Leaving the past behind

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Reader J.T. is having a hard time letting go of the past. He writes:

I have a Microtek ScanMaker X6EL flatbed scanner ,which I want to connect and use with my iMac PowerPC G4, 800 MHz computer. Since this scanner is no longer supported by Microtek, their Tech Support advised that I should try the software program VueScan.

He then goes on to list a pile of adapters he’d use to allow the scanner’s SCSI interface to connect to the iMac’s FireWire port. He concludes:

The estimated total cost of this hardware/software bundle is $200+. Is there a simpler, less costly, way to connect and operate the Microtek ScanMaker X6 EL scanner with the iMac computer under Mac OS X, v.10.4.11? Will the listed hardware/software above work? Any other suggestions, other than purchase a “new, modern” scanner and start over?

J.T., the danger of asking for help from others is that they’ll occasionally offer advice that you don’t want to hear. Example: When you ask, “My girlfriend has threatened to poison my chowder the next time I sneeze and I believe she’s quite serious about it. Other than dumping her, what can I do?” a person who truly cares about your welfare will suggest that you back up a step and reconsider your commitment to this modern-day Borgia.

This is one of those cases. Although you don’t want to hear it, it’s time to let go of that old scanner and get a new one. Here’s why:

Those connectivity and driver issues are a biggish deal. Once upon a time I tested some FireWire to SCSI adapters and I have to say I found them problematic. (But things may have improved since then—commenters, feel free to offer your experiences). And while VueScan is an impressive piece of engineering, wouldn’t it be nicer if your scanner just worked with your Mac—and continued to work with the next major Mac OS update?

Also, your scanner offers 1200 dpi resolution. You can get that same resolution from a scanner today for $50. For that $200 you’d spend cobbling together a solution for your current scanner you can have a new scanner that offers 4800 x 9600 resolution. It’s likely that this new scanner will also handle slides (though not to the extent of a dedicated slide scanner) and include a modern copy of Photoshop Elements.

To sum up: Honestly, unless your old scanner is the reincarnation of a beloved ancestor, I see no reason to hang onto it.

I understand the pain of discarding a perfectly good scanner. It’s not broken, it’s simply outdated for your current setup. You can help alleviate some of that pain by donating the scanner to a group that can still use it—a school, Macintosh users group, church, or senior center. Someone will surely find a use for it. This way you get a scanner that works, someone else gets a scanner that works, and you’ve kept another hunk of plastic, metal, and glass out of the local landfill.

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