Daniel Knight, Low End Mac
Low End Mac went live in 1997 aiming to help “users get the most value from their Macs and Macintosh clones.” While it now covers everything from the Lisa to the latest Macintosh models, its primary focus remains on older models. Founder Dan Knight has since quit his day job to dedicate more time to this great site.
ATPM: First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Daniel Knight: My name is Dan Knight. My parents were post-War Dutch immigrants to Canada, and I’ve spent most of my life in Michigan. I’ve been into math, science, and technology as far back as I can remember and have a strong affinity for hardware.
I spent too many years in retail sales, mostly working with camera gear, audio equipment, and personal computers. Before going into Web publishing full time, I spent over eight years supporting a Mac network for a local publishing house.
ATPM: What is Low End Mac (LEM), and when and why did you start LEM?
DK: Low End Mac started out back in April 1997 as two dozen computer profiles on my personal Web space. I couldn’t find any really good profiles for some of the older Macs I had to support at work and at home (Mac II, LC, IIci, etc.), so I waded through my books and magazines to create the kind of profiles that would make my job easier. Then I added links to other pages and sites with helpful information on these models.
Low End Mac grew well beyond that; today we cover every Mac ever made including top-end G4s. Our goal has grown from just supporting pre-Quadra machines through the pre-Power Mac stage to becoming a leading resource for users of all Macs. Our mission is helping Mac users get the most value from their Macs, whether new or old. A big part of that is our Mac Daniel advice column, which grew out of e-mails people sent asking me which upgrade was best for their older Mac—or would they be better off replacing it with something newer.
ATPM: What was the initial computer setup at Low End Mac and how has the setup changed since then?
DK: I bought a Centris 610 in mid-1993; I was still using that when I launched Low End Mac in mid-1997.
Part of the impetus for the site, in addition to the older Macs at work, was buying some surplus Macs for myself and the kids. We’d recently obtained a Mac II, LC, and LC II—low-end stuff even in 1997!
When the Centris was five years old (June 1998), I bought a Umax SuperMac J700. Umax was the last licensed Mac clone, and they were liquidating this $1,800 machine for $800. After my 20 MHz Centris, the 180 MHz SuperMac was a real treat. Over the years the J700 grew to over 100 MB RAM, had a G3/333 processor added, received a slightly better video card, got a TV card, and a 15 GB hard drive. That computer served me until the end of January 2001, when I picked up my PowerBook G4.
QuickSilver, my TiBook, is my working computer. The SuperMac is being used by my third-oldest son. (Son #1 has a G3/400 upgraded SuperMac, #2 is using a Power Mac 8100/100av and also owns a Color Classic, #4 uses a 200 MHz SuperMac, and my wife has a 366 MHz indigo iBook.) I have 512 MB RAM, the stock 10 GB hard drive, and an AirPort card in QuickSilver. I love the “megawide” screen, the performance, and the portability.
I have a huge stash of older Macs ranging from one or two 512Ks through a bunch of Quadras, three 6100s, a Radius System 81/110, and another SuperMac I built from parts. I even managed to reacquire my first Mac, a Mac Plus, from its third owner when he upgraded to an iMac last year.
ATPM: Since the beginning, how many people have contributed to the site and what are your duties at LEM?
DK: We currently have about a dozen regular contributors and several occasional contributors. Adding in those who contributed in the past, we’ve probably had two-dozen writers contribute to the site.
That said, I still design, proofread, edit, and publish everything myself. I know how hard it is for a writer to edit his own work, so I insist on proofreading and editing everything we publish. It’s not a flawless process, but I hope it helps make already good content a bit easier to read.
ATPM: Do you think LEM is a success? How long has it taken to become one?
DK: Low End Mac has been successful since the beginning. My only goal was to collect the kind of information I found useful and make it freely available to everyone.
ATPM: With the introduction of Mac OS X, do you think LEM will be valued in the years to come?
DK: Definitely. Most Apple products last nearly forever. Over the past year, we’ve been asked to launch lists for Apple II, Newton, Lisa, and System 6 users. There are plenty of Macs out there that will never support Mac OS 8, 9, or X; we will continue to support those users.
