R.I.P. iBook: December 31, 2002 – March 7, 2009


Our old 700 MHz iBook G3 passed away quietly on Saturday evening. My wife had used it to check her email that morning, and all had seemed well, but when she tried to wake it for a late-night check just before retiring, it refused to respond.

Over the next several hours I tried every method of resuscitation I could think of, plus some more than I looked up on the Internet, but no joy. The screen remained black; No start-up chime; no hard drive sound; indeed no sign of life at all other than a hum (normal) from the power manager when the AC adapter was plugged in. I tried the reset sequence for this model (Control + Option + Shift + Power) several times, also reset the PRAM, tried removing the battery and unplugging the power adapter and letting the machine sit for several hours, and eventually overnight. Nada.

Perhaps a motherboard failure. I’m doubtful that the problem is the hard drive, since the screen remains dead. Evidently, this sort of failure is not unheard of, or even terribly uncommon with the G3 iBook, which was not one of Apple’s better efforts in terms of OS reliability, and this one being past its sixth anniversary in service was probably overdue, although up to now it had been a trouble-free machine.

I bought the iBook — the first iteration of the “opaque white” dual USB model, on the last day of 2002, just under the wire for a tax deduction on that year. I was very happy with it. I loved the look and size, interestingly quite similar in the squared-off lines and footprint dimensions to my first Apple laptop, a PowerBook 5300, although much thinner and lighter in weight. I also loved the bright, razor-sharp 12.1-inch display with its tight pixel density (for the time).


On the other hand, I’ve never much cared for the keyboard or trackpad — the former having a cheap and clunky feel, and the latter being exceptionally “jumpy” and hypersensitive. Neither was a problem for this iBook’s primary role during the first three years of my ownership, during which it served me faithfully and well as my production workhorse, sitting on a laptop stand and connected to an external keyboard and mouse.

This was a basic, $999 entry-level iBook with a plain-vanilla, drawer-loading CD-ROM drive and a smallish 20 gigabyte IBM hard drive, and it remained essentially stock (not that there’s a whole lot you can do to upgrade or expand an iBook anyway) throughout my ownership except for being maxed out with 640MB of RAM (not enough toward the end of its workhorse days).

The computer, which originally shipped with Mac OS X 10.2 “Jaguar,” was progressively upgraded through OS 10.3 and then 10.4, and finished its days running OS 10.4.11, which it did very comfortably. With only 16MB of video RAM and an ATI RADEON 7500 GPU, it just barely supported the more advanced Quartz Extreme and Core Image graphics technologies in OS 10.3 and later.

The only real functional issues I had with it were some modem problems and USB crankiness (that caused a few kernel panics) with OS 10.2 the early revisions of OS 10.3, but that disappeared with the later Panther builds and with OS 10.4. I did outgrow the capacity of the 20GB hard drive before I moved on, but the little IBM drive was reliable, and remained whisper-quiet throughout the iBook’s six-year plus lifespan.

I replaced it as my a No. 1 production Mac in February 2006, with an Apple Certified Refurbished 17-inch PowerBook, which has proved a superb performer, and the iBook was demoted to serving as my “road” laptop for a year and a half. It was compact and relatively light to lug around, but as previously mentioned, I wasn’t a fan of the keyboard and trackpad, and I eventually replaced it as my mobile machine with a hotrodded G4 Pismo PowerBook.

I’m sorry to see the iBook go, but it died with its boots on, so to speak, still in the harness when it expired from what appears to have been a major internal organ failure. It was a likable computer, will be remembered fondly, and if my new unibody MacBook serves me as well, I’ll be more than satisfied.