Extending the life of my iPod mini

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Second-generation iPod mini — Introduced in February 2005, discontinued in September 2005

I own a second-generation 4 GB blue iPod mini that my wife passed to me when she was given a first-generation iPod touch in 2007. This iPod was never heavily used, and so it has remained fully operational — and with good battery life — for ten years, until sometime around October 2015 its internal hard drive (Hitachi 4 GB MicroDrive) failed while transferring some files. That saddened me. For some reason, despite the obvious convenience of using my iPhone to listen to music, I’ve always preferred the classic iPods for that activity. And my third-generation 10 GB iPod already died in 2008 (another hard drive failure), so now that my iPod mini stopped working too, I was left with just my iPod shuffle.

But while the easiest way to repair a third-generation iPod is to find another small-sized Toshiba hard drive for it, the iPod mini is notoriously easier to upgrade. These iPods used MicroDrives as internal storage solutions, and they are essentially small hard drives with the same dimensions (and most importantly, same connection) as CompactFlash cards. Which means that you can replace them with CompactFlash cards and enjoy a few advantages in return:

  • Today, you can easily find 8, 16, and 32 GB CompactFlash cards at reasonable prices. These cards are usually designed for heavy-duty usage with professional DSLRs.
  • They are long-lasting and offer much higher transfer speeds than the old MicroDrives.
  • Along with having more storage space (iPod minis originally came with 4 GB and 6 GB MicroDrives), CompactFlash cards do not have moving parts, which means better battery life.

The original 4 GB of storage space never felt really tight for me. While I do have a lot of music in digital form, I was never one of those people who have to copy their whole iTunes library on an iPod. I’ve always transferred just a small selection of favourite albums I love listening when out and about. I also didn’t want to get too big a CF card for fear of some unexpected incompatibility or similar issues, so when it was time to purchase a CF card to make the upgrade, I opted for a conservative 8 GB card:

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Then I looked online for tutorials on how to proceed with the part replacement. The first stop was iFixit, of course, but this tutorial over at Instructables helped too.

The process isn’t extremely complicated, you just need to be a bit cautious, but the hardest step is definitely the first: removing the white plastic on the top bezel. If you look at the aforelinked iFixit guide, this step appears deceptively simple:

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Source: iFixit.com

The problem is that the piece of white plastic is securely glued to the metal underneath, and it won’t come off easily. If you don’t proceed with patience and keep pulling up with a screwdriver, you’ll likely bend or break the plastic. Instead of a screwdriver, I used a small putty knife and tried to gently separate the white plastic from the metal casing. But the best tip to make this step even easier was given to me by Peter Emery on App.net (and it’s also suggested in the Instructables tutorial): use a hair dryer to soften the glue.

I know it sounds dangerous to expose the iPod to heat this way, but my iPod wasn’t harmed in any way. Just to be cautious, I used the hair dryer on the minimum setting and directed hot air on the top of the iPod in short bursts. After 5-6 times of gently prying and heating the plastic, it finally came off. It’s virtually impossible to avoid scuffing the white plastic top a bit — just think that, at least, you’ll have a working iPod later.

Same story with the piece of white plastic on the bottom (surrounding the 30-pin Dock connector), but in my case this came off much more easily. I didn’t even need to use the hair dryer. The iFixit tutorial has the best images, so follow the steps until it’s time to remove the MicroDrive. This tutorial is for a hard drive replacement, so once you get to Step 13, what’s left to do is to carefully remove the MicroDrive from its connector (get rid of the black tape and the blue bumpers), insert the CF card (make sure you keep the label on top — see Step 4 of the Instructables tutorial), and reattach the connector to the iPod’s motherboard. Another great advice is given here in the Instructables tutorial: You don’t need the rubber bumpers or tape but you will need a small piece of double sided foam tape to attach the card to the motherboard and keep it from rattling around inside your Mini. I suggest you follow it. The CF card is lighter and thinner than the MicroDrive — it will rattle if you don’t secure it.

The hardware part of the upgrade was done, but before reassembling everything, I wanted to make sure the iPod was properly recognised and formatted, so I connected the ‘naked’ iPod to my MacBook Pro and iTunes 12 immediately recognised it as a Windows-formatted 8 GB iPod mini. I tried copying an album to it, and the copy went smoothly and was insanely fast compared with the original MicroDrive. But since I read online that a good practice at this point is to do a full Restore using iTunes, that’s what I did, and iTunes 12.3.2 failed to complete the operation, throwing a ‘1430 error’. This Apple Support article (unsurprisingly) wasn’t really helpful. The solution was connecting the iPod to my PowerBook G4 with Mac OS X Leopard and iTunes 10.6.3, which correctly recognised and restored the iPod right away and without problems.

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Now the iPod was ready to be reassembled:

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Since upgrading the iPod, I’ve roughly filled half of it with music, and I’ve instantly noticed the benefits of having a CompactFlash-based iPod: file transfer is really fast, the battery appears to last more than before (I’m still testing, but in the last period with the 4 GB MicroDrive, battery life was quite poor), and the iPod remains cool. With the MicroDrive, the iPod started getting warm after a while; I don’t know if it’s normal for a MicroDrive to get warm or if that was a sign of imminent failure, but with the moving parts of a hard drive and the heat, it’s no wonder battery life was impacted. Now the situation is definitely better on this front, and I’m actually amazed that a 10-year old battery is still capable of holding such a charge.

Here are a few more photos. As you can see, the backlight is still very bright after all these years. Long live the iPod mini!

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A seed of the iMac G4 design

Through the libraries of the local Polytechnic University, I fortunately have access to a seminal book: AppleDesign — The Work of the Apple Industrial Design Group, by Paul Kunkel with photos by Rick English (1997). The book went out of print not long after being published, and it’s an amazing treasure trove of information on Apple’s design approaches and investigations from the early Apple II days until 1997. And that means not only a lot of details about several projects which never saw the light of day, but also a lot of photographs of prototypes and mockups illustrating the various ideas and explorations within the projects — whether they led to a known Apple product or not. Needless to say, I find this to be incredibly fascinating, and I return to this book on a regular basis even though I know it quite well by now.

Since I’ve just talked about the most recent addition to my collection, a 17-inch iMac G4, I’ll share a brief extract from that book showing a design idea that, while considered many years before, and for a different project, might be viewed as a first seed of the iMac G4 design.

The Pomona design investigation

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(Image source: KCG Computer Museum)

The final design of the iconic Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh (codename: Spartacus) was the result of a long investigation that had started a few years before, in the autumn of 1992. The investigation was internally code-named Pomona. From the AppleDesign book:

“For years, I’d wondered how the computer would evolve from a box into something more physically compelling that would fit better in the home,” says Bob Brunner [the Director of Apple’s Industrial Design Group at the time]. “In survey after survey, customers told us they want ‘power systems’ with expansion slots and extra drive bays that allow them to add to their system at a later date. That demand forced us to adopt a box-like design to hold the cards and drives. But most home users never add to their system, which leaves them with unused slots, drive bays that remain empty, and a box they don’t really need.”

