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Win16fan

To bother with a '90s Mac again or not...

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Hello,

 

I've always been interested in old Mac computers ever since I saw some at my school back in the late '90s/early '00s. I bought a Powerbook 100 some time ago, but didn't have good luck with it, but I want to try again with another Mac. I'm excluding the black and white models because I think the color display Macs have more software and I think I'll stick to the laptop lines for now. Basically, I'll use it for messing around: gaming, creative software along the lines of photoshop, that sort of thing. I don't have any specific software or specs in mind, except for color display and ability to use both floppy and CD (doesn't have to be at the same time, floppy/cd can be separate units). For OS, I'm thinking OS 7-9 since X seems too modern for what I'm picturing and 6 and older is black and white era. Is it a good idea to buy a '90s Mac or should I look elsewhere for my old computer fix? The only old computers I've owned have been PCs.

 

Thanks in advance.

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Yes you should. There is an immense amount of knowledge, parts and software avalible all over the internet and sometimes locally. Some stuff can be quite pricey but in my experience the newer the machine the cheaper it is.

I have a Performa 460 from 1991 or 1992 that i got from a relative aeons ago as a kid after she moved to newer hardware, and i have managed to keep it going with the rather impressive amount of software and hardware to be found quite easily. Of course some stuff is starting to get really rare but there is always someone-who-knows-someone with a stash of stuff in the Mac community.

I'd say you give it a shot. It's fun.

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Forgot to mention it runs Mac OS 7.1P and can be pushed up to 7.6.1 with some work. Main limitation is that it lacks internal CD drive but i run discs from a humongous external 1 or 2x drive with SCSI-connection, it even uses a CD caddy!

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if you want to, I enjoy mine quite a bit, there's a few things to consider about a "90's" mac

 

68k vs power pc, course 68k was what the mac started with somewhere around 1995 they started moving over to PPC, 68k is more like a 286/386/486 era of computing, power pc's range from pentium 1 to pentium 3 power, so are you interested in lemmings or quake 3 (and to be fair around the time of transition there were a lot of programs that used "fat" binaries where they could run on both)

 

whenever you see one, unless its stupid cheap like the 99 cents I paid for my LC2 look it up on google and check its specs, like for a 68K machine, is it at least a 68030 CPU running at 25Mhz, does it have a FPU, which is ideal but not a deal breaker, is there anything funky like "cannot address more than ... megs of memory" or "does not have clean roms"

 

all macintosh models before the blue and white G3 will have a funky macintosh video port unless someone added a 3rd party card, while you can make a cable or buy an adapter to hook it up to a standard VGA monitor, most LCD's I have tried made within the last decade will not work with it, its not quite real vga, so you will need to have a LCD that will handle it, a CRT, or most VGA ports on TV's will take it from what I tried

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I own several old Macs. It is impressive how much they got right all those years ago.

 

That said, many old Macs suffer from capacitor problems. I've had a lot die on me, grew tired of performing repairs, and trimmed my collection.

 

Most of my "classic Mac" use is now satisfied via emulation. I have the following running on my laptop:

  • Mini vMac with System 6.0.8 and software
  • Basillisk II with System 7.5.5 and software
  • Sheepshaver with Mac OS 9 and software

I tried some OS X emulation but wasn't satisfied with the results. Instead I have a couple of PowerPC and Intel Macs setup running older versions of OS X in the office that can also be accessed over the network via VNC Remote Access.

 

Whether with emulation or real hardware, old Macs are definitely fun :)

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Own a Performa 637CD that I love. iMac G3 as well but that I am not as nostalgic for as the 68k system. Start here:

 

 

http://www.emaculation.com/doku.php

http://macintoshgarden.org

 

Emaculation has all the guides you need to configure the relevant emulator for the system you are interested in on your computer. Macintosh Garden has every bit of software you might ever need. I prefer to emulate the Performa on my current Mac as it works about the same and solves the issue of getting software from a modern system to a 68k system. If I feel like using my old Apple Extended Keyboard, I do have one of these

 

http://www.amazon.com/Griffin-2001-ADB-iMate-Universal-adapter/dp/B000067V8L

 

They're really pricey though, I didn't buy one until I got a good deal on eBay. I do want to get this at some point

 

http://www.bigmessowires.com/floppy-emu/

 

but I've not actually bothered to pick it up.

