The Frankenstein Power Mac 9500 Letters

2000: I received a ton of mail in response to the tragic Power Mac 9500 saga posted last week. The letters were so good that Dan Knight suggested we publish them, so here they are with some replies from me where appropriate.

Power Mac 9500To bring you up to date on the status of the 9500, it’s still dead, and we are weighing the pros and cons of buying a motherboard from one of the sources kindly suggested by the readers below or finding another workaround. My son, Tristan, may possibly be able to purchase a Power Mac 8500 for a low price. It has motherboard problems, too, but is potentially fixable, and the stuff we bought for the 9500 would work in it and would be consistent with the low-budget theme of this exercise.

I’d like to thank all the Low End Mac readers who took the time to write with so many helpful suggestions.

– CM


From Lisa:

Dear Charles,

I have a Umax S900 which is similar to yours. If the RAM chips are a smidgen off, it won’t boot. And it’s very finicky about RAM. The chime tells you what? That it has passed hardware check. If the motherboard was bad I would think you would hear the chime of death instead.

This might fix this if it is not fried too crispy.

Pull out all the RAM chips – yes, every last one. You want to use the 16 MB of RAM soldered to the motherboard. Now try starting up from the original CD that came with that machine.

Let me know what happens.

Lisa – but save me from the webspam bots.

No fear Lisa; email addresses not published here. Thanks for the suggestions. I fear the original CD is in parts unknown. Still no luck.

Charles


From Adam Robert Guha:

I figured I should write and at least say that I am sorry that the project didn’t turn out. I guess maybe the moral is, don’t get RAM that is untested. Also, you have to make sure it is the right kind, I put some RAM in a Mac II that I had laying around, it had 5 MB, and I wanted to upgrade it to 8 MB, so I put four 1 MB SIMMs in Bank B, turned it on, and it only read 4 MB of RAM. sad MacI restarted, and “BONG” immediately followed by “da-de-da-de!” and a sad Mac. I pulled the added RAM and put the 256 KB SIMMs back in, and it worked fine. I never could figure out why it didn’t work. That same RAM worked fine in my Mac IIsi – oh well…

Could have been a problem with the RAM socket, who knows. I usually do work on my own machines, but I have set up quite a few 68K machines for people, and they all have been happy with them. I prefer not to work on anything over a PowerPC 601 unless I absolutely have to; I just don’t have the money to spend on repairs if I mess something up – but then again, I would repair it myself πŸ™‚ I love the compact Macs, especially the SE/30. I use one as my server in my room for a small LocalTalk network of 4 Macs. However, I will not open one up for fear of somehow either breaking the picture tube or getting a shock somehow.

As for a motherboard, I would look on eBay to see if they have anything. It is a shame to spend money on the hard disk drive, the daughter card, and the USB card, and then have the motherboard die (isn’t that always the case-you spend money fixing one thing and something else goes wrong!).

The 9500 is supposed to be a nice machine. The newest pre-G3 I have ever used is a Power Mac 6500 at my school, which I absolutely love. I use the original G3 at home for my internet, the G3 Desktop 233/512 KB cache which we paid a fortune for when it came out in 1997. Actually, our family (excluding my dad) only got 5 computers new out of the 30 or so we have. We got a Mac Plus, Performa 5215 (our first colour Mac, as well as our first PPC Mac), the G3, and my mom got a nice iMac Revision B, and I recently got an iBook which quickly fell apart, so I went back to using my PowerBook 140. I have to say, that PowerBook 140 has been one of the most stable computers I have used, and for some reason, I keep going back to it πŸ™‚

Maybe we will see a follow up saying how well it is working with the new motherboard you got at a discount price πŸ™‚ (well, I can hope…)

Good luck.

Adam

Hi Adam,

We have found some leads on mobos for $295, which is a lot better than $600.

Incidentally, we have had tons of compact Macs apart here. There must be a dozen or so kicking around right now around from a 128K to a Classic. A few even work. It’s necessary to use prudent caution around the CRT, but not much risk of breaking it.

Charles


From Tobias Ross:

You could always keep your eyes peeled on eBay for a 7600 or 7500 motherboard and jury rig that into the case? I’ll bet 9500 and 9600 Mobos go at a premium because of the extra PCI slots – but wasn’t there a bad Kansas motherboard in there that nobody likes? Very sad story; it would have been cool if things had worked. Generally, those thieves got some bad karma coming to them, perhaps prison will straiten them out?

I picked up a used 7500 for a band-mate for $300 on eBay recently. Not an exceptional computer out of the packing crate (no level 2 cache chip!), but very upgradeable, nice AV card too.

Tobias Ross

Hi Tobias,

Yes. Tristan got a 7200 for Can$200 last month with quite a bit of RAM in it. He has a Lombard PowerBook and I have a WallStreet, so we’re not hard up for computers. It would sure be fun to get that 9500 working though.

A less slot-rich mobo might be a possibility. We really don’t need all those slots.

I don’t know whether the 9500 thieves got caught or not, or how the insurance company got the machine back. Perhaps it was discarded and the police found it.

