steve Jobs to thank, his reputation for sacrificing good cooling for aesthetics’ is well documented. Anyone who owned a Macintosh in the 80’s will be aware of the hazards of passive heating. Eventually something has to give and usually it’s a component, stressed from excessive heat. The G3 and G4 iBook both share a common hereditary illness, GPU failure. The situation began in 2003, when a group of G3 owners banded together to file a class action suit against Apple. Who would initiate an “iBook Logic Board Repair Extension Program “ the following year.
The G4 also suffers from a similar issue, however some models appear more prone to failing then others. It is generally held that the 1.3Ghz & 1.4Ghz models the more reliable of the G4 range with less reports of screen failures
Signs that your iBook may have a video problem are if the screen freezes or if touching the screen causing it to flicker or if when powering on the laptop, the screen remains blank, but still outputs video from the external video port.
If you experience any of these issues, chances are that your white G3 iBook has suffered a GPU failure. The G4 suffers a similar ailment, but this is due to the Intersil ISL 6225CA power controller chip, which over time looses connection to the logic board.
The only way to fix the G3 iBook is by sending the logic board away for a reball / reflow, tho there are some extreme home brew alternatives. These hacks attempt to warm the solder beneath the GPU, enough to reflow the ball grid array (BGA) that connects the chip to the board. I would only suggest this if you have no other alternative. Given the price of the G3 iBook, it is understandable why some people choose the cheaper DIY route.
Reballing involves removal of the GPU chip, so it can be re-seated with new solder. However this fix is not permanent as the cause for the gpu to fail will still be present.
This is down to a fabrication flaw and compounded by poor ventilation. The temperatures for the iBook’s fan to kick in are set to high to be of any use. The G4’s can be revived, if the Intersil chip has it’s pins retouched with a soldering iron. However mileage varies at to how long this fix lasts. One thing for certain is that both models of white iBook suffer with excess heat issues.
Using an program called G4fancontrol via the OS X console, reveals the settings are set at 56 for the Northbridge, 75 for the CPU, and 85 for GPU. These settings are very high, possibly to avoid the fan kicking except for rare occasions. While this does keep your lovely iBook nice and silent, it also has a detrimental effect on components, which are being baked every time you use your machine. After your turn the machine off, the components will cool, until the next time you use your laptop. Anyone with an elementary understanding of metals, will know that exposing metal to heat, causes it to expand and cold causes it to contract. So the continuous cycle of hot and cold eventually causes fractures in the solder which link certain chips to the logic board. The fractures might be microscopic to the naked eye but the gaps are wide enough to disrupt the iBook’s video display, resulting in no picture.
So if your still reading, I’ll assume you either have a working iBook or your have a faulty one and your thinking about the road to recovery. If you have found someone to reflow your logic board and now your wanting to fend off the GPU failing again, then read on, it might just save your machine.
To address the heat problem the first thing you need to do is lower the preset fan settings. 85 degrees is way to high for your GPU, it really isn’t a surprise it fails. You need to drop this down somehow to 65 degrees at least, tho I would recommend 55. Luckily there are ways to tell your iBook to engage the internal fan earlier.
This application was once freeware but the developer has since decided to ask people to pay for it. I’m running version 0.5 which was the last freeware version before it became commercial. Earlier version of G4FanControl can be found online, should you prefer not to pay. However I should suggest buying the software, at the very least your supporting the developer as well as getting the most up to date version of the applications, with all the bug fixes since the freeware version.
Coming as a Terminal program and OS X application, G4FanControl allows you real time control over the presets that tell your laptop when it should engage the fan. I would recommend setting all three sliders to 55, my iBook G4 1.33 settles at around 44-46 during normal use, which is running Word and listening to iTunes. Watching movies and playing games are area’s where the temperatures a likely to raise rapidly.
Depending on your version, you should have a tick box at the bottom of the screen, which says something like “Remember and set at boot”. This means G4FanControl will remember your settings for every time your computer boots. You need to tick this for your alteration to be permanent.
While I can’t guarantee this will permanently prevent your iBook from failing, it will most certainly reduce the level of stress the logic board is normally subjected to. One thing I do know for certain is that the factory shipped temperature settings are set way to high to be of any use. If you like playing games or watching movies on your iBook, you’ll be use to the left palm rest being rather warm, enough to cook an egg on it. If it’s too warm to rest your hand on, then it surely must be too warm for the computer as well. After installing G4FanControl and adjusting my fan settings, the left palm rest still got warm but nowhere near as bad a before.
