Miscellaneous Ramblings

My Mac Plus Revisited

Charles Moore - 2003.09.08 - Tip Jar

We've been doing some late summer cleanup around the house and yard this past week, and so far have ended up hauling a full Dodge Dakota load, piled high, of garbage, junk, and old furniture to the dump, with more to follow.

In the process of rooting around, I came upon my old Mac Plus, packed away in its original box. The Plus is definitely not junk, but it occurred to me that it hadn't been booted up in more than four years, not since my wife took it with her to use as an email machine when she was away for a few months in 1999.

I decided that it might be a good idea to check out the old compact Mac, so I unpacked it, along with the 20 MB MacCrate external hard drive that goes with it, hooked up the SCSI cable, keyboard, and mouse, plugged it in, and hit the hard drive power switch. The little hard drive that had seemed so big back in 1992 spun up obediently, and the computer came to life with its characteristic cheerful "beep" when I pressed its power switch.

The happy Mac duly appeared, and the Plus booted into system 7.0, which is more than a bit slow on the old 8 MHz 68000 machine, but it handles PPP dial up more gracefully than System 6. I do also have System 6.0.8 installed on a second partition (yes, I even partitioned my 20 MB drive!), and it is much better suited to the Plus's modest power capacity.

Incidentally, even with two operating systems, a couple of word processors (including Microsoft Word 5.1), email software, a graphics program or two, and sundry archived document files, there it still about 5 MB free on the 20 MB drive. That shows how incredibly bloated today's software is. The 20 GB drives in my PowerBook and iBook are considered "small" by today's standards.

Mac PlusAnyway, all seemed to be well with the Plus. Starting up a computer that hasn't been used for nearly half the decade is a bit like opening a time capsule, and the most interesting stuff I found was a folder full of files created by my daughter, who was the last member of the family to use the Plus as her day-in-day-out computer. I figured I should rescue that bit of history, so I copied the files to 800K floppies (the Plus, the early Mac SEs were the last Macs that didn't support 1.4 MB floppies), confirming that the old "slurp" floppy drive was still in good order.

I still think that the razor-sharp 9" one-bit CRT that Apple used in these early compact Macs is cool, albeit not really up to the job of Web surfing and the like today. It does bring back pleasant memories of my early adventures in the Mac world.

This Plus was my very first Mac, purchased from a university professor friend who was going through a divorce and needed cash more than he needed a computer at the time. I paid Can$1,000 for the Plus, the MacCrate hard drive, and an ImageWriter II printer, which I also still have and use. My friend had spent nearly Can$5,000 on this setup a couple of years earlier, so I thought I had done okay.

The old Plus soon had me hooked on Macs, and it was my main work horse for a little over a year until I splurged on a new LC 520. However, I still continued to use the old Plus a fair bit for a couple more years, until it was taken over by my son until he bought a PowerBook 520, at which point the Plus became my daughter's computer - until she took on my PowerBook 5300, and after my wife sojourn away in '99, the little Mac was never unpacked again until this week.

The conundrum is what to do with it. As I noted, we're trying to cut down on clutter in the house, and as cool and nostalgic as it is, I can't imagine ever actually using the old Mac Plus for work again, and I'm only a computer "collector" by default, not by avocation. I'm thinking that perhaps I should sell the Plus, if I can find it a good home.

So, if anyone out there is interested, I've decided to entertain offers. Here's what is included:

The Mac Plus itself seems to be in the working order. Cosmetically it is in great shape - no scratches or dents, but the case has faded somewhat over the years. It has 2.5 megabytes of RAM, and the external 20 MB hard drive (which the Mac sits on top of when in use), and, of course, the keyboard and mouse - both of which are working fine. The only thing missing is the cover to the the PRAM battery compartment on the back.

Both the computer and the hard drive have their original packing boxes, complete with the Styrofoam and foam inserts, and all this stuff is in decently good condition as well. Also included are all of the original manuals, which are in excellent condition, and the original software install floppies, including HyperCard, in their original box. There is also the HyperCard manual. I even have the little "programmers switch" that slots into the left side of the computer's case.

I can also supply some spare parts - perhaps even a whole Mac Plus as a parts mule - but I can't be more specific without digging into a pile of derelict Macs.

Price? That's the puzzler and why I am looking for offers. It has been possible to pick up these old compact Macs at yard sales and whatnot very cheaply, although the supply is definitely drying up. I doubt that there are many of these machines still available in this good a condition, especially with the original manuals and boxes, etc.

If you are a collector and this sort of thing appeals, let me know how much you think it would be worth to you, and perhaps we can make a deal. Or perhaps not. The highest or any offer will not necessarily be accepted. I'm testing the waters. And keep in mind that this equipment is located in Nova Scotia.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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