Tristan’s WallStreet PowerBook was stolen on the bus on his way home for Christmas last year. We know who took it; the police know who took it; but they don’t have enough probable cause to obtain a search warrant. The insurance company came through, but it’s maddening, and it drives everybody’s rates up.

In this case, the thieves were a couple of underage Beavis & Butt-Head clones, so even if they had been caught, not much would have happened to them thanks to Canada’s wonderful Young Offenders Act. They are already well-known to the RCMP.

Apologies for the rant.

Charles


From Bill Doty:

Next time, give junior an LC III to “mechanic”.

You should have checked and replaced the motherboard to start with. When the thieves ripped out the RAM, they probably damaged the socket, which then shorted out.

Sorry,
Bill

Hi Bill,

Actually, he knows a heck of a lot more about Mac “mechanicing” than me. He’s been running his own Mac (and PC) repair and tech support business for three years, has maintained a fleet of Macs for a small newspaper, worked in a university Mac lab and also works part-time in the tech dept. at the largest Mac reseller in Atlantic Canada. He’s got an excellent track record on customer machines. In fact, this is the first time I can recall one of his (many) Mac projects coming to a bad end.

I’ve seen Tristan bring some sad sack Macs back from the dead. There was this one PowerBook 145b that had been dropped – badly – that he revived and repaired on the kitchen table using sophisticated tools and materials like a Skil hammer-drill and some bits of ash lumber from the scrap-pile, but I digress…

It was the DIMM that burned in the 9500, and it was in one of the sockets that had the original DIMMs (which Tristan removed for the upgrade) in it, so it was almost certainly a defective DIMM.

Charles


From Jan P. Bode:

Charles,

I just read about your project with the 9500. Too bad the machine went up in flames. What are you going to do with it now? I’d take it. Have been looking for a 9500 case for a long time.

cheers

jp

Will keep you in mind if we decide to abandon the project.

CM


From Marion:

Okay, so the machine will not work. How about turning it into an external SCSI hard drive case. It has lots of bays and a fast SCSI bus (at least) internally. Think about it, you might even be able to make a good fast disk array.

1 and 2 GB (even 4 GB) drives can be had fairly cheaply. But the motherboard idea is certainly worth pursuing. You might even look at the possibility of putting a lesser board in it as well (say a 7600 or 8500). The openings on the case would not necessarily be right but with enough room in the case, it might be worth a few outings with a Dremel tool.

Marion


From Lucas Unger:

Hi,

That’s a very sad story. A friend of mine had a 9500 180MP too until his power supply caught fire – the case started melting, very sad. πŸ™ If you are very fast you can bid on this one: http://cgi.ebay.com/aw-cgi/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=318595634

Regards,
Lucas Unger

(Note: Tristan went there, but it was already sold – for $202! πŸ™ CM

From won:

I commiserate.

The moral: Computers are just machines. Humans are the creators of reality.

Remember! Frankenstein’s monster also had a defective RAM chip.

Love your column,
won.


From Uther:

Hey, you may want to check out this site: <http://www.dttservice.com/>

I haven’t had to do business with them – yet, but it looks real good. You may be able to get an S900 or J700 board – they are the same, but only have one bandit PCI control. The S900 has a secondary processor slot (mostly useless) for a specialized 604e The S/J series also have the serial and 10Base-T on a riser card. The ADB is on the logic board though. I’m not sure if the power supplies connectors are exactly the same. It may be easier to stick with the 9500 board.

Let me know if this works.

uther


From Chris Higgins:

Charles,

You’re paying to much! Go to Dttservice.com. They have a 9500 logic board for $295. That’s with the bad board exchanged. It comes with a 6 month warranty! Unheard of for refurb products for most dealers. I’ve been able to find all sorts of parts from these guys – no problems. I traded some RAM for a lightning-stricken 7600 – exchanged the board for 350 bucks and it has a G3 upgrade card, USB card, and Promax IDE card with two 15 GB drives. No hiccups; it’s my workhorse!

My boss got a Shreve motherboard to upgrade to an 8100/80 and we found out later that we couldn’t upgrade to OS 8. The reason? The motherboard had the wrong ROM in it (this we discovered 1-2 years later). We called Sun Remarketing, which was asking for $90 (very knowledgeable vendor, just very expensive); DTT was selling it for $45.

By the way, I finally bought a PowerBook 5300c (40 MB RAM/500 MB hard drive) for $420. Works like a charm! I’m going to use it to record some albums to a 2 GB external drive so I can burn it to CD (this album’s out of print). As usual love your stuff. Now go get Tristan that motherboard!

Chris Higgins


From Erich Steiner:

Read your Low End Mac article about the 9500, and I immediately thought that Shreve was too high. I just stumbled on a possible solution at eBay; it closes soon though. eBay number 318595634: hope this helps -it’s too much of a box to go to waste.

Enjoy your writings


From Robert Wiltshire:

MacResQ has 9500 motherboards for $299 to $399. You have to send in the old one, however. You may what to give them a call and see what you can arrange. I have ordered from them before and have never been disappointed. They even answer e-mail.

Sincerely,
Robert Wiltshire

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