 

There are only two things that suck about getting into 68k era Macs.

 

1. You can't be to picky about what model you get. It took me forever to get my hands on the 637CD, I finally did a deal with a forum user here (Ed From SoDak, who I haven't seen in a bit) after mentioning I was looking for one. There are usually some 68k machines available but which ones you can find are not consistent.

 

2. Monitors, if they can be found, are very expensive to ship. You can get an adapter that lets you hook modern VGA into a 68k Mac easily enough (I can plug in my 23.5'' 1080p Samsung LED from 2013 and it works!) but if you want a period specific display, be prepared to spend. Often the monitors are not available individually and only with expensive packages.

 

Remember that Macs in the early 90s used different types of floppies from the standard 1.4 MB diskette on PCs. The floppies are not very common (save for people selling software) and cannot be written on a modern system with a USB floppy disc. AFAIK the earliest Mac to support USB is the iMac G3.

 

These things are useful for more than just games too. Lots of period specific productivity software runs great on them and hasn't changed all that much in 20 years. By the mid 90s they had the GUI-driven word processor perfected. New word processors might have more functionality as far as including artwork, unusual layouts, etc. but the most common kind of paperwork can easily be handled by any system from the early 90s+ with a decent word processor. I use Corel WordPerfect 3.5e. It was made free by Corel and was available from them for a long time. But you can easily find old versions of MS Office, etc. on Macintosh Garden as well. Really, why buy a new $100 Office package when this stuff works just as well?

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Remember that Macs in the early 90s used different types of floppies from the standard 1.4 MB diskette on PCs. The floppies are not very common (save for people selling software) and cannot be written on a modern system with a USB floppy disc. AFAIK the earliest Mac to support USB is the iMac G3.

 

 

The actual floppy disks were standard double-density double-sided. They stored 800K though because of the encoding technique, most notably, the speed of the drive changed depending on where the head was, allowing more data to be stored. If you listen to the drive when you format it, you'll hear the speed change.

 

So, it's not that the floppies are different, it's the mechanism that is and can't be read/written to with modern drives. Now, at one time, I know I had a way of creating a 720K HFS floppy that could be read with a Mac emulator on my Atari ST and by a regular Mac. For the life of me, I can't remember how I accomplished this. Maybe I formatted it on my ST under the Mac?

 

Oh, and don't try to use HD disks in a DD drive, it will sort of work, but not very well and you will lose files.

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In regards to the floppy disks.... any 90's vintage Mac would have the Superdrive and use high density 3.5" floppies by default. Only the Mac II and earlier build SEs and older are stuck with the 800k drives.

 

I've always been tempted by vintage Macs and every now and then check out eBay or Craigslist to find something. But I have neither the space nor the time for one. If it were me I'd be inclined to find a Classic or preferably a Classic II. I have a fondness for the original form factor and the Classics are probably the least collectable of them at this point. Though I think when I asked this question several years back somebody made a compelling argument for looking at a G3 iMac. As long as it is not the original Bondi Blue model they are plentiful and cheap.

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Disk imaging is pretty well supported under MacOS. All you really need is a disk with zterm, Disk Copy, and ResEdit, and you can just send images over serial and mount them as if they were real floppies. The trick is creating that disk if you don't already have the software.

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Thanks all for your replies. I've done a lot of research between 68k vs PPC and decided to side with PPC and ended up buying a Powerbook G3 on ebay. Finding old Apple stuff locally is pretty rare in my area (the PB 100 is the second time in my life that I've seen an old Apple computer for sale locally. I bought it at a flea market that's only open in the summer. That same flea market had a Mac Classic for sale in '08/'09.). I decided on the PB G3 because while it is kind of "modern" it still has the old rainbow Apple logo under the screen, which makes it feel more vintage than the iMac or iBook. I don't think it has a floppy drive, but one could be added. I'll post in this topic again when I actually get to play with this thing.

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Well folks, I got the laptop yesterday and have been using it for 2 days. It works quite well and came with a floppy drive after all. The MAC can read my PC formatted floppies as well as the MAC formatted ones from my PB 100. The CD-ROM drive worked great too and the laptop has some cool design software that I love like Photoshop and Illustrator. There's only 2 complaints I have about it:

 

1: The mouse. It's a one-button touchpad and trying to draw things in Illustrator with it is kind of a pain. I remember having similar frustration when I used my Toshiba's in-built touchpad mouse with Photoshop Elements 11. I use a USB desktop-style mouse with it now and drawing is a lot easier. I think I'll need to get a desktop adb mouse for my PB G3, preferably one with 2 buttons.