If you have a working white, you couldn’t go wrong installing G4FanControl on your laptop. As proven by the Danish Consumer Complaints Board, the G4 has an inherent design flaw, so it’s not a question of whether yours will suffer it, more a question of when. So if your still rocking a G3/G4 iBook in 2014, my guess is you would like to make it to 2015 problem free.
For further reading, please check out the following links:
Joys Of Old Computers
Recently while up in the loft, I dug out my trusty PowerMac 8500 with the intention of taking another crack at it. Over the last 18 months, I’ve had little success. However, unlike previous attempts, on this occasion I was armed with parts bought from a fellow 68kmla member. With video ram and a spare CPU card at the ready, I was able to get the machine working once more. Honestly, after such a long time it was a relief to hear the machine chime with the classic Apple “Boing”.
After getting the PowerMac running, I spent the next week and a half playing around with Mac OS 9.2, downloading various free apps to try out. Everything seemed to be going fine until a few days ago, the system froze. I’m the first the hold up my hands and say it was my own fault, trying to delete a gigabyte of data in my trashcan and presuming I could still run a game at the same time.
Rebooting the computer, I was greeted with the floppy disk icon, indicating the system was not going to boot from hard drive. This was not a good sign as I had files I wanted to keep on the drive. Using my OS System 9 CD, I was able to load Disk First Aid and scan the hard drive for faults.
The first scan reported an “Invalid Extent File PEOF”. The PEOF or Physical End Of File is one of two file markers used by the system to log the allocated blocks for a file stored on hard disk. If either one of these markers becomes corrupt, bad things will start to happen. Neither Techtool nor Disk First Aid where able to fix the fault, which left me with DiskWarrior. The only problem being that my copy of Diskwarrior was designed to boot from an OS X compatible system and not a vintage like the 8500, which only supports up to 9.2.1.
Light At The End Of The Tunnel
Luckily for me an older system 9 compatible version of DiskWarrior comes bundled on the DiskWarrior 3 CD. The only obstacle was how I could get the 8500 booted and the software running. DiskWarrior has one drawback in that it can’t perform repairs on the same partition it is installed on. Meaning I had to find a way to boot the system from CD and run DiskWarrior from somewhere other than internal hard drive. The only option I saw was to make a custom boot CD, something that is not made easy on Apple computers. So, after a lot of head scratching and cups of coffee, I finally figured out how to do it and had a working boot CD with a copy DiskWarrior preloaded.
On booting up I discovered all my efforts had been futile, DiskWarrior would not run from a read only drive such as a CD. Now close to pulling my hair out, I had one last idea, which I was surprised hadn’t come to me earlier. Why had I not tried using a floppy disk? All this messing with discs and hard drives, I had neglected the simplest option. The DiskWarrior application was only 1.3mb, small enough to squeeze on a 1.44mb floppy disk. So now I had DiskWarrior on a writeable media, the next step was to use a bootable CD to boot the Powermac, which brings us to the next half of this article. For the next half of this article, I will guide you through how to build your own custom rescue disc.
Making A Custom OS 9 Boot CD
Some things you will need to perform this task:
1x Computer running OS X (10.3 preferably)
1x Original bootable OS 9 or 8.1 CD
1x Blank CD
For this next part, you will need to load up Roxio Toast, as well as insert your Original Mac OS CD. It doesn’t really matter if you use OS 8 or 9, just so long as it is bootable.
Once Toast has loaded, you will see four tabs labelled “Data”, “Audio”, “Video”, and “Copy”. Select “Copy” and make sure toast is set to CD/DVD copy and not Image file. If it is set correctly, go to “File/Save as Disc Image” Roxio may give an error regarding un-mounting the CDrom, ignore this and try once more to save.
It will take Toast some time to save the image. When it has finished, you will need to mount the image, unless Toast has already done so. From the menu, select “Utilities/Mount Disc Image”. Navigate to where you saved the image and select it. Toast will mount the image on your desktop. As this is a copy of your Mac OS CD, it will be titled the same as the original.
*To avoid confusion you can re-title your custom boot disc to some something different, I choose to name mine “Rescue”. You can do this by double clicking the name of the icon on your disc.
At the moment all we have is a vanilla Mac OS boot disc, so let us begin by downloading something useful. For this guide, I chose Techtool lite 3.0.4, a freeware utility that can analyse hard drives, zap your PRAM and even clean your floppy drive heads. It is available for download from the Macintosh Garden website using the following address:
Once you have the archive downloaded, use StuffIt expander to extract the program file to your desktop and then drag it in to the drawer of your new custom boot disc. If you double click the icon for your boot disc, you should now see the contents of your original Mac OS CD, along with the Techtool icon (See fig). Depending on how much space you have left, you can add more apps to your rescue disc. When you’re done, return to this guide and we will finish with how to burn our custom image to CD.
