How much use would a G3 classic iMac be nowadays?

My daughter has just begun secondary school and it’s getting a bit hard to schedule everybody’s use of the home computer (a 5-year-old Athlon PC - upgraded a bit - and dual booting WinXP and Ubuntu).

Finances are really tight, but I’d like to get her a computer for her room - I see that the old classic G3 iMacs (slot loading all-in-one CRT models in pretty colours - so not the very first incarnation of the iMac) are pretty cheap on eBay - if I got one of these - possibly setting it up as dual-boot with Ubuntu, would it actually be any use or would it just be a pain to use?

It needs to run basic office stuff (OpenOffice Word processor and presentations would be fine), a modern web browser, and that’s about it for now.

I kind of like the idea of getting a Mac, because it would nicely round out her computing platform experience, but I know Mac OS has changed a fair bit in recent years - would I be wasting her time getting a classic iMac?


If at all possible, try and hunt down a 1Ghz G4 at the very least.

My thinking:

Apple’s new OS (Leopard) is supposed to be out very soon and it’s minimum requirements are a 1 Ghz PPC I believe.

You may not be interested in running Leopard, which is fine, but when an OS is no longer supported I think it’s a fairly good indicator that you’re going to have software and probably hardware compatibility issues sooner than later.

Besides on a G3, you’re probably looking at USB 1.1, which is still useable but painfully slow if you’re writing anything large to external devices.

My parents still run one of those with OS X 10.4. A little slow but fine for a kid’s computer.

Just had a thought.

How about a brand new Mac with a 1.83GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 1 GB RAM, 80 GB Hard Drive, 24x Combo Drive (DVD-ROM/CD-RW), and a Intel GMA 950 graphics processor with 64MB of DDR2 SDRAM shared with main memory For $599.00?

Meet the Mac Mini .

Sorry, I lost my edit window…

The Mini also has 4 USB 2 ports, Built-in AirPort Extreme Wi-Fi (802.11g) and built-in Bluetooth 2.0+EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) module and comes with iLife '08.

Wait a few weeks and they’ll ship with the new OS too.

You won’t find anything remotely close to this in a G3.

That would be very nice, but it exceeds the available funds by about an order of magnitude - the G3 iMacs on eBay are selling very cheap.

I think an old G3 iMac would be plenty useful. It hasn’t been that long since they came out. Running even a new word processing program and browser should still be well within its capabilities. Sure, it ain’t “teh sexeh”, and new games are right out, but since you don’t care about those issues, I’d say you’re in good shape.

I just bought one (for $20!) a little while ago and did exactly the same thing - I installed Debian on it & put it in my daughters room. It’s a little on the slow side, but really quite functional for office & browsing tasks. I think it’s ~400MHz g3, and I bumped it up to 512M of memory.

Thanks for that - I’m going to wait and see if one comes up at a good price near to where I live - most sellers here seem to say collection only.

What’s the desk footprint of a CRT iMac like?

It’s essentially identical to a 15" (maybe 17") CRT monitor with built-in speakers.

Other notes - the keyboars & mouse are USB, and IMHO have extremely short cables. The mouse is ridiculous (again, IMHO) - it’s a little disc-shaped single button affair. But I had a spare PC-style mouse lying around & that’s working just fine.

Footprint: about 18" wide and 24" deep. I’ve got a 350 mhz G3 with 3XX Kb of RAM (320? 382?) and it runs 10.3 fairly well. It’s what got my foot in the door with Macs and did a pretty good job of doing so. The only regret is that it didn’t have Firewire. That vintage machine can run newer versions of OS X, but it didn’t have a DVD drive, and it didn’t have Firewire, so it was impossible to upgrade.

It works well with some kids educational games, I’d imagine Open office would work well enough (if lethargically)…pity mine has a bunch of quarters shoved in the CDrom slot

The one I bought came with a dead hard disk & cdrom device. The dead hd was easy enough to get around, but trying to get it to boot from a USB cd took some doing. I finally figured it out & started a pit thread about it.

Does yours have USB? If you can find a USB DVD or CD drive, you should be able to boot from it

Bear in mind that Apple no longer carries repair parts for the “Keihei” series slot-load iMacs, the big weak point in the Keihei series was the “PAV” board, (Power/Analog/Video) the big circuit board under the CRT tube

a common issue was one or more of the electron guns would go bad, and the display would take on a predominant tint, sometimes it’d just be a flicker, more commonly it was continuous

another weak point of the Keihei was the early IDE drives it used, as the machine was convection cooled (no fan), overheating issues were common

the highest version of the OS I’d reccomend would be 10.3.9, it can run 10.4.x, but it’s not reccomended as the Keihei’s video chip does not support the graphical effects of 10.4 or 10.3, so the processor has to do all the drawing chores as well as all the other computational tasks

if you can find an inexpensive G4 iMac (the one with the fully articulated screen), that’d be a much better choice

I suggest looking at an eMac, as well. Ours is…4 years old, and just a solid machine. When we bought it, we bumped the RAM to 1 gig, and later threw in an airport card. Looking at e-bay, most appear to be starting at under $200, many under $150. It may be worth it, as (according to apple’s support page), they were all G4s, and many had 1 GHz or better processors. Take a look, anyway.

I think Lambo’s nailed it. That sounds like the optimum tradeoff between cost and longevity. It may be a little more than you’re wanting to spend, but it’ll easily last another 4-6 years being more than adequate to any school level task.

I’m running a 700mHz G4 eMac with 10.4 and doing just fine. It still has USB 1.1 but it does have a firewire and I have a 500 gb external hard drive so there’s plenty of room. I’ve been getting by with 384 mb of RAM, but will probably bump that up soon.

I have plenty of programs, including Quark Xpress, Photoshop, etc and several games. And it came with the Mac suite of iPhoto, iTunes, iDVD etc. I’ve been able to edit music, edit DVDs with no problem. I have a dual boot running system 9 as well as 10.4 so that a few of my older programs (Typestyler, Photoshop 5, etc.) can run. Have had the machine for more than 4 years, and it has served me well, though it’s far from the fastest horse in the pack.

For the record, I work with newer wintel boxes intensively every day at work, and much prefer the older Mac at home. it does the job without worry.
As always, YMMV

Thanks for all the info - it’s been very useful.

Can anyone tell me - is it as easy to set up dual boot with Ubuntu on a Mac as it is on a PC?

Now you’re throwing curveballs. :wink: I’ve run yellowdog linux on the G3, and I’ve run eLive (an englightenment live linux CD), I’ve run bootcamp and OS X together (requiring you to hold a key on bootup if you want to boot the other OS you have installed), but the whole GRUB/lilo thing? I dunno. The hardware at that level is different that on the PC.

However, upon further thought, it may be a non issue if you can scrounge an external drive, as there’s a keypress on boot that lets you select the boot device…throw Linux du jour on a cheap external device and you may be good to go.

I finally managed to get a reasonably decent spec machine at a fair price; I paid £40 (approx $80 - that’s a bargain in this market - I’ve seen similar spec models sell for twice as much or more) - for a G3 500MHz ‘snow’ Imac with 768Mb RAM, an 80GB HD and running OSX Tiger.

I’m collecting it tomorrow… what do I need the seller to tell me in terms of root passwords, etc?

Also, there are no install media for the OS - it’s a fresh install, but I suspect the seller has sold the install media separately, or is keeping them, or something. How easily can I ghost the hard drive to something else? The machine has a CDRW drive and I have a USB HD I could use.

I’m not sure there is a version of Ubuntu that works for the Mac of that vintage. Yellow Dog works, but it’s not Ubuntu, and I don’t think it’s a Debian derivative.