Saying Goodbye: Macintosh SE and 512k/Plus

Say it ain’t so!

I’m currently in the process of selling two of my vintage Macs: the (stock) 1988 Macintosh SE and the 1985 Macintosh 512k-turned-Plus.

I’ve decided to sell two of my Macs: the stock 1988 Macintosh SE and the 1985 Macintosh 512k/Plus

Since this spring, I just haven’t been too involved in the retrocomputing hobby. As I noted in my recent update, I just haven’t had much of an urge to tinker with my vintage Macs or play around with the vintage software. Both of the computers I’m selling have been sitting in a closet in their bags since May, when I moved back home.

Regardless, it’s bittersweet. While I had the Macintosh SE out of its bag and powered on (likely the last time I’ll have it powered on myself), I decided to go ahead and write a quick “goodbye” post with it. Ironically, I couldn’t get the HD20 disk file I created for this machine back in November 2020 to work. So, just like I did when I first used this machine, I had to dig out my double-density/800k System 6.0.8 boot floppy and insert it. I’m writing this post from TeachText.

I purchased the 1988 Macintosh SE in October 2020 after following its listing on Facebook Marketplace. After a week or two of waiting, I acted and brought the machine home with me after a drive to Sedalia, a town over. My 1991 Macintosh Classic was in pieces at the time, as I was waiting for the logic and analog boards to return from New York, so I didn’t have a classic Mac to play with at the time.

The Facebook Marketplace ad I saw for the 1988 Macintosh SE in October 2020.

Unfortunately, with the Macintosh SE, it wasn’t as easy as flipping a switch and playing around. A crucial component – the 800k System 6.0.8 boot floppy – was missing. Fortunately, replacements are easy to find. I actually bought mine from a seller in Overland Park, Kansas, so it arrived within two days.

A photo from when I first set the 1988 Macintosh SE up after bringing it home in October 2020.

Right before departing for a weekend trip home, I got the floppy and tested the machine. It worked. And you wouldn’t believe my surprise when I learned the original 1988 Varta PRAM battery had kept time and date – only being off by a couple hours – all these years later. The seller, who was selling the computer as part of her mother-in-law’s estate, said the machine had “sat in her attic for years” and likely hadn’t been used in over 15 years.

Me booting the 1988 Macintosh SE into System 6.0.8 for the first time in October 2020

The Macs weren’t very useful until I purchased the FloppyEmu, which allows me to transfer files between the vintage Macs and my modern MacBook. The SE was the first computer I used the FloppyEmu with. Later, I would use the SE and the FloppyEmu to write many of my blog posts in November 2020-January 2021.

In fact, on New Year’s 2021, I filmed the Macintosh SE ringing in the new year in the Control Panel.

Ringing in 2021 with the 1988 Macintosh SE

While the Macintosh SE only has 1 MB of RAM, I was able to do quite a bit on it. In addition to being able to play games like Lemmings (with sound!), Crystal Quest, and MacMan (a spoof of Pac-Man), Aldus PageMaker and CricketDraw were my next pieces of software to tinker with. I created a six-page newsletter — complete with graphics — on PageMaker 4.0 using the SE… all with 1 MB of RAM. (Unfortunately, that newsletter was lost with all of the other files on the aforementioned HD-20 emulation disk image.)

I even used the Macintosh SE for demonstrations and writing posts during MARCHintosh 2021.

Despite the flaws with this Macintosh SE — yellowed and somewhat dirty plastics, an anti-theft/lock system installed on the top, the original owner’s name scribled into the system unit’s bucket and keyboard, and a smell of stale nicotine — I quickly learned to overlook them in favor of using this workhorse.

When I received the 1988 Macintosh SE with a Mobius 030 accelerator card installed — affectionately nicknamed the SuperSE because of its 16 MB of RAM and Motorola 68030 that flew compared to the pedestrian 68000 — the stock SE was placed back in its bag and more or less forgotten about. I installed a new PRAM battery in the Classic, allowing it to keep its time and date settings, making the SE less special in that regards.