Burning Your Image
For this next step you will need to load Roxio Toast. Once it has loaded up, select the far right tab labelled “Copy”. Make sure Toast is set to “Image File” mode, you should see a screen similar to the one pictured. Click “Select” and navigate to where you saved your image file, it will end with the extension “.toast”. Once selected, you can tell Toast to write the image to a blank CDR.
Hopefully once your disc has been written, you should be able to insert it into any Classic Apple computer with a CDrom and boot the computer up from your new Rescue disc.
Dear readers, as some of you will be aware, I’m something of an avid fan of old Apple Macintosh Computers. My first Apple computer was non other then the might Power Macintosh 8500. A technical power house of it’s day, offering impressive video editing features.
Over the past 2 years, I have on and off been trying to bring back my 8500 from the dead, after it decided one day not to boot. I’ve bought parts, ram, CPU’s and still nothing would bring it back to life. Imagine my joy when today I finally got it to BOOT UP! Has the old Apple “Boing” ever sounded so sweet!
That is all for now, as i return back to working on this beloved computer and getting it back in full working condition!
Anyone who visits ByteMyVdu regularly, will have noticed by now, that I have something of a soft spot for vintage Apple technology. Not that the new stuff is bad, its just pretty expensive and well it’s not old or obscure enough to feature here on ByteMyVdu.
Several weeks ago while doing a spot of cleaning, I found my 1st Generation Ipod hiding away in the back of a drawer. I had all but forgotten about the thing, having taken to using my phone for playing my music while on the move. However finding the Ipod gave me an idea. Would I find it easier to use the Ipod then my phone for my general music needs? I have to admit I do tend to avoid abusing the MP3 player feature on my phone, so I don’t end up draining the battery.
After three hours on charge, the Ipod displayed “Charged” on its little LCD screen. By now, the original batteries in most 1st Gen Ipod’s are well past their prime. I knew mine would at least hold some charge, as I had replaced it only a couple of years ago. Thankfully I discovered the battery held enough charge for a couple of days use. Long enough for me to perform my little experiment.
As I still use an upgraded G4 Pismo as my backup blogging machine, I pretty much had everything I needed to get the Ipod up and running again, e.g iTunes and a Firewire port. After a couple of hours syncing the Ipod with my music collection, I was rocking and rolling, if you’ll pardon the pun ;-).
Getting A Feel For It
The first two days went by smoothly, I found I was listening to more of my music in the car then usual. Normally I stick on whatever album I have in the car. Now with the Ipod at hand, I was able to bring more of my music with me, without filling the car with CD’s.
Job’s really was right with his “Thousand” songs in your pocket, the Ipod really did doom portable CD players and later CD’s as a viable medium.
Another aspect to using a 2001 Ipod, which I found gratifying, was the presence of hardware buttons and a scroll wheel. In an age of touch screens, it was refreshing to have physical controls for a change, there is something to be said for tactile feedback. As humans we spend our days interacting with the world through sight, sound and touch. Through repetition and muscle memory, I personally believe physical buttons permit a degree of dexterity which touch screens have yet to achieve. Before my first touch screen phone, I could text a friend on my Sony Ericsson, while only glancing at the screen. This was solely because I knew the feel of the phone’s keypad by heart.
Players Old And New
Compared to the Sansa Fuse+ I had bought a year ago, the 2001 Ipod feels vastly easier to use. The user interface is smooth and easy to navigate, this is primarily due to its intuitive layout and simplicity. Whether we have Steve Jobs and his passion for perfectionism or inventor Tony Fadell to thank for this, is really anyone’s guess. What cannot be denied is that together they invented a groundbreaking product, which would eventually lead to the invention of the iPhone and iPad.
The first two weeks really were very interesting, as I noticed a change in my habits. Perhaps it was the novelty of using the Ipod, but I was listening to more of my music. Ordinarily the only time I get to listen to my CD’s is on my stereo or in the car. So getting through them can take a while. The process of choosing which albums I wanted to import, forced me to think about what I was listening to. Unlike the ‘on mass drag and drop’ I usually do with my Sansa or phone with my main PC. The Pismo has only a small hard drive, so I had to pick and choose which CD’s I wanted to import. Did I want more classical music over 80’s pop?
While on the subject of importing music, am I the only one who finds it amusing, that Apple call it “importing” while Windows media player refers to it as “Ripping”?
