Introduced as the first sub-$1,000 Macintosh in October 1990, the basic Classic came with 1 MB of RAM, a SuperDrive, and space to mount an internal SCSI hard drive. The hard drive version came with 2 MB of memory and a 40 MB hard drive. RAM expansion was via a 1 MB daughter card with two open slots, which could accept a pair of 256 KB or 1 MB SIMMs. This made memory upgrades far easier than on the Plus or SE, since the motherboard didn’t have to be removed. At the same time, it means you should avoid any used Classic without 2 MB or more memory unless you have a source for the memory card.
What Apple was thinking releasing an 8 MHz computer so late in the game is beyond me. By 1990, 8 MHz was just too slow for practical use, although that didn’t keep Apple from selling it or people from buying it. At this point, a 16 MHz Classic would have been sweet (see our review of the 16 MHz Brainstorm upgrade in a Mac Plus for details on that).
One new feature on the Classic was elimination of the brightness knob. Instead brightness was controlled with the Brightness control panel.
A feature unique to the Classic is the ability to boot from ROM by holding down command-option-x-o at startup. The ROM Disk is called “Boot Disk” and is 357 KB in size. The ROM Disk uses Finder 6.1.x and System 6.0.3 – this combination is specifically designed for the Classic. The only control panels are General, Brightness, and Startup Disk. MacsBug and AppleShare Prep are also part of the System, which loads into 294 KB of the Classic’s RAM. Because this is in ROM, there is no way to add anything to the ROM Disk.
- Got a compact Mac? Join LEM’s Vintage Macs Group or Vintage Macs Forum.
- LEM’s System 6 Group and System 6 Forum are for anyone using Mac System 6.
The Classic was the last Mac to use the 8 MHz 68000 CPU. Looking at all the compromises involved in its design, we label the Classic a Limited Mac.
Color display? Aura Systems made ScuzzyGraph II, a SCSI peripheral that provided 8-color video for people who didn’t want to buy (or couldn’t afford) a Mac II. 1989 cost was $995 to $2,495, depending on resolution.
- introduced 1990.10.15 at $999 floppy only, $1,499 with 40 MB hard disk, 2 MB RAM; discontinued 1992.09.14
- code names: XO, Civic
- Gestalt ID: 17
- part no.: M0420
- upgrade path: Classic II
- requires System 6.0.7 to 7.5.5
- addressing: 24-bit only
- CPU: 8 MHz 68000
- ROM: 512 KB
- RAM: 1 MB, expandable to 2 MB with RAM card, to 2.5 MB or 4 MB using 150ns 30-pin SIMMs (cannot use two-chip 1 MB SIMMs)
- 1.0, relative to SE
- 0.7 MIPS
- 0.37, MacBench 2.0 CPU
- 0.06, Speedometer 4
- see Benchmarks: Mac Classic for more detailed tests
- 9″ b&w screen, 512 x 342 pixels
- floppy drive: 1.4 MB double-sided
- floppy connector on back of computer
- hard drive: none or 40 MB
- ADB ports: 2
- serial ports: 2 DIN-8 RS-422 ports on back of computer
- SCSI ports: DB-25 connector on back of computer
- expansion slots: memory only, requires special card
- size (HxWxD): 13.2″ x 9.7″ x 11.2″
- weight: 16 lb.
- PRAM battery: 3.6V half-AA
- power supply: 76W
- MicroMac Multispeed (16, 25, or 32 MHz 68030), optional 32 MHz 68882 FPU
- MicroMac Performer (16 MHz 68030), optional 25 MHz 68882 FPU
- MicroMac Performer Pro (32 MHz 68030), 64 KB cache, optional 32 MHz 68882 FPU
Discontinued accelerators (68030 unless otherwise noted) include the Applied Engineering TransWarp (16, 40 MHz), Dove Marathon Racer (16 MHz), Mobius (25 MHz), and Total Systems Gemini Ultra (33, 50 MHz).
- Don’t buy a used Classic without the memory expansion board unless you have one available elsewhere.
