Old Mac of the Month: Titanium PowerBook G4 

This month’s entry is written by Jared Sorge. Jared’s been a Mac user since 1st grade and sold them from 1999–2003 for an Authorized Reseller in the Seattle area. Currently he’s a developer of FileMaker and iOS apps. You can find him on Twitter and ADN as @jsorge, or at his blog over at jsorge.net.


image via Apple PR

In January 2001, Apple brought out the Titanium PowerBook G4. This was a landmark introduction that would influence generations of designs across the PC industry (and still holds up well today).

Back then, there was an unwritten rule that you skip the first generation of a new Apple product. They were known for some quality issues, and the TiBook was no exception. There were problems with the display hinges, the new slot-loading DVD drive (an industry first in a laptop) and the FireWire controller.

Apple spec bumped up to 550 & 667Mhz in October, adding gigabit ethernet as well as boosting the bus on the 667 to 133Mhz but the real second generation Titanium PowerBook came in April 2002.

I was waiting to buy one of these. At that point I had a Blue & White G3 and one of the Dual USB iBooks and wanted to consolidate my computing to one machine. I sold both of those computers to buy one of the 667Mhz PowerBooks. It was worth every penny.

Hardware

  • 667Mhz G4 processor
  • 256MB PC133 SO-DIMM RAM
  • 30GB Hard drive
  • 15.2" Widescreen, enhanced to 1280×854 resolution
  • ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 w/ 32MB DDR SDRAM
  • Slot-loading combo drive (fixed from the original DVD-ROM drives)
  • DVI video output
  • 133Mhz system bus across all models
  • AirPort ready (the high-end 800Mhz model came with the card installed)

The big news of note in the hardware department was the display. The first couple revisions of the Powerbook G4 had an 1152×768 resolution. The DVI model upped that by 23% according to Apple’s PR. I got the computer to do video editing, and the extra resolution definitely came in handy when I would run Final Cut Pro. I loved that display. And with the extra graphics horsepower it handled Castle Wolfenstein with ease.

Software

  • Mac OS X v10.1 and Mac OS 9.2
  • Acrobat Reader
  • Art Directors Toolkit
  • Earthlink
  • FAXstf
  • Graphic Converter
  • Internet Explorer
  • OmniGraffle
  • OmniOutliner
  • PCalc
  • PixelNhance
  • Snapz Pro X

My first reaction to researching all of this: Just look at that list of third-party software that they used to include in every one of these computers[1]. I loved using OmniOutliner for taking notes in classes. I still use OmniGraffle for flowcharting processes and prototyping some UIs. I wish Apple would get back to these older ways and bundle some more quality third-party apps, but we all know that won’t be happening.

My PowerBook G4

I loved my TiBook, so much so that I actually bought 2 of them. One of my co-workers at the time was moving to Africa and wanted to buy a machine that he knew was reliable so he paid the same amount as a new one and I bought another.

One of the sad things about the titanium design was that the case was painted. On the first day of use while taking notes in class, my metal watch actually chipped some of it away. I got around this later by using my keyboard screen protector as a cover where my watch would hit the case but by that point the damage was done (I learned my lesson before my 2nd one, which stayed pristine during my usage).

I bought the PowerBook in the middle of a weird season for me, with new computer purchases every year from 2001–2004. I replaced this PowerBook with one of the 12-inch PowerBook G4s in 2003. I’m pretty sure that I actually made money on the deal (which was a driving factor for a college student) and I really wanted the SuperDrive for burning my videos.

Selling my TiBook was a mistake, so in 2004 I sold the 12-inch PowerBook and bought a refurbished 15-inch Aluminum PowerBook G4. That machine had several repair issues and after the third time Apple replaced it with a brand new one. You guessed it, I sold it a couple months later and used those funds to buy an iMac G5.[2] That was the last computer I would purchase for home until 2009, when I upgraded to a 15-inch Unibody MacBook Pro that I still use.

The Titanium PowerBook G4 was a landmark in computing. Apple perfected its design with the DVI model, increasing the screen resolution, the speed, and ironing out the kinks from the first generation. I loved that computer, and it served me well for too short of a time.


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  1. Remember when Apple and Earthlink were partners?  ↩
  2. Yes, I was certifiably crazy during those few years. And it’s odd how several of my computers that I’ve owned have been featured here on 512 Pixels.  ↩