Breaking with the past

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Longtime Mac user, J.R., writes in with a question that many people will be asking as the Macintosh transitions to the Intel processor.

As a Mac user since 1995 I have applications from way back that still run on my iMac G4 and Tiger 10.4.3. I have thousands of documents in MacWritePro 1.5, ClarisWorks, AppleWorks, text, etc. I also have pictures in ColorIt and PhotoDeluxe. Will any of the “Classic” applications run on the newly released Intel Macs? How does one upgrade without losing years of information and data? MacLinkPlus does not provide a method of translating everything. Will Rosetta do so? From the info as of today, it appears not. Is there a way to buy a new Mac and not lose all your past data?

While this may upset a few crusty old timers (and yes, I count myself among their number), I feel it’s my duty to issue a bitter dose of reality. Mac OS X became the default operating system for the Macintosh on March 24, 2001. Apple has provided a link to its past, in the form of the Classic environment, for nearly five years, which, in computer years, is an eternity.

If you intend to embrace the brave new world of the Intel Mac, I believe you’re better served by letting go of the past. The Classic environment will not be part of the Intel Mac. It’s possible that someone will develop a PowerPC emulator for Intel Macs that lets you run these old applications—such work is already underway in a beta of SheepShaver. But without Apple’s support, there’s no saying how effective and speedy such an emulator might be.

The end of the Classic environment doesn’t mean that you must do without your old documents, only that you need to save them in a form that’s compatible with modern computers. J.R. cites a few applications that bit the dust years ago. All of them offer options for saving files in formats that will work with today’s applications. For example, the current version of AppleWorks (creaky though it may be) will open MacWritePro and ClarisWorks documents. Once in AppleWorks you can save them as text files or Word documents (which, in turn, can be opened with Apple’s Pages or TextEdit). ColorIt and PhotoDeluxe can save files in common graphics formats—pict, tiff, and jpeg, for example.

Of course there are disadvantages. You may wish to maintain the documents in their native format so you can work on them in an application you’re familiar with. Translating hundreds of documents to a compatible format is a grind (though MacLinkPlus Deluxe can help with this). And who wants to buy new applications when the ones you have work perfectly well?

For those of you who raise these reasonable objections I suggest that you translate those documents you really need (honestly, do you really require a current copy of the ill-advised letter you sent to a now-former girlfriend?), vow to do new work on a new Mac (with new applications), and keep your old Mac around so you can work in the Classic Environment on those documents that can’t be handled in any other way.

Alternatively, you can stop right where you are. When the Intel Macs hit in full force, buy the finest PowerPC Mac you can afford when it goes on sale and continue to work in the Classic environment as you do today. As the years go by you’ll find your Mac less and less compatible with the tools of the day, but your work and play may not require that you have those tools.

In the end you may decide that there’s no shame in driving a Studebaker in a Honda world.

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