Sep 162012
 

For over a decade Dan Knight over at Low End Mac has been publishing useful information to help people get the most from their older Macs. For as long as I can remember it’s been a “go-to” site  for looking up specs, advice, recommendations, and those vital tips save hours of time when I begin a restoration project or ponder how to approach one. The Low End Mac sponsored LEM Swap mail group is invaluable for finding scarce parts  and meeting fellow collectors of vintage Mac gear.

For anyone who shares a love for older Macs, LEM is a vital resource that we’ve come to rely on and take for granted. Recently Dan posted a gentle plea on his site for donations which I hope you’ll take a moment to read and consider. The information he archives and shares for us is invaluable; please help keep it alive!

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Feb 072012
 

I bought my first Macintosh from the Texas Union Microcenter on one of my last days as a student before graduating from the University of Texas. Recently I came across some price lists from March of 1988 with the prices for Macs and related hardware and software, no doubt brought away from one of my many browsing visits as I dreamed about having a computer of my own instead of having to trek over to the college labs to use their Macs and print to the shared laserwriters.

If you were in the market for a Mac back then the prices may not astound you.  For the rest, well now you’ll understand why I had to take out a loan from University Federal Credit Union to bring home my first Mac SE with two 800K floppy drives, an external Jasmine 20MB hard drive, 2400 baud Practical Peripherals modem, ImageWriter II, surge protector, and box of form-feed paper.

UT Microcenter Mac prices, 1988, page 1

UT Microcenter Mac prices, 1988, page 2

UT Microcenter AppleCare prices, 1988

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Dec 172011
 

For lovers of Apple products both old and new, there is a new web site with beautiful photos and videos for you to enjoy. Created by Jonathan Zufi of Atlanta, the Shrine of Apple exists to “…  showcase the entire spectrum of products that Apple have sold to the public since 1976 – every product Apple Inc has ever produced, in the highest quality and definition possible.”  These are not the same PR pictures you’ve seen for years on dozens of different web sites – they are original, capturing every detail and nuance, and the quality is top notch. Check out their profile of the PowerBook 100 to see for yourself.

Take a moment to check out the Shrine. It’s just starting out so the collection is far from complete but it will be fun watching the site grow to include more and more Apple products. I am especially eager to see a System 7 retail box and its contents added since my first job at Apple was as a System 7 support specialist.

 

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Sep 072011
 


Recently I was asked for advice on how to troubleshoot a Color Classic that won’t power on.

There are a lot of great troubleshooting resources across the internet that address this topic with helpful advice. This post isn’t meant to replace them but simply to consolidate the recommendations I’ve found helpful in the past. Hopefully it will help you get your CC up and running!

1. First verify you are using a known good power outlet and cable. Remove any surge protectors or power strips as well as any external peripherals from the CC like attached hard drives, printers, or modems.

2. Be certain the power switch on the back of the computer is in the ON position (top part is pressed in). Make sure the keyboard is attached and firmly press the power button on the keyboard.

3. Reset PRAM (hold down command-option-P-R while pressing the power button, continue holding these keys down until the computer chimes at least 3 times, then release).

4. Unplug the power cable from the CC. Remove the logic board by taking out the two retaining screws on the back panel, then pressing on the tab at the top and pulling the panel out. Grasp the logic board firmly on each side and pull out directly.

a. Use canned air to blow dust accumulation from the logic board if necessary. Avoid the temptation to vacuum it since the static electricity can ruin the logic board.
b. Clean the contacts at the front edge with a cotton swab moistened with isopropyl alcohol.
c. Clean the socket inside the CC the logic board slides into with a cotton swab moistened with isopropyl  alcohol.
d. Remove the memory SIMMs (and if present, the VRAM) and clean the contacts with a cotton swab moistened with isopropyl  alcohol. Carefully reinsert them and be certain they snap securely into their upright position.
e. Press the CUDA switch briefly on the logic board (the tiny button near the ADB ports) and release.
f. Reseat the logic board by sliding it in and making sure it snaps securely into place. Remove and reinsert it a few times to help insure a clean connection.

Plug in the CC and see if it starts up.

5. If the CC still won’t start up unplug the power cord, remove the logic board and take out the 3V.6 battery on the logic board. Reinsert the logic board, reattach the power cable, and try again.
6. Sometimes the CC needs at least 24 hours with power attached and the switch on the back in the ON position before it will revive.

Still no joy? Remove the logic board and inspect it for traces of leakage around the capacitors (dark areas). If you see evidence of leakage if may be shorting the trace connections on the logic board. Believe it or not, a trip through the dishwasher is recommended for this. I won’t be the one to guide you down that road, though, I’ll leave it to those who have done it. See these great forums for assistance:

Good luck and feel free to post comments and results below with your experiences troubleshooting the Color Classic.

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Jun 112010
 

PowerBook 180c from the UK

The PowerBook 180c was Apple’s first PowerBook with an active matrix screen capable of displaying 256 colors. Introduced in June of 1993  it cost $1K more than it’s monochrome counterpart, the PowerBook 180. As lowendmac notes, the gorgeous display had took a heavy toll on the Ni-Cad battery, reducing it’s usage to about an hour before requiring recharging.

When I worked at Motorola I was loaned a 180c by Apple for a month or so, and loved it. I quickly realized that I needed to always carry a power adapter and find the chair close to power outlets in the meeting rooms. Recently I acquired a “working” 180c from an ebay auction, and after it’s transatlantic trip from the UK I set about testing it.

My first discovery was that it didn’t arrive with a power adapter (should have read that auction description a little closer). My second discovery was that the battery hadn’t been removed from the computer in at least a decade. When I was finally able to pry it carefully out I found a blue crystalline substance in the battery bay and on the outside of the battery terminals where the electrolyte has leaked out and hardened. When I opened the port cover on the back of the computer I discovered the same substance had leaked through the port openings.

leaking PowerBook battery

Leaking PowerBook battery electrolyte damage

After removing the battery I attempted to start up the PowerBook using a PowerBook 170 adapter I had on hand, and was pleased to hear a startup chime. My thrill was short-lived however, since the computer refused to proceed any farther, just repeatedly sounding a startup chime. A quick search of the internet revealed that this is a common symptom when you try to use a power adapter not intended for the 180c. The 180c needs a 24 watt adapter (model  M5652 or M4462). Fortunately I was able to locate an inexpensive original 24 watt adapter from retrotechnology.com.

Once I had the proper adapter I started up the PowerBook and it proceeded to a happy Mac screen and loaded the finder with just one issue – the top quarter of the screen isn’t illuminated. Bending the display forwards flickers it on, so I am hopeful the issue can by adjusting or replacing the internal display cable that is prone to being pinched.

It looks like the 180c will be more of a project than I anticipated. A full take-apart is needed to remove the crystallized remnants of  electrolyte in the battery bay, inside the bottom case,  on the logic board, and the rear ports. Ni-cad battery electrolyte is potassium hydroxide, and recommended cleaning solutions I’ve seen include baking soda, vinegar, and coke. Further research indicates that the blue color of the substance I found indicates that it’s copper sulphate and the recommended cleaning solution is hydrogen peroxide.

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