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The Legends of 68k

Saving Old Macs from Retirement: The 68k Macintosh Liberation Army

- 2006.10.05

Bong! . . . :-) . . . Welcome to Macintosh!

As Welcome to Macintosh rolls on, so does our Legends of 68K series. I'm taking a look at all the vintage Mac websites out there, interviewing the founders as well as others, to learn their stories in their own words about how they got started, what separates them from other sites as well as some fun questions.

Our first interview was with Jag of Jag's House, the first vintage Mac website on the scene. Today we move on to another site that has done a lot for the vintage Mac community - the 68k Macintosh Liberation Army (68kMLA for short).

The 68kMLA can be summed up by their Mission Statement:

To quote vintage Apple manuals: "Read me first!"

Whenever there is a lost and forlorn 68k Mac, we'll be there.

Whenever there is a used 68k Mac auction, we'll be there.

Whenever there is a good 68k Mac deal on http://www.gadling.com/2008/02/01/best-prank-ever-stopping-time-at-grand-central-station/, we'll be there.

Whenever someone in the community needs 68k Mac assistance, we'll be there.

Whenever someone insults the pride of a 68k Mac, we'll be there (to beat them with a 2 x 4 with a 10" nail driven through it).

We are the 68k Macintosh Liberation Army.

Some of us are collectors, some are dealers, some are just fanatics. Some are involved in direct operations, and some act on behalf others. But we all share a common goal: the successful liberation and implementation of 680x0 series Macintosh computers. The 68k Macintosh Liberation Army defines liberation as the removal of a 68k Mac from unloving and unappreciative surroundings. Once liberated, a 68k Mac can be implemented into one's home network, a child's bedroom, a bathroom, etc. All around the world, dirty and unwanted 68k Macs are being hidden away, retired from active duty. "Where?" you might ask. Closets, cupboards, storage rooms, and even under beds! These are not safe places for unassuming 68k Macs. After being put there, these Macs are practically destined for life in the garbage! The mission of the 68k Macintosh Liberation Army is to put an end to this evil 68k torture.

At the very least, these Macs must be taken from their "death row," checked, booted, and given some maintenance (a can-of-compressed-air assault, new PRAM battery and a fresh OS install). If you can find a way to return these Macs to active duty, then you have found out what it really means to be a member of the 68kMLA. Just remember: every 68k Mac can be a source of happiness and joy for many others. 68kMLA soldiers realize that every 68k Mac is special, every model has its merits, and almost no computer should be turned down. Even those with little space should accept 68k Macs, if only to pass it on to a friend (or foe, for that matter) who has not yet experienced 68k bliss. Youngsters can also benefit from and appreciate their own computers even if it may be just an LC. There are 68k Macs which are rare, valuable, or powerful. Likewise, there are 68k Macs which aren't rare, valuable, nor powerful. But these machines are really of no more intrinsic stature than any other Mac. ALL Macs have a right to be loved! And at the end of the day, this is what the 68k Macintosh Liberation Army is all about (that and violent assault of people who blaspheme the Quadra 950/840av series and/or think that classic Macs actually are just portable televisions)."

I recently interviewed the founder of the 68kMLA along with some of the staff/moderators:

Tommy Thomas: Hey gang! It's great to get to meet you! How was the idea for 68kMLA born?

Coxy: Well, just over five years ago now, I and many others were quite active on the MacAddict Forums. The "main founders" in particular were all people that read and posted in the Vintage Macs sub-forum, helping people out and swapping tidbits of information. One day there was a post about someone who had liberated a Mac from certain doom, and the idea and the name stuck around.

In typical youthful enthusiasm there was a flurry of organization, web design, and drafting of a mission statement, etc. which quickly lead to the MLA outgrowing the MacAddict Forums. Eventually we had a small website (with grandiose plans for a large one) on the old Apple free hosting scheme, iTools, and then our own set of forums hosted on LiteratureClassics.com.

Mac ClassicLCGuy: One day, MacScuzzy started a thread in the Vintage Macs forum on MacAddict forums called, "I just liberated a Mac", where he talked about how he "liberated" a Macintosh Classic. After that, FireWire Is Fast got a Macintosh Color Classic and started another thread saying that he had "liberated" a Mac as well.

