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A friend had a Mac SE with an internal hard drive; a Rodime, if I recall correctly, and it exhibited the sticky bearing problem where it just wouldn't spin up. In a last, desperate measure, I removed the hard drive's cover, powered up the Mac, and spun the drive platter (touching only the center hub). It worked, and we copied everything off the drive to a SCSI external. After powering the Mac down, we replaced the Rodime with a new hard drive.
 


Ah yes. I forgot about that ingenious bit of hardware. I wonder if the Amiga later used something similar to get 880K on a disk? There's a platform I wish I'd gotten to play with. But my only Commodore experience is limited to the 64c (my first computer) and the 128, which one of my science teachers from high school gave me years later. I now have neither, apart from some floppies.
The Amiga drive was not variable speed. I don't remember any discussion at the time of anything special in the drive tech that affected capacity. The motherboard did have DMA chips that sped up access. I DID get to play with them; nothing since has been as much fun.
 



The Amiga drive was not variable speed. I don't remember any discussion at the time of anything special in the drive tech that affected capacity. The motherboard did have DMA chips that sped up access. I DID get to play with them; nothing since has been as much fun.
All floppy drives manufactured (at least all that I ever worked with) were capable of storing more than their rated capacities. I used to play around with a software wedge on MS-DOS that did just that.

For example, a standard 360K floppy (40 tracks, 2 heads, 9 sectors, 512 bytes/sector) could be pushed to about 420K by formatting it for 10 sectors per track and 42 tracks (there was always room to record an extra 2-3 tracks on a disk.

I was also able to push a 720K floppy (80 tracks, 9 sectors) to 820K (82 tracks, 10 sectors) and a 1.44M floppy (80 tracks, 18 sectors) to 1.7M (82 tracks, 21 sectors).

It looks like the Amiga's 880K format used a similar principle. With a DD [Double Density] disk, that would probably be 80 tracks of 11 sectors each - probably within the capacity of most drive hardware at the time.

I'm not sure why Apple chose a variable-spindle-speed system for their 400K/800K formats. I can only assume that their GCR encoding scheme didn't allow higher densities, but the MFM encoding used by IBM and others (including Apple for their 1.44M floppies) did.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I'm not sure why Apple chose a variable-spindle-speed system for their 400K/800K formats.
Here’s an explanation:
Wikipedia said:
Macintosh External Disk Drive
Apple's custom interface used GCR (Group Coded Recording) and a unique format which put fewer sectors on the smaller inner tracks and more sectors on the wider outer tracks of the disk. The disk would speed up when accessing the inner tracks and slow down when accessing the outer ones. This allowed more space per disk (400k) and also improved reliability by reducing the number of sectors on the inner tracks which had less physical media to allocate to each sector.
 


Here’s an explanation:
That much is known - that you can pack more sectors on outer tracks. The question is why Apple chose such a complicated solution when (as far as I know) all other vendors got similar capacity with a fixed-speed spindle. IBM-type 3.5" floppies were 720K using a fixed 80 tracks and 9 (512 byte) sectors, and 1.44M using a fixed 80 tracks and 18 sectors.

And it is known (e.g. the Amiga description and my own experiments with MS-DOS), that those same drives could easily put 800K on a double-density 3.5" floppy (80 tracks, 10 sectors) using a fixed-speed spindle.

I can only think of two explanations, both of which relate to the Apple/Woz tradition of re-inventing wheels and replacing hardware chips with software.

The first is the GCR bit-encoding. The final version Apple used (DOS 3.3, ProDOS and double-density 3.5" floppies) is a "6 and 2" encoding, where 6 bits are encoded by 8 magnetic pulses (75% efficiency). MFM (used by IBM and everybody for 1.44M floppies) has an average of 0.75 magnetic transitions per bit (133% efficiency - more than 1 bit per pulse!).

