Apple Archive

Tales of Mac Woe

- 2001.03.20

Well, I have certainly got a lot of feedback to my article, It Doesn't Get Any Worse. I received much more than I figured I would, which is wonderful. I love reading these stories, and here they are for you to read. I have chosen to leave the names out, since some readers specifically requested this, and I thought it best if I remain consistent and not mention any names.

Anyway, here are the stories. These are all great stories, and thank you to all who contributed them.

One reader writes:

I'm a senior graduate student in a science lab and I've become the lab "computer guru" over the years. I've been owning, fixing, and using computers ever since the days of the Commodore PET and the Apple II, so I have a decent amount of experience in working with computer internals.

When I joined the lab here, I inherited the upkeep of a number of Power Macs and a few Win boxes. Over the years, I've done a lot of upgrading and repair without incident - with one exception. I didn't think anything of it when my boss wanted some more RAM in his Power Mac 9500, so I merrily ordered the chips and went to his office when they arrived. Heck, I had installed memory in nearly every Mac model made. The 9500 couldn't be that bad, right?

How wrong I was.

Getting at the RAM sockets in the 9500 took me a good while and quite a bit of grumbling/cursing. For those who haven't had the pleasure, you nearly have to take the entire machine apart. I installed the new memory, and at this point my boss came back to his office, impatient that he couldn't use his computer yet. So I tried to get the computer back together fairly quickly with him watching over my shoulder.

Startup chime. Good. No video or hard drive activity after that. BAD! That horrible sinking feeling hit me, and I started to take the machine apart again to try and remove the new RAM. Unfortunately, that didn't solve the problem. I was frazzled, and my boss watching the whole ordeal was livid. He ended up telling me to leave it alone, and before I could look at it the next day, he took it to a repair shop where they couldn't make heads or tails of it and ordered a motherboard swap. It's been a few years since this unhappy incident, and I've done a lot of completely successful hardware work since, but I still haven't lived-down the 9500 ordeal.

Happily, the motherboard swap worked for whatever reason, and the 9500 is still plugging away in our lab now with a G3/400 in it. My hunch is that I didn't get everything reseated 100% correctly in my haste (alignment was a bear) or that one of the gazillion questionably designed metal shielding tabs shorted something. I never found out what happened, although I did install the G3 upgrade in the beast and pondered about a design where a CPU is infinitely easier to get to and replace than RAM.

And I've gotta say, that's why I still only have 24 MB of RAM in my 8100.

Another reader writes:

I am Mac technician, though I am new to getting paid to be a Mac techie, I have always been a Mac user. Sometimes you can get in trouble if you think you know what you're doing, but don't check first.

Luckily I have many old and new Macs at home to play with, so I don't break the ones at work. :)

My funniest gaffe is trying to put the PDS ethernet card in my Performa 5200. I figured it'd be easy put it in, not knowing anything about this machine or its specs. I looked online and could not find a take-apart for it, so I just hacked at it. I stayed up all night taking apart everything - every screw, getting the front off, everything to the metal cage which is under the plastic case. I finally went to bed no closer to the motherboard than I was hours before.

The next day at work, my boss laughed and said you just pull this little handle and the motherboard slips out. He showed me on a Performa 5300 and holy crap! I laughed.

In my defense, my intro to Mac techie stuff came with my b/w G3. If everything would be that easy....

I install a lot of RAM at work, and when it came time to install RAM in my own office iMac (rev. A) it took hours. Taking it all apart, figuring out where the RAM goes - what a pain. The new iMacs are so easy! Once you do a few Rev. A it's no problem, but at first, it's crazy how many pieces you need to take apart.

The 5200 series is easier than it looks to take apart. However, nothing beats the new iMacs and the blue G3 and G4 tower for ease of installing RAM.

A reader in Oslo, Norway sent me this story about their Mac Portable.

Here is a story about upgrading an old Portable. It is only the first chapter. And it is not really about grading it up, it is rather a salvage project. But I didn't know then. I put up an ad in the "MacBørsen": Macintosh Portable wanted.

