Introduced along with the Mac II in March 1987, the SE came with 1 MB of RAM, one or two double-sided 800K floppies, and space to mount an internal SCSI hard drive (the second drive bay held either a hard drive or second floppy – no room for both, although that didn’t stop some people from creating a bracket to mount a hard drive in a two-floppy SE). The SE was the first compact Mac with a built-in fan.
The SE is sometimes referred to as the SE/20, SE 1/40, 4/80, etc. “SE/20” is not an official designation, often leads to confusion, and should not be used. These are not different models, nor should an “SE/20” be confused with the more powerful SE/30. These numbers refer to the amount of memory and size of the internal hard drive, so an “SE/20” would have a 20 MB hard drive and an SE 4/40 would have 4 MB of RAM and a 40 MB hard drive.
Although Apple officially rates SCSI on the SE at 1.25 MBps, real world testing finds it to be considerably lower at about half the rated speed. This is also roughly 2.5x faster than the SCSI on the Mac Plus.
In August 1989 Apple began to ship the SE with their high density floppy drive, known as the FDHD (floppy drive, high density) or SuperDrive (for its ability to read and write IBM-format floppies with additional software). Not only did this provide 1.4 MB capacity, but also the ability to read and write 3.5″ DOS disks using special software.
Older SEs with their original ROMs do not support high density floppies. However, they can be used with FDHD drives as long as the disks used are 800K floppies.
The SE was introduced as the low-end cousin of the hot new 16 MHz Mac II. The SE was the first compact Mac with an expansion slot. One of the first add-in cards was an MS-DOS card. Over time, video, ethernet, and accelerator cards became popular accessories.
It’s not generally known, but the SE supports color, although not on the internal display. It’s only 3-bit color, but it supports output to the ImageWriter II printer’s color ribbon, and as least one company made a SCSI video output device that let the SE display 3-bit color on an external color monitor.
Color display? Aura Systems made ScuzzyGraph II, a SCSI peripheral that provided 8-color video for people who didn’t want to buy (or couldn’t afford) a Mac II. 1989 cost was $995 to $2,495, depending on resolution.
You can convert a non-working compact Mac into a Macquarium. (Please, don’t even think of converting a working one – you can always find someone interested on the Classic Macs or Vintage Macs lists.)
- If you have less than 4 MB installed, upgrade to 4 MB. You can often find pulled 1 MB SIMMs (removed from other Macs during upgrade) inexpensively.
- The SE cannot use two-chip 1 MB SIMMs.
- Memory permitting, set the disk cache to 128k.
- To use HD floppies on a pre-SuperDrive SE, look into the Applied Engineering AE HD+ external floppy drive. They may be available from Que Computers for $99 (612-623-0903). Note that the “plus” is important – the AE HD will not do the job.
- Because of limited SCSI throughput, older hard drives with no data buffer should usually be formatted with a 2:1 interleave for use in the SE. (Unfortunately, other Macs may find it difficult or impossible to work with this interleave.) This is not an issue with newer drives that have a data buffer.
- If you need to create the smallest possible System file, you can delete Chicago 12, Geneva 9 and 12, and Monaco 9, since these fonts are in the SE ROMs.
- To remove the hard drive: find the two screws holding the drive bracket in place. They will be facing the rear of the computer and underneath the drive itself. You’ll need a fairly long Phillips screwdriver to reach them – and you’ll need to disconnect the power and data cables before you can get to them. Once the screws are loose, lift the back and it should come out easily.