That said, we are not going to ignore OS X. I hope to get a copy of 10.1 in September, if only to familiarize myself with it. I really want to make the switch to an OS that won’t bomb or lock up, but all of my applications run under the classic OS, so I’m not rushing into OS X.
ATPM: What else have you been working on lately?
DK: My oldest domain is reformed.net, which grew out of some research projects undertaken when I attended seminary. There’s some really solid material on Reformed church history and church growth in there, but the site hasn’t seen much development in recent years.
I have two other domains which are on hiatus until I have the money to have them hosted again. digital-views.com is a DVD/Video CD review site, and digigraphica.com is my site for digital cameras. I have a couple other projects on the back burner; I’ll announce them as they’re ready for launch.
ATPM: Taking your business skills into consideration, what would your advice to future Mac entrepreneurs be?
DK: I have few “business” skills. I can write, edit, design, publish, and promote, but I can’t sell, I don’t really understand accounting software, and I hate dealing with the dollars and cents of operating a business. But that doesn’t mean I can’t offer advice.
- Don’t go into debt. Ever.
- Spend sparingly. Nice as the TiBook is, buying it really put a crimp in our cash flow. (That said, always buy AppleCare for portable Macs. Out of warranty repairs are very costly.)
- Know your strengths and weaknesses. Work to your strengths. Find others to work to your weaknesses. That’s why we have someone else manage ads for the site; it’s not one of my strengths.
- Be yourself. Know what you know; admit what you don’t. Work within the community, letting others rise based on their strengths. Don’t be jealous of the success of others. Do your best because it’s what you do, not because it makes you better than anyone else.
- Build positive relationships with others, especially those you respect. What goes around comes around.
ATPM: How have you seen the Internet change over the past 7 years and into the new millennium?
DK: Seven years ago I didn’t know what the Internet was. Today it’s indispensable. The Internet is the phone network of the 21st century. Forward thinkers are planning how it can be extended beyond the confines of Earth.
The Web has changed for better and for worse. It has allowed people like me to find a niche, but it’s also allowed social problems like bloated splash pages, online gambling, spam, porn sites, chat rooms, and computer viruses. The Internet has a very powerful social aspect.
I can’t predict where the Internet is going, but I suspect wireless high speed Net access will be commonplace within five years, just as cell and PCS phones are replacing land lines for a lot of people.
ATPM: With the Internet Era in its downfall, how do you view it generally and in relation to the Macintosh community?
DK: Downfall? Sorry, I disagree. Some people had vastly overblown business plans that nobody would have taken seriously a decade ago. They failed, and their money blew away, but the Internet Era has only just begun.
The Internet breaks down barriers. I don’t generally know if I’m corresponding with a kid or a senior citizen, and it really doesn’t matter. Thought matters. Ideas matter. Communication matters. If anything, the importance of good writing—thoughtful, well phrased, well structured writing—will be a stronger asset in the 21st century than it was in the last decades of the 20th century.
Still, the dot-com meltdown has been horrendous. Ad rates dropped precipitously, turning Low End Mac from a very profitable enterprise in late 2000 into something that barely meets expenses in 2001. But that will turn as real businesses realize that Web advertising is just like radio, TV, newspaper, billboard, and other advertising. It’s not about clicks; it’s about promoting your business. Clicks are good, but Coke hasn’t stopped running TV ads just because we can’t buy a six pack via TV.
ATPM: Finally, do you have any last thoughts or views that you would like to share?
DK: Quoting one of the great fun movies of all time, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, “Be excellent to each other.” Mac users tend to create communities. Whether this is because the Mac is special or because we are an oppressed minority, who knows, but for the most part we have learned to pull together and build community.
Community counts. Don’t ever lose sight of that.
Also in This Series
- Heather Sitarzewski, Graphic Designer · September 2010
- John Hart, ModYourMac.com · August 2005
- Jonathan Gales, MobileTracker.net · May 2003
- Frank Vercruesse (author of Application Switcher Menu) · January 2002
- Daniel Knight, Low End Mac · September 2001
- Dan Bailey, Fontosaurus Text · June 2001
- Gerry Beggs, Gerry’s ICQ · July 2000
- Chuck Fox, FreeMac · October 1999
- Oliver Joppich, iCab Company · March 1999
- Aladdin Systems, Inc. · September 1997
- Complete Archive