Then MacScuzzy said to FireWire, as a joke, "Hey, maybe we should make an army and go around liberating poor old 68k Macs ;)". FireWire, among others, thought he was actually serious, and a few of us actually decided to start a "68k Macintosh Liberation Army".

Cinemafia: Thanks to the grassroots archives of the posts at MAF that we've preserved, you can literally read how it started just as if you were there back in 2001. However, what you can't read is the general atmosphere of Apple culture at the time.

OS X had just come out of beta, the new Macs coming out were faster and faster (and more and more expensive). It was really the turning point for the obsolescence of not only 68k Macs but all of the beige machines. The 68kMLA was on many levels a reaction to that change.

Tom: I was enlisted into the MLA quite late. I joined the old forums through Applefritter sometime in 2002 and was promoted to General to help out with phpBB modding and bug fixing on the new forums in 2004. So I really missed the beginning of the forums. I'll let the others take these ones.

Tommy: When did you realize, "Hey, there's something here that people might like?"

Coxy: Hmm, I imagine it was right in the first flurry of activity, since we had many people interested, adding information to their forum sigs, our own very first trolls, etc.

LCGuy: I think it was mostly when others in the Vintage Macs forum decided to join the 68kMLA that we realized that we actually had something that was a very good idea.

Cinemafia: I think once people started realizing, "Hey, there's other people out there who purposely collect old Macs like me," it became cool. There was a great sense of acceptance, where we were suddenly no longer just pack rats (at least to each other).

Tommy: Did you ever have another idea for what the 68kMLA would be like other than how it turned out?

Coxy: Not really, bit I had thought that our website would be a fair bit better by now.

LCGuy: Originally, I don't think there was actually a plan for us to have a forum; we were mostly just a bunch of guys hanging out in the Vintage Macs forum at MacAddict talking about "liberating" Macs. However, after we had plenty of discussion on the subject, a moderator at MacAddict kindly asked us to get our own forum, as we were not affiliated with MacAddict in any way, shape, or form. In the long run, though, it has actually benefited us having our own forum; I think that the forum has really made the community what it is today.

Cinemafia: In the early days I'd really hoped there would be more opportunity to do things offline. I had some ideas about working with various MUGs and having regular, in-person meetings and the like. Unfortunately, as with any Net community, this just turned out to be too difficult to pursue. However, I think things have worked out wonderfully despite it.

Tommy: What's the best thing about doing what you do here?

Coxy: I would say the best thing is our large group of members who have a collective knowledge which is extremely impressive. We might not have an answer for everything, but I really love to see someone sign up with a problem that's had them stumped for a while and then a domain expert can give some strong advice within a few posts.

LCGuy: In my opinion, the best thing about being a mod [moderator] at the 68kMLA is knowing that I'm helping others keep their old Apple Macintosh computers up and running and still doing useful tasks. It makes me feel good knowing that I'm helping other people and at the same time keeping the old Macs out of landfills and on desks.

Tom: Getting 5 stars beside my posts.

Tommy: I can tell you personally, in the time I've lurked on the 68kMLA, you have not only helped me, but you've helped a lot of people who've had problems with their Macs. There have been plenty of times that I've stumbled upon the answer to my question by reading other people's posts.

What makes the 68kMLA different or stand out from other websites out there?

Coxy: I don't think the MLA is so different from anywhere else, really; we were simply filling a particular niche.

LCGuy: I think the main thing that makes the 68kMLA stand out from other forums is the community. At a lot of computer forums I've been to, it is usually frowned upon to talk about platforms other than what the forum covers, and on some you can even get flamed for it. However, on the 68kMLA, we have many users from many different backgrounds.

Even though our main focus is on the vintage Macs, our members use a wide variety of platforms: vintage Apple Macintosh, Mac OS X, Apple I/II/III, Lisa, Windows, DOS, Unix/Linux, Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari, NeXT, SGI, Sun, etc. And in the Lounge, discussion on all these platforms is welcomed. Because of this, I find that the 68kMLA is the only computer related forum that I need to visit these days.

Cinemafia: There certainly are other community sites that have some focus on legacy Macs, or computing in general. I like to think that the 68kMLA is the closest-knit of those, however. I think part of this is the pioneering spirit of our founders, who had the idea to create the community under the guise of a military unit. As tongue-in-cheek as it is, I think this has helped foster a sense of camaraderie among the members that you don't necessarily find elsewhere.

