I have accumulated a bit of a backlog as regards to personal emails. I launched this weblog with very few expectations since it is obviously addressed to a niche readers’ base. Instead, it turned out to be more successful than I thought. An increasing number of readers have been writing me asking for tips and suggestions, even suggesting topics to cover. In the following weeks I’ll do my best to give more focus and attention to System Folder, and I’ll also try to get back more promptly to the nice people writing me privately.
Speaking of readers’ emails, every now and then I receive messages asking questions and opinions to which I can only provide an answer based on my personal experience. I feel it’s not enough. I may not know about some resources or possible uses for vintage Macs, so I believe it’s fair to share these requests and do some brainstorming in public, involving other readers (and possibly vintage Mac aficionados) out there.
Here’s an example at hand. Agostino wrote me two months ago. I’ve been terribly busy and therefore I haven’t been able to help him properly, yet. So I took the liberty to translate his email and share it with you. If you have ideas / opinions / suggestions, please chime in in the comments.
I have a Performa 6320. I’d love to put it back on its feet but I don’t know where to begin. For example, the PRAM battery will have to be replaced for sure, because the Mac doesn’t even remember the date and time, so I tried to remove it but the Performa’s case seems impenetrable. Not to mention how difficult it’s been to get hold of a bit of software… So for starters, I’m asking you if you know of online resources that can help me, because I do not find them or maybe I just do not know how to look for them.
Then I was wondering whether you believe a 1992 Performa 400 and a 1990 LC can still be useful today — and for what — or the game is simply not worth the candle and it’s better to take them to a recycling facility. It breaks my heart to throw them away! They are all equipped with many peripherals…
My usual workaround for vintage Macs with dead PRAM batteries is to keep them always plugged in. This way, they won’t lose track of date and time. (Of course I don’t keep all my vintage Macs plugged in, only those I use with enough frequency as to be bothered by having to change the date and time manually every time). As for buying new PRAM batteries, Other World Computing still sells some, and occasionally someone in the LEM Swap list comes up with these kinds of batteries, either new or used but still working.
For taking apart the Performa 6320, I have made available Apple’s Service Manual for Macintosh Performa 6200-6300 Series for download. It’s a rather complete reference.
As for software, that Performa can run System 7.5.3 to Mac OS 9.1, and that means a lot of classic Mac software should work. You can find a few relevant resources in the ‘Classic Environment’ link category in the sidebar, specifically System 7 Today, the Info-Mac archive, and the Macintosh Garden. The latter is a very good place if you want to use your vintage Performa as a sort of retro-gaming machine.
Regarding the Performa 400 (aka Macintosh LCII) and the LC and their possible usefulness today, well, firstly it depends on their configuration. I would try to maximise their RAM (10 MB is the maximum for both) and find a PDS Ethernet card to connect them to a LAN with more modern Macs more easily (especially for file transfers). I like the LC form factor because, even if it’s not an all-in-one Mac like the compacts, it doesn’t take much space on a desk, and a 14-inch Macintosh Color Monitor on top of it is the perfect match.
What would I do if I had to find a use for such Macs? Typically, with Macs of that vintage and capabilities, I tend to favour the following uses:
- Distraction-free creative writing. If I hadn’t a Colour Classic, I would use my LCII for that task.
- Something database-related. I’d look for an old copy of FileMaker and do something with it. I have created a small database to keep records of my books and the books I borrow from libraries, for instance, but the possibilities are many.
- Retro-gaming. When I have time, I surely enjoy things like Half-Life 2 and Bioshock, but nothing beats playing Pac-Man, SimCity and other ‘oldies but goldies’ on a vintage Mac.
- Data retrieval. Especially in combination with working peripherals of the same age, a vintage Mac can be very useful to retrieve old files, either residing on obsolete physical supports, or written by discontinued applications or in old formats that need vintage applications to be converted into something readable.
But this is me. Other people may have more specific, sophisticated, nerdy suggestions. It all depends on your disposition towards tinkering, generally. There are people who have been able to use such Macs as fax and print servers, as network bridges between modern Macs and a LocalTalk subnetwork, as scanning workstations (in combination with that great SCSI scanner that never dies and still makes great scans), and so on and so forth.
So, let’s hear your suggestions, and let’s help Agostino find some good resources and uses for his vintage Macs.