Classic Macs in the Intel Age

A Vintage Mac Network Can Be as Useful as a Modern One

- 2008.04.08 - Tip Jar

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 .

You may have read my earlier LEM article about my PowerBook 150 and my plans for a Vintage Mac Network at home. Well, I picked up a Classic II, two PowerBook 100s, System 7.0 in original boxing, and a never opened LocalTalk set.

I got it all for free. The guy was giving his Macs away because he had no need for them. He said he had about 20 Macs at home.

When I got home, I powered up the Classic II. System 7.5.3 was installed - and it was quite slow, so I installed 7.1 instead, and now the machine works like a charm.

Next, I had a look at the PowerBooks. The guy said one of them had a power issue, rarely powering on. I turned on the working one, and it refused to find an operating system, so I booted from the included 7.0 installer disks. No hard drive was found. Wierd. I could hear the SCSI drive powering up and making noise. I decided to try another disk: the disk of choice became a PowerBook 150 Utilities disk. I popped it in, but now the PowerBook was even more weird. It would power on, then the drive would rattle for a while, and finally the screen would turn black with white lines. Then it would play the "Bong" and do the same thing.

I have yet to solve the problem. The next step will be gutting the broken PowerBook to get a working computer out of the two. When I've done that, you'll get another article about my adventures.

Now to talk about my Vintage Network: It's great. The old Quadra 610 serves me well as a printer server, and the ImageWriter printer, although noisy, works great. I am able to share the printer and my Internet connection between all of the old Macs in my house using LocalTalk.

All of my old Macs are running System Software 7.1, except for the Quadra, which is running 7.5.3. Every Mac is useful. My Classic II is a wonderful writing machine, the Quadra is a reliable server, and the PowerBook 150 is just an awesome laptop for all of my daily Classic tasks.

I have also got a network adapter for the Classic II. I will try to get it on the Web, although I doubt it will work, since it has only 4 MB of RAM. I think it will be great for staying in touch with my friends and the great LEM emailing lists using Eudora. I might even upgrade the RAM to full-blown 10 MB and get iCab on it.

So what's my conclusion? Well, it's the fact that a home network consisting of Macs all running System 7.1 (along with a small 7.5 server) on LocalTalk is just as functional (although not as fast) as a new home network using new G4s, G5s, and Intel Macs with ethernet or WiFi. So whenever my new Macs and PCs give up, my trusty 68k Macs will always be ready to work.

Next time: Fixing up a broken PowerBook 100 and making it an email laptop and word processor.

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