The cheapskate's guide to G3 iMacs -- addendum: clamshell iBooks!
» Clamshells need love too!
Even cooler than G3 iMacs, "clamshell" iBooks were (and still are) a unique type of laptop. As one eBay seller put it, there was nothing like it before it and there has nothing been like it ever since.
In a time where all laptops look like flat shoeboxes, clamshells offer a refreshing twist. However, these machines were made in 1999-2001. Can they still be used for serious purposes today?
The answer is... yes, although probably not in the original configurations. Here's a rundown of requirements and recommendations.
- Processor speed: These guys are typically slower than the G3 iMacs, which had speeds up to 700 MHz. Clamshells, however, only came in 300, 366, and 466 MHz. (It's gonna have to do. Tiger does run on 300 MHz. Just avoid using it for things that obviously require a super fast processor, and turn off unnecessary background processes.)
- Memory: The original clamshells came with 32 and 64 Mb, which clearly doesn't cut it today. I strongly recommend maxing out the memory, which means, 576 Mb. This strange amount consists of 512 Mb memory chip + 64 Mb built-in. Although the original manuals list 320 Mb as the maximum, 576 Mb works just fine. And you really need it to run Tiger...
- Hard drive: Again, 6 or 10 Mb just doesn't do it. Look for a refurbished model with a spacious harddisk. 40 or 60 Mb, for example, would be excellent, with lots of room for Tiger, System 9, and plenty of software.
- CD drive: A CD-ROM drive works, but if you can get a machine with a DVD-drive, it doubles as a portable (and cool-looking ;-) DVD player.
- Firewire port: Even if you don't use this port, it's important, because a Tiger installation requires it. Unfortunately, the earliest models (blueberry / tangerine) did not have it. While it *is* possible to run Tiger on these models, it's not easy, and you have to know what you are doing. (I am actually writing this on a blueberry running Tiger, but don't ask me how it got on there... the seller did it. ^_^)
- USB port: Clamshells have exactly one of those. That's not a lot (although keyboard and "mouse" are built-in and typically won't need to take up a USB port). Fortunately, USB hubs are cheap and easy to get.
- Keyboard: I personally found this keyboard a bit *easier* to use than the typical external Mac keyboard. Maybe because it does not have a separate pad with Home/End/PgUp/PgDn/etc, so my hand does not automatically go there (just to find that the key does not do what I expect). Rather, cursor keys are tucked away in the right corner, and the left corner sprouted a "fn" key, which is used for function keys and more. (If you press F5, you actually get Num Lock; fn-F5 does what you want instead.)
- Navigation pad (or whatever it's called): Same as with most laptops, except it only has one button, in true Mac tradition. You can configure it so that you can "emulate" a mouse click by tapping the pad; useful, although sometimes a nuisance, when your motions are interpreted incorrectly.
- Screen: The 12" LCD screen has a maximum resolution of 800x600. While that might not be enough for some applications, I personally find it to work well, and the text is nice and readable. People who like super high resolutions obviously won't be satisfied.
- Misc: All these laptops have Ethernet and modem ports. Although they are Airport capable, an Airport card is usually not in there.
Clamshell iBooks were made in three "waves". More information about that here. The most important features are:
- iBook G3: blueberry and tangerine; 300 MHz processor; no Firewire port
- iBook G3 SE: graphite; 366 MHz; no Firewire port
- iBook G3 SE/Firewire: graphite, key lime, indigo; 366/466 MHz; Firewire
Normally, you'll want the last version, which has the best specs; but it's possible to find blueberry and tangerine clamshells that are up to snuff as well. It all depends on what the seller/refurbisher did with it.
Where to find
As usual, look on eBay for these puppies. Ones with 576 Mb and other decent requirements are relatively hard to find, though... it might take a bit of searching. Of course, if you actually know how to upgrade these machines, you're golden... just buy a cheap one, and the parts you need, and you're good to go.
And finally, this is what my blueberry iBook looks like ($300 on eBay):
(I want a key lime one as well though... :-)