 

2: The display. Due to the old LCD it uses, the cursor leaves a trail on the screen and games have quite a bit of motion blur. It's not too bad for productivity software, but it's annoying in some games. There's a VGA out on this laptop, so I guess I'll have to get a VGA cable and converter box in addition to my adb desktop mouse.

 

Overall, it's a nice machine and I like classic MAC OS 8.1, but it's not perfect.

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There's a site called Low End Mac that will help you with all the old world problems these things have.

 

I was a big fan of the Classic OS, thought PowerPC was OK, but have moved on now. The limitations of the old OS and hardware are too much for me to bear. Wireless networking on something like that will be 11mbps 802.11b at best. Storage will be slow and small. A music collection is out of the question, forget about video. You've discovered the limitations of those old LCD screens.

 

One can get a brand new, bright blue or purple HP Stream that runs a nice GUI OS and has CPU, networking, and storage the old Powerbooks never could. I can run SheepShaver and Basilisk on this and lots of other things. Best of both worlds, old and new.

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Yes! I love 68K Macs! I've had, well... too many of them to count, but...

 

On the floppy issue, I have something unrelated that you may need to think about. If you are going to be using a lot of older disks (like if you inherited someone's old library or something to that effect) and have a Superdrive (the 1.44MB DSHD 3.5"), you will probably want to grab a DSDD 880K drive as well, or at least borrow one until you have backed up all of the disks onto more modern media. Superdrives sometimes spat older disks out (especially MFS-formatted), so you needed an older drive to read them properly. It doesn't happen often, but it can be frustrating when it does.

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I have a few 68k macs - SE/30, SE, Classic II. .. I love the things, they are a lot of fun. 68kmla.org is an excellent resource and a very active community if you are planning on diving in.

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Here's an update in case anyone is interested:

 

I've maxed out the RAM to 512 MB. Unfortunately, I bent the heat shield in the process. There are two parts to it, a small metal square covering only the processor and a large metal rectangle that covers both the small square and the rest of the internal components (except for the hard drive). The small part is attached to the larger part and has its own screw that holds down both it and the larger heat shield to the computer. This screw was either stripped when I got it or was starting to strip and I made it worse. Both screws (1 for the large part and 1 for the small) have to be removed in order to remove both parts of the heat shield properly. I had to take the heat shield off twice. The first time it came off and came back on nicely, but I didn't put the RAM in correctly so I needed to get back in the computer. I got the screw off for the large metal shield just fine, but the one for the small shield was stripped, so I had to use force to remove the large heat shield, which worked but I bent the heat shield in the process. The small shield remained attached and screwed in. I reseated the RAM and put the large heat shield back on, but because it was bent it wasn't even when I put it back (I tried to bend it back the best I could before re-inserting it). The keyboard sticks up a little on its left side because of this.

 

The computer works fine though. I ended up doing a clean install of OS 9.2, which means I lost all the old apps, but oh well I can always get them from Amazon. I did an upgrade install of OS 9 before this and it ran sluggishly, but the clean install runs much more quickly. I hooked up the computer to the VGA input on a TV and it looked much better than the laptop's own display.

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This is relevant to my interests. I have enough new toys to be getting on with lately but I do want to get a 68k Quadra someday. That and a pre-iMac PowerPC.

 

I got a clamshell iBook G3 recently but having trouble sourcing a working power supply. The Yoyo has died (at least, I think that's what's died!)

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The only Mac I own is one of the G3s in teal. It's fun to play on from time to time. And until about two weeks ago had a permanent place on my Vintage desk. However, it got packed up since I'm moving. I'll be honest, I don't mess with it much. I've always been a PC guy. But it's fun to show off. If I had an older model, I imagine it would get more use.

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I just moved and yea the Mac is in the garage, and with everything else it's going to stay there for a while lol

 

Im more of a PC guy but I like my 68k Mac for dos era games as they tend to be a bit more polished and less fussy than fussing around in dos. I like fussing around in dos but not at 7pm and I want to play space quest 5 on a whim

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