Back in the 1980s, I awaited every development in hardware and software with bated breath. When the anticipated new product appeared, I abandoned the computer/software I was using without a second thought. The only issue was the cash needed for the upgrade or replacement.
Somewhere around the turn of the century, that circumstance changed for me. Hardware and software (especially Linux) had come to a level that met all of my professional and personal needs. The appeal of computers to the general public as a new form of media was never a motive for me to own a computer. I only care about what work I can do with it.
In March of 2005 I purchased an 17″ G4 Apple PowerBook laptop. At the time, this “aluminum aircraft carrier” provided me with one of the most powerful platforms for mobile computing — a desktop on my lap, so to speak. With OS X, all my development tools that I had created on my Linux box worked seamlessly on my PowerBook. I was a happy camper!
This month marks the sixth year, and my PowerBook still runs and meets my needs. It has been a faithful and reliable workhorse. I have felt no real need — and could not really justify — an upgrade. Yes, a new laptop, whether PC or Apple, would be nice; but not yet mission critical. But I’m starting to feel the pressure.
First, a year or so ago Apple abandoned the PPC G4 with the introduction of Snow Leopard, the latest version of OS X. PPC support was dropped. I’m not really criticizing Apple, mind you. Hardware has a lifetime and a life cycle. But my system still met my needs, so I declined to upgrade at that time.
About six months ago, Calibre (a tool to manage ebooks on ereaders) stopped supporting PPC systems. Or rather, the graphical user interface widget library stopped supporting PPC systems. Oh, well. The last version still works just fine; I just miss out on the latest bells and whistles.
Yesterday, however, something more serious occurred: I discovered that the new Firefox 4 has dropped support of the PPC. FireFox 4 is a significant upgrade, not just a new user interface and new features but significantly improved performance. Fortunately, a group of Apple hackers has back-ported FireFox 4 to the PPC and optimized it for that hardware.
Happy ending, right? Sure. But one has to ask, when will another critical piece of software orphan the PPC? I have to plan to purchase another laptop within the next year or maybe two. Six or seven years is the longest I’ve owned a computer of any type. The next purchase will be quite a leap forward.
But I can wait. Unlike twenty-five years ago.