MacInTouch Amazon link...

old systems/reminiscences

Channels
Other
Well, if we're writing about old systems...One of my clients gave me an old white MacBook (4,1), whose 80GB hard drive I wiped and reinstalled Snow Leopard on. Amazing how well it runs with only 2 GB of RAM (and I have a couple of 2GB modules on the shelf looking for a home). I imagine there are thousands of these still working (though the plastic is cracked and stained). Now, I know best security practices would strongly suggest this machine be kept off the Internet, but I wonder what would keep it safe (other than wiping it and running Linux)? Probably any Internet apps that could run on it wouldn't even be allowed to connect to most servers.
We also have one of these. It was my main machine for almost four years. It now interfaces with my wife's embroidery machine and works quite well. I have put an SSD in it and also maxed out RAM. She uses an older version of Fox on it and, of course, it is not very secure, but internet use is very minimal. Plastic top case is chipped on the edges, but for a 13-year-old machine, it still work quite well.
 


My oldest Mac is a 1997 PowerBook 3400c. I keep this because I have a ton of SCSI cables & adapters. I've actually put it to good use twice.

My next oldest is an original Bondi iMac that's been kept under cover its whole life. I haven't powered it on in years. It's been kludged to run System 9.2.2.

Next is a 2003 iBook 12" running Tiger 10.4.11 with a whopping 384 MB of RAM. I kept this because it was lightly used and looks new.

Next are two PowerBooks from 2005 running Tiger 10.4.11. I keep them for the rare times I need to run Classic.

Next are two BlackBooks (black plastic MacBooks) running Snow Leopard. I love their look when the Apple logo lights up. Basically useless now, since I have newer and more powerful Snow Leopard Macs.

I just refurbed an iMac 17" Late 2006 – it runs Snow Leopard. I like the white plastic case with the large iMac on the back. It's useless for work, but I'll set it up with an old iSight camera to do something silly.

For comparison, my main Mac is a 2009 Mac Pro flashed to 5,1 running Mojave. My newest Mac is a Mid-2013 MacBook Air.
 



As much as we hated the "electrics by Lucas, the Prince of Darkness", ...
I remember reading a motorcycle magazine's test of the 1969/1970 Triumph Bonneville (I had a 1968). It had this quip (I think I'm remembering it accurately): "Imagine strapping yourself into a space capsule and shortly after takeoff noticing signs all over saying 'Electrics by Lucas'."

In 1969 I helped a friend fix his 1964 Triumph Bonneville. It had many electrical shorts due to Lucas wiring wearing through the insulation from vibration. Another friend had an MG. The Lucas wiper motor would get wet when it rained and stop working. Another friend had a Jaguar XKE. The only electrics he could keep working were the lights and ignition. We drove it in the dead of winter from Michigan to upper New York State through Canada. It handled impeccably on ice but not having a heater motor ruined that experience.
 




As much as we hated the "electrics by Lucas, the Prince of Darkness", the Triumph Spitfire was a joy to wrench. You'd pivot the entire hood forward and then sit on the front tire to do your engine work...which you'd be doing often.
If you think about it, this was pretty much the way the blue/grey/silver G3/G4 was designed; swing down the door and there were all the guts of the machine ready to work on.
My '65 Triumph TR4A rusted out in Wisconsin, and the wheel fell off in Tennessee, but it was sure fun to drive, even if it was unfixable.
 


My '65 Triumph TR4A rusted out in Wisconsin, and the wheel fell off in Tennessee, but it was sure fun to drive, even if it was unfixable.
iFixit might have given it a high rating because it wasn't hard to service. I think the electrics were made by Nvidia in the same factory as those iMac video cards.

I did have an old BSA 250 that used Whitworth tools which were neither metric nor SAE. I just used an adjustable wrench and torqued it the old-fashioned way; tighten it 'til it strips and then back off a quarter turn."
 