I don't know exactly why I wanted a Portable, but it started when I spotted one briefly some twelve years ago, I think, in the corner of some office at a news interview, a scientist, a prize writer, or was it a prop in some film, I don't know, but it does have something of Dart Wader's suitcase over it, were it only black, not white, could be a streamlined sewing machine. Folded down with the shopping-basket carrying handle it does not reveal it is a portable computer. On the desk, LCD screen folded up, revealing the typewriter style QWERTY keyboard, it says business and science and perhaps a diagnostic tool for a space shuttle. I just needed to have one. I have other Macs. I have a PowerBook 170 in perfect geriatric trim. I have a Power Mac or two. But I wanted a Portable to write on.

So, finally, I got an email from some guy somewhere far away, he had one I could get cheap on the condition I picked it up. Sending it was too expensive. (It is heavy, everybody knows.) But it was 500 kilometers away. So I replied, and offered to pay the postage in addition to 300 kroner. Postage was about 200kr. It was too much altogether (more than $50) but then again, I wanted it. And I knew it was not working, but otherwise in mint condition. And so it was. I picked it up at the post office, prepaid (it is all about trust in that price range), but not more than I could survive happily to loose.

So, first thing (opening the box was no less exciting than with a new machine), I connected the power supply from my PowerBook, I pressed one key on the keyboard, and the thing came to life, I thought, with a glimpse of something and a chime, and strange sqeaming noises. The glimpse was not of a happy Mac but a sad one, and my world fell a little bit to pieces I think. I have handled disk-icons, flashing question marks, and freezes and crashes and bombs galore, but this was sad. Then it all muted and faded out.

I bought a new battery. I call it a Kawasaki motorcycle battery, though it is not. But it is a similar, yet slightly smaller lead-acid sealed battery that fit in the compartment with some wires, and it was willing to provide power. I started and restarted the thing, holding down keys in all the combinations from the book, and a dozen others. Nothing nada njet, other than the sad Mac, the grueling chime and error codes that was not to be found anywhere in the world. It was not only dead, it was trying to communicate me something fro another dimension.

I turned it of. I was sad. Just as sad as the sad Mac. An invention to make the unhappy mac'er even unhappier? What cruel constructor!

I downloaded instruction manuals and repair handbooks from the global community. It gave bleak pleasure now. I tried everything, connected an external disk station, disconnected the hard disk, made special little startup-disks tailored for the Portable in System 7. But no. I had the feeling I was trying CPR on a comatose. I did in vitro autopsy on the thing, disassembled every part after the manual, and surprisingly, it consists of no more parts than any entry-level Fisher-Price toy, and it all snapped back on together in a few seconds, no screws or anything. Cool, I thought. But then, sad Mac and the outlandish chime again. Repair manual says "Replace logic board". That's like saying to the mother of a sick child, "Get another one".

So I have now put up a request for a new Portable-brain, with a small town dealer on the west coast, another 500 kilometers away. A new logic board together with an original carrying case, some replacement ram, an original power supply, and some decade-old pro-writers software. It was on their list. The software, that is. I have not heard anything for two weeks now. They haven't answered my last email with the request for a logic board.

Busy pushing new titanium-books, I guess.

To be continued....

The Mac Portable is probably the fussiest Mac ever made. I have yet to see one that boots to the desktop. Sometimes they work with the PowerBook 100 series AC adapter, sometimes they want an original battery and power adapter, sometimes they just don't work at all.

Here is a story about replacing the video circuitry in an all in one:

How about...

Replaced Analog/video board in a 5400/5500. Neglected to attach anode cap to CRT. Powered up computer. Made very loud not so good snapping sound. Very bad indeed."

When replacing the analogue board in a 5000 series all in one, make sure you attach the anode cap.

I also got some great advice for those who are thinking about installing RAM in a Rev A or B iMacÖ

There's a useful trick to this. Assuming that the iMac is face down when you're putting that logic board back in, reach down under where the CD-ROM tray is supposed to be coming out. Wiggle the front of the tray around a little while you're putting the logic board in place and viola! there you have it. The front cover of the CD-ROM drive tends to get hung up when you're putting the unit back in.

Those old iMacs are still easier to get into that the old PM 8100/Quadra boxes. I still can't get those things back together. :-)

I will be sure to try this when I next upgrade my mom's iMac.

