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Beginners Guide to the Vintage Macintosh

10,932 bytes added, 15:20, 10 September 2019
This will be a simple guide with tips on how to work with vintage Macintosh computers. The focus of this guide will be Macintosh models of the 1980s and 1990s.
=Getting Started=
* Early compact Macs which don't have an internal fan for cooling (128K/512K/Plus) may overheat if used for long periods of time. A third party "system saver" fan device is a recommended accessory.
===Do I Need A Hard Disk?===For those of you looking to get into an early compact Macintosh such as a 128K/512K/Plus, these models did not offer factory internal hard disks. The [[Macintosh Plus]] and all models after it provide external [[SCSI]] for hard disk support, but do you actually need one? On a vintage Mac with no hard disk and a single floppy disk drive, you must either fit all your applications and documents onto the same disk as your system software or you will need to swap disks (often numerous times) when you decide to run other applications. You are able to eject the system disk from the Macintosh and still keep the computer running, but it will prompt you for the disk any time it needs to load system data. To make your life easier, there are some options: # Find a second floppy disk drive. This was a more common solution for 128K/512K users as these Macs did feature a port for adding another floppy disk drive. This means you can keep your system disk in one drive at all times. Some models such as the [[Macintosh SE]] and [[Macintosh LC]] were available from the factory with two floppy disk drives.# Use a RAM disk for your system folder. It is possible to boot your Mac off a floppy disk which then creates a temporary system drive out of available RAM. This removes the need for keeping the system disk in the drive, but as it uses system RAM this will likely not be a viable option unless you have more than 1MB memory.# Use the BMOW Floppy Emu. This is a modern accessory for vintage Macintosh hobbyists which connects an SD card into the Macintosh floppy disk port. This is an alternative for systems which did not come with SCSI, but this product can also be used on any vintage Macintosh with a floppy disk interface.# Use ROM booting. While the [[Macintosh Classic]] is the only Macintosh to actually offer ROM booting, systems with a ROM socket can use a product called the ROM-inator II. These include a small System 7.1 folder among other benefits such as making the Macintosh 32-bit clean. This is more of a "for fun" gimmick as you can't make changes to the system folder. ===The 32-bit Clean Macintosh===What does this mean? The early Macintosh CPUs were 32-bit but used 24 physical address lines which limited the amount of memory which could be addressed by the system. This began to cause problems for systems which could physically hold more than 8MB RAM, but the operating system wouldn't properly address this space. The System 6 software cannot deal with memory amounts greater than 8MB, but System 7 would ship as being 32-bit clean. Unfortunately there were still "dirty" ROMs which still did 24-bit addressing during the boot process, requiring a third party utility called MODE32 to force 32-bit addressing during boot. Macintosh models prior to the IIci are generally known as being "32-bit dirty" models. If you intend on running [[Mac OS 7.6]], you will need a 32-bit clean Macintosh. ===Do I Need A "Tweener" Mac?===If you don't already own a vintage Macintosh computer, you may want to consider a model which offers some modern conveniences such as Ethernet plus a CD-ROM drive and a floppy disk drive. This sort of vintage Macintosh can help act as a bridge for working with much older systems. For example, only another Macintosh computer can write to the 800kb double-density floppy disks used in earlier compact Macs. Apple used a sort of variable speed design which is not compatible with PC drives, so you'd need to already have the proper software disks to use an early compact Macintosh as your only vintage Macintosh. Vintage Macintosh models with high-density floppy drives and are running System 7.x with PC Exchange can read DOS formatted disks. You won't find floppy drives on modern PCs but a USB floppy drive will work for transferring files. ==Buying a A Vintage Macintosh==
===Things You Need To Know===
* The original hard disks in older Macintosh computers may still work but will generally have horrible bearing noise. SCSI hard disks in good running condition are hard to find now, and with age they will only get worse. Don't spend too much time trying to find a working hard disk unless you really want the vintage sound of spinning disk. Options such as the [[SCSI2SD]] are far easier to deal with.