... I did have an old BSA 250 that used Whitworth tools which were neither metric nor SAE. ...
In my motorcycle world we called it "Engineering Whitworth" and affectionately referred to it as "Engineering Nitwit". What's different about Whitworth is that the size refers to the bolt diameter, not the distance across the faces of the hexagonal nut. I still have my set from the early 70s.
 


In the late 1970s / early 1980s, we got an idea to write some engineering software for personal computers and make a fortune. Loaded up an Apple II+ with two floppy drives, CP/M card, 9-pin dot-matrix printer, FORTRAN compiler, and bought a physically huge and logically small hard drive. I don't recall the manufacturer, but I vaguely recall that it was white. Took some time for all that stuff to 'boot up', as we used to say. Not to mention the cost of the stuff back then; very likely north of 8000 bucks.

We failed to make a fortune, but the software remains active to this day. The present owner, who was instrumental in its development, actually gives it away when a customer buys the extremely more powerful, bigger, better, faster, cheaper, modern engineering analysis software.

(As I'm writing this, I'm wondering if I'm having false reconstructed memories about a FORTRAN compiler running on CP/M in an Apple II+ way back then? Did Absoft do that?)
 



Well, if we're writing about old systems...One of my clients gave me an old white MacBook (4,1), whose 80GB hard drive I wiped and reinstalled Snow Leopard on. Amazing how well it runs with only 2 GB of RAM (and I have a couple of 2GB modules on the shelf looking for a home). I imagine there are thousands of these still working (though the plastic is cracked and stained).
I've got a 5,2 MacBook (early 2009), which looks to be very simlar to the 4,1 model. It runs High Sierra quite well, now that I have upgraded it with an SSD and 6GB memory. But both are absolutely required for High Sierra - it's too slow with less than 6 GB or without an SSD. The dosdude patcher is required for installing High Sierra on this model. I found a $20 128GB SSD, so I ended up spending around $60 or $70 to get this thing going with High Sierra.
 



(As I'm writing this, I'm wondering if I'm having false reconstructed memories about a FORTRAN compiler running on CP/M in an Apple II+ way back then? Did Absoft do that?)
As I recall, when Apple introduced the language card with its banked switched 16k of memory, it also released Pascal and FORTRAN compilers. I don't know who wrote those.
 



Indeed - the old VAX drives (RA series) did need to have the heads parked properly prior to shipping or they'd be damaged. I recall a new shipment from DEC that had to be specifically unpacked (from palettes) and installed by a DEC engineer.
And RADs from Scientific Data Systems [SDS] for Sigma 7 & 9 computers had a habit of crash its heads while in operation. We learned quickly to have backups.
 


As I recall, when Apple introduced the language card with its banked switched 16k of memory, it also released Pascal and FORTRAN compilers. I don't know who wrote those.
Wasn’t the Pascal UCSD Pascal? My wife used it to write a LISP interpreter for a C.Sc. class.
 


As I recall, when Apple introduced the language card with its banked switched 16k of memory, it also released Pascal and FORTRAN compilers. I don't know who wrote those.
Apple had two different Pascal systems.

I used Apple Pascal, which was an implementation of the UCSD p-system. The computer booted into a proprietary Pascal operating system. Code compiled into p-code and was executed through an interpreter.

Apple also sold a product called "Instant Pascal", which I never used.
 


In the early 80's, while working on a nuclear power plant simulator, we borrowed a SEL (Systems Engineering Laboratories) super-mini to test. We had to call SEL when something went amok. The technican opened the hard drive to watch the heads et al. So far, SOP. Then he lit up a cigarette and stood smoking it right over the drive. One ash would have crashed the heads, ruining both the heads and the platters. Since it wasn't a removable platter drive, I was justifiably terrified.

At the same job our Data Generals had drives with removable 10MB single-platter disks. The drives had no intelligence – everything was done through digital and analog circuitry. The heads moved using a voice coil, just like a speaker (but much more powerful). A seek would first determine the distance between tracks then accelerate the heads to about 50% of the way and then decelerate them to a stop. Once they were at the track, one of the heads would read special track data on one side of the drive, using the strength of the signal to finely move the heads in/out so they were precisely over the track.

