Mac Classic Project: Part 2

I’m finally able to use the 1991 Macintosh Classic.

Update: Read the updates at the bottom of the post… the machine is no longer working. 🙁

In part 1, I removed the original PRAM battery from the 1991 Macintosh Classic. The real work was to come – having the logic board recapped and acquiring a keyboard and mouse for the system.

A fellow 68kMLA member saw a post I made and reached out to me about recapping the board. I’m hesitant to recap the board myself because I don’t have any real soldering experience. The only time I soldered was back in middle school when I built a crystal radio for a class project.

Thankfully, the user not only could recap my board – but also had an ADB keyboard and mouse that I could purchase, and additional memory SIMMs to max this system out at a whopping 4MB RAM.

Needless to say, I jumped on it.

One of the things that I did not do was have the analog board recapped. While I’m aware the analog board is also prone to leaky caps, I also really don’t want to mess with the analog board because of the CRT. Specifically, I’m worried I may accidentally break the neck on the CRT, destroying this machine’s mint CRT.

I sent the logic board to the member.

The logic board all wrapped up in it’s ESD anti-static bag ready to be shipped off…

While the logic board was being recapped, I removed the bucket and took a damp rag to clean it up. The plastics on this machine are slightly yellowed, but I’m not going to even attempt a “Retrobrite” treatment. The bucket was slightly dirty, but it cleaned up without the need of any soap or sophisticated options.

The bucket was slightly dirty, but a damp rag cleaned it up fairly decently.

A couple weeks later, the recapped board – along with a keyboard, mouse, memory upgrade kit and some floppy diskettes containing old games and software – arrived in the mail. I installed the board to test it out.

The freshly recapped board…

After reinstalling the board, adding the memory expansion kit and buttoning up everything, I plugged in the system. After flipping it on, nothing happened. I could hear the hard drive spinning, but there was no chime and no video. This isn’t good.

I removed the bucket and checked all of the connections, especially the molex plug on the logic board. Still nothing.

Starting to slightly panic, I removed the board and connected everything again. I also removed the memory expansion SIMMs.

This time, the system booted. Unfortunately, the same old “Simasimac” pattern appeared, but went away after about a minute of waiting. Hooray!

I powered down the system and plugged in the keyboard and mice. (ADB connections are not hot-swappable, so plugging them in or disconnecting them when the machine is powered on may cause damage.) The machine displayed the pattern again, but quickly booted.

As for the pattern, the person who recapped the board suggested it was related to the ROM chip. He reseated the ROM chip but the problem persists. I’m guessing the ROM chip and its socket needs some DeOxIT to clean up the contacts.

With a mouse and keyboard, I can now interact with the system. I was interested in seeing what version of the Macintosh operating system this computer is running. Also, the original owner left behind a bunch of files on this computer. While you should always format a hard drive (at least delete all files and personal data) before selling or giving away a computer, in this case it gives me an idea of who owned this machine and when it was in regular service.

The Classic is running System 6.0.7

Surprisingly, most of the files on this computer are from between 1998 and 2000. Some of the earlier files I could find date from around 1994-1995. It appears that this computer was used at some sort of insurance company between 1994 and 2000. Which is strange, since this machine was originally built in 1991. (Specifically, it appears this machine was manufactured on May 2, 1991 in Apple’s Singapore plant.)

The computer came with MacWrite, MacPaint, Microsoft Word 4.0 and Microsoft Excel already installed on the original Quantum hard drive. Although Microsoft Word 4.0 is on the hard drive, majority of the newer files were written in MacWrite. The older files are, interestingly, Word files.

Something I quickly created in MacPaint

As mentioned, the person who recapped the board also created some floppy diskettes containing old games and software. Among them were two games I’ve tried in both Basilisk II and Mini vMac.

Crystal Quest was a game I recently reviewed on my Mini vMac post. This time, I’m running Crystal Quest on actual hardware – from a floppy, no less.

