Dec 272015


I didn’t have time to give Santa notice that I’d like one of these in my stocking, but if you are looking for something that a retro-Mac lover will use and love everyday, there’s nothing better than a genuine, original Macintosh mouse updated to work in the 21st century with the latest MacBook, Mac Pro, or iMac!

To truly appreciate the effort Charles Mangin put into this product, you really need to watch the video of his presentation about it. You are sure to gain a new appreciation for the chunky original Mac mouse that shipped with the original 128k model, the 512k, and the original Mac Plus. The M0100 pre-dated ADB (Apple Desktop Bus) and features a DE-9 connector. You can purchase a complete converted original mouse with DE-9 to USB adapter, or if you already have a mouse you can buy a conversion kit.

There’s no better way to ring in 2016 for a retro-Mac fan than breathing new life into a 30+ year old Macintosh mouse!

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

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.

Jun 112010
3 Color Classics - front

3 Color Classics - front

My wife is thrilled when I turn the dining room table into a computer repair workshop. As you can see from the photos above the patients for this day included two Macintosh Color Classics that refused to start up. The Color Classic web server was temporarily taken offline to serve as my “known working” device to test parts from the other two.

One of the two nonworking CC’s was purchased for a song from ebay with a known faulty logic board but everything else was promised to be fine. This proved to be true – installing an LC575 logic board into it produced a healthy startup chime and a clear bright screen when booted from the internal hard drive . Since the system file on the HDD hasn’t been hacked it produced a bus error when trying to load the Finder, but that appears to be a software issue rather than a hardware one.

3 Color Classics - reverse

3 Color Classics - reverse

The second CC is one that previously worked fine and even has a rare Sonnet Presto Plus accelerator card installed. After sliding out the logic board and removing the accelerator card I could see very evident traces of leaking capacitors. I’ve located a working replacement logic board but it’s just a matter of time before it also succumbs to the ravages of time and suffers the same fate, so I guess I will need to brush up on my soldering skills.

Color Classic logic board and Sonnet Presto Plus

Sonnet Presto Plus accelerator and Color Classic logic board

The Color Classic web server is back online and I am still working on getting a spare backup ready to go to pinch hit in case of hardware failure. It is, after all, 17 years old. Back in 1993, when the Color Classic was released, Apple’s annual sales amounted to just under $8B, virtually all of it from sales of 3.3M Macs. In 2009 Apple’s annual sales were $36.5B, from 10.4M Macs, 54M iPods, and 20M iPhones.

Jun 102010

I’ve had a pair of Macintosh Classic II computers awaiting diagnosis and repair for over a year now. Both suffer from the same issue – a checkerboard pattern on the screen that appears on startup and remains. After perusing the helpful forums over at the 68k Macintosh Liberation Army I determined the issue is almost certainly leaking capacitors.

Not long ago I was able to purchase a replacement Classic II logic board for a few dollars on ebay as an unused Apple Service part. I was thrilled that I might get at least one of the Classic II Macs back to health without having to remove and replace a bunch of capacitors with a soldering iron.

Above is a photo of the new and the old logic boards. It’s pretty easy to tell which is which. Sadly, though, the new logic board is not without problems. Although the Classic II now starts up properly there is no sound. I’ve reseated RAM and ROM modules without any change. Another tour through the 68KMLA forums reveals this is a common symptom of, you guessed it – leaking capacitors.

May 062010

My thifty ebay Mac SE purchased arrived recently and I finally found time to unpack it and power it up. I knew from the original auction description that it had an issue of booting to a flashing question mark. I figured that in the best case scenario I’d just have to reinstall the System software on it.

I wasn’t that lucky, unfortunately. When I power it on it sounds like the internal HD is stuck in a constant effort to read the drive and not finding any success. I will post a sound file so you can hear it. After reading the troubleshooting information at Chris Adams’ SE Support pages it fits the description of  drive “stiction” – a term I remember knowing many years ago.

The good news, however, is that the floppy drive works fine and I was able to boot the machine from an old 800k Norton Utilities Emergency Disk and from an older Apple Disk Tools floppy. Neither HDSC Setup, Disk First Aid, or Norton Disk Doctor were able to see or mount the internal HD, although the drive activity indicator on the front of the SE flashes.

So it looks like step 1 will be to replace the internal SCSI hard drive. Step 2 is going to be upgrading the RAM. I have not yet confirmed, but suspect that the RAM is only 1 MB since when I tried to boot from a System 7.5 Disk Tools floppy I got a dialog box that simply said “System 7.5 needs more memory” with no other option but to shut down.

I consulted the Adding RAM section of Chris’ SE Support site and after skimming the instructions discovered that it’s not just a matter of replacing four 256MB SIMMs with four 1 MB modules in the RAM slots. You also have to clip a resistor so that computer knows about the change in memory configuration.  That should make things more interesting!