To move the heads quickly took a bank of six capacitors the size of a six-pack of pop. We had one drive mounted about 4 feet up in a 19" rack. I wrote a diagnostic to do a butterfly seek, which starts at the innermost and outermost tracks and moves towards the center one track at a time. Just for fun I tweaked it to do a seek repeatedly that made the whole rack resonate. We never let it run enough to do damage — computers back then cost many times more than our yearly salary.
 


Apple had two different Pascal systems.
I used Apple Pascal, which was an implementation of the UCSD p-system. The computer booted into a proprietary Pascal operating system. Code compiled into p-code and was executed through an interpreter.
Apple also sold a product called "Instant Pascal", which I never used.
Actually the language card was nothing more than a 16KB memory card that moved the 48K Apple II up to the max of 64KB.

Later, a Z80 card was made to allow CP/M to run on and Apple ][ or Apple ///. I was the Support Engineer for these two cards, since I had purchased my copy (s/n 70) of CP/M directly from Gary Kildall (the author of CP/M) when he lived in Sunnyvale (around 1977).

Apple Pascal was derived from UCSD Pascal, mostly by Bill Atkinson. UCSD Pascal required the 8080 instruction set but was translated to the 6800 so it could run natively.
 


Apple Pascal was derived from UCSD Pascal, mostly by Bill Atkinson. UCSD Pascal required the 8080 instruction set but was translated to the 6800 so it could run natively.
Not exactly. UCSD Pascal was a byte-code interpreted language: the Pascal compiler generated byte codes, which were then executed by a run-time interpreter. In fact the entire system was compiled this way, so the only thing necessary to port the whole system to a new CPU architecture, like the 6502, was to create a run time interpreter for it.
 


The heads moved using a voice coil, just like a speaker (but much more powerful). A seek would first determine the distance between tracks then accelerate the heads to about 50% of the way and then decelerate them to a stop. Once they were at the track, one of the heads would read special track data on one side of the drive, using the strength of the signal to finely move the heads in/out so they were precisely over the track.
This is (pretty much) what all modern hard drives do. They use voice coils or servo motors to move the heads, using data (written to the platters in the factory by specialized equipment) for precise positioning.

Early consumer hard drives used stepper motors instead. Stepper motors don't require any head-positioning data on the platters (the controller just counts phases on the motor), but they're slower and can't support the high track densities required to support the capacities of modern drives.
 


As I recall, when Apple introduced the language card with its banked switched 16k of memory, it also released Pascal and FORTRAN compilers. I don't know who wrote those.
I had the language card with Pascal, and it was my first self-taught "high level language" (Applesoft and Integer basic not being counted as "high level" :-) I wrote a lot of Pascal code back then.

Later on, that familiarity with Pascal translated into writing the first available commercial software for color digital high resolution film recorders on the first color Macintosh, the Conductor software for Agfa/Matrix that supported the Slidewriter and Procolor film recorders (SCSI direct interface) and QCR-D and QCR-Z film (native GPIB interface through a hardware SCSI converter box). These were the highest resolution color output devices available at the time (late 1980's through early 1990's) and they maxed out at 4K resolution for slides and transparencies. The main application was written entirely in Pascal (including a library to render fonts in high resolution, without resorting to Postscript) with certain functions written in 68K assembly language for speed.

For me, the origins of that work went all the way back to the Apple II, and writing software in both Pascal and 6502 assembly language.
 


Not exactly. UCSD Pascal was a byte-code interpreted language: the Pascal compiler generated byte codes, which were then executed by a run-time interpreter. In fact the entire system was compiled this way, so the only thing necessary to port the whole system to a new CPU architecture, like the 6502, was to create a run time interpreter for it.
Interestingly, this same concept was later used, with great success, in the design and implementation of Java and other bytecode-based application environments (e.g. Microsoft .Net and LLVM).
 