===Where to find To Find Macs===
* '''eBay''' - While online auction sites such as eBay will give you the best selection, eBay sellers are known for inflated prices far beyond actual market value. Impulse buying on eBay may cost you more than a system is worth, and you should instead spend some time researching previous sold prices to get an idea of the going rate. You may still find used Macs for cheaper elsewhere depending on your geographical region.
* '''Flea markets''' - You might be able to get some great deals at a flea market, or you might find nothing at all.
* '''Vintage Mac communities''' - A great place to buy and sell vintage Macintosh systems is the forum at Other sites to check include Applefritter and VCFED. As of 2019 there are also numerous Discord servers dedicated to vintage computing and you may find other people to conduct deals with.
===Bought a vintage A Vintage Mac... Now whatWhat?===
Here's a quick checklist of things you may want to do to help get you set up with a vintage Macintosh.
# Clean and re-cap the logic board. If you don't care about keeping the exact factory look, tantalum capacitors make good replacements for the original SMDs.
# Retr0bright the case if the original color has since been replaced with a brown color from UV damage. If you like to display your vintage Mac collection, having them back at the original color is probably appealing.
=Using a A Vintage Macintosh=
Once you have your hardware up and running, you'll probably want to get your operating system set up and some applications or games loaded.
===Hotline/KDX Servers===
The [[Hotline Client (Softwaresoftware)]] will run on any Macintosh with minimum OS of 7.1 and [[Open Transport]]. The client software can be found at
* - This is the Hotline/KDX server run by and features a large collection of vintage Macintosh software.
* If the disk image file extension is ".dmg" this is for Mac OS X based computers, not classic Mac OS.
* If you have a disk image which DiskCopy will not read, the file's owner and type codes may not be correct. This may happen to files copied from other platforms without being compressed inside a .bin/.sit/.hqx container. ResEdit can be used to set these attributes (match them with a working disk image file).
=Upgrading A Vintage Macintosh=
While your Mac may function just fine in stock factory form, there are numerous ways to improve the performance or usability. Certain upgrades may have come with high cost back when these systems were new but can be found for very cheap these days. Other upgrades may have become even harder to find, with one of the most expensive third-party upgrades being the [[Micron Xceed Color 30]].
==Understanding Internal Expansion==
The first vintage Macintosh to offer internal expansion is the [[Macintosh SE]], but earlier models did have third-party upgrades available via direct board attachments (not really factory supported). To expand the [[Macintosh SE]], you want to find "SE PDS" cards. This is also different from "SE/30 PDS" as the cards sit at a much different angle inside the case. The [[Macintosh IIsi]] also shares the same PDS as the SE/30, but it is important to note that some SE/30 cards may not work in the IIsi due to the bus speed difference (16MHz vs. 20MHz). Yet another type of PDS is the LC PDS found in the LC models, and even these have differences between them as the slot size was extended in the [[Macintosh LC III]] likely from the new 32-bit bus. Existing LC PDS cards will still work fine, but PDS cards specifically for the LC III and up will not work in the LC or LC II.
[[NuBus]] was more of the "standard" method of expansion starting with the [[Macintosh II]] and continuing up until the first Power Macintosh systems prior to the switch to PCI. Most of the Macintosh II line offered direct NuBus expansion, though in the case of the [[Macintosh IIsi]] you needed to use an adapter. You could typically find any type of expansion available for NuBus such as networking, video cards, sound cards, PC compatibility, specialized industrial applications, etc.
[[PCI]] came along in the Power Macintosh models such as the 7200/7500/7600, 8500/8600, 9500/9600. Some types of PCI cards such as video cards require a special Macintosh compatible firmware in order to work, but any Ethernet cards should work assuming the vendor released a Macintosh driver for it.