Tom: The community on the forums, although small, is fantastic. I guess because old Macs are a bit of a niche, we get lots of like-minded people on the forums. It's just got an atmosphere that I haven't really experienced anywhere else.

Tommy: That's something else I've noticed, to touch on what LCGuy mentioned. A lot of forums I've been on will flame you to death for mentioning other platforms or OSes, but 68kMLA isn't afraid to think "outside the box" or, better yet, "outside the Mac". And you definitely get the feeling of a close-knit group. Each person brings a different flavor to the table.

How important are the moderators to the 68kMLA? I ask this question because I was once a Community Leader on AOL (from 2001 until the program closed in 2005). Now I volunteer for three forums on CompuServe. I know from these experiences how moderators and chat hosts keep things running.

Coxy: Ah, very important. Even for such a nice website we get a good share of trolls, scammers, and spammers. Keeping the environment clean is imperative to keeping the community functioning and drawing in new members, too.

LCGuy: The moderators are an important part of the 68kMLA. When members have fights and things like that, we're always there to clean up the remains. When members ask for new features to be added to the forum, we evaluate them, and if necessary, implement them. We keep the forum free from scammers, spammers, and members who don't follow the rules. If it wasn't for the moderators, the 68kMLA would not be what it is today.

Cinemafia: I think any Net community is only as strong as its mods; however that being said the 68kMLA is perhaps the best example of a self-moderated forum as I can imagine. Though we certainly aren't the largest forum out there, we do have our share of problems, and our members are very good about dealing with them or reporting them to our mods as quickly as possible.

Tom: I try to be fairly hands-off in moderation and just remain part of the community. Unless there's a serious problem, I try to let the community play it out by themselves. I'm there if needed, though. But the team we have are great if there's a problem.

Tommy: That's the way I try to be, Tom. I try to be hands-off until a major problem comes up. That's how I moderate on the forums I volunteer for on CompuServe.

Have you ever had an instance where someone would have to be banned from the forum?

Coxy: Heh, yes indeed. Discounting random spammers and bots, we have had some people malicious enough to generally try to bribe other mods, guess passwords, and generally be a pain in the butt. As far as I know this hasn't happened in quite a while, though.

LCGuy: We've had a couple of incidents, yes, I'm not going to go into any details though.

Cinemafia: Yes, two come to mind actually.

The first of these was someone who I recently mentioned in a thread regarding the demise of my Quadra 840av. Back in 2003, this person was basically scamming several 68kMLA members into sending them Macs and other hardware they wanted to sell or trade, but never actually held up their end of the bargain. They would use a series of weird, but semi-plausible excuses to delay doing so indefinitely. They weren't just targeting 68kMLA users, though . . . they had been running the same scam over at Applefritter simultaneously. Eventually we figured out what was going on and banned their username, email address, and IPs (as did AF). Since then we've tried to be more careful in policing the Trading Post to keep such a thing from happening again.

The other was much more recent and took place in the spring of this year. This person was very articulate and very passionate about vintage Macs. Maybe a little too passionate . . . anyway, they started making very pointed statements about their place on the 68k Mac "totem pole". Eventually they became extremely defensive about this, to the point of being abusive. We (the Mods and Admins) discussed the actions of this person at length and were somewhat confused, because in our dealings with outside of the forum he seemed to be a very reasonable person. Unfortunately, public actions on the forum spoke more loudly than personal ones, so we reluctantly decided to show him the door.

Tom: We've had to ban a few actual members in the past, but most of the bannings are of spammer accounts. Even though we are a pretty small forum, we still have a lot of spam bots signing up and posting links. We try and clean up things as quickly as possible though, and (as Cinemafia said before) the community as a whole is fairly good at letting us know if they notice anything.

Tommy: Speaking of posts, there was one I ran across on the 68kMLA Forums. I had posted a message in the Lounge a week or so ago, and someone brought up something about the infamous "hat incident". Someone even put up a link to the thread where the said "hat incident" took place. I looked it over and thought it was really funny. If anything it showed me how lighthearted and how humorous people that visit the 68kMLA are.

Could any one of you tell the readers out there about the said "hat incident"?