Eventually, says Brunner, “home users should realise they only need a standard setup with a single expansion slot. When that happens, we can stop thinking of the computer as a plastic box and instead give it a shape that expresses its function, using materials such as wood, metal and leather that are more in tune with the home environment.”

To anticipate this change, Brunner launched the Pomona Design Investigation in October 1992, wrote a two-page design brief, and invited IDG’s designers, as well as consultants from Silicon Valley, Tokyo and New York, to submit concepts in an effort to redefine the home computer, invent shapes to better address user’s needs and employ materials that would function as well in a domestic setting as Apple’s platinum grey plastic works in the office. […]

The Pomona design brief was distributed to IDG’s designers and five outside consultants — Eric Chan of EC Design (New York), Tangerine (London), IDEC (Tokyo), Montgomery & Pfeifer (San Francisco), and IDEO Product Development (San Francisco). Their task was to create a desktop Macintosh with high object value using miniature components, high aesthetic content, and alternative materials. […]

As Brunner expected, the Pomona brief sparked an avalanche of ideas, many of which did away with the traditional computer box or shrunk it to a barely noticeable size. Eric Chan and his staff at Ecco Design generated dozens of sketches showing tabletop, desk-mounted and freestanding concepts.

One of such concepts took inspiration from Richard Sapper’s Tizio lamp, with the motherboard and drives housed in a desk ‘base’, and a flat panel display mounted on a long, adjustable arm. Sounds familiar?

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(Source: P. Kunkel, AppleDesign — The Work of the Apple Industrial Design Group, page 212)

Above you can see a scan of plates 388-389 from the AppleDesign book. The notes on the sketch should be fairly readable, while for sake of completeness I’ll transcribe the caption printed in small text under the photo:

Pomona Design Investigation: Hard Models. 388 Phase One Sketch for a Desktop Computer, by Eric Chan (Ecco Design, New York, NY), inspired by Richard Sapper’s Tizio Lamp. 389 Tizio Concept. Industrial Design: Apple Computer: Robert Brunner, based on a sketch by Eric Chan. Dates of Design: January-April 1993.

1993 means almost ten years before the introduction of the iMac G4. Now, I don’t know if the iMac’s design was achieved internally through a completely different, independent route, or if the designers went back looking at past ideas and thought about giving this concept a second chance, but it’s a nevertheless intriguing connection.

Added to the collection: 17-inch iMac G4

iMac G4 (front)

This year, Christmas came a bit earlier. Richard — the same generous soul responsible for this amazing donation — surprised me again with this marvellous Christmas gift that arrived on my doorstep on 21 December. It’s a first-generation (2002-2003) 17-inch iMac G4, with an 800 MHz PowerPC G4 7450 v2.1 processor, 768 MB RAM, 80 GB hard drive, tray-loading 2x SuperDrive capable of writing CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R and DVD-RW discs. It came with a fresh installation of Mac OS X 10.5.8, and even if technically Leopard isn’t supported on this machine (the minimum requirement being an 867 MHz G4 processor), the iMac handles it quite well. I’ve already started installing a minimum set of applications and, at least for now, I have no reason or interest to downgrade to Mac OS X Tiger.

iMac G4 (back)

As you can see in the photos, this iMac is in excellent condition, and thanks to Richard’s careful packaging it arrived safely to my house without unfortunate accidents during shipping. The display arm is tight and sustains the display in any position and at any angle I’ve tried it. The display is bright and flawless. The polycarbonate white is still uniformly white and, thankfully, there’s no trace of yellowing or other colour alteration I happened to see on other iMac G4 models in the past. It really looks like new.

(The blueberry Apple USB Keyboard and round USB mouse are, of course, a temporary solution. Only the main iMac unit was given to me. They were the original keyboard and mouse that came with my previous iMac G3.)

A tiny dream come true

Adding this iMac G4 to my collection means a lot to me. I’ve wanted this type of iMac since it was introduced back in early 2002. But with a starting price of €1,599 (for the 15-inch iMac G4/700 model), I just couldn’t afford it at the time. Or rather, I could have afforded it, but not after making a decision that felt right then, and foolishly sentimental in retrospect. In late 2001, my beloved iMac G3/350 blueberry broke down due to a nasty thunderstorm frying its motherboard and analogue board. I was finishing one of my first big assignments as technical translator, and that iMac G3, purchased in late 1999, had accumulated a lot of sentimental value to me. When it broke, I was really bummed and panicking because I had work to deliver on a close deadline, so my first gut reaction was to have it repaired at all costs. The technicians at the repairing centre where I took it, once they assessed the damage, told me that it would have been much more cost-effective to throw it away and buy another iMac G3 second-hand. I was too stubborn and too saddened by the loss of my iMac to listen to reason, so I ended up spending more than €1,000 to have it fixed.

When the first iMac G4 was introduced shortly after, in January 2002, I wanted to eat my hat. If I had known, I would have saved that money and used it to purchase the new iMac G4, instead of holding on to a machine that was getting old fast. And you know what happened just a few months later? The iMac G3 broke down again, thanks to another sudden, violent thunderstorm (and certainly to the poor electrical system of the old building I was living in at the time). Lesson truly learnt, I threw away the iMac G3 for good, but then I only had money for a second-hand iBook G3/466 SE FireWire. (I’m not complaining, that iBook is still working today, the only two things I’ve replaced are the battery and the DVD drive.)

But since then, two Macs always remained at the top of my wishlist: the Power Mac G4 Cube, and the iMac G4. I got my Cube itch scratched in 2006, and now, finally, unexpectedly, it’s the turn of the iMac G4. Both the Cube and the iMac G4 are, in my opinion, the coolest desktop Macs in relatively recent times — for the platinum era, I’d say the winner is the Macintosh Colour Classic, and the all-time winner remains of course the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh.

While the Cube has undoubtedly a few design quirks (the position of the ports is rather unfortunate and impractical), the iMac G4 is such a joy to use. Despite having an internal fan, it’s not much louder than the fanless Cube, and the display design is just amazing because it is such a perfect combination of wonderful æsthetics and sheer usefulness. You can have the display in front of you at just the right angle, you can easily move it to the side to show something to someone else, and when you’re sitting at the iMac, it’s like having the screen float before your eyes.

The iMac G4’s design was a staggering departure from the previous G3 model, but was also a true improvement inside and out. It was a lighter computer, with a smaller footprint, and thanks to that display design, it felt even lighter, airier. Only the short-lived 20-inch model was a little unbalanced and out of proportion — that 20-inch display was perhaps too big and heavy for the overall design of the iMac.