There are some "custom" types of expansion slots found in a few different vintage Macintosh models. In the [[Macintosh IIci]], a cache slot was available for a 32kb cache upgrade available from Apple. Third party vendors also released CPU accelerators for this slot. In the [[Macintosh Quadra 700]], an "040 PDS" option allowed for Power Macintosh upgrade cards. The first Power Macintosh models also offered a type of PDS in addition to being [[NuBus]] based, though in the 6100 you could only physically fit one card so it was either PDS or NuBus. In the 7100 and 8100, PDS was generally used for the video card.
See our page [[List of expansion cards for Macintosh]] for an idea of available expansion options.
==Most Common Upgrades==
It costs far less money these days to bring your vintage Macintosh to the maximum RAM capacity (may not fully apply to systems with rare memory such as the [[Macintosh IIfx]]). Memory upgrades at one point may have cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars, but now it may cost you $20-50 for enough RAM to completely fill the system. eBay seems like a safe bet for buying RAM upgrades for your Mac, and some eBay sellers will even specify which vintage Mac models the RAM is compatible with. Make sure you're aware of memory speed, FPM, parity, voltage requirements. 30-pin and 72-pin is fairly straightforward but there are some models such as the [[Power Macintosh 4400]] which use 168-pin 3.3V EDO DIMMs. These aren't the same as 168-pin SDRAM which is far more common.
Home users in the 1980s and 1990s were more likely to use a modem instead of Ethernet in the home, but these days having your vintage Mac on a home network makes it easier to download software. As many vintage Mac models either featured no internal expansion or only one expansion slot, getting Ethernet on your Mac may limit your other expansion options.
* For LC models, the LC PDS Ethernet card is fairly easy to find and shouldn't be too expensive. You may also want to find a card with a math co-processor socket as you can find cheap Motorola FPUs online.
* For models which offer the Apple Comm Slot on the board, finding a compatible Ethernet card for this slot will keep your primary NuBus/PDS/PCI expansion available for other upgrades.
* For models without an available expansion slot, there are external options such as a SCSI to Ethernet adapter or the AsanteTalk which bridges the Apple serial port to Ethernet.
* Models with the AAUI port just require a transceiver to connect to 10BaseT, and these are typically easy to find.
One thing to keep in mind on modern networks is compatibility with 10Mbit network adapters as most Ethernet solutions prior to PCI will be 10Mbit only, not 10/100Mbit. Some newer network switches may no longer negotiate Ethernet at 10Mbit.
On systems with limited expansion slots, upgrading the onboard Apple video memory might be a better option than using a separate video card. VRAM expansion can be done on a number of the LC and Quadra/Centris models. Performing this upgrade is mostly just replacing stock 256kb VRAM SIMMs with 512kb SIMMs. This upgrade will let your display support more colors at higher resolutions. 512kb VRAM SIMMs are still available on the used market but will be a bit harder to find these days.
The HPV display cards for the PowerPC PDS also feature expandable VRAM.
Depending on what you hope to get out of your vintage Macintosh experience, you might like to find an older chassis and perform a CPU upgrade allowing you to run newer software. The used market for CPU upgrades varies quite a bit and you may be looking at $200+ for the rarer upgrades. In systems with limited expansion such as LC models, you'll also lose the ability to use other important internal upgrades such as Ethernet. Most of the PCI based Power Macintosh systems used CPU daughtercards giving you very easy upgrade options. Other upgrades were even available for the L2 cache slot on fixed-CPU systems.
For hobbyists experienced with electronics repair, performing overclock on the logic board by replacing the crystal oscillator with one running on a higher frequency is an option but you may not want to lose the "authentic" feel of the hardware. This may also cause incompatibilities with other components such as internal video or the serial ports.
For some systems, adding a math co-processor is a simple upgrade but not something you may ever really need to do. These would have cost more significant money back when these systems were released, but now you can find Motorola MC68881/MC68882 co-processors on the used market for a few dollars. If you've got a vintage 68k Macintosh with an FPU socket, might as well drop one in. For LC/Centris 040 systems, you can add FPU support by replacing the original [[Motorola 68LC040]] CPU with the full [[Motorola 68040]].

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