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    Newsletter Issue #1019: The Road to Becoming Obsolete

    July 17th, 2021

    No, this article is not so much about electronic gadgetry than a personal observation, something that one might regard as inevitable. But I’ll pull through it.

    So over the years, I was always more or less at the front of the line in buying new computing hardware. Not that I had lots of money to burn, but I was able to juggle my finances in such a way as to be able to finance the latest and greatest gear from Apple.

    Now having current gear really didn’t help all that much with my productivity. After all, the actual performance boosts from year to year were generally fairly slight. Indeed, the 1994 introduction of the PowerPC chip was, for a while, a step behind. Almost all of the apps I used had to be run in emulation mode till they were updated — if they were updated. That meant existing basically two processor families behind. Apps launched slower, everything ran slower, and it wasn’t the chip matured, and apps came along, that things were improved noticeably.

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    Newsletter Issue #1018: Random Thoughts on the Upcoming Apple Silicon Macs

    May 25th, 2021

    As you might expect, the skeptics are looking hard to find problems with Apple’s first generation Macs with the M1 chip. They need something to do, but other than app developers who haven’t upgraded their goods to the new silicon, and a few glitches here and there, the rollout has been quite seamless. What’s more, high Mac sales clearly indicate customers are pleased, or at least the changes aren’t impediments to buying new gear.

    Now I’m sure most people who purchase new Macs aren’t concerned so much about the fine details of a new processor architecture. That’s all about we geeks getting involved in the nuts and bolts and Apple’s design choices.

    For the first release of the M1 Mac mini, MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro, Apple followed the same tact used in the transitions from Motorola to PowerPC and from PowerPC to Intel. The external designs were virtually identical to the models they replaced except for the new hardware. As a practical matter, most everything you did to make the new Macs run was the same as the older Mac. The 24-inch iMac represents the first change, to a thinner, lighter form factor — and they come in colors, which makes it sort of a throwback to the second generation iMacs from over 20 years ago.

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    Newsletter Issue #1013: Apple’s M1 Macs: Must You Wait?

    December 29th, 2020

    If you’ve used Macs for a long time, say over 25 years, you might recall the original processor migration. Then it was the journey from Motorola 680×0 chips to the PowerPC, said to be the ultimate processor. But it wasn’t such a friendly change.

    For one thing, just about every app you used, even those from Apple, hadn’t made the trip to the new processor. So they had to run in emulation. So they’d run, more or less, about the same as Macs using the 68030 CPU, such as the IIci or the IIx. If you were upgrading from a Quadra, for example, using the 68040 CPU, you lost the performance advantage till the apps were updated.

    Now if you weren’t using Macs way back then — or weren’t even around — no worries. Most of this should be pretty clear anyway. Apple as “vintage” for several years), and a Late 2014 iMac (which has just been declared “vintage”).

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    Newsletter Issue #993: Revising ARM on Macs — Again!

    May 17th, 2020

    It’s fair to say that if you repeat a somewhat reasonable rumor about Apple year after year, it might eventually come to pass. So as its ARM-based CPUs have become more and more powerful, it seems a given that Apple is poised to ditch Intel one of these days and make the third processor switchover in its history.

    Now when Apple first moved to the PowerPC in 1994, it didn’t seem so much of an issue at the time, although it survived for 12 years. But the Intel rumors were around for quite a while. One of the most interesting ones focused on Apple having a secret project, “Star Trek,” where new Macs were being tested with Intel CPUs at the same time that Steve Jobs was reassuring everyone that they were perfectly happy with the progress of the PowerPC.

    Lest you forget, the most powerful Macs with the G5 required liquid cooling to keep the chassis from frying. It was never tamed for notebook use, so year after year the fastest PowerBooks lost traction against even cheaper Intel-based Windows portables.

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