- If you have less than 4 MB installed, upgrade to 4 MB. You can often find pulled 1 MB SIMMs (removed from other Macs during upgrade) inexpensively.
- Memory permitting, set the disk cache to 128k.
- Guide to Compact Macs, a quick overview of Apple’s 10 compact Macs.
- A vintage Mac network can be as useful as a modern one, Carl Nygren, My Turn, 2008.04.08. Old Macs can exchange data and share an Internet connection very nicely using Apple’s old LocalTalk networking.
- Low End Mac’s best classic Mac OS deals. Best online prices for System 6, 7.1, 7.5.x, Mac OS 7.6, 8.0, 8.1, 8.5, 9.0, 9.2.2, and other versions.
- Creating Classic Mac boot floppies in OS X, Paul Brierley, The ‘Book Beat, 2008.08.07. Yes, it is possible to create a boot floppy for the Classic Mac OS using an OS X Mac that doesn’t have Classic. Here’s how.
- Know your Mac’s upgrade options, Phil Herlihy, The Usefulness Equation, 2008.08.26. Any Mac can be upgraded, but it’s a question of what can be upgraded – RAM, hard drive, video, CPU – and how far it can be upgraded.
- Why you should partition your Mac’s hard drive, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2008.12.11. “At the very least, it makes sense to have a second partition with a bootable version of the Mac OS, so if you have problems with your work partition, you can boot from the ‘emergency’ partition to run Disk Utility and other diagnostics.”
- Antique Macs are still useful computers, Charles Moore, From the MacCave, 2008.09.09. Charles Moore’s first online article looks at the utility of compact Macs – and foreshadows his longterm affection for PowerBooks.
- The compressed air keyboard repair, Charles Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2008.07.24. If your keyboard isn’t working as well as it once did, blasting under the keys with compressed air may be the cure.
- Cracking Open the Apple Macintosh Classic, Mark Kaelin, Tech Republic, 06.17. “In this Cracking Open Photo Gallery, TechRepublic examines just what went into a Mac Classic – and what technology was like in 1991.”
- Supporting a classic Mac ‘habit’ on the cheap, Rick Lawson, Pioneers in Mac Development, 2008.06.09. Mac nostalgia leads to a year-long rediscovery of the pleasures of old Macs and the classic Mac OS.
- Digital vs. film photography, megapixel myths, G3/G4 SuperDrive upgrade, and a newly acquired Mac Classic, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Mailbag, 2008.01.11. The differences between film and digital photography, the value of old 35mm SLRs, the importance of good lenses, a $50 18x dual-layer SuperDrive, and writing on a Mac Classic.
- Vintage Mac networking and file exchange, Adam Rosen, Adam’s Apple, 2007.12.19. How to network vintage Macs with modern Macs and tips on exchanging files using floppies, Zip disks, and other media.
- Getting inside vintage Macs and swapping out bad parts, Adam Rosen, Adam’s Apple, 2007.12.14. When an old Mac dies, the best source of parts is usually another dead Mac with different failed parts.
- Solving Mac startup problems, Adam Rosen, Adam’s Apple, 2007.12.12. When your old Mac won’t boot, the most likely culprits are a dead PRAM battery or a failed (or failing) hard drive.
- Mac approaching 25th birthday, OS 8 on Performa 630, Mac Classics in use 24/7, and more, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Mailbag, 2007.12.04. Also more thoughts on vampire video, realigning the Road Apple label, the fate of DropStuff, and an unidentified cable in a Power Mac 8600.
- Better and safer surfing with Internet Explorer and the Classic Mac OS, Max Wallgren, Mac Daniel, 2007.11.06. Tips on which browsers work best with different Mac OS versions plus extra software to clean cookies and caches, detect viruses, handle downloads, etc.
- A (Mac) classic spookfest, Tommy Thomas, Welcome to Macintosh, 2007.10.31. How to set up those old compact Macs with screen savers to enhance your Halloween experience.