- SE introduced 1987.03.02 at $2,900 (dual floppy) or $3,700 (with 20 MB hard drive); discontinued 1989.08.01
- SE FDHD (1.4 MB floppy) introduced 1989.08.01; discontinued 1990.10.15
- code names: Plus Plus, Maui, Aladdin, Chablis, Freeport
- configurations included dual-floppy or one floppy plus 20 or, 40 MB hard drive
- Gestalt ID: 5
- Order no.: M5010 (SE), M5011 (SE FDHD)
- upgrade path: SE/30 motherboard
- requires System 4.1 (System 4.0 and Finder 5.4) to 7.5.5, although we have a report of one user running System 1.1 on the SE)
- addressing: 24-bit only
- CPU: 8 MHz 68000
- ROM: 256 KB
- RAM: 1 MB, expandable 4 MB using pairs of 256 KB or 1 MB 150ns 30-pin SIMMs (will not work with two-chip 1 MB SIMMs)
- 1.0, relative to SE
- 0.37, MacBench 2.0
- 0.98, Speedometer 3
- 0.7 MIPS
- see Benchmarks: SE for more details
- 9″ b&w screen, 512 x 342 pixels
- ADB ports: 2
- serial ports: 2 DIN-8 RS-422 ports on back of computer
- SCSI ports: 1 DB-25 connector on back of computer, maximum throughput of 5,248 kbps
- floppy drive: 800 KB, 1.4 MB double-sided on FDHD version
- floppy connector on back of computer
- Hard drive: none or 20 MB
- expansion slots: 1 SE PDS
- size (HxWxD): 13.6″ x 9.6″ x 10.9″
- Weight: 17 lb.
- PRAM battery: 3.6V half-AA
- power supply: 100W
Accelerators & Upgrades
Some accelerators have onboard SIMM slots, allowing them to use more than 4 MB of RAM.
- Brainstorm accelerator (16 MHz 68000), long discontinued. See review in Macworld, 1995.03.
- Macintosh SE/30 motherboard (16 MHz 68030), but it probably costs less to buy a whole SE/30 than just a motherboard.
- MicroMac Multispeed (16, 25, or 32 MHz 68030), optional 32 MHz 68882 FPU
- MicroMac Performer (16 MHz 68030), optional 25 MHz 68882 FPU
- MicroMac Performer Pro (32 MHz 68030), 64 KB cache, optional 68882 FPU
- Radius Accelerator SE (16 MHz 68020 with 68881), 25 MHz version also produced
- Sonnet Technologies Allegro SE (33 MHz 68030), 33 MHz 68882 FPU, discontinued
Discontinued accelerators (68030 unless otherwise noted) include the Applied Engineering TransWarp (16, 40 MHz), Dove Marathon Racer (16 MHz), Extreme Systems Vandal (50 MHz), Harris Performer2 (16 MHz 68000), MacProducts Railgun (33 MHz), Mobius (25 MHz), NewLife Accelerator! (16, 25, 33 MHz), Novy ImagePro (16, 25, 33 MHz), and Total Systems Mercury (16 MHz), Gemini Integra (50 MHz), and Gemini Ultra (33, 50 MHz).
Color? Aura Systems made ScuzzyGraph II, a SCSI peripheral that provided 8-color video for people who didn’t want to buy (or couldn’t afford) a Mac II. 1989 cost was $995-2,495, depending on resolution.
- Guide to Compact Macs, a quick overview of Apple’s 10 compact Macs.
- Before the iPhone SE, There Was the Macintosh SE, Eric Adams, Gear Patrol, 2016.03.23.
- Inside the Macintosh SE, Hardware Secrets, Gabriel Torres, 2013.02.16
- Golden Apples: The 25 best Macs to date, Michelle Klein-Häss, Geek Speak, 2009.01.27. The best Macs from 1984 through 2009, including a couple that aren’t technically Macs.
- Creating Classic Mac Boot Floppies in OS X, Paul Brierley, The ‘Book Beat, 2008.08.07. Yes, it is possible to create a boot floppy for the Classic Mac OS using an OS X Mac that doesn’t have Classic. Here’s how.
- Know Your Mac’s Upgrade Options, Phil Herlihy, The Usefulness Equation, 2008.08.26. Any Mac can be upgraded, but it’s a question of what can be upgraded – RAM, hard drive, video, CPU – and how far it can be upgraded.