Cinemafia: As for the hat thing . . . I'm going to let one of the other guys chime in on it!

Tom: Basically, iMac600 posted about an "exciting new announcement" but didn't reveal any of the details, so someone asked whether this secret announcement was a 68kMLA hat. The rest of the thread was basically people discussing hats! It's worth a read, because it's rather funny.

Tommy: With that, here's a link to the said "hat incident" for our viewers to read: http://68kmla.net/viewtopic.php?t=5024

Tommy: What's the coolest thing that's happened in 68kMLA's history?

Coxy: We've had a few Slashdottings to certain members' websites and articles, but nothing too major.

LCGuy: In my opinion, one of the coolest things that has happened in the 68kMLA's history was when Danamania became famous with the news that she had managed to get Mac OS X booting on a Centris 650 (using PearPC).

Cinemafia: I think the coolest thing about us is that we have a lot of people who are not only really knowledgeable about old Macs, but also really passionate about them. I believe that we are one of the best online sources for getting help with the many problems that are specific to older Macs.

Tom: On a personal level, being promoted to a General.

Tommy: LCGuy, that's amazing! I can't imagine that running OS X on a Centris 650 would be much fun, but it's amazing nonetheless!

Tommy: Do you consider the 68kMLA a legend in it's own time?

Coxy: In a way, yes, since the story-behind-a-story of people's ranks and member histories, etc. helps to really build an interesting (even if quite fanciful) environment.

LCGuy: Definitely. It's a one-of-a-kind community. I've been to a lot of forums in my time, but there is nothing quite like the 68kMLA.

Cinemafia: I hope so! We would really like to leave a legacy, and even if by some unfortunate events we weren't actively running the 68kMLA, it would always live on as an archive of all the crazy things we've done with these machines.

Tom: Definitely.

Tommy: What do you want everyone who reads this article to know about the 68kMLA, especially if they've never visited before?

Coxy: It's quite a friendly place, and if you're at all interested in Classic Macs and hardware, there's usually a couple of threads at any one time that are quite fascinating and/or informative!

LCGuy: The main thing I'd like people to know is that although sometimes people make jokes about PowerPC (and Intel) Macs as being "contraband", the truth is that we like all Macs great and small, from the original 1984 Macintosh right up to the brand new Mac Pro.

Cinemafia: That we really like to help people, and that we also really like to have a lot of fun. I suppose fun is a relative term, especially for those unfamiliar with the particularly nerdy world of retro-computing. But we do like to goof off and not take ourselves so seriously.

I'd also like people to know that despite our focus on Macs, we're not your typical "Mac Fan Boys". In fact, we're probably among the most vocal in expressing our disagreement with the some of the choices Apple has made.

Tom: It really is the best place to discuss any and all vintage Macs, so come and check us out if you have an old machine sitting around looking for a good use!

Tommy: Cinemafia, I'm also not a fan of some of the choices Apple has made, even though I think a lot of what Apple has done is cool!

When you look at the future of 68kMLA, what do you see?

Coxy: Hmm, I think we'll carry on much as we are now, helping people out with more and more powerful as it too becomes vintage.

LCGuy: This is a bit of a hard one . . . all I can really say is "Wait and see". For example, five years ago I never imagined that the 68kMLA would become what it is today. We've managed to come as far as we have in the past five years, and I think it will be really interesting to see what we can do, and where we can go in the next five years.

Cinemafia: I have a lot of ideas, mainly about expanding beyond just the forum. We've already done this a bit with the gallery, wiki, etc. But, I want to help create a very rich and seamless community for people who are just now discovering what you can do with older Macs to come to. I also really want to get more into the environmental aspect of keeping these machines out of landfills, I think this is certainly a byproduct of what we do, but not really something we proactively think about.

Tom: More liberations all around!

Tommy: Speaking of more liberations all around . . . for all who don't know, The 68k Macintosh Liberation Army celebrates it's fifth anniversary this year! Any special way you guys plan to celebrate?

LCGuy: Not really . . . mostly just bringing up memories from the early days and stuff like that.

Cinemafia: We possibly would have missed it, too, if I hadn't been looking through the grassroots threads from the MAF. I don't remember exactly why I was looking through them, but I realized that they were just a couple weeks short of being exactly five years old and started spreading the news that our fifth anniversary was coming up.