Another reader emailed me with several stories:

We used a Quadra 605 for the family computer until 1998, when my mom purchased a Compaq (I call them Comcraps, but that's just me). She gave me the 605, but the monitor fizzled (it was an Apple Color Plus Display, a model that I particularly like, I even got another and put it on my 8100 last year). I replaced it with a spare PC monitor we had (the PC was a broken 486 so it wasn't getting much use out of the monitor). It required this monitor adapter that stuck out two inches from the back. Well it worked okay for a while. The quality of the VGA was pretty bad and there was this soft blur to everything that got on my nerves. Well, one time I was setting my computer up after taking it on a trip and I plugged in the monitor and adapter etc. and turned the computer around. When I turned it around the monitor adapter and the end of the monitor cable stuck out about four inches and it hit the wall. I had turned it around fast enough to bust the motherboard. Very aggravating. I knew that the motherboard was busted but my mom wanted to go take it into CompUSA and get it checked out. They charged $99 to tell my mom the motherboard was broken. Then they told her it would cost $200 to repair. Needless to say we didn't repair it considering a 605 cost about $149 from certain retailers at the time.

The next horror story was when I was installing a G3 upgrade in my little brothers 6115CD. The damn thing didn't fit. I thought I was going crazy when I looked at the instruction manual and it showed that the processor and heat sink were on the same side as the PDS pass through. But the card I purchased had the processor and heat sink on the opposite side. I took it back to the dealer I purchased it from and had him try his hand at installing it. He ran into the same problem. Apparently this was an older model that didn't work and wasn't supposed to work in the 6100 series. We sent it back to Sonnet and I have yet to hear from my dealer about the replacement. As a matter of fact, I was planning on getting it refunded today because I'm fed up with their inability to get anything done. So much for that upgrade...

The next story that isn't really horrible is my Quadra 700 I purchased online with 20 MB of RAM and a 350 MB HD for $27 including shipping. Well I got it and set it up, there was just one little problem, this used to be a computer used on a university network so it was littered with all kinds of crap. It had OS 8.1, but most of the system was picked clean and there were gobs of AppleScripts which did very bizarre things that I couldn't quite figure out. I would have just reinitialized the HD and started from scratch but I couldn't find my 7.1 floppies. I had to copy AppleTalk files from my LC II to floppies and then install it on my 700. I then networked it to the LC II and copied some files over. I then had the brilliant idea of networking it to my little brother's 6115CD and installing OS 8 from his CD-ROM drive. Does that sound overly complicated? I think so.

My last horror story is my favorite one. This isn't really a Mac story, but I think it's something that anyone would appreciate. My grandfather had given us a 486DX4-100 MHz PC in '96. It was okay. It was the first computer I owned with a CD-ROM drive and it was much faster than my Quadra 605. I loathed the interface and the overall design of it. There was one upgrade option though and that was the 586 upgrade from Evergreen Technologies. We purchased it after we asked the brilliant (sarcasm) clerk if it would work with our system. I went home and installed it. I started up the PC and nothing happened, just this beeping from the PC speaker. Uh-oh. I put the original 486 back and restarted only to hear the same sound and nothing on the display. That's when I professed my extreme dislike with some "colorful metaphors". I called up Evergreen Technologies Technical Support and asked them what was going on. After talking with them for three hours he finally asked me to read him the model of my motherboard. I did. He said that the motherboard was incompatible and that Evergreen claimed no responsibility as stated on some scrap of paper. We were a teensy bit peeved. We went back to Circuit City and they refused to repair it but they did refund the upgrade. Aren't they wonderful people? Now the PC sits next to the couch in my room, it's a really big tower with six 5 inch drive bays and two three inch drive bays. I think it makes a nice stand. I might use the case to install a Mac motherboard because I've heard of ATX conversions but I'm not quite ready to mess with that now without someone to actually help me do it."

Another reader writes with his story about installing RAM in two older Macs:

"RAMMIT! ======= From the files of "A little knowledge is a dangerous (or just potentially annoying) thing":

I remembered reading somewhere that some Macs could accept RAM in nonstandard configurations. After I'd slept awhile that translated, approximately, to Postulate 01. "Any Mac will be happy with any kind of RAM."

So when my Color Classic ("Cee-Cee", for a girl after whom I secretly lusted in high school) balked at a 4 MB SIMM (installed singly or with a 1 MB SIMM) it was, naturally, the SIMM's fault. After all, Cee-Cee worked fine with a pair of 1 MB SIMMs in her twin slots.