- Why You Should Partition Your Mac’s Hard Drive, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2008.12.11. “At the very least, it makes sense to have a second partition with a bootable version of the Mac OS, so if you have problems with your work partition, you can boot from the ’emergency’ partition to run Disk Utility and other diagnostics.”
- Antique Macs are still useful computers, Charles W Moore, From the MacCave, 2008.09.09. Charles W Moore’s first online article looks at the utility of compact Macs – and foreshadows his longterm affection for PowerBooks.
- The Compressed Air Keyboard Repair, Charles W Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2008.07.24. If your keyboard isn’t working as well as it once did, blasting under the keys with compressed air may be the cure.
- Tales of old Mac data retrieval, Adam Rosen, Adam’s Apple, 2008.06.13. Getting apps and documents off 400K floppies, old disk images, and a Mac running System 5.
- A Vintage Mac Network Can Be as Useful as a Modern One, Carl Nygren, My Turn, 2008.04.08. Old Macs can exchange data and share an Internet connection very nicely using Apple’s old LocalTalk networking.
- Vintage Mac Networking and File Exchange, Adam Rosen, Adam’s Apple, 2007.12.19. How to network vintage Macs with modern Macs and tips on exchanging files using floppies, Zip disks, and other media.
- Getting Inside Vintage Macs and Swapping Out Bad Parts, Adam Rosen, Adam’s Apple, 2007.12.14. When an old Mac dies, the best source of parts is usually another dead Mac with different failed parts.
- Solving Mac Startup Problems, Adam Rosen, Adam’s Apple, 2007.12.12. When your old Mac won’t boot, the most likely culprits are a dead PRAM battery or a failed (or failing) hard drive.
- Better and Safer Surfing with Internet Explorer and the Classic Mac OS, Max Wallgren, Mac Daniel, 2007.11.06. Tips on which browsers work best with different Mac OS versions plus extra software to clean cookies and caches, detect viruses, handle downloads, etc.
- A (Mac) classic spookfest, Tommy Thomas, Welcome to Macintosh, 2007.10.31. How to set up those old compact Macs with screen savers to enhance your Halloween experience.
- Simple Macs for Simple Tasks, Tommy Thomas, Welcome to Macintosh, 2007.10.19. Long live 680×0 Macs and the classic Mac OS. For simple tasks such as writing, they can provide a great, low distraction environment.
- Interchangeabilty and Compatibility of Apple 1.4 MB Floppy SuperDrives, Sonic Purity, Mac Daniel, 2007.09.26. Apple used two kinds of high-density floppy drives on Macs, auto-inject and manual inject. Can they be swapped?
- 4 steps for resurrecting old Macs, Sonic Purity, Mac Daniel, 2007.07.18. Hardware problems may be solved with a thorough cleaning, deoxidizing electrical contacts, replacing failed capacitors, and/or repairing broken solder joints.
- Leopard compatibility list, bad capacitors kill Macs, 1 GHz G3 upgrade resurrected, and more, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Mailbag, 2007.06.26. Also tips for troublesome OS X installs, ‘About This Mac’ sometimes lies, PowerBook advice, and aluminum PowerBook design.
- My first mobile Mac: A Classic II, Jacek A. Rochacki, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2007.06.25. When a PowerBook 100 was beyond the author’s means, he bought a second-hand Mac Classic II and fabricated his own carrying case to make it mobile.
- Mac System 7.5.5 Can Do Anything Mac OS 7.6.1 Can, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2007.06.04. Yes, it is possible to run Internet Explorer 5.1.7 and SoundJam with System 7.5.5. You just need to have all the updates – and make one modification for SoundJam.
- The Truth About CRTs and Shock Danger, Tom Lee, Online Tech Journal, 2007.05.22. You’ve been warned that CRT voltage can injure and even kill. The truth is that this danger is overstated – and takes attention away from a greater danger.
- Format Any Drive for Older Macs with Patched Apple Tools, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2007.04.25. Apple HD SC Setup and Drive Setup only work with Apple branded hard drives – until you apply the patches linked to this article.