The second is more speculative. It is well known that Woz stripped down floppy drive controllers, choosing to replace (expensive) chips with (cheap) software. But doing so means some things (like the mathematical complexity of bit-encoding) is limited by CPU speeds. I think (but can't find a source right now) Apple did something similar for the Mac, using their own custom electronics to simplify (and therefore lower the cost of) the Sony floppy drive mechanism. So they ended up porting the GCR encoding they were already familiar with and building it into their own controller circuitry. Had they used Sony's circuitry (at higher cost), then they would have had MFM encoding and higher density and the ability to go to 360/720K (and probably 400/800K or even 440/880K) with a fixed-speed spindle.
 


Was much better to get the PCPC MacBottom when it was released.
I don't remember the MacBottom specifically, but it was one of many hard drives in that form factor -- which eventually was referred to as a "zero footprint" or ZFP drive. Somehow that naming persisted long after Macs that didn't fit on top were common.
 


While we're on the subject of really old Macs, I just stumbled across this interesting product (don't know if it's still being made or not):
Big Mess o' Wires said:
Floppy Emu Disk Emulator for Apple II, Macintosh and Lisa
Floppy Emu is a floppy and hard disk emulator for classic Apple II, Macintosh, and Lisa computers. It uses an SD memory card and custom hardware to mimic an Apple floppy disk and drive, or an Apple hard drive. The Emu behaves exactly like a real disk drive, requiring no special software or drivers.

Floppy Emu Technology Design
Floppy Emu was developed here at Big Mess o’ Wires, over a period of several years. You can view the tech planning, problems, and progress reports from the development blog if you’re interested in its history and operation. There’s a wealth of information on all the nitty gritty details and issues solved along the way, so check it out!
This device plugs into the floppy drive port and emulates various kinds of Apple storage devices, including a hard drive (using the HD20 protocol). So now you can put a 2GB hard drive on your Mac Plus (or Lisa or Apple II), if you're so inclined.
 


The killer upgrade for early Macs was the GCC HyperDrive, which was one of the most brilliant hacks ever. Unfortunately, the drives they used (Micropolis, if I recall correctly) were defective, and I've been obsessive about backup ever since....
My 20MB HyperDrive [FX-20 external SCSI drive] cost $1,000 Canadian in ~1987, and was even noisier than the Mac SE it connected to. But it sure sped things up!
 


My 20MB HyperDrive [FX-20 external SCSI drive] cost $1,000 Canadian in ~1987, and was even noisier than the Mac SE it connected to. But it sure sped things up!
Interesting! I don't recall a floppy-only SE being particularly noisy in the absence of a defective fan (always assumed the majority of the noise came from the MiniScribe hard drive). Was I wrong?
 


I don't remember the MacBottom specifically, but it was one of many hard drives in that form factor -- which eventually was referred to as a "zero footprint" or ZFP drive. Somehow that naming persisted long after Macs that didn't fit on top were common.
I really loved the form factor, both of the drives and the Macs under which they sat. I'd be happy as a clam today if I could buy a Mac in the form factor of a Color Classic, even with the tradeoff of a small internal screen. I'd just add a second display for times when it wouldn't suffice.

Sure, today it would be considered more luggable than portable, but I fondly remember taking my Classic II on trips.

If I can one day find a Color Classic in good shape for a reasonable price, I will pick it up, even if I still have to save up for it. I remember when I strolled into a computer store, and asked the salesman for permission to shut it down (I really wanted to see what it was like to boot a Mac using its keyboard. I still miss that feature!) But that wasn't the biggest surprise. It was on that machine that I first heard the startup sound that was shared by most of the PowerBook 100 series and 68040 machines. I still get nostalgic for that particular chime. I was expecting the Color Classic to sound like my Classic II! I remember part of the excitement of new Mac models being "what will the startup chime sound like?", since they changed it every few years.

Good times!
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I don't remember the MacBottom specifically, but it was one of many hard drives in that form factor -- which eventually was referred to as a "zero footprint" or ZFP drive. Somehow that naming persisted long after Macs that didn't fit on top were common.
And, of course, this concept reappeared with the Mac Mini and products such as the miniStack.
 


... I still get nostalgic for that particular chime. I was expecting the Color Classic to sound like my Classic II! I remember part of the excitement of new Mac models being "what will the startup chime sound like?", since they changed it every few years.
If one has the Mactracker app installed either on the Mac or on an Apple iOS device, one can hear the original chime sounds of the classic Macs by clicking/tapping the Mac icon in the information page.
 


