The Low End Mac Mailbag

Mac Approaching 25th Birthday, OS 8 on Performa 630, Mac Classics in Use 24/7, and More

Dan Knight - 2007.12.04

25th Anniversary of the Mac Coming

From A. Harju:

Hi:

As a Mac user since the LC 550 came out (our first computer back in the early 90s), first of all I'd like to thank you for all the effort that is put into Low End Mac. Excellent info and reference site. Excellent links. Keep up the good work.

Mac 512KI understand that 2009 will be the 25th anniversary of the Mac 128K and 512K, so I thought, as a personal project, I'd take on the restoration of a vintage Mac 512K. Never owned one of these, so I plunged into it with enthusiasm. First stop, eBay, where I found one and most likely overpaid for it. But it came with everything - keyboard, mouse, a 3rd party trackball, numbers keyboard, external floppy drive, 3rd party turntable, and even an original Apple logo carrying bag! The seller claimed it had been stored in it's bag unused for many years. I soon forgot the cost due to my excitement of tinkering with this vintage Mac.

A week later, the 512K was delivered. Both drives were gummed up tight; two keys on the keyboard had broken stems; and the rear battery connections were covered with green corrosion. But, boy when I powered it up, it "dinged" and the screen came to life with the blinking "?" on the outline of a floppy disk! At that point the mouse even moved the cursor around the screen. If only I had a boot disk! Never mind, I was hooked. First order of business, I disassembled the external floppy drive and the 512K main case and did a cleaning job of the outside plastic surfaces. Even minimized the yellowing a bit to my untrained eye. It's now presentable for display. Step one was a success.

Researching within Low End Mac and Googling the Web, I found an article detailing how to de-gum and lubricate the drives. I had never worked on floppy drive mechanicals before, but after a few nights of careful work, I was able to make the vintage mechanical levers and pieces move as effortlessly as possible. Step two was another success.

In a previous life (3 or maybe even 4 lives back), I did field and bench repair on industrial video equipment. Digging around in the back of my tool box I found the appropriate tool to make a few minor (vertical + horizontal) adjustments to the CRT and tweaked the power supply. Filed the battery connections and cleared the dust off the circuit boards. Didn't shock myself, so guess I still remember a few tech things. After admiring the interior's engraved signatures, the case was buttoned up. Step three was done.

Step four is ongoing. Presently, I am looking for the correct system software boot disk. [Caution! Rant ahead.] - It's sad that apple.com has not been a source for pre-5.0 vintage operating systems for quite a long time. Entering the vintage Mac hobby, I was shocked to learn how heavy a legal fist Apple brought down on, from my perspective and understanding, a very small but loyal group of Mac hobbyists and a small group of online used Mac suppliers dedicated to the hobby of keeping these historically significant Apple products alive. Very sad, IMO. [Sorry - didn't mean to taint the happy email with a rant!].

Anyway, that's the story of so far. Maybe I'll get the 512K working in time for it's birthday cake! Thanks again.

A. Harju

  • Mac 512K (under restoration)
  • 33 MHz LC 550 (still working)
  • 233 MHz iMac (working)
  • 600 MHz iMac (working)
  • 2 GHz Intel MacBook (new)

"Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest." - Mark Twain

A,

Yes, the Macintosh (the model now known as the 128K) was introduced to the world on January 24, 1984, so the Mac's official birthday is just under 14 months away. Apple had to wait for a good supply and good prices on the higher capacity RAM chips before it could release the Mac 512K (Sept. 10, 1984 - so you have several more months before it's birthday).

One interesting bit of Mac trivia is that Steve Jobs demonstrated a special 512 KB version of the Mac, as the 128 KB Mac just didn't have the RAM it needed to do speech synthesis and all the other things he wanted to show off.

Anyhow, you've got a genuine classic on your hands, and I hope you'll be able to get it up and running with Apple's System software. As you note, it's very hard to find these days, let alone get it from the Internet to a 400K floppy your Mac can use. Two of the best resources for the oldest Macs are The Mac 512 (which hosted copies of all the old Mac operating systems, which Apple had long allowed to be freely distributed, until Apple Legal forced them to remove these useful archives) and the pickle's Low-End Mac FAQ.

Good luck with your restoration project - and expect a big celebration on Low End Mac on Jan. 24, 2009.

Dan

Thanks for taking the time to read my email about my restoration of a Mac 512k, and especially your reply and encouragement. Appreciate it!

I am gathering all the pieces together one by on my quest for a boot disk.