However, when the first iMac G5 was introduced in mid-2004, its design was a huge letdown for me. Sure, I appreciated the engineering feat of basically having a display with a whole computer inside, and having a faster G5 processor in a consumer-grade product was great, but at the time I felt that the design was a step back compared to the move from the iMac G3 to the iMac G4. Even today, when I look at the whole iMac line, the white G5 and later white Intel models are just ugly, thick desktop beasts, something rectified by the later aluminium models. And speaking of these later aluminium models, while they’ve got thinner, more beautiful and functional year after year, their design is fundamentally unchanged since 2007. They’re simply boring compared to the iMac G4, whose unique, iconic design has remained quite fresh and a reminder of that whimsical touch Apple seems to have forgotten.

Put to good use, as always

This new entry in my small collection, like other vintage Macs I own, is not going to just sit idly in my living-room as a museum exhibit. I haven’t yet decided a specific purpose for it, but its placement as the only desktop Mac outside of my studio makes it an excellent candidate for writing and collecting my thoughts in a less visually cluttered environment. It could also serve as a good media server, and it’s certainly a fantastic solution to listen to music — both my local iTunes library and streamed music via Spotify (the old PowerPC client still works and its interface is actually better than the current one).

Years ago I was given the Apple Pro Speakers you see in the photos above, by a friend who thought they were the Apple M7963 USB Speakers for the Power Mac G4 Cube. They look similar, but can’t be used with the Cube, so I kept them all this time just in case, in an unknown condition because I couldn’t attach them to any other Mac in my possession to test them. Well, it turns out they work fine and deliver a surprisingly rich sound and loudness for their size.

Having another Mac capable of writing DVDs doesn’t hurt, either. I still use optical discs as a backup solution for old files and archives. So I immediately installed the excellent Disco app to easily handle future disc burns.

As for other software, I added the usual set of essentials (for me): TenFourFox for browsing the Web, Sparrow for email, Transmit for FTP, The Unarchiver for unarchiving basically any compressed file, Hazel for a bit of automation in file handling, MenuMeters for keeping an eye on network speeds, TextWrangler and Notational Velocity for text editing and synchronised note-taking, the old Cloud.app version I’ve kept, which still works and syncs with the CloudApp service, and NetNewsWire 3.2.15 to check my feeds. Even if I don’t find a specific task for this iMac, it’s still a great general-purpose machine for doing a lot of light work — and a very cool-looking one at that.

Once again, my deepest, heartfelt thanks to Richard for his generosity.


And finally, thank you to all of you for reading and following this humble blog. My apologies for having updated it so intermittently over the course of 2015 — I’ll try to do better next year. Have a great 2016, everybody!

A brief status update

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Brief status update

No, this place is not dead, but since April I haven’t had much time to write something related to this blog’s usual topics. I also spent less time with my oldest Macs, and all the other, more modern PowerPC Macs have been running very well and without issues. I’m always amazed by the stability and reliability of my small fleet of G3 and G4 systems running either Mac OS X Tiger or Leopard.

Conversely, I’m amazed at how utterly crappy and flawed the DuoDock power supply unit is. As you perhaps recall, in February I was given a complete Duo system consisting of a PowerBook Duo 280c and a DuoDock II. Unfortunately, the DuoDock didn’t power on and the PSU was emitting the infamous ‘tick of death’. Richard, the very generous donor, was a gentleman and shortly after sent me a working spare PSU. I swapped it with the faulty one and everything was fine, until one day last month this PSU too started ticking, and the system wouldn’t power on. I guess one day I’ll buy a soldering iron and learn to repair these things myself. But I swear, I’ve handled Macs and a lot of related peripherals for more than 25 years and I’ve never seen another machine or part as unreliable as the DuoDock’s PSU.

After the loss of Dropbox

In May, Dropbox stopped supporting PowerPC Macs running Mac OS X Tiger or Leopard. Needless to say, this was a major blow to my typical workflow, since I use a mix of current and vintage Macs and devices. I’m still trying to perfect an alternate solution that can be as smooth and ‘just working’ as Dropbox was. I’ll post it here as soon as I find it worth sharing. It’s a pity that Dropbox hasn’t been able to offer an ‘end of life’ version of its desktop client for Tiger/Leopard Macs.

About my data retrieval service

I thought the way I explained how my data retrieval service works was clear enough, but the way I’ve been contacted about it lately warrants a brief rant.

Four people have written to me enquiring about my service and my methods and my equipment. They all have critical data to be retrieved but they can’t make a copy of their original media and are afraid of sending me the original disks. I understand the concern. The only assurance I can make is that I will treat the disks as if they were my own and with the utmost care possible. These people, after a long email back-and-forth, after asking me every little bit of information, every detail of how I intended to handle their data, interrupted our correspondence and did not ultimately commit. Again, I understand that entrusting your precious data to a stranger and having to ship the disks internationally is a concern, but making me waste a considerable amount of time to then disappear is not cool, either.

It’s also not cool to pester me with repeated requests for tips and tricks about how to retrieve the data yourself. I mean, I can certainly give the occasional bit of advice, but I’ve been contacted by people who evidently could use my data retrieval service, but want to do the retrieval themselves, probably because they don’t want to pay me for it. And yet, they ask advice. Like going to an auto mechanic and, instead of leaving your car for a complete check-up, you approach the mechanic and ask him ‘tips’ to do the work yourself. It doesn’t seem quite fair, does it?

LC 575 or LC 580?

In my previous article, Finally: bringing Internet to my Colour Classic, I mentioned I have a motherboard from a Macintosh LC 580 in my possession, and wrote that it

…fits perfectly in a Colour Classic and makes for a nice overall upgrade (it has a Motorola 68LC040 at 33MHz CPU versus the original 68030 at 16MHz of the Colour Classic, and the RAM can be expanded to a maximum of 52 MB instead of the meagre 10 MB of the original motherboard).

A few readers have written to me, both via comments and private emails, that I got the reference wrong, that I must be referring to a Macintosh LC 575 motherboard, because the motherboard from an LC 580 wouldn’t fit in a Colour Classic without major modifications.

I want to thank everyone for the feedback. You are indeed correct — it’s a Macintosh LC 575 motherboard. And that quote should actually read:

Luckily, years ago I also acquired the motherboard from a Macintosh LC 575, which fits perfectly in a Colour Classic and makes for a nice overall upgrade (it has a Motorola 68LC040 at 33MHz CPU versus the original 68030 at 16MHz of the Colour Classic, and the RAM can be expanded to a maximum of 68 MB instead of the meagre 10 MB of the original motherboard).

