Dec 162013

Long before there was an internet for us to shop for Christmas gifts there were early Macs, without any built in capability to connect to each other in the same room, much less connect to a computer across the continent.

The Mac Plus is such a computer, and getting it to speak TCP/IP to surf the web is far more of a challenge that you might expect. Read Jeff Keacher’s interesting tale of making his Mac Plus conversant with web sites and you might appreciate your speedy MacBook or iMac a little more.

Check it out: How I introduced a 27-year-old computer to the web

Jeff, I salute you for your relentless pursuit of bring your Mac Plus into 21st century communications just because you can. Now why don’t you put a web server on that Plus and let it show off its capabilities to the rest of the world?

May 132013


This weekend I spent some time attempting to diagnose the symptoms plaguing several of my Classic Macs. One Color Classic refused to start up, displaying the blinking question mark when booted, indicating it could find no operating system. When booted from a Disk Tools floppy disk Disk First Aid saw no hard drive to check, while Drive Setup did see an internal hard drive and tested it successfully, but could not mount it. I decided it was time to boot from a Norton Utilities Emergency Disk and see if it could mount the problematic disk and make the needed repairs.

Although I have at least a dozen Norton Utilities Emergency Disks I could not locate the one needed for this Mac, so I hunted down an image and then spent a couple of hours trying to create a bootable floppy disk from it. That task was not nearly as simple as it sounds, since the disks and drives involved are over a decade old and therefore suspect, and Mountain Lion won’t run Classic apps like Disk Copy. I finally got a disk created on another Color Classic only to find it was unreadable on the one I was working on.

I could have saved myself a LOT of time if I had consulted Low End Mac first and read Creating Classic Mac Boot Floppies in OS X  from 2008 by Paul Brierley that describes how to use an external floppy drive and the Terminal application on a modern Mac to create a floppy disk from an image. I attached my blueberry colored VST external floppy drive via USB cable to my MacBook Pro running Mountain Lion, followed his simple steps, and in about two minutes had a perfectly functional Norton Utilities Emergency Disk to start up the Color Classic.


Dec 242012


Chances are you don’t have a Mac SE or PowerBook 100 on your Christmas wish list, but you can still show your love for classic Macs with miniature paper decorations shaped like the forefathers of today’s sleek and shiny Apple products.

While the newest Macs aren’t available you can liven up your fir tree with bright candy colored iMacs or beige compact Macs like the Plus and SE using these templates:

A nod of recognition to the author of the very first Mac ornament, Janis Chevalier, who distributed her Macintosh ornament as a .gif file (see above) via CompuServe (a dial-up predecessor to the internet) way back in 1986. I remember printing and folding one of these to decorate my cube when I was working at Apple in the early 1990’s.

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

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.