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My Turn

Multimedia on a Vintage Mac: Am I Insane?

- 2002.06.28

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

I have read some great articles on Low End Mac detailing the ways that older Macs can still be used successfully for less intense tasks like word processing and email. Aside from how crazy it is to use an old Mac for certain tasks, I haven't seen much written about higher end multimedia computing on really old Macs.

I guess I must be crazy for using a IIci for video editing, but it works unusually well for me. Gasp! Yes, I said video editing and IIci in the same sentence.

I am, like many Low End Mac readers, addicted to old Macs. I am also a musician with a degree in audio engineering. In college, I got the chance to use Macs for multimedia applications every day. We were running Digidesign Pro Tools on Power Macs.

After college, I had my first brush with audio editing on older Macs. At the recording studio where I did an internship, they had a IIfx running Pro Tools. This was a commercial studio with a great reputation, and they were using a IIfx for digital audio editing. That was in 1997.

It would be 2001 before I got my first Mac and really began to appreciate the power and reliability of that IIfx.

I bought a Windows PC in 1999 and struggled with it for a few years. I never could get it to record audio without causing pops, clicks, or other annoying anomalies.

Around this time, I found a SuperMac Spigot to Tape NuBus video capture card on eBay for $10. It was still sealed in it's original box with all the original documentation and software.

I had always wanted to edit video in addition to my work with audio. Now I just needed a NuBus Mac to use it. I originally wanted a IIfx, but decided against it because the memory is expensive and hard to find. A week's worth of searching eBay yielded a working IIci with 20 MB RAM and a 500 MB hard drive for $9.99.

It was only then that I realized that the IIci had no built in sound input for capturing audio. I purchased a PAS 16 NuBus card with the break out box for $80. It was more than I really wanted to spend on the entire setup, but I was already caught up in my project and made the purchase anyway.

I replaced the IIci's 500 MB system drive with a 4 GB Fujitsu model and replaced the RAM to max it out at 128 MB. I then tested the system and discovered I was going to need more power to capture video at full 30 frames per second. I soon purchased a DayStar 50 MHz accelerator for $15 that allowed me to capture full motion video without any problems.

I figured that I was already in too deep by this time and purchased a SuperMac Spectrum/24 Series III to replace the internal video. Adaptec Toast 3.5.1 and a Lacie 8x CD-R allowed me to take my finished movies to my Power Mac or PC.

Of course, I could also print back to video, something most newer FireWire systems can't do without alot of hassle. The IIci has never crashed while editing, printing, or converting video. It sometimes takes a day or two to finish processing for final video output, but I have several other machines that I use when it's tied up crunching my video files.

Now I have decided to start using that expensive sound card for audio mastering work and give up on home recording on the PC. Good 68k audio software is hard to come by, but an upgrade to System 7.6.1 should allow me to use Opcode System's Studio Vision (the Fat version). I also have Macromedia Sound Edit 16 that I have been experimenting with for less critical audio work.

So far, the PAS 16/IIci combination sounds a lot better than my PC's audio hardware, and the machine is more stable. No more losing final mixes when the PC crashes trying to mix 8 or more audio tracks down to stereo. Any suggestions for good audio software that will work with PAS 16 and System 7.5.5 can be emailed to .

I may move the Spigot card to a NuBus Power Mac one day soon, but I think the IIci will always be good for audio editing provided I find enough software that works. My IIci proves that multimedia on older Macs is very reliable, even if it is sometimes slow.

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