Mac Lab Report

SE/30 Catharsis - or Not

- 2002.05.16

There's a saying that gets repeated on Slashdot from time to time that says "Everything on a Mac is either easy or impossible." The part of the saying that gets left out is "And it's the individual Mac that gets to decide."

The other day I went to a meeting where the speaker, an internationally known research scientist, attempted to show a movie that triggered a blue screen of death. Everyone laughed at that, but when I had a program that wouldn't boot on an iBook because I forgot to put the disk back in the drive, there were catcalls of "Toy computer" and "Get a real computer." No blue screens, though.

I decided that I would SE/30get an SE/30 on the internal network surfing the Internet as a cathartic treatment.

I hauled out a Mac SE/30 out of storage.

The thing booted, sort of, until it displayed the desktop, and then it crashed with a bus error. Holding down the shift key didn't prevent the error.

I dutifully connected an external hard drive with a bootable OS on it and rebooted. This time it didn't even show the desktop; the external drive had OS 8.1 on it, which won't run on an SE/30. Bus error. Bus error. Bus error. Yah I know there's a utility that makes 68000 machines act like 68040s, but I really don't want to run 8.1 on an SE/30.

Okay, then I connected a CD-ROM to the computer; did the usual SCSI termination and ID-conflict stuff which is rapidly becoming a lost (and that's a good thing) art; and suprisingly, the machine recognized the CD, even though it was a third party drive not compatible with the Apple driver. Sometime in the distant past this machine had a Micronet CD attached to it. (The probability is fairly low when you see the size of my spare parts warehouse.)

Great. So I burned a CD with System 7.0 installers on it. My goal was to take the machine to System 7.5.5.

The 7.0 installer died on disk image #7. Oops, forgot that one. Download, unstuff, add to collection, burn on a new disk.

The 7.0 installer failed again at disk image 7. Huh. It would get to disk 7 and just sit there. Like sands from the spinning cursor, those are the days of our lives.

I couldn't figure out what was causing that, so I decided maybe it was the CD. I made a set of system disks using some old AOL floppy-coasters and popped the first one in the drive.

Grind, grind - slowing now - cha-wheee-zzzz-bing. Spits disk back "poit-whizzz-chunk."

Huh.

Bad drive? Or bad disk?

I hate floppies.

Okay then, let's get the thing online and download the installers off the network.

Oh. I forgot, AppleTalk packets are blocked by my router, and System 7.0 doesn't do AppleTalk over IP.

Huh.

Okay then, install 7.5.5 on the external drive while it's connected to an older Power Mac. Do a custom install for any computer.

Move the drive over to the SE/30 again, connect the drive and terminator.

Phone rings.

"Hurry home, I've got to go to a meeting," says the wife.

Duty calls. The SE/30 is winking at me. Question mark, question mark, question mark - hypnotizing me like Steve Ballmer asking a question during a training session in Redmond.

"C'mon, big boy," says the SE/30. "One more try."

"You just wait," I says. "I got a new drive and a copy of Network Access waiting for you, sweetheart."

The SE3/0 just winks and winks and winks. I kill the power and go home.

Next time, sweetheart, you're mine.

And if that doesn't work, there's always an ad-hoc AppleTalk network set up between the SE/30 and another older Mac.

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is a longtime Mac user. He was using digital sensors on Apple II computers in the 1980's and has networked computers in his classroom since before the internet existed. In 2006 he was selected at the California Computer Using Educator's teacher of the year. His students have used NASA space probes and regularly participate in piloting new materials for NASA. He is the author of two books and numerous articles and scientific papers. He currently teaches astronomy and physics in California, where he lives with his twin sons, Jony and Ben.< And there's still a Mac G3 in his classroom which finds occasional use.

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