Getting Started: Finding Employment

With the hardware running smoothly, let’s give this old girl a job! Collecting software is not exactly as straight forward as it once was. Stacks of floppies, binders of CDs, even the piles of flash drives in the corner of your desk drawer have given way to some amazing repositories of classic and vintage software. I’ve posted some links to these in the Support Desk. Make sure you have gotten acquainted with them. RestoBytes will be hosting its own repository of vital software in the near future as our way to support the preservation of historically significant titles.

The first, and quite easiest method of procurement, is to hire a service that will take your modern formatted file, and spit out a readable floppy disk or HDD image. There is a handful of respected services out there. RestoBytes is also rolling up its sleeves to help with data migration (be sure to check out the shop for what’s available). There is a greater risk of problems, however, that may take a long time to correct. Mailing floppy disks back and forth is typically fine, but there are no guarantee that the disks won’t get passed through a magnetic field and get corrupted on the way back to your house. Most of these disks are used or NOS (New Old Stock) at best.

The great thing about all these archives is that you can navigate to them with a modern computer, download copies for your own academic use, and further ensure preservation of a very important part of our history. What isn’t so great is how much trouble it is to get that software from its original format, over to the storage server, downstream to the user’s computer, and into a format that will be readable/bootable by a vintage computer…without corruption.

“Modern” computer removed to protect the identities of the innocent

That is a relatively small risk, but it’s still there. And you’d have to wait for your service technician to rebuild your order and send it out again. So the RB way is the DIY way! The method here is going to rely on some special equipment that may not suite you. If you are still not hooked on the experience of collecting and restoring vintage Macintosh computers, buy the disks you need. There are plenty around. In a previous article, I was given another machine that is a great “Bridge Machine”. This laptop can span the distance between Classic Mac OS with its unique I/O needs and that of modern macOS. I will be using this bridge machine to make the disks I need. The goal here is to move the data as few times as possible. Moving from a compressed format to an uncompressed format is enough to corrupt an image. Dropping your files on a file system different from its original home can also cause havoc. Take a few minutes and look at some methods for making floppy disks, and Mac OS images in particular, before deciding how much effort this is worth to you. While I was presented with a very generous gift a while back, and there are plenty of other classic Macs on my shelves, I would still recommend buying another machine that has both an optical drive and internal floppy drive. SCSI attached external CD-ROMs and external FDHD may present some complexities that are not easy to overcome. Find a Quadra or an early (and often under-appreciated and under-valued) Power Macintosh that has both. Power is not as important as flexibility here.

The 1st and 2nd generation PPC chips are good enough for the girls I go out with
CD-R is more stable than CD-RW here

Now that the bridge machine is setup, THE MOST USEFUL tool in my tool box is the Apple issued “Apple Legacy Recovery” disk image. This disk contains every Apple released OS, utility, and application from the Apple II System 3 through Mac OS 8.1. This should cover everything “beige” in your collection. Download the ISO to your modern computer (any computer). Burn this to a CD with the slowest speeds you can manage.

Drop the disk into your bridge machine. Navigation can be done several ways; explore this disk. I’m going to locate by CPU, then click Macintosh Classic.

Select by system version or CPU model

This is all of the supported system software for this model. In the name of simplicity, I’ll be selecting System Software 6.0.8 in the 1440k format. The real beauty here is that I can double click “Make Floppies” on my PowerBook 1400c and Disk Copy will prompt me through the process of making the installation disks needed.

System 6 is light enough to fit on 2 disks and the initial formatting doesn’t matter

The installation of the OS is pretty straight forward. Assuming your hard disk is blank, you can either insert the first disk (which has a complete operating environment for booting and working with applications like a Live CD would today) and boot to its desktop, or you can hold down the -option-X-O keys and launch the ROM Disk environment. I’ve used the latter due to its greater stability. Inserting the disk for System Startup and opening the image reveals plenty of icons. You can use the disk utilities to prepare your hard disk if yours has an unknown history. Mine is merely blank and awaiting install. Double click the installer (NOT the installer script) and follow the prompts.

Since there are many items that will need to live on this Macintosh Classic, I’m going to check the item for AppleShare networking to be added. This will give the ability to connect the bridge machine to the Macintosh Classic via the serial ports and transfer files much faster than can be done by making floppy disks. Because even when this OS install is complete, there’s certainly more to having a vintage computer than letting it sit on the bench and blink.

Select customizations
Patiently waiting…
All done!

Two floppy disks later and the desktop is waiting patiently for a reboot. If there were more installations to perform, now would be a good time. With this method of installation onto a mounted (but not running) system disk, you have the ability to run through an entire mass of install disks while performing only a single reboot. Just make sure to check the startup disk in the control panel before rebooting to make sure you don’t accidentally load something else.

Our blank canvas

With a fresh install of the OS chugging along, navigating to chooser shows the bridge machine waiting for commands. I think I’d like to play a game. The first game (but likely far from favorite) that comes to mind is Prince of Persia. That disk image is dropped onto the desktop of the PowerBook and sharing is turned on. When the Macintosh Classic is ready, the image is mounted over AppleTalk and appears on the desktop as if it were a local volume. I’ve copied the application (the whole folder in fact) to the HDD to make life easier, and loaded up a game.

Disk image has been extracted from the archive and dropped on the desktop of the bridge machine
And through the miracle of AppleTalk the serial ports turn into an ad-hoc file sharing network
This almost brings a tear to my eye

With very little luck, the game loads and the little yellowing Mac is fully employed! A quick recap of events:

  • Found a beat up piece of vintage computer history that’s simple enough for everybody
  • Made board level repairs
  • Made a friend that will support the new hobby
  • Made our own installation media
  • Reunited with a game from the same year the hardware was produced

And that’s the BARE minimum of what is needed to get back into playing a game from middle school, and actually touching a pivotal moment of Macintosh history. This is more than just a video game consumption habit. It’s preservation, adaptable mechanical prowess, problem solving, and plenty of other items generally used to pad a resume. I seriously hope this journey convinces at least one person to pick up the torch and work diligently to hold one of the greats. Weather it is an Amiga 500, IBM 5150, Atari Falcon, Tandy 1000, or even a rather pedestrian Macintosh Classic, I hope you can see how the skills of restoration can feed your curiosity and further assist in the efforts of saving our computer history.

This is the end of the road for Getting Started. This journey should be enough anecdote to support anybody who is looking to get started with the least amount of risk. You should be able to follow along with pretty accurate results using the same equipment I have used. I plan to maintain this series with additional links (where appropriate) to others’ work and even the tools used. There are plenty of other RB branded items in the works that can help us both on our way. There are even a few other tricks for this particular Macintosh in the future. They are a bit out of scope for a “Getting Started” article, but if you’ve made it this far, you might as well turn it up to 11.

Good night, Shop Cat. You’ve been so brave.

As always, I invite you to leave a comment. Tell me a story about something that you’ve turned a complete 180 from its dumpster status to a proper museum piece. What would you like to see covered next? Do you like a consistent process from cradle to grave, or do you like seeing what’s new on the bench? Leave a message, subscribe, and follow RestoBytes on Twitter and Instagram to see what’s happening around the lab.

This is Ty; logging off

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