February 1999
The Last Word on Upgrades
A Personal Journey into the Heart of Darkness

by PAUL D. LEHRMAN

ILLUSTRATION: DAVID BALL
[used by permission]

You might be relieved to know that this is going to be my last column about dealing with upgrades--at least for a while. It's not a subject that's going to go away, but we need to pay attention to some other aspects of the recording and production life, not just how we're going to keep our tools working, even though that concern is taking up more and more time every year.

In this third and final installment, I'm going to relate a very recent--in fact, it's not over--horror story that illustrates so much of what I've been talking about. This is not Grumpmeier's story; it's mine.

For about three years, my main computer has been a Power Computing PC100, the very first Macintosh clone, a 100MHz Power PC 601 machine, equivalent to a Macintosh 8100. I got it because in spite of my great affection for and loyalty to the Macintosh operating system, I've never been a fan of Apple's hardware. Even in the Apple II days, I owned a clone--a Franklin ACE, it was called--that was better built, easier to service and performed better than anything Apple was making at the time. (Soon after I bought it, Apple, of course, shut the company down.) So when the first authorized Macintosh clones appeared, I jumped. Of all the computers I've owned, the PC100 has been my favorite: It's reasonably quiet, well laid out, easy to get stuff like cards and RAM and hard drives in and out, built like a truck, and has never needed service.

But since Apple pulled the plug on its licensees, it's been an orphan. And by last year, it was beginning to feel like an old and feeble orphan. While it was still just fine for writing, MIDI composing and most of the desktop publishing work I do, some newer applications, like Macromedia's Dreamweaver, which I use to create the pages on the Mix Online Web site, crawled like the Long Island Expressway at 5:30 on a Friday afternoon. And it was getting a little hairy reconfiguring it six times a day so I could work on Web stuff one hour and hard disk audio editing the next.

So I decided it was high time I got a second computer. I have a heavy investment in NuBus-based audio hardware and didn't feel like replacing it all with PCI-based stuff, so I thought I'd dedicate the old machine to music, while I could use the new computer (an Apple G3) for writing, graphics and Web stuff. At the same time, I thought, I could speed up that old machine and extend its productive lifespan by a year or two, with one of the relatively inexpensive G3 upgrade cards now available.

The first snag I ran into was the fact that said accelerator cards weren't available. Between the time Newer Technology announced their G3 cards for 601-based Power Macs and the time I got mine installed, approximately nine months elapsed. These babies were so hot that most dealers weren't even taking orders--just names. One dealer said they'd put me on a "guaranteed" waiting list, but only if they could charge my credit card first. Another dealer put me in the queue, and then three months later lost my order. Another dealer told me they'd have one for me in three days, and then two days later went out of business.

The rest of this column, along with 56 more, is now available in The Insider Audio Bathroom Reader, published by Thomson Course Technology PTR.

Copyright ©2006 by Paul D. Lehrman