My 2019 13″ MacBook Pro running Crystal Quest in Mini vMac versus the 1991 Macintosh Classic running Crystal Quest

Crystal Quest runs decently on this machine once it loads in from the floppy diskette. In fact, I’d say it runs slightly smoother on the Classic. I’m not sure if the difference is caused by playing with a mouse or just running it on actual hardware rather than in emulation.

Another game I have on diskette is PhrazeCraze+, a “Wheel of Fortune”-style game.

You can play Wheel of Fortune at home with PhrazeCraze+

PhrazeCraze+ is similar to the actual game. You spin the wheel to see how much you will earn per letter you guess correctly in the puzzle. Whoever ends the game with the most money wins.

A solved puzzle in PhrazeCraze+

I also have Tetris and Oregon Trail on floppy, but I may leave that for another time. Other games I was sent include Shufflepuck Café, Glider 4.0, Stratego and many others.

And for those wondering, yes: there is a floppy containing Ford Simulator 1990.

Ford Simulator II… running on actual hardware

I also found that this machine doesn’t have the Møire screensaver software, but actually has the AfterDark screensaver software. I changed it to the infamous “Flying Toasters” screensaver.

The famous AfterDark “Flying Toasters” screensaver

I tested out the keyboard in MacWrite by creating a document. Since this machine has no PRAM battery, it thinks it’s 1904.

Testing the keyboard in MacWrite

The keyboard will take some getting used to, since many of the keys are really stiff. The mouse will also take some getting used to, as I haven’t used a “ball-style” mouse in ages.

The Macintosh Classic was the cheapest Mac you could buy in 1990/91, and was actually the first Macintosh model you could buy for less than $1,000. However, the $999 model had no hard drive (just a floppy drive) and only 1MB RAM, whereas this one was the more expensive $1,500 model with a 40MB Quantum hard drive and 2MB RAM on an expansion card, which allows you to max out the system at 4MB with two 1MB SIMMS.

The Macintosh Classic system

The performance and specs reflect the price. The Classic featured the Motorola 68000 microprocessor, which was introduced in 1979 and used in almost all of the compact Mac models except the SE/30, Classic II and Color Classic models. By 1990, the Motorola 68000 was fairly out of date; most other Macs had at least a 68020. However, the 68000 was good enough for most people – especially those on a budget. The Classic was fairly popular with schools and in the home.

The Future

This isn’t the last part of the Macintosh Classic project. I’m still planning on acquiring a FloppyEmu so that I can transfer files to and from the Classic and my modern Mac, where I have other software titles I want to run. I also plan on installing the additional 2MB RAM.

As for demonstrating more games, I plan on creating a video this fall. The 30th anniversary of the Macintosh Classic, LC and IIsi introduction is coming up on October 15, 2020. My goal is to create a video that talks about the Classic, its features, and demonstrate some old games and software.

Until next time, I plan on practicing my Glider 4.0 and Shufflepuck Café skills. 🙂

Update: 6/4/2020

I’m glad to report that the Macintosh Classic has been reliable and working fine, outside of the occasional 1-2 minute delay on startup.

Both my 2019 MacBook Pro and 1991 Macintosh Classic running Microsoft Word… versions 31 years apart

I’ve been exploring the contents of the hard drive and found a trove of games and miscellaneous software in an inconspicuous folder named “systems.” (Not the system folder.) These games include Stratego (which I also have on floppy), Hot Air Balloon, Zero Gravity and some casino games.

I’ve also been exploring some of the other games on the floppies. I’ve been playing Crystal Quest the most. The Glider 4.0 version on the floppy must be corrupted or buggy, because it locks the machine up after completing the fourth room. Thankfully, Glider 3.0 is on another floppy.

The Ford Simulator diskette is extremely flakey. I’ve only got it to successfully load one time… the rest of the time the computer asks me if I’d like to initialize the floppy or eject it. That same diskette also caused somewhat of a scare earlier when it got stuck in the drive. Thankfully, I was able to eject it with a straightened paper clip.

The “Starry Night” AfterEffects screensaver playing on the Classic

There’s a reason I’m writing this update now.

The machine was reliable and working wonderfully… until tonight.

