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Compgeke

Marathon Computer iRack DV

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I seen this on Craigslist for $10 and just had to have it. For those of you who don't know, Marathon Computer was a company who made rack mount things for Apple computers. Whether rack ears for your Powermac G4 or an entire case for your 9600. In this case, a 1U rack chassis for an iMac G3 DV logic board. This one's 500 MHz, out of a Snow White based on the order number.

 

The front is pretty unassuming. No fancy "PowerPC" or anything, just the ports, a slot and a Marathon badge.

owd3yJQ.jpg

 

From the back you get all the ports an iMac G3 DV had. The ports on the far left are to be linked over to the ones on the right if you want the front panel ports to work. Otherwise, leave them disconnected and you won't have front panel ports but you'll keep all the ones on the rear.

2SUUtdE.jpg

 

A view from the top shows just how sketchy these things are. There is no attempt at cable management by design. The board is just thrown in at a weird angle (to make ports line up),  VGA port ribbon kind of wedged between boards, etc. 

6ihDBD7.jpg

 

The ram is installed on a pair of right angle adapters. Without these the ram sticks up too high and fouls the top. 

0C2SBqD.jpg

 

The biggest weird thing is this board. It's marked fan control, but I'll be damned if I know what that's about. It has the connections for the speaker and the power button/LED and then four 555s. What they do? Beats me.

vET9baQ.jpg

 

Finally, know what's cooler than an iRack? How about two :)

WcL4RRZ.jpg

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Now I want a piece of the action! :)

 

I've heard of these. Also heard of the project where someone gutted a Mac II (gasp!) and put the innards of a tray loader in it. Interesting stuff one can do with an iMac's logic board once the CRT dies.

 

c

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Storage is an extremely interesting use case, because even today 1u servers tend not to be particularly dense.

 

My guess at a market or a most common use case would almost certainly have been to co-locate Mac-hosted (either on OSX or on, say, ASIP) web/email services, where charges are often by-the-u and a racked Beige G3 or one of Marathon's previous rack-mountable Mac clones would have cost more monthly to host.

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Marathon also catered to pretty heavily to the DAW market. They sold a lot of cases to Mac audio folks.

Back in the day (boy, I say that lot..)  Marathon provided about the only way to have a high-performance "portable" Mac-based DAW system.

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I know a couple of musicians who installed iRacks in their effects or amp racks back then.

The racks took up a lot less space than a iMac and made them more portable.

Although they mostly used them in the studio.

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Very interesting! I would have presumed that crowd would go for the G-Rack and used a Power Macintosh G3 or G4 with the expansion and horsepower uplift from going with one of those systems over an iMac or imac-based solution.

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5 hours ago, Cory5412 said:

Very interesting! I would have presumed that crowd would go for the G-Rack and used a Power Macintosh G3 or G4 with the expansion and horsepower uplift from going with one of those systems over an iMac or imac-based solution.

I think people would use those for the high end Pro Tools TDM and other DSP-accelerated systems. That being said, I don't know what sort of DAW would run on an iMac?

 

It seems to me that these iRacks filled that little niche that the much later Mac Mini was eventually built for-- small computers that could be rack mounted within 1U of rack space and/or be relatively portable (the Mini can also fit within 1U with it's lid removed, I think).

 

c

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Well these guys were major Mac heads, I don't how much serious music work they were doing on the iMacs but when USB and firewire was introduced there was a slew of vendors who promised MIDI peripherals. Then there were things like the Griffin iPort that added a standard serial port.

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My guess basically remains something you saw smaller 1u rack systems from almost every other computer vendor doing: web/network/infrastructure hosting.

 

I'm guessing here, kind of depending on the particular generation, you basically saw people hosting their FMP+ASIP or later OS X web sites on these things, in hosting centers, because inside your own datacenter there's not necessarily a lot of impetus to maximize U space usage - at least not if you built a pretty big computer room.

 

However, at a third party provider, for say your web site, there was probably a pretty good impetus to minimize on U space, because most hosting providers charge per rack unit.

 

From a "what can an iMac do?" standpoint, in the beginning: almsot anything a PowerMac could, because they benched nearly identically, with the iMac edging the beige G3 desktop out from time to time. I imagine once you get to the iMac DV, it's a little less straightforward because you start having Power Mac G4 and dual CPU G4s available, but the other thing is I imagine you may have been able to build chains of systems doing one thing to lossless audio using firewire.

 

IDK specifically though and it sounds like any evidence of that really happening is going to be limited to one or two people or to some kind of budget use case.

 

Idly, when the XServes were announced and a few times in that system's life, Apple talked briefly about putting it in like a studio/portable rack, but I don't think they ever meant it too much in that overall market, especially as we approached the Intel era and we started seeing things like firewire audio interfaces and accelerators and other setups that allowed MacBook Pros to work as performance/stage computers.

 

1 hour ago, CC_333 said:

the Mini can also fit within 1U with it's lid removed, I think

The new mac minis are short enough they do not need to be taken apart, but also, macminicolo exists and as a service/corporation, they don't rack minis horizontally, they rack them vertically using custom shelving. Mac mini colo, sidenote, is a reasonably good deal if anyone wants to colocate a piece of hardware and as far as I can tell, the reason their pricing is so good is specifically because minis are so small and use so little power.

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Right about a year later, luck strikes again. I'll do some testing and pics later, but I've gotten three more iRacks. Now I have three iRack DVs and two original iRacks. I'm going to have a whole datacenter of these things in a few years at this rate.

qiC0o1y.jpg

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That's an RS/6000 40p. 66 MHz 601, some amount of ram, 350 meg hard drive, Diamond S3 based video card. Running AIX 4 now, although if I can dig up the PReP floppy for it, NT4 would be fun to try out. It's not particularly fast, but the NT4 support is the only reason I really got it. I've got two other 80 MHz boxes (MCA based), a 375 MHz 604e and a Dual Dual-Core 4.2 GHz Power 6 box sitting here if I want to play with AIX.

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On 3/21/2018 at 9:20 PM, Compgeke said:

 

The biggest weird thing is this board. It's marked fan control, but I'll be damned if I know what that's about. It has the connections for the speaker and the power button/LED and then four 555s. What they do? Beats me.

Maybe the 555s generate PWM pulses for the fans?

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I want one of those iRacks, if only because it's novel!

 

Any chance you'd be interested in selling one?

 

c

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