The Power Mac G3 All-In-One (Molar Mac)

One of the rarer Macintosh models these days is the Power Macintosh G3 All-In-One (AIO). Challenged in the beauty department, the G3 AIO is an odd looking duck, whose overall shape, when viewed head on, is not dissimilar to a human tooth, leading to its “popular” moniker of “the Molar Mac”.

power-mac-g3-all-in-one

These machines ARE fairly rare these days. Introduced on April 3rd, 1998 (and discontinued less than a year later on January 1st, 1999), the G3 AIO was very quickly succeeded in the market by the wildly popular iMac, which itself was introduced only two months after the launch of the AIO, on May 6th, 1998. This all by itself probably doomed the AIO to relative obscurity, but the effect was magnified by the fact that the G3 AIO was only sold into the educational market, severely limiting available all these years later.

The relative rarity of the Molar Mac is reflected in the price it commands on eBay. One sees these machines show up from time to time, typically priced in multiples of thousands. This is a true collector’s item. Consequently, when a new listing for a G3 AIO appeared on eBay a few weeks ago with a starting price that was relatively modest by AIO standards, I couldn’t help but jump in, fully expecting however to be outbid in moments. I am sure that the low starting price was just the seller’s effort to get the bidding started, but the higher bids simply never materialized. A week later, still the only bidder, I won the auction at the original starting price. I was dumbfounded!   … really pleased, but dumbfounded nonetheless.

My “new” G3 AIO was delivered last week, and immediately reminded me that it was the heaviest Mac that had ever been made to that time, weighing in at a hefty 59.5 lbs. I have read that it is the heaviest Mac ever made, but I have not been able to verify that fact.

molar-mac

The Molar Mac really is an “all-in-one”. Setting it up was a breeze. Connect power, keyboard/mouse and internet and turn it on. It was that easy. Everything else that would typically need wiring is included in the package.

I turned it on, not really knowing what to expect, given the odd form factor and the limited intended market. The first thing I noticed was that it is FAST… really fast. It slices through Mac OS 9.2 like a hot knife through butter. I have a 7300/200 that I have upgraded with a Sonnet 500 MHz G3 card, but it is the new G3 AIO, equipped with only a 266 MHz G3, that feels “twice as fast”.

The G3 AIO is not just fast, it is loaded as well… really! Unlike its successor, the iMac, the AIO features three PCI expansion slots, upgradeable video, an ADB port, an external SCSI port, two external headphone jacks AND an integrated microphone and finally, an optional integrated Zip drive. Both USB and Firewire can be added via the available PCI slots, and both can be used with any version of Mac OS from 8.6 upwards. I have read that Mac OS 8.5.1 may be able to support both as well, but have not yet been able to confirm the USB portion of that – Mac OS 8.5.1 definitely supports Firewire, via Firewire Enabler 2.0.

For those interested in “just the facts”, here are some key G3 AIO specs:

  • CPU: 233/266 MHz PPC 750
  • Bus: 66 MHz
  • RAM: 32 MB, expandable up to 768MB
  • VRAM: 2 MB SGRAM, expandable to 6 MB
  • Video: supports resolutions to 1024 x 768, uses ATI 2D/3D 64-bit accelerated chip set
  • Hard drive: 4 GB EIDE drive standard. Maximum IDE drive size is 128 GB without third-party support.
  • CD-ROM: 24x maximum throughput
  • 3 PCI slots
  • Microphone: standard 3.5mm mini-jack, compatible with line-level input including Apple’s PlainTalk microphone
  • ADB: 1 port for keyboard and mouse
  • Serial: 2 DIN-8 GeoPorts on back of computer
  • SCSI: DB-25 connector on back of computer
  • 10Base-T Ethernet connectors on back of computer
  • Supported Mac OS Versions

I am delighted to have this new addition to the HappyMacs Lab and am looking forward to a modicum of modification to the unit I received. For one, the optional Zip drive (internal, SCSI) is not equipped, and so I have ordered one on eBay. For another, at 4 GB, the original hard drive is a bit limiting, and so I have ordered a new, larger one. Finally, I plan to equip two of the three PCI slots with USB and Firewire cards, respectively. The resulting machine will be an incredibly fast, powerful, connected and very definitely unique addition to the lineup of Macs hosted in the lab.

I will report on progress as time and opportunity allows!

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