If one has the Mactracker app installed either on the Mac or on an Apple iOS device, one can hear the original chime sounds of the classic Macs by clicking/tapping the Mac icon in the information page.
Thank you for that wonderful Easter egg! If I once knew about it, I forgot.
 


If only there were a way to read 800K floppies, which seems to be impossible, due to their variable-speed encoding.
I kept a Quadra 660 AV pizza box around for eventually archiving off our boxes of 800k and 400k floppies. Multiplan files, Microsoft File databases, early MacWrite and Word documents, early Photoshop 1 font files....

Managed to save them all except for one lone 400k floppy that had a Photoshop 1 font I need to finish converting our old Aldus Pagemaker files into PDFs for posterity. The font is named PLEX and was a copy of whatever commercial typeface Howard Chaykin used in the comic American Flagg in the late '80s, in case any fellow font-hoarder might have it in their stash.
 


While I wouldn't call it buyer's remorse, Mactracker just reminded me that the Color Classic was released in February 1993, the exact month that my Classic II arrived. Thus, my first Mac wasn't the first color compact Mac, but the last black-and-white compact Mac. One of the first things I did was subscribe to Macworld, and my reaction upon seeing the Color Classic on the April 1993 issue (or did I see it first in the Apple Catalog? Anyone else remember that?) was basically a facepalm, even though we didn't yet call it that.

But the 1-bit experience gave me an appreciation for just what Mac developers could do without color. Windows 3.1 at the same settings just looked starkly out of place when my best friend tried it on his computer a couple years later as a joke. Mac developers excelled at making programs that actually looked good in black and white (though exceptions did exist!)

Even so, every once in a while, I would see – either while browsing the shelves in a store or in a Macworld review – a really cool game that required color.
 


My first smaller hard drive (meaning 5" nominal) was a Segate ST506 that was 5MB capacity and cost $1,500 plus the controller cost for the Heathkit H-89 computer I had built....

I acquired a CDC Hawk drive, 30" deep, standard 10.5" rack height and 19" wide that weighed over 100 pounds. It had one fixed and one removable platter, and each side of the platter was 2.5 MB (for a total of 10 megabytes, wow!) in the DEC world (2.5MB was also known as an RK-05 in DEC drives). Coupled with the DEC-compatible controller (I think Dilog was the name, as Emulux also made DEC,compatible controllers for the non-DEC drives), the cost nudged $10,000. This was connected to the Heathkit H-11 computer, where I built memory and I/O cards and had an LSI 11/2 computer on a half-sized board.

The half-sized DEC memory card had 32K of RAM (half populated) for $1,000). Fully populated with 64k was $2,000. As time went by, the maximum memory would increase in density to 128k 256k, 512k, 1024k and finally 4,096k, and the price remained at $2,000 for the board. 4 megabytes was the maximum memory the PDP-ll commuters could work with. I had a PDP-11/73 processor that had the power of the much larger DEC boxes and could handle 64 terminals if running the RSTS DEC operating system.

I made 1.5 MB of RAM into a RAM disk for compiling Dibol programming language software. Those were the days where a terminal with 56k assigned could have word processing, spreadsheets, and Dibol accounting programs all accessible by switching using Control-W to switch between jobs on the VT-100 terminals. The VT-103 included a backplane, so it was an early "portable" computer....
 


Some years ago, I came across a fairly complete collection of MacUser/MacWorld magazines from the mid-1980s to the early 2000s. It was fascinating to leaf through them, as the ads were at least as interesting as the articles from a historic perspective. (Anyone remember the Thunderscan?) It also was interesting to see how the issues gradually diminished from having the heft of a good book to barely requiring a glued spine rather than a stapled one.
 


I was browsing the Wikipedia article for Mac OS 8, and happened to notice (in the version history table) that the codename for 8.5.1 is listed as The Ric Ford (of Macintouch) Release. Oddly verbose in comparison to the other entries, even if MacInTouch wasn't a part of the actual name!