An idea is to use my working LC 550 to help with floppy disk making (it reads 400K, 800K, and DD disks, as you know). I hope to buy a Farallon EtherMac LC PDS Ethernet card from the LEM Swap group. Am thinking that if the 550 is ethernet connected to my Internet-capable iMac in classic 9.2 mode, I'd be able to file-transfer an OS 2.2 to a single-sided floppy on the 550. (Found a source on the Internet and bought a dozen 800K disks.) I'd eject the floppy and reach over and insert it into the Mac 512k, and . . . well, I'll see what happens.

Have no idea if this all will work, but I'll give it a shot.

Cheers...

A. Harju

A,

Keep us posted!

Dan

Mac OS 8 on a Performa 630 CD?

From Greg:

Hello,

I just recently remembered my poor, formerly-beloved Performa 630CD gathering dust in my garage and began browsing your website. I know I can easily put System 7.5.5 on my Mac (which I had done years ago), but I'm wondering if the 68LC040 processor in it would support OS 8. I know that OS 8.1 will run on a 68040, but I don't know about the LC (your website says that without a PPC upgrade, the Performa will support 8.1, but doesn't specify if processor matters). Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. (I know about the website that allows putting OS 8.1 on a 68030 processor, but I don't think I want to get wrapped up in that complicated process.)

-Greg

P.S. If I have to put System 7.5.5 on my machine, do you know of a floppy disk image program for Windows that'll write the images I need?

Greg,

Both the full 68040 and the LC version will run Mac OS 8.0 and 8.1 just fine.

As for making a Mac-compatible floppy from a Windows or Linux machine, see How can I get an OS on a Mac using only my PC? on the pickle's Low-End Mac FAQ.

Dan

Thanks so much!! I really appreciate it. The Performa was my first computer and I'd like to resurrect it to the point where I can do something with it.

I should be okay if I can obtain an OS 8.1 disc and just install it using that, right? If I can install using the disc, I won't need the floppy.

Greg,

Mac OS 7.6 and later were only available on CD. As long as you have sufficient RAM (12 MB should be adequate), Mac OS 8.1 should work nicely for you.

Dan

Mac Classics in Use 24/7

From Craig A. Dawson:

Hello Dan,

Just a note to help you fill in the blank. The model number for the Performa 460 is M1254.

I'm not an Apple convert yet, but am pretty close. Have learned a lot in a few short weeks on some of the earlier systems. The main reason I'm learning about them is that we are still using Mac Classic units in our production line and had a few minor hiccups and one disk crash. One of these still has an original working 40 MB drive. Their only duty in life is to record sensor drift data via IEEE-488 over an extended period of time. They have been running pretty much 24/7 since new. Not too bad for an old workhorse!

Regards,
Craig A. Dawson

Craig,

Thanks for writing. It's amazing to thing that a 15-year-old Mac has been running pretty much constantly this whole time and the original hard drive is still functioning. I don't think many of today's hard drives will be in use a decade from now, let alone in 15 years. That's an eternity in computer years!

Dan

Vampire Video Mostly Good Enough

From Nathan Hill:

Hey Dan,

For further Vampire Video discussion, I thought this link from Macworld was interesting.

http://www.macworld.com/2007/11/firstlooks/speedmark5new/index.php

They have updated a lot of their benchmark scores with the new Speedmark 5. I've been in the market to get a MacBook Pro, but I was surprised at how strong the MacBooks performed. If I am reading those scores right, a MacBook with 2.2 GHz processor and X1600 integrated graphics was pretty much neck and neck and slightly faster than a 2.2 GHz MacBook Pro with discrete video card. Of course, 3D games was a big difference, but I was surprised to see that iMovie rendered slightly faster on the MacBook too.

I love 3D games, so I am probably still going to grab a MacBook Pro . . . but wow - a MacBook with a solid processor is a fantastic buy for most anything.

Nathan J. Hill

Nathan,

For non-3D graphics, a dual-core Mac with integrated video is going to provide adequate performance. And as the Macworld benchmarks show, a 2.2 GHz MacBook and a 2.2 GHz MacBook Pro are going to produce very similar numbers when the GPU isn't being challenged - but the minute it is, the dedicated graphics benchmarks 3-5x as fast as the X3100.

Dan

Road Apple Rejig

From Scott Silvergunner Fowler:

Dan,

Kudos on splitting the Second Class Macs section into two parts ("Road Apples" and "Second Class Macs"). I myself was a little annoyed that my fave Mac of all time (the Mac mini G4) was on the list, but the idea of having the less-criticising "Second Class Macs" list to point out its disadvantages was a good idea.