Why I wrote LC 580

The person who gave me that motherboard 14 years ago didn’t remember whether it was from an LC 575 or 580, and I wrote ‘LC 580’ because, having never seen the motherboard of an LC 580 before, I relied on the information provided by Mactracker. The application lists the Macintosh LC 575 as having two ADB ports, and the LC 580 as having one. Given that, on paper, the technical specifications of the two Macs are rather similar, I used the difference in ADB ports to identify the motherboard in my possession — it has one ADB port only, so I deduced it was from an LC 580.

It turns out that Mactracker is wrong in this instance. The Macintosh LC 575, too, has just one ADB port, as correctly reported by Apple History, EveryMac.com and, of course, by Apple itself. I usually rely on Mactracker to quickly check up technical specifications for Apple products, because it’s usually a complete and reliable resource. But this little error threw me off track.

Motherboards: a visual comparison

Finally, in case other people get confused, here are a couple of pictures that should further clarify things visually:

Colour Classic and LC 575 motheboards
Macintosh LC 575 motherboard (left); Macintosh Colour Classic original motherboard (right) — [Image source]
 
LC 580 motheboard
Macintosh LC 580 motherboard — [Image source]

Finally: bringing Internet to my Colour Classic

Among the various goodies Richard donated me there was an Apple-branded Comm Slot Ethernet card (Part № 820-0607-A), which I hoped I could attach to my Colour Classic to bring Ethernet connectivity — and therefore Internet — to my favourite compact Mac. Now, the original Colour Classic motherboard doesn’t have a Comm Slot interface, its only expansion comes in the form of a PDS slot. Luckily, years ago I also acquired the motherboard from a Macintosh LC 580, which fits perfectly in a Colour Classic and makes for a nice overall upgrade (it has a Motorola 68LC040 at 33MHz CPU versus the original 68030 at 16MHz of the Colour Classic, and the RAM can be expanded to a maximum of 52 MB instead of the meagre 10 MB of the original motherboard). The LC 580’s motherboard also sports a Comm Slot interface, and the aforementioned Ethernet card can be installed without problems [Update: It’s actually a Macintosh LC 575 motherboard; see my clarification]:

Comm Slot Ethernet card installed

The first snag I encountered was right when I attempted to insert the motherboard with the attached Ethernet card back inside the Colour Classic. The top edge of the card, in fact, collided with a piece of plastic inside the Mac’s chassis that helps to keep the cables of the hard drive power connector in place. I took measurements and, not without difficulty, managed to cut away exactly where the plastic was blocking the card’s passage. Once firmly inserted the motherboard, I turned the Colour Classic on. The Mac booted normally, but there was no video. Suspicions fell immediately on the new card. Since the system had no way of recognising it, I thought, perhaps it defaulted to thinking that a video card was inserted in the Comm Slot, so it shut down internal video and expected an external connection. I had to make the system recognise the card.

Fortunately I had my copy of Apple’s Network Software Installer 1.5.1 on a floppy disk, which updates AppleTalk to version 58.1.5 and installs the most updated versions of a series of network extensions and drivers. I turned the Mac off, removed the card, turned the Mac on again, inserted the floppy and launched the Installer. After a few moments, AppleTalk was updated, the Apple Ethernet CS driver and related extensions installed (the following screenshot comes from a previous attempt, before I updated to AppleTalk 58.1.5):

Network install

To see if everything worked, once again I had to turn the Colour Classic off, remove the motherboard, install the Ethernet card, reinsert the motherboard and turn the Mac on. This time there was video, and the Mac booted normally.

Another good sign was when I connected an Ethernet cable from my router to the Colour Classic: the LED above the port turned on (that didn’t happen when I first attempted an EtherTalk connection between the Colour Classic and the PowerBook 1400). At this point it was merely a matter of configuring MacTCP:

MacTCP
 
MacTCP setup

The easiest way to set things up in MacTCP is to do a manual configuration. I did things right thanks mostly to two useful resources: Vintage Mac World’s Old Macintosh System Software and TCP/IP page, and the fantastic Classic Mac Networking page (scroll down until you find the MacTCP section). On this page in particular was a really useful clarification:

It is a common mistake to associate the “Server” mode of MacTCP with “DHCP Server”: this is not the case. Server mode is used with hardware MacIP routers like the GatorBox which assign the client a specified IP address from a pool of IP addresses, or with PPP which does a somewhat similar affair.

So I simply selected Obtain Address Manually, specified a Class C Address in the IP Address area, and entered my provider’s DNS addresses in the Domain Name Server Information area.

At this point, the only thing that was missing to check if the connection worked was a browser. On another floppy I had a copy of one of the earliest Mac browsers, Samba (MacWWW). I installed it and launched it. It threw some errors because it attempted to load pages at the old CERN website that are no longer at the original addresses, but once I entered a valid URL (I figured the afore-linked page at Vintage Mac World was simple enough to be loaded correctly), the webpage loaded almost instantly. I had to share my triumph:

But MacWWW 1.03 is indeed a very old browser, and today’s Web, unless you really know where to look, is too complex for this browser to load pages properly without throwing a bunch of errors. The day after I found a slightly newer browser in MacWeb 2.0. After installing it, and pointing it to the same Vintage Mac World’s webpage, the result was definitely prettier:

MacWeb 2.0

This browser, like MacWWW, can’t handle secure connections and the like, but at least is capable of loading embedded images in HTML pages correctly. The overall responsiveness is remarkable, considering the age of the hardware and the software involved.

I’m so happy that I’ve finally managed to bring the Colour Classic online. Not that I’m planning to browsing the Web much on this machine, but now that I know that it can access the Internet, I’m ready to move on to the next step, which involves configuring an email client and an email account, and even an FTP client (I’m thinking an old version of Fetch), so that I can exchange files with the Colour Classic via my own server if need be.

Added to the collection: quite the vintage package

My recent post A few About boxes from vintage Mac applications received a lot of attention, mainly because it was first linked by John Gruber at Daring Fireball, and was then mentioned by The Loop and by The Unofficial Apple Weblog among others.

It was completely unexpected, and amazing. The feedback I received — both in the form of public comments, mentions on Twitter, and especially private emails — made me giddy, and I wanted to thank every person who wrote me (I’m still answering emails after more than two weeks from the blog post).

Another unexpected by equally thrilling side-effect of this brief moment of Internet fame was that a few people, out of the blue, got in touch to donate a few things they saw I was looking for in my vintage wishlist. One particularly generous donor and splendid fellow has been Richard, who sent me a Christmas-worthy package, which arrived this morning. So, for the mere cost of shipping, this is what I’m going to add to my collection — which in my case means, here’s what I’ll be putting to good use as soon as possible:

PowerBook Duo 280c and DuoDock II

PowerBook Duo 280c, DuoDock II, plus a spare battery for the Duo.