There were a lot of ideas going around to celebrate; one of mine being to have a podcast with all the founders. This didn't really work out, but I still do want to start a 68kMLA podcast at some point.

Tom: We've had plans to do a few different things, though most of them haven't come to much. Our first official birthday didn't come to much . . . maybe we'll get something organised for the second.

Questions About Apple & Computing

Tommy: What was your first Apple or Mac?

Coxy: Our family first had an LC 575, but my first computer was an original LC pizzabox.

LCGuy: The first computer I ever used was an Apple IIe at my primary school back when I was in Grade 1 (1991). The first Mac we had at home was our LC III, which we purchased brand new in 1993. It was a 4/80 configuration, with a 14" Macintosh Color Display, an Apple Extended Keyboard II, an ADB Mouse II, an Apple CD 300, and a StyleWriter II, running System 7.1. I still have this Mac, and it still runs every bit as well as it did the day we picked it up from the shop.

Mac PlusCinemafia: The first Apple product I owned, which was also the first computer I owned, was a Mac Plus. My dad bought it new back in 1986, and brought it home for my brother and I to play (and learn) with. I was 8 at the time, and although it was the whole family's, it would eventually become mine. I used it up until the mid 90's, and for several years even self-produced an underground magazine with it.

Tom: An LC III, 12 MB RAM, 80 MB [hard drive], 14" Performa Plus display, external third party CD-ROM, and StyleWriter II. We bought it off a friend of the family when they upgraded in 1995/96-ish. I'd been using Macs at school and other friends' houses for some time before that though.

Tommy: LCGuy, you started out like I did, on an Apple IIe. You just couldn't beat the games on those IIes, could you?

What was it about Apple that made you say, "Wow man, that's cool!"?

Coxy: Interestingly enough, probably because that's what I started with. It only grew from then on mostly in part due to an "us vs. them" attitude in the old computing holy wars.

LCGuy: It was the machines, really. Back when I first started out with Macs, in 1993/94, PCs just seemed bland and boring. To me, they were business machines, used for boring tasks such as word processing, spreadsheets, and accounting.

Macs, however, seemed much cooler, as at that time Apple was really getting into the whole multimedia thing, and as an 8-10 year old kid, I was blown away at a lot of the cool things that a multimedia Mac was capable of. Sure, PCs were capable of this back then as well, but they still seemed like boring business machines to me, compared to the Mac.

Cinemafia: For me it was always the creative side of Apple. From the beginning there were choices made at Apple, even if only in their unique industrial design scheme, that made doing artistic work with them better. When someone would say that Macs were only good for doing multimedia, I would actually be proud.

Tom: I don't know, really; I just grew up with the Mac OS and always liked the way it worked. I've also always been a fan of the design of Macs. They've always just looked so much better than PCs . . . even when both were "boring" beige boxes.

Tommy: What was your first PC experience?

Coxy: Hard to say, really; probably playing games at friends' houses or doing data entry into a DOS program called TimeChart for my Dad.

LCGuy: My first PC experience was in 1996, when I changed from an all-Mac school to a school that had a mix of both Macs and PCs. My first time with a PC was with a Pentium 75 running Windows 95. I really didn't like it at first; I couldn't figure out the Windows interface at all - it just didn't make sense to me the way the Mac did. I had to go to the library and borrow some instructional videos just so that I could figure out how to do things such as saving files that were a no-brainers on the Mac. (I couldn't get my head around the 3 letter file extensions that Windows requires, mostly.)

Cinemafia: I honestly didn't have a lot of experience using a PC until high school. I guess I was fortunate that up until then all the schools I went to either had Apple IIs or Macs of some sort to work on. In high school, though, using a PC was pure business. The types of things that were taught on them were much more mundane, like typing.

I went to an art high school, though, and I remember one year my class won a new Gateway PC. They delivered it and even installed some software on it that should have catered to us, like Painter and Photoshop. However, after the initial interest wore off, it never really got used much.

Tom: Some friends had a PC running Windows 3.1. I guess that was probably the first PC I used. Can't remember that much about it, except that it had Wolfenstein on it.

Check back on Friday for the conclusion of my interview with the 68kMLA. LEM

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