Getting Started

So you went and decided to dive head first into nostalgia and get yourself a vintage Macintosh. You can still smell the faint vapors of the dry-erase markers as you sat in Mr. Santana’s 7th grade computer class. The gentle startup chime whispers the promise of Sim Ant and Prince of Persia as soon as you finish your typing lessons. Those simple games, that teacher with his goofy puns, and the warm glow of early 90s CRTs have permanently taken up station in the Way Back Machine of your mind. And, DAMMIT, you intend on figuring out if the rose colored nostalgia of yesteryear is really all you thought it was.

Time’s crept on and you’ve made it through life believing one way or another about computers and how grand they are today. They make monumental tasks as simple and mindless as saying a phrase aloud. They bring unity to the masses. They distill massive amounts of information into neat little bites ready for consumption. They let you and Aunt Marry share Grandma’s prize winning cobbler recipe during a game of Words With Friends. But computers today seem to offer more distraction than real work. One of the forefathers of modern computers even mentioned that, “a computer is a machine that allows a man to perform an hours worth of work in two.”

Looking back on the simpler times, you realized how much work you got done. Well, it seemed like it anyway through the adolescent mind. You tickled the keys of  that Macintosh every day with book reports, spreadsheets, and even flow charts as you ventured into your AP classes.  The teenage mind sees insurmountable tasks in the creation of multimedia for Mrs. Patch’s English class, but to be able to start a LAN party for Marathon…

Now that the world of Macintosh has moved solidly into it’s current era of Intel, high definition, and wireless connections, there is a plethora of vintage options neatly bifurcated into PowerPC and the “mighty” 68k. The PowerPC is certainly attractive because of the “ease” of connecting one to modern networks and locating relatively cheap peripherals. It’s nearly nothing to connect a Power Mac to Ethernet and VGA and fire up a copy of TenFourFox, but that’s not what feels like the golden years for you. You want the original “M” under the hood of your Mac.

Out of all the options for 68k machines, the sky is the limit for capability and format. For Operating systems, you have choices from the OG System 1.0 through MacOS 8.1 and all the little details that made each of them special. As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t much use for anything before System 6, and because this may end up being just a curiosity that sits on a shelf, there’s no good reason to chase down a machine adept at System 7 quite yet. System 6 is friendly and forgiving. It runs on a floppy. It barely nibbles at the RAM. It’s perfect for just getting started.

Now that System 6 is the starting block for moving forward, what machine? For a very detailed discussion of why to use System 6 and what machines make good sense to use, I would recommend a trip over to the Happy Macs Lab. For the purposes of simplicity, I’m going to go in a separate direction. The 1991 Macintosh Classic will be my vehicle of choice. The reasoning here is that, at least in my hazy memory, the compact 1-bit single floppy experience is the quintessential Macintosh. There’s a recipe here. The baddest processor you can find, in the smallest case that makes sense, with barely enough RAM to keep it running productively.

The Macintosh Classic was exactly that…almost 6 years too late. It’s limited. No doubt about it! But it has SCSI, a floppy port, it’s upgradeable to 4MB of RAM (plenty for playing little games in System 6), and it has a secret bootable partition held in ROM that can be useful for all kinds of things! In fact that can be just the thing to get going! So here is the first foray into the world of vintage Macintosh collecting. I encourage anybody who is considering this hobby to spend MANY hours combing the many forums of the community to learn as much as possible about the art of maintaining these wonderful machines. Consume as much as possible. Even emulate, if that’s your thing, but we’ll discuss that idea in a latter story.

Thanks for following along and waiting so patiently for Resto-Bytes to get back online. Please leave a comment, a story, about your first Macintosh or even the first one that brought you back into vintage Macintosh collection.

This is Ty; logging off.

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