As with the rest of the contents of the package, I was blown away by the excellent condition of these items. And most of all I am happy to already have a replacement for my poor Duo 280c which quietly broke down just less than two months ago. And it’s a better replacement, too. It has 40 MB of RAM and a 1 GB hard drive (my old Duo had 24 MB of RAM and a 320 MB hard drive). Unfortunately, the DuoDock II’s power supply doesn’t work, but a replacement may come sooner than later. I also found a spare battery, but it appears it doesn’t hold a charge. Instead the one in the picture, that came inside the Duo, appears to be working. I may have to reset the PowerBook’s power manager, though, because — just like my old Duo started doing at some point — the Mac boots up and works correctly on the AC adapter and with the battery removed, but as soon as I insert the battery, it abruptly shuts down.

 
Iomega SCSI ZIP 100 drive

Iomega ZIP 100 drive (SCSI version).

Again, I was amazed at finding everything in like-new condition. I love vintage packaging as much as the products, so it’s great to have everything in its original box. The SCSI cable included is also great to have, as I have more vintage Macs and peripherals than working SCSI cables. That floppy you see above the drive is to install the Iomega drivers on Windows/DOS machines. It’s still sealed, of course. I tested the drive by connecting it to my Colour Classic. At first the drive was only detected by SCSI Probe, but I couldn’t mount any disk without the Iomega Driver extension. I connected my PowerBook 1400 and copied the one I loaded there, but it was too new for the Colour Classic (version 6.x). Luckily there was also an older Iomega Driver 4.2 extension, and that was the right one. After a restart, disks were recognised, mounted, formatted without issues. I also noticed how quiet the SCSI ZIP drive is compared to my (more recent) USB unit.

And speaking of disks…

 
Lots of disks

ZIP 100 disks, three SCSI terminators, an Ethernet card (Apple branded), Apple rainbow stickers, two 88 MB SyQuest cartridges and a 230 MB 3.5″ magneto-optical disk.

Yes, those are thirty-three ZIP 100 disks. I guess that, together with the dozen or so I already have, I won’t be needing more ZIP disks anytime soon! That’s about 3 GB of storage space, and I can practically back up the contents of all the working vintage Macs I have. I also love those Iomega 6-disk holders — very practical and stackable.

I still have to check, but I hope I’ll be able to install that Ethernet card on the second motherboard (from an LC580) I use when I need to speed up things with the Colour Classic. Tomorrow I’ll also check those two nice 88 MB SyQuest cartridges.

 
Logitech ScanMan Model32
Logitech ScanMan hand-held grayscale scanner Model 32 for Mac.

This has been another great surprise. I remember wanting this manual scanner so bad back in the day, but could not afford it. Now, I know that scanner technology has rendered this product obsolete, but it may be a nice solution to quickly scan a few documents while I have my Macintosh SE or SE/30 set up. When I opened the box, I was surprised by that unit looking like an external floppy drive, and I thought that Richard had actually put one in the box, taking advantage of the perfect size of the cut-out. It turns out that it’s the necessary interface for the scanner, i.e. you connect the beige box to the Mac, and the hand-held scanner to the box. Also worth noting, that Mathematica demo floppy!

Like with the ZIP 100 drive, I love to own the original packaging of the Logitech ScanMan. So I took another photo of the back of the box, which I think it’s worth sharing:

ScanMan box

 

I can’t thank Richard enough for his kindness and generosity — a true gentleman. I shall put all these items to good use and take care of them in the best possible way: it’s the right thing to do to honour donations such as this.

A hard drive for the SE/30 — The long rescue

After the unexpected setback with the hard drive extracted from the Quadra 950, I once again rummaged inside a couple of boxes with stored assorted vintage stuff in search of a possible candidate. I found a few hard drives (both SCSI and IDE) in “I honestly don’t remember” conditions, so I took out three SCSI drives and put them in my external drive enclosure, connected to the Macintosh Colour Classic. The first drive, a 500 MB Quantum-something, made a few terrible clicks while trying to mount, and repeatedly failed. The second, a nice 9 GB Seagate ST39140N made a low humming noise when I powered up the SCSI enclosure, then silence. All the diagnostic tools at my disposal didn’t even detect its presence on the SCSI chain. The third, a surprisingly compact and lightweight 1.2 GB Quantum Fireball drive, powered up and made all the right little noises that indicate a possibly functioning hard drive. Also, it was immediately detected on the SCSI chain, and FWB Mounter gave me hope:

FWB Mounter

There it was, SCSI ID 4, “Recoverable”. And the adventure began.

I tried to mount it with FWB Mounter, but mounting failed after two long minutes during which the Mac appeared completely frozen. I launched FWB Hard Disk Toolkit 2.5, but the result was the same. My initial approach, I have to say, was to try to read and/or salvage any useful data stored on the drive before attempting a reformatting. Then I remembered I had a CD-ROM with a copy of DiskWarrior for the classic Mac OS (version 2.1, I think), so the fastest route was switching to a Mac with both a CD-ROM drive and a SCSI port. The PowerBook G3 Lombard was at hand, and fit the criteria. I booted in Mac OS 9.2.2, launched DiskWarrior, but it didn’t even detect the Quantum hard drive in the SCSI enclosure. I rebooted in Mac OS X Tiger and tried DiskWarrior 3 under Mac OS X. Same result. I rebooted again in Mac OS 9.2.2 and launched Disk First Aid, which did detect the drive but gave up almost immediately during the verification process, saying something along the lines of “This disk has too many errors and I can’t repair it.”

Since I still have all my Compact Macs out these days after performing a general check-up on them, I took the Macintosh Classic, connected the SCSI drive enclosure to it, and launched Norton Disk Doctor. At first, it didn’t detect the Quantum drive, but after issuing the “Show Missing Disks” command, the drive showed up. Clicking on Examine started a very long process where Norton Disk Doctor appeared to be running in slow-motion. After twenty minutes with the progress bar in the “Checking for bad blocks” test that was not progressing, I skipped the test (as soon as the Mac registered my input). When it came to checking the drive’s directory structure, Norton Disk Doctor kept throwing alarming errors. It indeed tried to fix a few issues, but I was starting to get the feeling that whatever had been on that drive was irrecoverable.

From that point on, I dropped any attempt to diagnose or repair the drive and focussed on actually trying to format and mount it.

On the Macintosh Classic I have an older version (1.8) of the FWB hard disk utilities, so I launched HDT Primer and see what it could do. HDT Primer recognised the drive and let me perform a low-level formatting, warning that the operation would take 81 minutes. I let it work and went to my studio to take care of other business. When I returned to the living-room after about an hour, HDT Primer was already done, and a dialog box informed me that the hard drive had been successfully formatted. So I went and tried to initialise/partition it, but unfortunately I kept getting errors.