Assuming that it is not some spurious edit, is there a story behind that? ;)
 


I was browsing the Wikipedia article for Mac OS 8, and happened to notice (in the version history table) that the codename for 8.5.1 is listed as The Ric Ford (of Macintouch) Release. Oddly verbose in comparison to the other entries, even if Macintouch wasn't a part of the actual name!

Assuming that it is not some spurious edit, is there a story behind that? ;)
Mac OS 8.5 was a particular mess, and Ric was fairly verbal in communicating the problems being seen at the time.

Mac OS 8.5 Special Report: Disk Damage Issue
 


Some years ago, I came across a fairly complete collection of MacUser/MacWorld magazines from the mid-1980s to the early 2000s. It was fascinating to leaf through them, as the ads were at least as interesting as the articles from a historic perspective. (Anyone remember the Thunderscan?) It also was interesting to see how the issues gradually diminished from having the heft of a good book to barely requiring a glued spine rather than a stapled one.
I recall one of the early PC magazines got up to around 900 pages during the mid-1980s boom. A newly hired editor I knew called me up and begged for computer-related articles to fill the space between the ads,* and I banged a couple out -- on an IBM Selectric because I didn't own a computer at the time. I bought a Mac 512K some months later, and later wrote a couple of things for MacWorld.

*The Post Office required that magazines contain a minimum fraction -- I think 25% -- of the magazine must be editorial content rather than ads to qualify for second-class mail, and they checked from time to time, so publishers were careful to include articles as well as paid advertisements, which made the real money for publishers.
 


Am I the only one who misses the whimsical screensavers of After Dark? These days, I simply sleep the display when not in use, but I'd use a screensaver again in a heartbeat if someone were to bring back After Dark! They could be stunning in color – but managed to look great even in black and white!
 


Am I the only one who misses the whimsical screensavers of After Dark? These days, I simply sleep the display when not in use, but I'd use a screensaver again in a heartbeat if someone were to bring back After Dark! They could be stunning in color – but managed to look great even in black and white!
Simon says, “Web-search ‘after dark screen saver emulator’!" et voilà!
internet.org said:
Run it (a JavaScript emulator) full-screen and watch your CPU go through the roof.
 



Gawd, the flying toasters and toast was too fun. Yeah, a few years ago I found After Dark 2.0 and tried it. It’s outrageous on a 30-inch screen. Glad they made it to work on Intel Macs running the latest macOS version at the time.

Would like to see a screen saver that looks like the moving star fields in Star Trek, the original series.
 


Would like to see a screen saver that looks like the moving star fields in Star Trek, the original series.
It's funny you should mention that. Berkley Systems, the makers of After Dark, actually did make a Star Trek collection. I don't know if it contains the exact animation you reference, but it wouldn't surprise me.
 



About five years ago I asked MacInTouch if there was a screensaver that runs on the iPad; Matt Neuburg pointed out XScreenSaver. It's available for most platforms, including macOS. It has numerous modules, including flying toasters and pyro.

I still have my 3.5" floppy disk of the Pyro! screensaver, authored by Fifth Generation Systems. If I remember correctly, After Dark came after Pyro! and basically took over the Macintosh screen saver scene. The Wikipedia article about FGS links to an article, coincidentally written on April 2, 1989 titled How to Extend a Monitor's Life. Time flies...
 


SCSI or Firewire drives, anyone? ;-)
I had a SCSI-attached 10MB hard drive and an RS422 serial-port printer on one of my old Macs (SE I think), and on a later one remember having to plug in a dongle to the ADB bus to get Quark to work.

Still think I’ve got some SCSI Syquest, Jaz, and Zip drives, along with a broken LaserWriter... somewhere. Keep meaning to take them to the skip, but can never be bothered to empty the loft/shed/cellar out to find them.

I’ve gone through too many different ‘bleeding edge’ connection methods that I’ve got boxes of cables, adapters, power supplies, dongles, etc. to be able to get access to some archived materials after a few years.
 