- Simple Macs for simple tasks, Tommy Thomas, Welcome to Macintosh, 2007.10.19. Long live 680×0 Macs and the classic Mac OS. For simple tasks such as writing, they can provide a great, low distraction environment.
- 8 MHz forever? Apple’s Macintosh Classic was no faster than the first Mac, Leo Titus LeBron V, Collection Spotlight, 2007.09.26. A successor to the 1986 Mac Plus and 1987 Mac SE, the 1990 Mac Classic was slow, limited, and barely enough for basic tasks like writing.
- Interchangeabilty and Compatibility of Apple 1.4 MB Floppy SuperDrives, Sonic Purity, Mac Daniel, 2007.09.26. Apple used two kinds of high-density floppy drives on Macs, auto-inject and manual inject. Can they be swapped?
- My first mobile Mac: A Classic II, Jacek A. Rochacki, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2007.06.25. When a PowerBook 100 was beyond the author’s means, he bought a second-hand Mac Classic II and fabricated his own carrying case to make it mobile.
- Mac System 7.5.5 can do anything Mac OS 7.6.1 can, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2007.06.04. Yes, it is possible to run Internet Explorer 5.1.7 and SoundJam with System 7.5.5. You just need to have all the updates – and make one modification for SoundJam.
- The truth about CRTs and shock danger, Tom Lee, Online Tech Journal, 2007.05.22. You’ve been warned that CRT voltage can injure and even kill. The truth is that this danger is overstated – and takes attention away from a greater danger.
- Importance of G3 support in 10.5, clever USB/FireWire solution, upgrade options, and more, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Mailbag, 2007.05.01. Also the loss of the PowerBook brand, upgrading to an Intel iMac, Korg and the Mac, Quadra boot problems, and the value of a Mac Classic.
- Format any drive for older Macs with patched Apple tools, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2007.04.25. Apple HD SC Setup and Drive Setup only work with Apple branded hard drives – until you apply the patches linked to this article.
- Making floppies and CDs for older Macs using modern Macs, Windows, and Linux PCs, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2007.03.15. Older Macs use HFS floppies and CDs. Here are the free resources you’ll need to write floppies or CDs for vintage Macs using your modern computer.
- Jag’s House, where older Macs still rock, Tommy Thomas, Welcome to Macintosh, 2006.09.25. Over a decade old, Jag’s House is the oldest Mac website supporting classic Macs and remains a great resource for vintage Mac users.
- 30 days of old school computing: Setting up a Mac Classic II, Ted Hodges, Vintage Mac Living, 2006.09.07. Fond memories of using a Classic II in elementary school lead to it being the first Mac set up for a month of vintage, very low-end computing.
- Vintage Macs with System 6 run circles around 3 GHz Windows 2000 PC, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2006.07.06. Which grows faster, hardware speed or software bloat? These benchmarks show vintage Macs let you be productive much more quickly than modern Windows PCs.
- Floppy drive observations: A compleat guide to Mac floppy drives and disk formats, Scott Baret, Online Tech Journal, 2006.06.29. A history of the Mac floppy from the 400K drive in the Mac 128K through the manual-inject 1.4M SuperDrives used in the late 1990s.
- Compact Flash with SCSI Macs, PB 1400 CD-RW upgrade problems, and Web incompatibilities, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Mailbag, 2006.06.16. Suggested ways to use Compact Flash with vintage Macs and PowerBooks, problems getting CD-RW to work with a PowerBook 1400, and more thoughts on website incompatibilities.
- Moving files from your new Mac to your vintage Mac, Paul Brierley, The ‘Book Beat, 2006.06.13. Old Macs use floppies; new ones don’t. Old Macs use AppleTalk; Tiger doesn’t support it. New Macs can burn CDs, but old CD drives can’t always read CD-R. So how do you move the files?
- System 7.5 and Mac OS 7.6: The beginning and end of an era, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2006.02.15. System 7.5 and Mac OS 7.6 introduced many new features and greater modernity while staying within reach of most early Macintosh models.