Another frustrating chapter was beginning: trying different applications (on different Macs) to create partitions and logical volumes on the disk. Since I knew that that Quantum Fireball drive had bad sectors, I figured that the best course of action was attempting to partition it in different ways, so that maybe I could at least get to a point where, say, two out of three or four partitions were in a good-enough state to be mounted as volumes. After many, many fruitless efforts, and with Apple’s Drive Setup being this close to succeeding, my friend Grant Hutchinson suggested I tried using Silverlining Pro. I looked in my archives and found an old copy of Silverlining, then a newer one (Silverlining Pro 6.1). Thanks to Silverlining Pro 6.1 I could install a proper driver on the drive and managed to create two partitions of roughly 600 MB each; then, with version 6.5.8 I was finally able to initialise and mount one of those partitions.

I then used Norton Disk Doctor again to see whether such partition was good enough — and again, the “Checking for bad blocks” test was taking an inordinate amount of time, so I skipped it, assumed there were bad blocks, and let Norton perform the remaining tests. The disk passed them all, and knowing that the directory structure was sound was enough for me. With the disk now mounted on the PowerBook 1400’s desktop, I carried out some informal tests of my own, copying files to and from the partition (which I simply called “Q1”), launching applications from Q1, unmounting and mounting Q1 several times, and so forth. All went well, and I was actually surprised at seeing how fast this drive is in reading/writing files. Again, thanks to Silverlining Pro I was able to instruct the drive to mount automatically the Q1 partition when connected. Then I powered off the SCSI enclosure, disconnected the drive, changed the jumper configuration so that the SCSI ID was 0 instead of 4 (as it should be for an internal drive), opened the Macintosh SE/30 and mounted the Quantum Fireball hard drive on the metal shelf.

Drive inside the SE30

As you can see, the Quantum Fireball drive is rather slim (just so you have an idea: the former 40 MB beast of a hard drive that was inside the SE/30 weighed 850 grams, this Quantum Fireball weighs less than 250 grams).

I closed the SE/30, connected it to the mains, and turned it on for the moment of truth.

Silverlining

This, appearing at startup, was comforting. Then of course I got the floppy icon with the flashing question mark. Normal, since there wasn’t yet a valid system software installed on the drive. So I took the original set of floppy disks for System 7.0 and inserted the first one. After choosing a System 7.0 installation tailored for the Macintosh SE/30, it was time to see whether the Installer would recognise the Q1 partition… and it did! Once installation was complete, I restarted the SE/30 and it booted into System 7 in roughly 20 seconds. I was amazed and also very happy that my efforts and the time spent on this hadn’t been a complete waste…

Q1 mounted

So now the Macintosh SE/30 has a working-enough hard drive. Of course, it’s a temporary solution (the drive has a fair amount of bad sectors), but for now it’s usable, and even if I cannot take advantage of all the original 1.2 GB of storage space, a 620 MB partition for this system is far more than enough.

Careful with that Quadra drive

When I was talking about my Macintosh SE/30 in the previous article, I wrote:

The SE/30 is the most powerful and expandable of the Compact Macs I have, and I plan to do what I can to keep it in operation. At first I thought I had no useful hard drive substitute, but then it occurred to me that since my Quadra 950 isn’t currently working, I could transplant the Quadra’s internal hard drive (a 400 MB unit) into the SE/30, so I can still use the SE/30 and put an otherwise idle hard drive to work at the same time. A bit of a win-win situation.

Yesterday I did the hard drive transplant, and the outcome was, well, unexpected to say the least. But I think I’ve learnt something that’s worth sharing.

Here are two photos of the hard drive that was in my Quadra 950:

Quadrahd1.jpg

 

Quadrahd2.jpg

It’s a 400 MB Seagate ST1480N manufactured in 1991 at the latest. This drive has the same imposing size as the 40 MB Quantum ProDrive in the Macintosh SE/30, but I had to be a bit creative when mounting it on the drive shelf, because the side holes were located in different places and I couldn’t insert the screws in the same way as the previous Quantum drive that was inside the SE/30. Long story short, the procedure took me longer than expected, and when I finally reassembled the Macintosh SE/30, connected the mouse and keyboard, and connected the Mac to the mains… It didn’t turn on.

My first thought: Unbelievable… Is the power supply gone? Now? I was really bummed, for that was surely the worst timing ever. I honestly wasn’t blaming the hard drive because in all these years dealing with vintage technology (and back then, when it was current), I had never encountered an instance where a drive was preventing a Mac from even turning on. And I was sure I didn’t touch anything on or near the power supply circuitry. Still, there were no strange smells coming from the Mac, and that was kind of a positive sign. I opened up the SE/30 again, removed the hard drive, closed the SE/30, flipped the power switch again… And it booted just fine.

It was the drive, then. But how could that happen? It really was a first for me. Intrigued, I inserted the drive in the external SCSI enclosure I keep handy, and guess what? It didn’t turn on either (the power LED was just flashing, and no sounds came from the enclosure). Maybe there was something to change in the drive’s jumper configuration, but a quick check revealed that all was OK in that regard.

On a hunch, I went digging in my personal archive of Apple Service Source Manuals in PDF format. There was a document, downloaded from the Web not long ago, with the promising title Hard Drives. I opened it, and I found something interesting in a section called Drives in Quadra 900/950:

hdmanual-1.png
hdmanual-2.png

As you can see from the two figures, it appears that you have to ‘prepare’ a drive to be used inside a Quadra 900/950, by removing the terminator resistors. If you look at the second figure, those terminator resistors can be reapplied in case the hard drive has to be repurposed in another Mac or external enclosure (at least on the 400 MB model). I’m out of luck, though, because the 400 MB Seagate drive I have here was either part of the stock drives my Quadra 950 originally had, or it was prepared by the Quadra’s previous owner.

resistors-removed.jpg

The bottom line is that, in its current configuration, I can only use this hard drive in my Quadra 950 and nowhere else, and the Quadra isn’t working at the moment. That’s disappointing, and also a waste, since the drive works — well, it worked the last time I used the Quadra.

If you’re parting out a Quadra 900 or 950, keep this in mind in case you’d like to use one or more of the Quadra hard drives in another Mac. You also might acquire a Mac that doesn’t turn on: disconnect the hard drive and try turning the Mac on again. Maybe the previous owner put a drive that came from a Quadra thinking that it just was interchangeable. Not a likely scenario, but it’s rather quick check to perform, just in case.

This is what I’ve been able to ascertain from my tests and (limited) research, and I hope it helps. But if something I wrote is incorrect, or your experience is different, please let me know. Thank you.

Checking up on my Compact Macs

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I’ve been a bit under the weather these past days, so I thought that one thing I could do while staying at home was checking up on my favourite part of my little vintage collection: the Compact Macs. This check was long overdue anyway, and what happened recently with my poor PowerBook Duo 280c had me somewhat concerned with the health of other vintage machines.

