Vintage iMac Restoration - AirPort card

The AirPort card was a revolutionary product when it first came out in the late 1990s. Apple's implementation of 802.11b offered something that its Windows counterparts lacked - namely the ability to work consistently and reliably. Anybody that struggled with 802.11b at the turn of the century realizes what a big deal that is. I cannot recall having a non-Apple router that I did not have to regularly reboot or having a non-Apple PCMCIA card that did not have to be ejected/reinserted, or re-installed. Once I switched to Apple routers, rebooting the router became rare or nonexistent.

Just to clarify, I am not saying that Macs were not without their seroius hardware and software problems at this time. Many designs have been flawed. OS9 was in dire need of replacement at this time, and crashed frequently. That being said, since Apple was selling unified hardware/software, they were able to implment features, such as 802.11b wireless, much more smoothly than possible at the time under Windows 98 or (gasp) Windows ME.

The iMac G3 was apparently upgradeable to AirPort, via a card and a special adapter. The iMac I am restoring does not have AirPort onboard, so I found one on eBay, complete with adapter, for about $13 shipped. Pretty cool.

 The Apple AirPort card (note the cheerful, clear branding) with the adapter required for the G3 iMac.

The Apple AirPort card (note the cheerful, clear branding) with the adapter required for the G3 iMac.

(This is the point at which I realize that Airport is actually spelled AirPort and I have to go through and make changes throughout the post)

The attention to detail here is really nice. There is even a clear pull-tab on the top of the silver AirPort card to facilitate removal from the pin interface. Although it looks just like a Type II PCMCIA card (later called a PC Card, I believe), it is not a PCMCIA card as I understand it. When I was looking at G3 PowerBooks (Lombard, etc.), I discovered that they required an "actual" PCMCIA card for Wireless; you cannot just plug in one of these cards.

As I understand it, OS9 will not support WPA encryption on the AirPort card, so I probably will not use wireless functionality much in OS9, not that there are many modern internet tasks one can do with OS9. OSX 10.4.x, with the iMac G3/500 supports, will support WPA though, and so should effortlessley inteface with my existing network. If not, there is always ethernet. Remember kids, the difference between a house being "wired for ethernet" and "not wired for ethernet", can often be quickly remedied with a big enough drill bit, and ethernet cable, and some of theose 3M cable clips.