You Can Still Be Productive with the 20-Year-Old Mac Plus

2006 – January 16th marks the 20th anniversary of the Mac Plus, the first Mac with a SCSI port, LocalTalk networking, and several other things. It’s hard to believe this machine is 20 years old – the one I use still works fine, and at times I almost find myself using it more than my newer “compact Macs”.

Macintosh Plus

I guess other people must have felt the same way about it, because the Plus was one of the longest-lived Macs ever. It was introduced in January 1986 and discontinued in October 1990. It even had a minor role in Star Trek midway through it’s life.

There were several reasons the Mac Plus was superior to the original Macintosh, expandability being one of them. I’m guessing this had something to do with Steve Jobs leaving the company. He never liked the idea of people messing around inside their computers. He also wanted people to buy a new Mac instead of upgrading their old one.

This shows with the original Macintosh. You needed a special tool to get inside, and once you were inside there really wasn’t a lot you could do in terms of upgrades. The Mac Plus fixed this problem.

The Mac Plus had double the ROM of the Macintosh 512K, and it also doubled it’s base RAM to 1 MB. It was expandable beyond that, up to 4 MB. That doesn’t sound like much now, but in the early days of computing when software was smaller and wasn’t as demanding, it was an adequate amount for most people.

Another great part of the new Macintosh Plus was the introduction of the SCSI port. This allowed for a large variety of external peripherals to be connected, such as hard drives, scanners, printers, and a lot of other stuff. Adopting the SCSI port was one of Apple’s greatest innovations – we saw it on just about every Mac until 1998, when the original iMac was introduced.

The Mac Plus is certainly old, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be productive with one. They’re fairly easy to find – I see them all the time at places like thrift stores and computer recycling centers. They’re inexpensive, too. At the moving sale for our computer recycler, they had about five Mac Pluses that were priced at $1 each!

Once you get the computer, you should either make some boot disks or get an external hard drive. I prefer a hard drive – it’s faster, and you can still use the internal floppy drive if you don’t have a second external one.

There are all sorts of great uses for old Macs like the Plus. Many people use them as word processors. Some even hook them up to the Internet and do “text only” browsing with them. A great website to go for resources about this is Jag’s House.

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