Later it occurred to me that an even number of RAM chips were on the motherboards and SIMMs of other Macs. This led to Postulate 02. "Macs don't like odd numbers of RAM chips." The 4 MB SIMM I'd tried in Cee-Cee had nine chips and therefore was unacceptable.

Umm...what about those 3-chip 1 MB SIMMs that worked fine in Cee-Cee? Shuddup. I hadn't postulated that far yet.

Well, when I acquired a Quadra 610 and popped the top to discover that only one of the two RAM slots was filled - yet the 610 worked perfectly - I was forced to reconsider Postulates 1 and 2.

After rereading the requirements for the Color Classic (and pestering Adam via e-mail) and for the Quadra 610 I finally got it. Cee-Cee wants a matched pair of SIMMs. The Quadra 610 doesn't much care: one 4 MB SIMM; one 32 MB SIMM; a pair of 4 MB SIMMs; a pair of 16 MB SIMMs; a 4 MB and a 32 MB SIMM paired up - it was all gravy to the 610.

This led to Postulate 03. "Some Macs are like cats and some are like dogs."

In finicky fashion Cee-Cee now wears a matched pair of nine-chip 4 MB SIMMs to complement her built-in 4 MB, tho' she disdains the last 2 MB, as do several other catlike Macs. Meanwhile my as-yet unnamed Quadra 610, like my scruffy terrier Scraps, gratefully scarfs up whatever I give it. Currently that's a 32 MB and a 4 MB 72-pin SIMM, since I happened to have one of each."

Sometimes installing RAM in different Mac models can get confusing. As this reader has mentioned, the Colour Classic does need paired SIMMs, while the Centris and Quadra 610 don't.

About LEM Support Usage Privacy Contact

Well this is somewhat embarrassing, isn’t it?

It seems we can’t find what you’re looking for. Perhaps searching, or one of the links below, can help.

Most Used Categories


Try looking in the monthly archives. :)

Low End Mac is an independent publication and has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise approved by Apple Inc. Opinions expressed are those of their authors and may not reflect the opinion of Cobweb Publishing. Advice is presented in good faith, but what works for one may not work for all.
  Entire Low End Mac website copyright ©1997-2016 by Cobweb Publishing, Inc. unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. Low End Mac, LowEndMac, and are trademarks of Cobweb Publishing Inc. Apple, the Apple logo, Macintosh, iPad, iPhone, iMac, iPod, MacBook, Mac Pro, and AirPort are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. Additional company and product names may be trademarks or registered trademarks and are hereby acknowledged.
  Please report errors to .
  LINKS: We allow and encourage links to any public page as long as the linked page does not appear within a frame that prevents bookmarking it.
  Email may be published at our discretion unless marked "not for publication"; email addresses will not be published without permission, and we will encrypt them in hopes of avoiding spammers. Letters may be edited for length, context, and to match house style.
  PRIVACY: We don't collect personal information unless you explicitly provide it, and we don't share the information we have with others. For more details, see our Terms of Use.

Follow Low End Mac on Twitter
Join Low End Mac on Facebook

Page not found | Low End Mac

Well this is somewhat embarrassing, isn’t it?

It seems we can’t find what you’re looking for. Perhaps searching, or one of the links below, can help.

Most Used Categories


Try looking in the monthly archives. :)

Page not found | Low End Mac

Well this is somewhat embarrassing, isn’t it?

It seems we can’t find what you’re looking for. Perhaps searching, or one of the links below, can help.

Most Used Categories


Try looking in the monthly archives. :)

Favorite Sites

Cult of Mac
Shrine of Apple
The Mac Observer
Accelerate Your Mac
The Vintage Mac Museum
Deal Brothers
Mac Driver Museum
JAG's House
System 6 Heaven
System 7 Today
the pickle's Low-End Mac FAQ

The iTunes Store
PC Connection Express
Macgo Blu-ray Player
Parallels Desktop for Mac

Low End Mac's store


Well this is somewhat embarrassing, isn’t it?

It seems we can’t find what you’re looking for. Perhaps searching, or one of the links below, can help.

Most Used Categories


Try looking in the monthly archives. :)

at BackBeat Media (646-546-5194). This number is for advertising only.

Open Link