In the early 1980s, I wrote a commercially distributed program using Apple Pascal (UCSD Pascal) on an Apple II, and I have the sell sheets to prove it! (grin)
Has your Apple II program been preserved? I'm happy to help if it hasn't. There's also a large, active community saving Apple II and Mac software from extinction. The best solution these days is an Applesauce that connects an Apple black face 5.25" drive or 3.5" drive to your Mac via USB. Creator John Morris also developed the A2R raw format that preserves the flux and any copy protection, if you install a sync sensor inside the drive. There's also a smaller WOZ disk format that is supported by most emulators. The Applesauce software also does a lot of analysis and repair of damaged disks. It's fun being a digital archivist!
 


Has your Apple II program been preserved?
I believe I have a printout of the source code slowly decomposing in a file cabinet. The disks? Long gone. I don't know if anyone else preserved it. I think it was the only piece of software ever published by Scribner's; they were gobbled up by Macmillan a couple of years later, and I don't know where the digital assets went following that event.
 


I believe I have a printout of the source code slowly decomposing in a file cabinet. The disks? Long gone. I don't know if anyone else preserved it. I think it was the only piece of software ever published by Scribner's; they were gobbled up by Macmillan a couple of years later, and I don't know where the digital assets went following that event.
If memory serves, Macmillan was gobbled up by Simon & Schuster after Robert Maxwell went overboard with the Macmillan pension fund, and various bits and pieces of their publishing businesses were transferred to other divisions, some of which were later sold off. I had books caught in the mess; I don't know what happened to the software.
 


I believe I have a printout of the source code slowly decomposing in a file cabinet. The disks? Long gone. I don't know if anyone else preserved it. I think it was the only piece of software ever published by Scribner's; they were gobbled up by Macmillan a couple of years later, and I don't know where the digital assets went following that event.
I wouldn't mind, and also I'm sure Brian.W wouldn't mind, as well, attempting to scan your source code, and any documentation, to at least preserve it for posterity. We both (and especially Brian) have experience working with dodgy text scans. ;)
 


In the late 1970s / early 1980s, we got an idea to write some engineering software for personal computers and make a fortune. Loaded up an Apple II+ with two floppy drives, CP/M card, 9-pin dot-matrix printer, FORTRAN compiler, and bought a physically huge and logically small hard drive. I don't recall the manufacturer, but I vaguely recall that it was white. Took some time for all that stuff to 'boot up', as we used to say. Not to mention the cost of the stuff back then; very likely north of 8000 bucks.

We failed to make a fortune, but the software remains active to this day. The present owner, who was instrumental in its development, actually gives it away when a customer buys the extremely more powerful, bigger, better, faster, cheaper, modern engineering analysis software.

(As I'm writing this, I'm wondering if I'm having false reconstructed memories about a FORTRAN compiler running on CP/M in an Apple II+ way back then? Did Absoft do that?)
It certainly wasn't Absoft. The first Apple Fortran compiler they did was for the Mac, and they were able to do it because they had written a PDP/11 Fortran compiler and were able to adapt that to the somewhat similar assembly language of the 68000 microprocessor. I think. It's been a long time.

The CP/M Fortran compiler is almost certainly the Microsoft Fortran compiler for CP/M. I used that Fortran compiler on a Northstar Horizons CP/M machine, circa 1979. Rumor has it that it was one of the last things that Bill Gates helped with the coding. Rumor. I don't know for sure.
 


It would have been 1991 or 1992 I got my first Mac at home. I splurged on the 4MB RAM/40MB drive upgrade, and while it must have been dreadfully slow, it was all I knew and it seemed OK. At the time, I would rather have had an Outbound Mac clone, but they were too expensive for me. And anyway, Copland was coming and all would be well.