I currently own five Compact Macs:

  • A Macintosh 128K, which is the only non-working Mac of the bunch. It needs the analogue board replaced and the task involves some work with a soldering iron. I don’t have such tool, and probably wouldn’t dare use it anyway.
  • A Macintosh SE FDHD, with 2 MB of RAM and a 40 MB hard drive, running System 6.0.8.
  • A Macintosh SE/30, with 8 MB of RAM and a 40 MB hard drive, running System 7.1.
  • A Macintosh Classic, with 4 MB of RAM and an 80 MB hard drive, running System 6.0.8.
  • A Macintosh Colour Classic: its original motherboard (with a Motorola 68030 at 16 MHz) has 6 MB of RAM, then I also have the motherboard of an LC575 (with a Motorola 68LC040 at 33 MHz) with 4 MB of RAM; the Colour Classic originally had an 80 MB hard drive, replaced four years ago with a 160 MB hard drive. It currently runs System 7.1.

I first checked on the most problematic of the group, the SE/30. The two major issues it displayed before storing it away were the lack of sound and the occasional appearance of strange patterns on the screen upon booting (though different from the dreaded ‘Simasimac’ effect described for example here). I had never opened up this Mac since it was donated to me, and I feared that with these symptoms I would find a very dirty motherboard with evident signs of leaking capacitors and whatnot. But when I pulled it out, I was kind of surprised:

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I am no professional technician, granted, but this doesn’t look like the dirty, gunk-covered motherboard I was expecting. After a careful visual inspection, I really wasn’t able to detect any component with serious leaking on the outside. Of course, the Mac’s lack of sound may still indicate that a capacitor somewhere is failing (though I also wonder: what if the failure is in the thin, frail-looking speaker cable that connects to the socket located at J11 on the board?). Anyway, there was some dust laying around — again, much less than expected, considering how overall dirty the rest of the SE/30 looked when I opened it — so I blew it away and then gently scrubbed the various components with an old medium-strength toothbrush, just in case.

When I finally turned the SE/30 on, there still was no sound coming from it, but at least the screen was fine. The system did not load, though, and instead of the Happy Mac icon, I got the floppy icon with the flashing question mark. The hard drive in this machine is quite noisy and I heard it spin up. The activity LED was on. I inserted one of the floppy disks I have made, containing minimum system installations so that I can boot these Macs from the floppy drive, and the SE/30 happily booted from it. I was also amazed to discover that the backup battery still works — the Mac’s date and time were correct, with the clock being seven minutes ahead — considering this Mac had remained in storage for at least one year without power. The hard drive did not mount, as expected, so it appears that this is the only current issue with this machine (along with the lack of sound, yes).

I removed the hard drive (an old 40 MB Quantum ProDrive) to perform further testing by putting it in a very reliable external SCSI enclosure I resort to in such circumstances. I was amazed at the size of that thing. Here’s a photo: the SE/30 hard drive is on the left, while on the right you can see a later Conner 160 MB hard drive, pulled from my Colour Classic:

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I have witnessed many hard drive failures, but in my testing this drive displayed a bit of a puzzling behaviour: on the hardware side, it powers up and seems to be spinning up also, and doesn’t make strange sounds that would indicate mechanical failure. On the software side, and unlike other dead drives I have around, this drive is correctly detected on the SCSI chain and identified by tools such as SCSI Probe, Norton Disk Doctor, and the FWB Utilities. Yet it evidently is unreadable for the Macs I connected it to, and I don’t even get the “Do you want to format it?” dialog box. Norton Disk Doctor quits the Examine procedure seconds after commencing it, and FWB Mounter has probably given the first real clue as to what may be going on, claiming that it can’t read the drive’s first block.

All this to say that I’m left with the impression that this hard drive could still be salvageable, perhaps by performing some sort of low-level formatting, but I’d really like to try extracting data from it before doing so.

The SE/30 is the most powerful and expandable of the Compact Macs I have, and I plan to do what I can to keep it in operation. At first I thought I had no useful hard drive substitute, but then it occurred to me that since my Quadra 950 isn’t currently working, I could transplant the Quadra’s internal hard drive (a 400 MB unit) into the SE/30, so I can still use the SE/30 and put an otherwise idle hard drive to work at the same time. A bit of a win-win situation.

By the way, this SE/30 also comes with a SuperMac Technologies Spectrum SE/30 PDS video card, so that I can even hook up an external monitor. I tried to find more information on this card on the Web, but without much luck. If you could help me out on this, I’d appreciate it. I just like to know what kind of monitors/resolutions it supports, and whether it brings some other capabilities with it. What I’d really love to get for my SE/30, though, is an Ethernet card. If you have one, let’s talk!

SE/30 check-up summary: The machine works. Issues before storing it the last time were display artifacts and lack of sound. New issues exhibited after bringing it out of storage: failing hard drive. Corrective actions undertaken: (planned) hard drive replacement.


Next up, I checked the Colour Classic. This Mac has never given me any problem, but four years ago its internal 80 MB hard drive failed to mount and sounded like it had difficulties spinning up. My friend Grant Hutchinson kindly sent me a 160 MB replacement, and I performed what can only be described as a painful hard drive replacement, which I documented here. In that article, I wrote:

In the next days I will restore the contents of the old hard drive (what I had from the last backup I did before the incident) and see if it powers up using an external SCSI enclosure.

I remember checking it only once at the time: the drive didn’t appear to work, I was busy, so I just left the drive in the SCSI enclosure and forgot about it. Meanwhile, sometime in early 2014 the 160 MB hard drive Grant sent me stopped working. Again, having little time to do a proper check-up, I just put the Colour Classic away. What happened when I pulled out my vintage Macs and equipment a few days ago was rather amazing: the previous 80 MB hard drive I’d left in the SCSI enclosure came back to life! I tested and re-tested it with different diagnostic tools and by powering it up and down several times. It looked reliable enough, while the 160 MB unit that replaced it was looking unquestionably dead, so for the first time since I’ve owned a Mac I was doing a reverse transplant, putting the original hard drive back in the Colour Classic, and again performing the painful replacement operation (painful for my fingers). But this time I figured I’d do some minor modifications in order to make this procedure a bit less painful in the future.

If you go back for a moment to the afore-linked post about the Colour Classic hard drive replacement, you’ll notice that the hard drive in the Colour Classic is mounted on a plastic tray that slides deep in the Mac’s innards. The plastic tab on the tray’s back is just too short and too slippery to grasp to easily slide the drive out once you unplug the data and power cables. So I’ve come up with a crude but effective solution — wrapping the tab in that thin-but-strong adhesive tape used for packaging — this way next time I won’t have to hurt my fingers trying to reach the recessed tab:

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The hard drive was the only pending issue with the Colour Classic, and it has been resolved, at least for now. My distraction-free writing environment is back:

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Colour Classic check-up summary: The machine works. Issues before storing it the last time were just a failing hard drive. New issues exhibited after bringing it out of storage: none. Corrective actions undertaken: hard drive replacement.