My work Iici with software was a smidge less than $10,000 back in 1991 and worth every penny.
  • AppleTalk, DECNet, IPX/SPX, NetBEUI, and TCP/IP networking was easy compared to anything on Windows. All of them at once!
  • X-Windows provided remote consoles for VAX/VMS systems as well as several variants of UNIX available then.
  • One day I connected three HiRes Color displays at one time -- that worked fine but scared me when the office furniture sagged.
  • The best part is that I did not have to reinstall the OS and applications every time I made any configuration change.
All this in a Wintel-centric Mac-antagonistic company. Eventually, I was required to downgrade -- IBM PC/Windows NT for Active Directory and Outlook. The Iici moved from my office to a cube outside it and continued to do useful work for several more years.
 


My work Iici with software was a smidge less than $10,000 back in 1991 and worth every penny.
  • AppleTalk, DECNet, IPX/SPX, NetBEUI, and TCP/IP networking was easy compared to anything on Windows. All of them at once!
  • X-Windows provided remote consoles for VAX/VMS systems as well as several variants of UNIX available then.
  • One day I connected three HiRes Color displays at one time -- that worked fine but scared me when the office furniture sagged.
  • The best part is that I did not have to reinstall the OS and applications every time I made any configuration change.
All this in a Wintel-centric Mac-antagonistic company. Eventually, I was required to downgrade -- IBM PC/Windows NT for Active Directory and Outlook. The Iici moved from my office to a cube outside it and continued to do useful work for several more years.
DECnet? VAX/VMS? Ah the incorrigible VAX. As a matter of fact, I'm still - 30 years later - a VMS/OpenVMS Systems Manager! And still using DECnet for some node-to-node networking!
 



What, no love for Novell NetWare?
We ran some marketing research studies for them back in the day. Wish I could dig out some of those old tech-sector-related jobs now, but quite a few are probably unrecoverable, since they were never converted to PageMaker versions later than PM2.
 


I wonder if any Fortran cloud services have card readers.... :-)
Humor aside, my wife spent much of a year on a project to duplicate all Amoco's computing resources redundantly in a Kansas salt mine. They sent down at least one of every computing device necessary to access old and contemporary data and programs, with spare parts. They drew the line at card readers and punch cards as the programs and data from punch cards were on tape.
 



DECnet? VAX/VMS? Ah the incorrigible VAX. As a matter of fact, I'm still - 30 years later - a VMS/OpenVMS Systems Manager! And still using DECnet for some node-to-node networking!
Wow!

In around 1985 I think, our VAX (can't remember the model number) supported approx. 2-3 workstations, which were TI's with just green and red vector graphics. It was about the size of a mini fridge, and was located in a telephone equipment room. One day I came in to find the telephone repair guys eating their Chinese food lunch using the $80K VAX as a table.
 


In around 1985 I think, our VAX (can't remember the model number) supported approx. 2-3 workstations, which were TI's with just green and red vector graphics. It was about the size of a mini fridge, and was located in a telephone equipment room. One day I came in to find the telephone repair guys eating their Chinese food lunch using the $80K VAX as a table.
And just about 10 years after, that my college student employee was buying VAXen to hack into and use as supports for a glass coffee table top.

Maybe in a few years we'll be doing the same with the trashcan Mac Pro. Cheers.
 



Wow! In around 1985 I think, our VAX (can't remember the model number) supported approx. 2-3 workstations, which were TI's with just green and red vector graphics. It was about the size of a mini fridge, and was located in a telephone equipment room. One day I came in to find the telephone repair guys eating their Chinese food lunch using the $80K VAX as a table.
If it was in 1985, then more than likely, it was some model of MicroVAX.
 


We had DEC equipment at my old place of employment. At some point, our office department retired their IBM Selectric Memory Typewriters for DECmates. The DECmate must have been the first computer (if you can call them that) that I used. I remember very little about using it, but I did a number of papers for my German classes on them. To print them out, I had to change the type thingie in the printer to one that had the correct characters (umlaut, etc.). if I recall correctly the type disk was flat and round, like a wheel with many spokes. I am thankful to be able to say that I long ago got rid of the 5.25” floppies on which I stored those papers. I’m guessing this was in the early 80s.
 


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