And here I am writing a “goodbye” post with it. While the machine has served me faithfully and has been very reliable (a testament to how solid these Macintosh SE computers can be, even 30+ years later), I’ve decided it’s time to move on. I’m hoping it can go to a good home, finding a new hobbyist who will cherish it just like I did with it and the Classic.

Despite the power of the SuperSE and the convenience of the Classic, something about the stock SE still captivates me. Maybe it’s the simplicity of it, which is reminiscent of a simpler and earlier era of personal computing. Or perhaps its just knowing you don’t need a $3,000 workstation to get certain tasks — like writing a blog post — done. It’s amazing to see what you can do with two 800k floppy drives, a Motorola 68000 (which itself hails from 1979) clocked at a blazingly fast 8 MHz, and 1 MB of RAM.

I didn’t think it would be so hard to say goodbye.

The other machine I’m selling is the 1985 Macintosh 512k-turned-Plus, which earned the moniker “CheddarMac” due to its extremely yellowed bucket. I purchased the machine in April 2021 as part of a lot I got from a fellow retrocomputing hobbyist in Kansas City.

The other machine being sold is the 1985 Macintosh 512k/Plus I purchased from a fellow hobbyist back in April.

As I mentioned in that machine’s introduction post, it started life as a Macintosh 512k. However, after Apple introduced the Macintosh Plus, it was upgraded to a Plus using the official Apple upgrade kit. The kit replaced the logic board, floppy drive, and bucket.

I’ve never had this machine turned on. Outside of having a (fairly) early Macintosh in my collection, I probably shouldn’t have purchased the machine. While it does work, it needs some TLC. The Plus — along with the 128k and 512k that predated it, and many Apple II models — have the notorious RIFA caps that like to go “bang!” and fill your residence with lovely burning wood-scented smoke that permeates everything and takes forever to get rid of. (The fellow hobbyist who owned the machine before me has more guts than I do. He had the machine powered on and everything. But knowing my luck, it probably wouldn’t be five minutes before a bang/flash is accompanied by smoke slowly pouring out of the vents on it.)

The plastics also need some TLC. The bucket is a prime candidate for a Retr0brite treatment, since it is the most yellowed Mac I’ve seen. There are also remnants of a sticker on one side, and some bad “tan lines” (as some have put it) on the other. Time has not been kind to its pour bucket.

The bucket on the 1985 Macintosh 512k/Plus is probably the most yellowed I’ve seen…

Interestingly, the machine’s bezel — which was original from 1985 — is in much better shape and less yellow.

Another reason I’ve never had that machine powered on is I don’t have the keyboard or mouse for it. Finding keyboard and mice for an early (pre-SE) Macintosh can be a tricky and expensive endeavor. The early keyboards used a telephone-style cable with RJ-11 connectors to connect to the computer. (However, you can NOT use a standard telephone cable with them. Apple made sure that using a standard telephone cable instead of their proprietary cable would let the magic smoke out of the computer and/or the rare and expensive keyboard, turning them into expensive paper weights.) The early mice, on the other hand, used another strange proprietary connector that resembled a standard serial connector. A working keyboard/mouse pair for early Macs can easily cost over $150-200, in many cases being worth more than the computers themselves.

I’ve never even had the CheddarMac open. I do know it has 4 MB of RAM installed, a nice addition that places it on par with my Macintosh Classic, which is five years newer.

Like the stock SE, the Plus came with a carrying bag. (Unlike the SE, I’m selling the bag with the computer.) Also unlike the SE bag, the “MacBag by Linebacker” provides a snug fit around the computer. There’s basically no gap or any room for the computer to move around. It has a separate compartment for the keyboard.

While these machines are leaving, I’m hoping they go to good homes where they continue to work reliably and can help someone else get into the hobby.

The Classic, PowerBook 165, and SuperSE are all staying. I’ve been using the Classic for writing most of my recent posts and other things. I’m hoping to resume work on the SuperSE project next month, and eventually I’m going to try to get around to having the PowerBook 165 and its AC adapter recapped as it was acting finicky back in April.