- System 7: Bigger, better, more expandable, and a bit slower than System 6, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2006.01.04. The early versions of System 7 provide broader capability for modern tasks than System 6 while still being practical for even the lowliest Macs.
- Web browser tips for the classic Mac OS, Nathan Thompson, Embracing Obsolescence, 2006.01.03. Tips on getting the most out of WaMCom, Mozilla, Internet Explorer, iCab, Opera, and WannaBe using the classic Mac OS.
- The Joy of Six: Apple’s fast, svelte, reliable, and still usable System 6, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2005.12.06. System 6 was small enough to run quickly from an 800K floppy yet powerful enough to support 2 GB partitions, 24-bit video, and the Internet.
- 10 things new classic Mac owners should know, Paul Brierley, The ‘Book Beat, 2005.12.06. New to compact Macs? Ten things you really should know before you get too confused.
- How to set up your own Mac Plus (or later) web server, Joe Rivera, Mac Fallout Shelter, 2005.11.29. All you need is an old Mac Plus with 4 MB of RAM, a hard drive, System 7 or later, some free software, and an Internet connection.
- Which system software is best for my vintage Mac?, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2005.11.22. Which system software works best depends to a great extent on just which Mac you have and how much RAM is installed.
- Mac SE alive and kicking on Web, Leander Kahney, Wired, 2004.05.19. “…a pair of German Web designers has created a working simulation of Apple Computer’s classic Mac SE on the Web.” Very cool.
- The compact Macs, Matthew Glidden, Profiles in Networking, ATPM, 2002.06. LocalTalk and ethernet networking for compact Macs.
- The 10 worst Macs ever built, Remy Davison, Insanely Great Mac, 2001.08.06
- My emailing Mac Plus, Jeff Garrison. A Mac Plus, a second floppy, a modem, System 6, Eudora Lite – email on the cheap.
- The compact Mac trio: Hardware upgrades, Dan Knight, The Old Gray Mac, 2001.07.31. Hardware upgrades for the Mac Plus, SE, and Classic.
- The compact Mac trio: Hardware overview, Dan Knight, The Old Gray Mac, 2001.07.30. Introduction to and hardware overview of the Mac Plus, SE, and Classic.
- The original Macintosh, Dan Knight, Online Tech Journal, 2001.05.29. An in-depth look at the original Macintosh and how it shaped future Macs.
- Video cards for SE & Classic
- Networking a Mac Plus to an iMac, Jag’s House. Key component is a SCSI-ethernet adapter.
- System 6 for the Macintosh, Ruud Dingemans. If you have an older, slower, memory-limited Mac, System 6 is fast, stable, and still very usable.
- Faster browsing on older Macs, Online Tech Journal
- Old Macs on the Internet, The Web Toolbox
- Macintosh SE Support Pages, Chris Adams. Some links will also be helpful to Mac Classic users.
- Email lists: Classic Macs Digest, Vintage Macs
- System6, the email list for those who choose to use System 6.0.x.
- Memory upgrade guide
- Links to System 6.0.8 and 7.0.1
- Obsolete Computer Museum: Mac Classic
- Software Compatible with 68000 CPU
- Get your compact Mac on the web with tips from JAG’s House.
- Macintosh Classic: Technical Specifications, Apple Knowledge Base Archive
- Apple discontinued support and parts orders for this model on 2001.01.01. You may be able to find dealers with parts inventory either locally or on our parts and service list.
- Never connect an Apple II 5.25″ floppy drive to the Mac’s floppy port. Doing so can ruin the floppy controller, meaning you can’t even use the internal drive any longer.
- Macs with black-and-white only displays (1-bit, no grays) may find Netscape Navigator 3 makes it impossible to view some pages and sites. The workaround is to use Navigator 2.
- Reliably supports serial speeds to 19.2 kbps, although default is 9600 bps. May have better throughput at 28.8 kbps despite some dropped and retransmitted packets. Throughput with a 56k modem may be limited. See 56k modem page. For more information on Mac serial ports, read Macintosh Serial Throughput.
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