Working within a confined storage limit really improved my playlist, whittling out music I thought I wanted, but never ended up listening to. The original Ipod has a 5Gb or 10Gb internal hard drive, mine however has a 15 gig drive. As the original drive failed and I replaced it with one bought off eBay. Compared to newer models, this is admittedly small but still how much music can you get through in a week? In two weeks I had not listened to all the albums on my Ipod’s hard drive.
The one thing I might pull the original Ipod up on, is its weight. At 192 grams, the Ipod is 68 grams heavier them my phone. Comprised of an acrylic fascia and metal rear shell, the majority of the weight boils down to the internal drive and lithium battery cell. I know some of you will be rolling your eye’s at me and thinking “68 grams, man that’s nothing!” but 200 grams in your pocket along with what ever else you have in there, will make your coat feel heavy. When I go out, I’m usually carrying:
– House keys
– Mobile Phone
– Car keys
Hmm I’m beginning to see why I own three messenger bags, aside from the fact one of them has Pac-Man on it. I can’t really berate the Ipod too much for it’s weight. When you think about the technology available in 2001, it really was cutting edge. There is a story told, that when Steve Jobs was presented with the first prototype of the Ipod, he said it was too heavy. Apple engineers explained the complications of designing the Ipod and that it simply was not possible to make any smaller. After a short pause, he walked over to a nearby aquarium, leaned over and dropped the Ipod in the water. When the Ipod hit the bottom of the tank, bubbles came out of it and rose to the surface.
“Those are air bubbles,” he snapped. “That means there’s space in there. Make it smaller.”
So Much For Smooth Sailing
On the third day, I was travelling in the car with my girlfriend, who is not particularly keen on Apple products. She was using the Ipod to select some music to play in the car. Simple enough you would think, except it wasn’t. In fact on her first attempt she was able to lock up the Ipod, which could only be recovered with a hard reset. I’m convinced the Ipod was picking up her negative vibes and decided to be grumpy. Later in the day it froze once more, which is when I decided something was wrong. I previously used the Ipod on my Windows PC, so it was formatted in the Fat file system. I decided to perform a restore via iTunes, returning the Ipod to a native Mac OS format. This is when I discovered another problem. Since Apple made the move to the Intel chipset, they have dropped all support for PPC hardware. The latest version of iTunes for the Pismo running Tiger, is 9.2.1, as such it will not connect to the iTunes store or even the update servers. Something I needed if I wanted to restore my Ipod.
I could feel doom looming over my venture to bring back my trusty Ipod, how could I restore my device without a connection to the iTunes server? That’s when it struck me, had Apple ever offered the firmware restores for download? Not everyone had the internet back early 2000, surely Apple took those people in to consideration. As it turned out, they had and after an hour looking online I was able to find a copy of the file I needed “Ipod20060628.dmg”.
The Ipod updater supports six different devices and not just the 1st Gen Ipod scroll. So if you own an original Shuffle, Mini or 3rd Gen Ipod, this download might be of some use to you. After running the utility, the Ipod rebooted, formatted now in a Mac OS file system, iTunes quickly detected the device and asked me if I would like to set it up. It could be my imagination, but I found synchronising 5-6gb of music through firewire went much faster then over USB to the Sansa Fuse. Part of the slow down could be due to the speed of the SD card I have installed in the Sansa. Firewire was a short lived feature of the first and second generation Ipod’s, with Apple opting for USB in later models. The switch had other benefits, such as a proprietary 30-pin connector. Which opened up the door for manufacturer to design a variety of custom speaker systems which the later Ipods could dock with.
One Month later
I’m still using the 1G Ipod and I think I will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. It saves me from draining my phone battery and syncing my music with iTunes is painless, the only problem I can see will be filling my Pismo’s hard drive with music. I have plans to eventually replace the internal drive of the Pismo with an solid state drive, so we shall see how that works out. I also need to buy a new lithium battery, as I’m only getting a maximum of two days use from the Ipod, when really the device should be lasting a week before needing a charge.
For the vast majority of people, carrying an Ipod in addition to their phone is too much hassle. Your typical smart phone does a good job doubling as phone, camera and music player. If however, like me your battery conscious or one of those people who like using a phone as a phone and nothing more. A personal music player is probably still a useful tool to own. This past month has proved to me that while the 1st gen Ipod might be considered an old timer, it is still a useful device. Less clunky then a personal CD player, the experience is reminiscent of the Walkman. I love using this device, I’ve had friend ask me about it and then get excited when I tell them it’s the first Ipod, an icon piece of history.