Into the Vault: Power Mac G4 Cube

Welcome back to the Vault.
Which actually makes no sense, it’s not even a vault.
It’s my basement.

My name is Matt Mutch.
I am a computer enthusiast.
I’d like to tell you a story.

Things come to those who wait.

Yes, typically it’s “good things,” but there’s sort of a statute of limitations on a lot of stuff so after about twenty years, we’ve downgraded simply to “things”. Not to sound unappreciative or anything, but after the device’s usefulness has fully and completely passed, “appreciation” remains the word but it takes on a different meaning. After twenty years we move along from “thankfulness” to “reverence and sworn duty”.

About twenty years ago, as of the time of this writing, Apple Computer, Inc. launched the Power Mac G4 Cube. And it was amazing.

Apple G4 Cube advertisement
Taken without Permission

Whether it was underdog appeal, cult fanaticism, or legitimate enthusiasm, from the time of the Power Mac G3 tower to around the time of the iPhone 6S, I was a tremendous Apple fan. I wasn’t their biggest fan, I wasn’t their staunch defender, but I was still a big fan. They lured me in with the shiny and hooked me with the hype.

Several years ago, a friend of mine and noted Apple fanatic Joe (yes you are an Apple fanatic, don’t start with me Joe) was moving house and decided he could no longer take care of his upgraded Quicksilver Power Mac G4 tower, which was arguably the finest looking of the Power Mac G4 series of towers. It has been in my care ever since and has baffled me with 1) its ability to still function in any fashion and, 2) its inability to accept the final OS 10.4.x update. If anyone were to be foolish enough to apply the last point release, video output no longer emerges from this system. The Quicksilver sits in the Vault, a silent reminder of more enthusiastic days.

Advertisement of ADC port
Yesss…

With it came the gorgeous and now magnificently dated looking Apple Cinema Display 17 inch LCD panel with FAT lucite framing and the vaunted ADC (Apple Display Connection) cable. One single cable for video, power, and USB connections. A little part of me still loves this cable. A huge part of me hates this cable. But a little part still loves it. Seriously, DisplayPort implementers. There are USB channels directly in the spec, start implementing them. It’s super dumb to have to run a separte USB cable to my display to get my USB ports to work.

TONY STARK GOT HIS USB PORTS TO WORK IN A CAVE

Out of all of the tiny details, ADC almost made this unusual desktop the stuff of my cable management dreams except for the included, amplified speakers which Oh god why.

What C Team Level Nightmare Was This Decision

But I mean it’s still an absolute marvel of industrial design, especially back in its day, to fit all of the guts of a super computer into an eight inch cu- Damn it!

G4 Cube Brick
Look at the (relative) SIZE of that BRICK

But no. We see the past sins of industrial design through “today” colored glasses and frankly we can’t not, so we have to recognize that. The thing occupying 98% of the space in the Vault is not silicon or metal, it’s wistfulness. So let’s microfiber clean these nostalgia goggles and take another look.

The Power Mac G4 Cube was a pro-level, and pro-priced, desktop computer running a Power PC G4 CPU and hubris.

Nope, the goggles, they do nothing.

Apple Mac Mini
I Loved You So Much

The thing that I can tell you about the Power Mac G4 cube is that like basically everything Apple launched for a solid number of years… We wanted it. Look at this thing!

Apple Power Mac G4 Cube
LOOK AT IT

This was a computer! And it was a powerful one. And it was a Mac!

Look at this weird thing it could do!

Power Mac G4 Cube Handle
Smooth Like a Pneumatic Handle oh wait

The whole thing slides out of itself for uh… easy… access.

Okay fine, that’s not the point! It did a thing! It had a handle! You could pull out all of the guts on a single, solid, pneumatic? Handle! That was freakin’ awesome!

Unfortunately, the computer itself has no value as a computer, only as a collectible curiosity. It’s in good shape, it functions, and it’s heavy as hell. In an era of eight core smartphones, Mac Minis, and mini-itx format PC builds, the G4 Cube is strictly a relic. It serves two purposes: 1) takes up a startling amount of space in the Vault and 2) it rekindles a little spark of this youth-fueled earnest gadget-lust from a simpler time.

I wanted one.
I wanted one.
And I finally got one.

Thanks Joe. Safe travels.


Got an old computer or a new computer you like or hate or are indifferent to and want to talk about it?
I’m @geekadematt on Twitter and this has been
Into the Vault – Power Mac G4 Cube

The Power Mac G4 cube shoehorned a Power PC G4 processor at 450 MHz along with 128 MB of SDRAM and a 20 GB UltraATA hard drive into an 8 inch cube. It’s graphics card was a custom formatted ATI Rage Pro with 16 MB of RAM on the AGP 2x bus. Outputs included the aforementioned ADC port and a VGA port for good measure. The system itself included two USB 1.1 ports and two Firewire 400 ports, and utilized Airport 802.11b Wifi, 10/100 Fast Ethernet, and a 56k v.90 modem for networking. Included Apple Pro Speakers occupied one USB port and two more were available via the Apple Cinema Display. Two more were available via the Apple Pro Keyboard.

Matt Mutch

Image Acquisition Specialist and Computer Enthusiast. I like Sad Anime.

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