Update On My Macintosh Plus Resurrection

It’s been a while since I provided any sort of update, and I thought it was time I to bring everyone up to speed on the resurrection of my Macintosh Plus. I have been accumulating a few parts, and the project had languished a bit for the last couple of years. But I’ve been able to revisit it, and things have been moving forward again.

Faltering Experiment

My first focus was getting my Macintosh Plus and a Macintosh SE/30 that was generously donated by a friend of mine (thanks Jim!) onto my network. I was able to find an Asante part called the AsanteTalk, which is meant to bridge LocalTalk and Ethernet. Not only did I find it, it was a brand-new item directly from Asante!

Unfortunately, though, that stalled out. The bridging wasn’t working as hoped (even with System 7.5 and MacTCP installed on the SE/30), and I didn’t have the time or the tools to look into it properly. I’ve set it aside for now, but I expect to revisit it later.

New Parts And Additions

eBay has become my friend again. Through it, I have been able to get an external SCSI hard drive for the Macintosh Plus, an Apple CD300 (including the disc carrier), and the various cables and SCSI terminators I need to get everything up and running. The Plus can now use the external SCSI drive. The CD300 is connected to the SE/30 and working fine.

I have also purchased a Macintosh Portable (specifically, the model 5126). The seller apparently refurbishes them as a hobby. It should arrive in the next few weeks. I was going to stick to “toaster” Macintoshes for now, but the deal on this portable was pretty good.

A Pleasant Surprise and Progress

What I did find out, though, was that the donor SE/30 had an Ethernet card in it. That was a nice surprise, particularly since I had been trying to find an Ethernet card that uses the PDS (processor direct slot) on the SE. There are plenty of Ethernet cards for computers with the LC PDS connector (used in the Macintosh LC family and the Macintosh Color Classic). The SE cards are rare. The only minor issue is that the card uses the older DB15 AUI connector. Fortunately, there are lots of AUI to 10BaseT adapters out there. I have one on the way.

I have been able to get vintage software from the Internet using modern Macs running Yosemite, and transfer that software to the SE/30. How? Using a tool I found called HFS Disk Maker (on the Emaculation.com site here) that can create vintage HFS disc images and Disk Utility on Yosemite. The process is pretty simple, and there are two ways, depending on the format of the data that is downloaded.

If the file is a regular Macintosh application (or a file in StuffIt or BinHex format), then the steps I followed were:

  1.  Using HFS Disk Maker, create a classic disk image. I put it on the desktop to make it easy to find, because I wasn’t going to be keeping it around. You can select a single file or a folder to be placed on the image.
  2. Using Disk Utility, click on “Burn” in the toolbar, select the image you just created, insert a blank recordable disc, and press “Burn” in the confirmation dialog. When it is done, it will eject the CD.

Now you have a CD ready for use in a vintage Macintosh. I was using CD-R discs for this, and they worked for me. I don’t know if the CD300 can read CD-RW or CD+RW discs or not. My CD-R’s are pretty cheap (about $0.25/disc) so I’m not worried about wasting them.

If you can download a vintage ‘.img’, then it is even easier, since you can just burn it straight to a disc. No need to use the HFS Disk Maker tool.

One thing to note when using these vintage disc formats is that Yosemite won’t mount the image so you can explore it through Finder. What you get is a dialog saying you need to migrate/upgrade the image. It’s unfortunate, since I’ve heard the the older HFS format for filesystems is still supported.

Where Do I Get This Stuff?

Hardware I get largely from eBay, although an online store called We Love Macs has some parts for vintage machines. It can take some patience, but virtually any part you need can be found.

For software, there are several sites. The one I use most is Macintosh Garden, which contains various games, utilities and such. Another that I use from time to time is Mac GUI, although it seems to have a few more dead links. There are others out there, mainly focusing on helping people with Macintosh emulators (like Basilisk II, SheepSaver and Mini vMac). The software is the same, although sometimes the formats used aren’t helpful (they are meant for the emulators, not actual Macintoshes).

If nothing else, there is Google to help you find things. Manuals, instructions and helpful tips from other bloggers are pretty easy to find.

Why Bother?

Why not? Mainly, it’s an exercise in nostalgia, but it is also a bit of an intellectual challenge. How much can I remember? How much can I find out? It has been interesting digging back into the past, and re-visiting old ground. It reminds me just how far we’ve come, and in some ways where we’ve taken some steps backward (that’s a discussion for another topic).

It’s is also something fun and interesting for me. It has been educational for my 3 sons, who have grown up with the latest and greatest of technology. Showing them something working from the past makes what they have all that much more special. It also gives them an appreciation of where technology the use today comes from.

What’s Next?

Now that I can get software onto these older machines, the next step is to get the SE/30 onto the network. I’m hoping to skip the “burn stuff to a CD” step and get software directly onto a Macintosh. I may still burn data to CD though, for archive purposes if nothing else.

After that, the next goals involve getting the Macintosh Plus and the forthcoming Macintosh Portable onto the network in some way. I also want to expand the collection of “toasters”. Apple had 10 models in this form-factor:

  • The original 128k Macintosh
  • 512k “Fat” Macintosh
  • 512ke Macintosh (had 800k floppy support) for the education market
  • Macintosh Plus
  • Macintosh SE
  • Macintosh SE/30
  • Macintosh Classic
  • Macintosh Color Classic
  • Macintosh Classic II
  • Macintosh Color Classic II

I have the Macintosh Plus, and a working SE/30 (although it has seen some use, no question. I might get a second one. No complaints, though, because the one I have came at the right price). I might even look at a Lisa (I’ve seen a few working versions on eBay) and a Macintosh XL (a Lisa running a Macintosh emulator of sorts). Other possibilities include getting a PowerBook 170, the first generation of Macintosh notebooks.

Over the course of the year, I expect to revisit writing software for these old machines. I managed to find PDF versions of the old Inside Macintosh books, and I have Lightspeed C, Lightspeed Pascal and Macintosh Pascal as part of my start on collecting vintage software.

I haven’t looked at what I will do beyond that. I may secure an additional Color Classic and do my own Mystic upgrade (replacing the Color Classic board with a more powerful LC-based board) or Takky upgrade (putting a PowerPC-based board inside a Color Classic chassis). For now, though, I want to stick with more-or-less “stock” gear, and build a collection of the original all-in-one Macintoshes over the next couple of years.

So, forward progress, and more to come. It’s been fun so far.