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Marc's Notes: Comments, Ramblings, Rants & Tips

PowerBook G3 Firewire "Pismo"

History of the RoadChicken line

In 1995 I was given my first PowerBook by my employer – a PowerBook 520C "Blackbird". With a whopping 32MB of RAM and a 320MB hard drive, this beast ran Mac OS 7.5.3 at an amazing 25MHz. I wrote software using an early version of CodeWarrior on it.

That PowerBook was christened with the name "RoadChicken", and everyPowerBook I've owned since has been a successor RoadChicken. I began writing this on RoadChicken 5-1/2, my trusty Pismo while waiting to order RoadChicken 6, a brand new 15" MacBook Pro. I'm finishing it on the new Intel Mac.

RoadChicken is a strange name, and it's time that the true history is revealed.

In 1994 we had hired a couple of new software engineers. Jay, from Pennsylvania, started working with me in July, and we hit it off well. Software engineers tend to be a bit strange, and Macintosh engineers are usually near the stranger side of that bell curve. Mac engineers also get to do something PC engineers don't! We can name our computer hard drives. At the time my two drives in my work Mac Quadra were "Gumby" and "Pokey".

Jay got his Mac, and proceeded to name the drive "Road Kill Kittens". I mentioned that my youngest daughter might find that disturbing, so it morphed into "Road For Chickens". The Chicken theme was born!

At our company Christmas Party that year, Jay ended up with one of the gag gifts in a package exchange game... a full sized Rubber Chicken. Basically, we thought it was a cool geek gift and it ended up gracing the cubicle wall between Jay's pen and mine [related story].

Two months later I received the Blackbird, and since it was going on the Road with me, it was natural to name it RoadChicken.

Timeline of RoadChickens

  1995 1997 1999 2000 2004 2006 2007 2007
Name RoadChicken RoadChicken 2 RC3 RC4 RC5 & 5.1 RC5.2 RC5.3 RoadChicken 6
Model PowerBook 520c
PowerBook 5300c
PowerBook G3
PowerBook G3
15" MacBook Pro
CPU 25 MHz 68030LC 100 MHz PPC 603 400 MHz PPC 750 500 MHz PPC 750 2.16 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
Memory 32 MB 64 MB 128 MB 192 MB 512 MB 1 GB 3 GB
Hard Drive 320 MB 500 MB 6 GB 12 GB 20 GB 40 GB 250 GB
Mac OS 7.5 8.6 9.1 9.2/10.2 9.2/10.3 9.2/10.4 10.4 10.5
Display 640 x 480 Passive LCD 640 x 480 Active LCD 1024 x 768 TFT LCD 1400 x 900 Matt TFT LCD
Batteries 1 + spare 1 + spare 2 2 2 + 2 spares 1 + spare
Accessories External CD-ROM PCMCIA Ethernet CD DVD DVD, Combo, Zip, Airport Not Required
Status Still here and running! Abandoned Passed to I.T. Shelved 2-½ Pismo Mind Meld Purchased Feb. 24, 2007

Ode to my favorite RoadChicken

In looking back, it's clear that I have a real sweet spot for the Pismo. The Lombard was OK, but the Pismo was the top of the line G3. With a little care and the application of memory and hard drive upgrades, it ran Mac OS X 10.4.8 Tiger with the best of them. I'd built a Combo DVD/CD-RW drive for the media bay because I could (and it had a matching faceplate) but most of the time I enjoyed 7-8 hours of runtime with twin high capacity batteries.

For almost seven years, I wouldn't trade my Pismo for any of the newer PowerBooks. The Titanium G4s broke display hinges, and had batteries that fell out without a lot of provocation. After I started MacCetera. I bought RoadChicken 5 because 1) my former employer wouldn't let me buy RoadChicken 4, 2) I had a exceptional respect for Pismo hardware, and 3) it was an affordable $600 on eBay at a time when I was being ultra conservative with my business resources.

As a consultant, RC5 saw more use and abuse than anything I'd tasked a Pismo to do before. With this heavy daily use, I managed to fowl a display connection and RC5 would randomly power-down hard rather than sleep when I closed the lid. So off to eBay for a donor Pismo. RC5.1 arrived to provide a host case and main logic board for all the goodies in RC5. Hard drive, memory, airport all swapped in and the original RC5 parts went into a body bag.

Then in the fall of 2006 I placed RC5.1 on the cluttered desk of an art teacher at a client K-6 school. Turning my back to deal with a recalcitrant iMac G3, I heard the painful sound of my running Pismo hit the floor. It took the hit on the front right corner, spilling the right battery across the room, along with some strangely amputated case plastics before powering off. I gingerly picked it up, and gathered the pieces as best I could. The art teacher gave me a zip-lock baggie for the smaller parts, and I sort of slid the right battery back in and it sort of fit. Crossing my fingers and pressing the power key yielded the lovely boot-chime. She swung up to my login screen. I gently shut her down and put her carefully into my case... along with the baggie.

Three hours of surgery brought RC5 and RC5.1 together. The lower plastics on 5.1 was shot, and the logic board of 5 was flaky. Between two complete Pismos, each with different "challenges", RC5.2 arose from the ashes to meet every daily challenge I encountered until Christmas Break 2006!

Transition to RoadChicken 6

Christmas is usually a happy time. It was for me (and this was the first Christmas in memory that I never issued forth my traditional "Bah Humbug"). So, for keeping in the spirit of Christmas, and being nice and all, I get rewarded with the task of implementing a lab of Intel iMacs at the middle school. Not a problem, just build a NetRestore image and we'll be done in a day or so.

But you can't build an Intel NetRestore image on a PPC Mac, and all I had were PPC Macs. I ended up bringing one of their Intel iMacs into my office to resolve the image over the weekend. My Pismo had reached the critical point in computer evolution where it could no longer do everything I needed it to do. I had to get an Intel Mac, and since it had to be soon, and it was for client rather than in-house needs, it would have to be either a MacBook or a MacBook Pro. The Pro angle finally won out. This would be the first "store-bought-new" Apple product (other than employer provided Macs) that I've had since my Apple IIgs "Woz Edition" in 1986... I figured that if I was going to have this as long as forever, I'd go Pro.

I wasn't looking forward to leaving the Pismo... I felt bad about it... and continued to do so until I had my hands on the MBP for, oh, 5 minutes.

The Pismo understands though, and I'm doing one last overhaul on her, and then she's going back to college with my daughter Gwen as RC5.3!

Long Live the RoadChicken!

(1) The opinions expressed in Marc's Notes: Comments, Ramblings, Rants & Tips are exclusively those of Marc Wolfgram.
(2) Only one Macintosh™ computer was permanently harmed - link. (3) Any references to real people may be intentional.
(4) Don't try certain things while driving or at home without proper adult supervision. (5) Microsoft Windows—Just say NO!

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