- Making floppies and CDs for older Macs using modern Macs, Windows, and Linux PCs, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2007.03.15. Older Macs use HFS floppies and CDs. Here are the free resources you’ll need to write floppies or CDs for vintage Macs using your modern computer.
- The First Expandable Macs: Mac II and SE, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2007.03.02. Until March 2, 1987, Macs were closed boxes with no internal expansion slots, no support for color, and no internal hard drives. The Mac II and SE changed all that.
- The legendary Apple Extended Keyboard, Tommy Thomas, Welcome to Macintosh, 2006.10.13. Introduced in 1987, this extended keyboard was well designed and very solidly built. It remains a favorite of long-time Mac users.
- Jag’s House, where older Macs still rock, Tommy Thomas, Welcome to Macintosh, 2006.09.25. Over a decade old, Jag’s House is the oldest Mac website supporting classic Macs and remains a great resource for vintage Mac users.
- 30 days of old school computing: Setting up a Mac Classic II, Ted Hodges, Vintage Mac Living, 2006.09.07. Fond memories of using a Classic II in elementary school lead to it being the first Mac set up for a month of vintage, very low-end computing.
- Vintage Macs with System 6 run circles around 3 GHz Windows 2000 PC, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2006.07.06. Which grows faster, hardware speed or software bloat? These benchmarks show vintage Macs let you be productive much more quickly than modern Windows PCs.
- Floppy drive observations: A compleat guide to Mac floppy drives and disk formats, Scott Baret, Online Tech Journal, 2006.06.29. A history of the Mac floppy from the 400K drive in the Mac 128K through the manual-inject 1.4M SuperDrives used in the late 1990s.
- Compact Flash with SCSI Macs, PB 1400 CD-RW upgrade problems, and Web incompatibilities, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Mailbag, 2006.06.16. Suggested ways to use Compact Flash with vintage Macs and PowerBooks, problems getting CD-RW to work with a PowerBook 1400, and more thoughts on website incompatibilities.
- Moving files from your new Mac to your vintage Mac, Paul Brierley, The ‘Book Beat, 2006.06.13. Old Macs use floppies; new ones don’t. Old Macs use AppleTalk; Tiger doesn’t support it. New Macs can burn CDs, but old CD drives can’t always read CD-R. So how do you move the files?
- DOS cards, x86 emulation, Boot Camp, and the future of Windows on Macs, Adam Robert Guha, Apple Archive, 2006.04.07. Macs have had DOS compatibility since 1987, and software emulators followed in a few years. With Boot Camp, Intel Macs can now run Windows XP. Where next?
- System 7.5 and Mac OS 7.6: The beginning and end of an era, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2006.02.15. System 7.5 and Mac OS 7.6 introduced many new features and greater modernity while staying within reach of most early Macintosh models.
- System 7: Bigger, better, more expandable, and a bit slower than System 6, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2006.01.04. The early versions of System 7 provide broader capability for modern tasks than System 6 while still being practical for even the lowliest Macs.
- Web browser tips for the classic Mac OS, Nathan Thompson, Embracing Obsolescence, 2006.01.03. Tips on getting the most out of WaMCom, Mozilla, Internet Explorer, iCab, Opera, and WannaBe using the classic Mac OS.
- The Joy of Six: Apple’s fast, svelte, reliable, and still usable System 6, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2005.12.06. System 6 was small enough to run quickly from an 800K floppy yet powerful enough to support 2 GB partitions, 24-bit video, and the Internet.
- 10 things new classic Mac owners should know, Paul Brierley, The ‘Book Beat, 2005.12.06. New to compact Macs? Ten things you really should know before you get too confused.
- How to set up your own Mac Plus (or later) web server, Joe Rivera, Mac Fallout Shelter, 2005.11.29. All you need is an old Mac Plus with 4 MB of RAM, a hard drive, System 7 or later, some free software, and an Internet connection.
