25 Years of the Mac SE/30

On January 19, 1989 – 25 years ago – Apple released the first all-in-one Mac to run faster than 8 MHz. The 16 MHz SE/30 was built around a 68030 CPU and supports up to 128 MB of RAM in a small footprint computer – far more than any other black-and-white compact Mac.

Macintosh SE/30

The SE/30 uses the same enclosure as the 1987 Mac SE, and like the SE, it has room for an internal hard drive and one processor direct slot (PDS) for expansion, which could be a network card, a video card, or even a fast 68030 or 68040 CPU. With System 7, it was able to use more than 8 MB of RAM and virtual memory, making it an ideal compact server.

System 6 and later support 2 GB hard drive volumes, which was a lot back in the day. A single SCSI drive could have multiple 2 GB partitions, but Apple’s Drive Setup only supports up to nine partitions per drive, so anything over 18 GB would have some lost space prior to System 7.5.3. System 7.5.3 through 7.5.5 support 4 GB partitions, but those partitions are not backward compatible with earlier Mac OS versions, so you should be sure to never use them with anything prior to System 7.5.5.

The biggest problem for the SE/30 is that it doesn’t have 32-bit ROMs, but instead has ROMs designed for System 6 and 24-bit mode of System 7. This can be resolved using MODE32, a free download from Apple.

Dan Knight: I remember using one of these when I worked at ComputerLand of Grand Rapids. My home computer was a Mac Plus, and the SE/30 seemed so much faster. I used Microsoft Excel to generate quotes for my customers, and as purchasing agent, this was the machine that did all the online ordering from corporate. I also used it when receiving shipments, entering product into Great Plains accounting software. We used a “wicked fast” 9600 bps modem to connect to ComputerLand corporate!

I sold quite a few of these, especially since in those days Apple sold a floppy-only version. This was before Apple moved from a 90 day warranty to one year, and being able to offer a drive with a one-year or even five-year warranty at a better price than Apple’s drive made the sales easy. With the right tools to open up the case, adding a hard drive and upgrading memory was very easy.

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