Supporting a Classic Mac 'Habit' on the Cheap
About a year ago, I engaged in a little middle age nostalgia and decided to get into classic Macs as a hobby. Mac OS X is a great operating system and a wonderful leap forward, but for many of us there is a special place in our hearts for the System 6-to-9 era.
I made it through college and grad school on a series of Macs ranging from a Mac Plus to a Quadra 605, and I guess emotionally I associate these computers with an exciting and simpler time in my life.
Browsing the Net, I stumbled onto Low End Mac, as well as Dan Palka's System 7 Today site. Using these resources as a guide, I decided to obtain a few classic Mac machines to tinker with.
A couple of posts on the LEM Swap List, and I soon was the proud owner of literally a trunk full of machines ranging from a Mac Classic to a Blue and White G3. Total cost: around $100 - considering what golf costs these days, quite a bargain as a hobby!
I fixed a few of these machines up and donated them to folks who could use them. For myself, I kept three Power Mac 7200s, a Power Mac 6500, the Mac Classic, and a PowerBook 3400c. This allows me to run System 6, 7, 8, and 9. Thrown into the deal was an HP LaserJet 4M+, which has turned out to be a wonderful old workhorse of a printer.
I also purchased many books on classic Macs for literally pennies each. I stopped by a book sale my public library was having and found they were selling many of their outdated computer books. I bought stacks of classic Mac books for 25¢ a pound. I particularly recommend the Mac Upgrade and Repair Bible, the entire Macintosh Bible series and Macworld Macintosh Secrets for getting the most out of your classic systems.
I can't tell you the amount of fun I've had tinkering with and using these machines. I have found them quite useful as well to use as writing machines for myself and my kids. AppleWorks is a speed demon on my 7200, which has a hefty 512 MB of RAM.
The Classic is also a cool machine if you're just doing basic word processing, and it's fun to see how it captures the attention of my daughter's friends. They think it is the "cutest" little computer they have ever seen.
I have even gotten into development on these systems. Dan Palka and I are working on an extension to allow older PowerPCs to use modern large monitors that System 7 doesn't natively recognize (more to come in a future article). Unfortunately there were a couple of systems in my acquisition which were damaged and had to be scrapped. My quest for an environmentally sound way to dispose of these will be the subject of my next article.
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