- Which system software is best for my vintage Mac?, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2005.11.22. Which system software works best depends to a great extent on just which Mac you have and how much RAM is installed.
- A Macintosh SE that Uses DSL?, Mark Looper. “…how I have been able to set up my network so that any of my Macs, including the SE with dual 800 kB floppies and no hard drive (but with Ethernet!), can connect to the Internet via DSL, without having to use another Mac (or *shudder* a PC) to handle the PPPoE!”
- Mac SE alive and kicking on Web, Leander Kahney, Wired, 2004.05.19. “…a pair of German Web designers has created a working simulation of Apple Computer’s classic Mac SE on the Web.” Very cool.
- The compact Macs, Matthew Glidden, Profiles in Networking, ATPM, 2002.06. LocalTalk and ethernet networking for compact Macs.
- My emailing Mac Plus, Jeff Garrison. A Mac Plus, a second floppy, a modem, System 6, Eudora Lite – email on the cheap.
- The compact Mac trio: Hardware upgrades, Dan Knight, The Old Gray Mac, 2001.07.31. Hardware upgrades for the Mac Plus, SE, and Classic.
- The compact Mac trio: Hardware overview, Dan Knight, The Old Gray Mac, 2001.07.30. Introduction to and hardware overview of the Mac Plus, SE, and Classic.
- The original Macintosh, Dan Knight, Online Tech Journal, 2001.05.29. An in-depth look at the original Macintosh and how it shaped future Macs.
- Macintosh SE Support Pages, Chris Adams
- Video cards for SE & Classic
- Making a video adjustment tool, Chris Lawson, Mac Daniel, 2000.03.24. Would you believe you can craft one from an old toothbrush?
- Networking a Mac Plus to an iMac, Jag’s House. Key component is a SCSI-ethernet adapter.
- System 6 for the Macintosh, Ruud Dingemans. If you have an older, slower, memory-limited Mac, System 6 is fast, stable, and still very usable.
- Cruising the Web in Black & White, John C. Foster, MacWeek, 1999.10.20 (reposted on Jag’s House)
- Applied Engineering AE HD+ FAQ, Adam Takessian. The ins and outs of Applied Engineering’s 1.4 MB floppy for the 512Ke, Plus, and 800 KB SE.
- Mac SE Upgrade Page, MacSpeedZone
- Transparent SE, a very rare edition
- Faster browsing on older Macs, Online Tech Journal
- Old Macs on the internet, The Web Toolbox
- SE saga, Steve Wood, View from the Classroom
- Email lists: Classic Macs Digest, Vintage Macs
- System6, the email list for those who choose to use System 6.0.x.
- Memory upgrade guide
- Links to System 6.0.8 and 7.0.1
- Review of MicroMac Performer accelerator.
- Mac SE, Obsolete Computer Museum
- Software Compatible with 68000 CPU
- Vectronic’s Macintosh SE FDHD, Vectronic’s Apple World.
- Get your compact Mac on the web with tips from JAG’s House.
- Never connect an Apple II 5.25″ floppy drive to the Mac’s floppy port. Doing so can ruin the floppy controller, meaning you can’t even use the internal drive any longer.
- That monitor packs a lot of voltage. Read Compact Mac CRT Energy before working inside.
- Macs with black-and-white only displays (1-bit, no grays) may find Netscape Navigator 3 makes it impossible to view some pages and sites. The workaround is to use Navigator 2.
- Some early SEs had noisy fans; MacUser (1992.11) recommends replacing them.
- Reliably supports serial speeds to 19.2 kbps, although default is 9600 bps. May have better throughput at 28.8 kbps despite some dropped and retransmitted packets. Throughput with a 56k modem may be limited. See 56k modem page. For more information on Mac serial ports, read Macintosh Serial Throughput.
- Apple discontinued support and parts orders for the Plus on 1998.08.31. You may be able to find dealers with parts inventory either locally or on our parts and service list.
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