I think the Mac mini was designed as a system for the people - not many I know actually upgrade their systems even though they can. Personally, the only Macs I upgraded were an iBook 700 MHz (to 640 MB RAM) and a MacBook Core Duo (to 2 GB RAM). Both ran great with the upgrades, it has to be said. The Mac mini I haven't upgraded, however, as the cover seems a little too fragile to open. That, and it worked fine with just 256 MB (although slow with games) for what I wanted it to do - writing documents, managing my music collection, and browsing the Internet.

Me and many other owners would say that it did what it was designed to, despite its upgrade issues. But still, it didn't deserve to be in the same list as the horrible Performa 52xx series. However, the Core Solo Mac mini does, as the performance is terrible on it, down to the point where a Pentium III class generic PC (which is ages old now) will actually outperform it on most common operations. Apple surely did make a mistake there.

Keep up the good work! - Scott

Scott,

Our slogan at Low End Mac is "Long Live Macs!" - and the longest life comes from an expandable, upgradable system. We give Macs with limited expansion and upgrade options low marks, enough to keep them from being "First Class Macs", and only the most seriously compromised designs now merit the "Road Apple" label.

Every Mac mini has a few strikes against it due to the difficulty of getting inside, limited memory expansion, and the use of more costly, lower capacity notebook hard drives. It's a great little computer in a lot of respects, but we'd rather see people upgrade their Macs than replace them in 2-3 years.

Dan

Power Mac 8600 Question

From Derrick Streng:

Hello Mr. Knight,

I have an old Power Mac 8600. It is a fantastic computer. It's probably the best Mac I've ever owned. I was wondering, beneath the PCI slots on my 8600's motherboard, there is a spot for what looks like connecting another hard disk. I don't know much about SCSI, but it isn't the same as the two SCSI connectors at the top of the motherboard up by the power supply. Do you know what this is for? If it is SCSI, what kind is it? I didn't see this addressed in the 8600's profile.

I appreciate any help you can give. And I just love your website. It is so easy to use and to find useful information.

Thanks,
Derrick Streng

Derrick,

It's seven years since I've seen a Power Mac 8600, and I don't recall the cable you mention. You might try asking on our PCI PowerMacs group.

Dan

DropStuff Replaced, not Dropped

From Andrew Main:

No, it hasn't; StuffIt Lite has been replaced with StuffIt Standard, which includes DropStuff, which can still be used as in the past. However, if you're sending archives to Macs running OS 9 or earlier, the later versions of DropStuff are a hassle, as the ability to create classic .sit archives has been "deprecated" (is that the word?) - i.e. it is still possible, but it's hard to get at, as the developer wants to discourage its use.

In fact, sending files to older Macs is about the only use most will have for StuffIt (apparently it has more uses for some developers); I keep a copy of StuffIt Standard 9.0.2, the last version that offers the easy option to create classic .sit archives (and which runs in Rosetta on my Intel Mac) for this purpose. I see on the download page that version 9.0.2 is no longer available (in English; it is in other languages [huh?]), but I suppose v.8.0.2 will probably serve.

For a detailed discussion of the current status of StuffIt, see these MacInTouch Reader Reports.

Andrew Main

Andrew,

I can't speak for the latest version of StuffIt, but the version I have on my Power Mac is StuffIt Expander 10.0.2. (I also have a copy of StuffIt 6.5, which works under the Classic Mac OS.) No sign of DropStuff, but then I'm two versions behind today's StuffIt Standard 12.

In the old days, freeware StuffIt and UnstuffIt apps came with the Mac OS, which helped establish it as the norm. Today Smith Micro seems less concerned with building mind share than with monetizing an increasingly unnecessary program.

Dan

If you download StuffIt Expander, that's all you get; if you download StuffIt Standard you get Expander and DropStuff; if you download StuffIt Deluxe, you get the fancy program that does everything.

While the unstuffing utility was always free, as I recall the compressor/archiver StuffIt (or DropStuff) was always shareware or commercial. Macs of the OS 8.6-9.x era anyway came with an installed Expander/DropStuff set wherein DropStuff was shareware that could be used after bypassing a nag dialog.

Andrew Main

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Dan Knight has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. Mailbag columns come from email responses to his Mac Musings, Mac Daniel, Online Tech Journal, and other columns on the site.

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