The Classic was acting strange tonight. Upon booting the machine, it took a couple seconds for the display to come up. When it did, it went to the usual delay “Simasimac” pattern. However, there was something odd about it this time. The image was slightly shifting with the image “waving” like a flag in the wind.

After a minute or two, the computer chimed. However, there was no “Happy Mac.” There was just a blinking question mark floppy. The hard drive was not spinning.

I powered cycled the machine. This time, the hard drive spun up and the machine booted as usual. However, for a minute or two, there was a pincushion in the image, where one part of the image was “sucked in” on both sides. After a minute or two it started displaying as usual.

This confirms one of my fears with this machine: the analog board must be recapped soon. These are classic symptoms of caps gone bad on the analog board, which doubles as the computer’s power supply and the CRT driving circuitry.

So, you might be asking: “Garrett, why are you so afraid of recapping the analog board. You had the logic board recapped with no issues.”

There are many reasons.

  1. The analog board contains the power supply for the computer. Unlike the logic board, you’re dealing with parts of the computer that handle line (120 volt) voltage.
  2. The analog board also contains the CRT driving circuitry, which contains components that work at high voltage. We’re talking in the neighborhood of 12 kilovolts (KV.)
  3. To remove the analog board from the computer, you must disconnect the wires going to the CRT. This means discharging the CRT… and I don’t have the tools to do that (at the moment.)
  4. Perhaps the biggest worry is removing the neck board from the CRT itself. The neck of the CRT is the most fragile part of the CRT, if not the entire computer. All it takes is one wrong move or a slight jostle too hard to break the neck. If that happens, the pristine CRT in this machine is ruined. I really don’t want that to happen.
Recapping the analog board would require removing the neck board from the fragile CRT.

Having to work around and with a CRT is one of the draw-backs of owning a compact Mac like this one. The CRT is the part that worries the most about having the analog board recapped. I’m not even really concerned about discharging the CRT since a) they usually discharge themselves if you leave them over night* and b) discharging is fairly simple and straight forward. The part that worries the most is removing the neck board from the extremely fragile CRT.

This machine has a pristine CRT, and I don’t want to damage it.

In addition to likely having the analog board recapped, I’m hoping to also purchase a FloppyEmu for this machine. I also need to install the additional 2MB SIMMs I have for this machine.

Until next time…

*When working on your Macintosh, or any device equipped with a CRT, always discharge the CRT before working on the equipment. Do NOT trust the discharging circuitry!

Update: 6/5/2020

Today I decided to try to use the Macintosh Classic again, to see whether the issues were still present. After all, electronic devices – like many other things – can have “bad days” and display strange, intermittent anomalies.

Unfortunately, that was not the case with the Classic. In fact, today the problems were worse.

Last night I was able to boot the machine properly after one or two power cycles – that is, booting into System 6 via the hard drive. I was even able to load some floppies.

However, instead of being able to boot the machine normally, even after a couple of power cycles, I was greeted with nothing. Today, the hard drive hasn’t even tried to spin up. After a while, the machine will eventually attempt to boot, but goes to the dreaded flashing question mark icon as the hard drive is dead. Sometimes it even chimes multiple times (in one instance, five or six times) before it actually gets to the question mark icon.

The Macintosh Classic is the only model of Macintosh ever made (I believe even to present day) that has the entire operating system – System 6.0.3 – in ROM. Pressing “Command”+”Option”+”X”+”O” upon startup will boot into the ROM operating system.

I was able to successfully boot into the ROM operating system. However, the machine crashed completely (automatically restarting itself) after I bravely inserted a floppy disk into the drive.

Then, as you’d guess, the floppy wouldn’t eject. The floppy and hard drives are likely not working because there isn’t enough power coming from the analog board (which also double’s as the machine’s power supply) to properly operate them. I had to use a straightened paper clip to manually eject the floppy.

Not only would the floppy not eject, but the machine went into a bizarre “chime cycle” where it would continuously chime. I’m guessing that the machine was trying to eject the floppy, which brought down the voltage (which probably caused the machine to crash in the first place) enough to cause the machine to crash, then rinse and repeat.

Below is a video that shows the Classic’s issues, including the “chime cycle.”