The Macintosh SE FDHD is the best-preserved Compact Mac I own. It was a gift from a technician friend back in 2002 or 2003 and it’s just beautiful inside and out. When you open it, you immediately notice it has always been kept in a clean environment. Everything is clean as if this Mac had just come out of the factory. Not bad for an almost 25-year-old machine (decoding the serial number, this SE was manufactured in Ireland around March 1990).

Anyway, the SE didn’t have any issues the last time I used and stored it, and luckily didn’t present any new issues when checking it up the other day, apart from the backup battery, which understandably has died (it was manufactured in 1989 as reported on its label). The reason I opened up this Mac was to upgrade its RAM. While cleaning up before Christmas, I found four 30-pin RAM sticks in an envelope (1 MB each) that I pulled from the Quadra 950 when I upgraded its RAM three years ago. Seeing that a) the Macintosh SE only had 2 MB of RAM, and b) that it uses the same 30-pin RAM sticks as the Quadra, I figured I could try an upgrade. What I hoped is that my SE’s motherboard was a ‘Jumper type’ board, not a ‘Solder type’ board:

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According to the Service Source manual for the Macintosh SE, the older ‘Solder type’ motherboard “uses a solder-type resistor to identify system memory configurations; a resistor is installed in R35 for 1 MB and in R36 for 2 MB. The revised logic board uses a jumper to identify system memory.”

You see where this is going: on the ‘Solder type’ board, you have to clip the resistors as you install more RAM, while on the ‘Jumper type’ board, you just move or remove a jumper, which is immensely better if you have to revert to a previous RAM configuration in case the new sticks don’t work or are incompatible for some reason. Since I have no way of re-soldering resistors, I would leave the RAM as it was in case I had the ‘Solder type’ motherboard. As luck would have it, my SE had the ‘Jumper type’ motherboard, so the upgrade was easy.

As I was closing up the Mac, one of the screws fell and I had the distinct impression it fell inside the machine somewhere. But it was nowhere to be seen, and shaking the Mac I couldn’t hear it move. I began to freak out: I didn’t want to close up everything before finding the screw because what if it was stuck in some nook, only to move around at a later moment, with the Mac turned on, etcetera? You don’t want to have a loose screw in your Compact Mac (or in any Mac, for that matter), so I started disassembling it even more, removing both the hard drive and floppy drive. Nothing. At this point I was beginning to think that the screw had actually fallen on the floor, and indeed it had, ending up quite far away from where I was working; that’s why I had not found it when I checked the first time.

I was in a rush to reassemble the Mac and turn it on to see whether it detected the added RAM, so I ended up mounting the hard drive plus floppy drive assembly without aligning it properly. The result was that floppy disks couldn’t be inserted or ejected properly. But at least the RAM upgrade had worked, and the SE was correctly detecting the 4 MB of RAM. The following day I opened the SE again and remounted the drive assembly properly:

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The floppy drive is in the lower metal casing (where you can see that MFD-75W-01G 70557741 label), and there are four screws securing it to the chassis. To align it properly, you have to insert two metallic tabs on the front of the drive casing in two corresponding holes on the chassis plane where the drive will rest. I didn’t do that the first time, so the drive was slightly angled upward where it meets the corresponding hole on the front bezel.

After reassembling the Mac for the second time, everything looked fine and floppy disks could be inserted quite smoothly. But a new issue came up, and I still can’t understand how this could happen: now the Macintosh SE wouldn’t eject floppy disks. When you issue an Eject command from the system, you can hear the usual sounds from the floppy drive as it prepares to automatically eject the disk, you hear the motor of the eject mechanism, but it sounds as if it weren’t strong enough to physically eject the floppy. The mechanism, when triggered manually with the traditional ‘bent clip in the small hole’ method, does work. But when invoked via software, the eject mechanism sounds weak, or as if there were something preventing the eject process to go all the way. I find this rather odd: the drive worked before opening the Mac, and I doubt it was the subsequent misalignment that broke something (I immediately noticed the misalignment when inserting a floppy disk, so I didn’t even try to have the Mac eject it). The only thing I did to the drive when it was out of the Mac was removing a couple of dust bunnies. Any suggestion is quite welcome at this point.

Macintosh SE FDHD check-up summary: The machine works. Issues before storing it the last time: none. New issues exhibited after bringing it out of storage: floppy disks cannot be automatically ejected (manual eject works). Corrective actions undertaken: none so far. Additional procedures: RAM successfully upgraded from 2 MB to 4 MB.

(By the way, you may recall I only used two of the four RAM sticks pulled from the Quadra, as the Macintosh SE only needed two. The remaining two have been successfully installed on my Macintosh LCII, upgrading its RAM from 4 MB to 6 MB.)


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Last but not least, the Macintosh Classic. This is the Mac in my collection that truly has sentimental value for me, since it’s the first Mac I have personally owned. (I have used Macs since 1989, but always in work environments. My truly first personal Macs were this Classic and a PowerBook 150, acquired in 1993 and 1994 respectively.)

The only issue this Macintosh Classic was displaying prior to putting it in storage was — like the SE/30 — lack of sound. The difference between the Classic and the SE/30 with regard to this issue is that while on the SE/30 you can’t hear anything from the speaker and from the earphones when you connect them to the audio output, on the Classic there is no sound from the speaker, but you can hear it from the earphones (although it’s not quite loud). An inspection of the Classic’s motherboard didn’t reveal anything useful. Like the SE/30’s, it’s a clean-looking board, without evident traces of gunk gone wild.

Upon turning this Mac on, I was happy to see that everything was working. On closer inspection, the Classic showed just a couple of minor issues:

  1. The floppy drive is incredibly fussy, accepting or refusing the same floppies for no particular reason. It probably needs a good cleaning.
  2. The backup battery is dead.

Overall, I can’t complain.

Macintosh Classic check-up summary: The machine works. Issues before storing it the last time: lack of sound. New issues exhibited after bringing it out of storage: none.

Conclusion

My Compact Macs have regrettably remained in storage for longer than I wanted. I do my best to keep my Macs in use and in healthy conditions, but the last couple of years I’ve been really busy and trying to stay afloat financially. That eats a lot of time. I know that one of the first causes of failure in a vintage Mac is lack of use, so I expected the worst when I started this extended check-up. I was also saddened by the recent failure of the PowerBook Duo 280c and the less recent, but equally puzzling failure of the Quadra 950. I didn’t want to lose another Mac.

Thankfully, the overall conditions of these four little guys are satisfactory, and currently all of them work. I still need to do the hard drive replacement in the SE/30, but I know the drive works, so it’s just a matter of time before the SE/30 is back in service. Maybe it’s time to give some rest to the Power Macintosh 9500/132 and go back to using the Colour Classic and the SE/30 more often.

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year to you all!

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