The biggest surprise in the usability department was the eMate, whose keyboard I loved, despite the small keys. You could type for 24 hours on a single battery charge, do your e-mail and download newsgroups for offline reading (comp.sys.mac.portables!). It was only last year I finally cleared away the PowerBook 100, a pair of eMates and a raft of Macs that came after (520c, Pismo, Titanium, clamshell and white iBooks, LC II, IIsi, 6400, etc). A little bird tells me my son has found a 25th anniversary Marathon T-shirt for Christmas for me, so there'll be some Total Carnage on the network when he comes home. However, I'm still waiting for Copland....
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
It would have been 1991 or 1992 I got my first Mac at home. I splurged on the 4MB RAM/40MB drive upgrade, and while it must have been dreadfully slow...
You might be surprised by how fast it is compared to, say, a basic iMac today, despite orders of magnitude difference in hardware power.

Bill Atkinson's (true) genius of a graphics system was incredibly fast, and modern overhead is vastly more draining and complex.
 


However, I'm still waiting for Copland....
I was devastated when it was cancelled. I really enjoyed the sneak peeks that Macworld periodically offered, and I couldn't wait to see what would be revealed next. I am sure that some of its advances would still be welcome today.
 


You might be surprised by how fast it is compared to, say, a basic iMac today, despite orders of magnitude difference in hardware power.

Bill Atkinson's (true) genius of a graphics system was incredibly fast, and modern overhead is vastly more draining and complex.
I was thrilled with my Mac IIci, my first personally owned computer, purchased in late 1991. It came with 9MB of RAM and a massive 120MB hard drive. It died about 14 years later, and it killed me to finally take it to e-cycling a couple of years ago. I took a farewell picture of it sitting forlornly on the sidewalk surrounded by other dead or elderly gear.

I still occasionally fire up my 9600 and marvel every time at how responsive the Mac OS 8.6 Finder is.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I was thrilled with my Mac IIci...
That's one of my favorite Macs, as well. I couldn't afford to buy one, but we had one at work and used the PDS upgrade slot to give it a lovely boost. It was a sweet machine (once some early software timing issues got sorted out - some software couldn't handle its speed initially).
I still occasionally fire up my 9600...
I don't recall that model and didn't see it at Everymac.com. Is it a Mac clone? (What's the full name, exactly?)
 




My first Mac was a Power Mac 7500. I later updated it with a third-party G3 CPU card. If I recall correctly, an extension had to be run at startup to enable the G3's cache – some weirdness involved with that, but don't remember what it was. In any case, it was a really fun machine. It was ordered with an Apple 17" AV monitor that eventually went south. I had AppleCare, so called 1-800-SOS-APPL and somehow ended up with two new ones.

When Apple bought NeXT and started development on what became OS X, a Canadian named Ryan Rempel wrote and maintained a utility called "XPostFacto" that allowed my 7500 to boot into the OS X betas and eventually 10.1. You had to start up in Mac OS 9, including enabling the G3 cache, then from there into OS X. Sounds kind of lame now, but probably the most fun I've ever had on a computer.
 


I started off with a Mac Plus in 1988 that was used for producing a newsletter at my office at Pac NW Bell. I performed an Apple test at their request [and] made friends with a system engineer, which led to my first Macworld in San Francisco) then a Mac Classic. When Apple was doing a show here, and I was helping out via the local user group, people thought I was on a Mac Color Classic, then [Apple] pointed to the Power Mac 6100 under the table and told me to take it home, and if they did not call me in two weeks, keep it.

My attorney brother won a huge legal case and bought me a G3, which I used for 12 years with an upgrade that include a SuperDrive, a faster CPU and graphics card. Apple called me in 2010 and alerted me they had lost the license from IBM for Rosetta and told me to buy a Mac Mini now. I did. Lastly, I bought a refurbished 2014 Mac Mini for using High Sierra and turned my 2010 Mac Mini into a server for my Apple TV 3.
 



Amazon disclaimer:
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Latest posts