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Some time ago I wrote an article on the Power Macintosh G3 minitower. In This article we are going to take a look at the desktop version of the same G3 and also look at a few minor upgrades I have performed.

Here is my rather yellowed but otherwise in good shape G3 desktop also known as an “Outrigger” case.  The G3 desktop was apples last traditional desktop Macintosh and more or less uses the exact same case as the 7500 and 7600 series I’ve covered in the past. Same speaker on the left and same available drive bays. Mine came with a 1.44mb floppy drive in the obvious floppy drive spot as well as a 24x speed CD-ROM drive below that and a 100mb ZIP drive which were not to uncommon on these machines. The floppy drives on these machines though are powered via a propietary floppy cable and do not have a molex connector on them. I’m unsure if you can use a regular floppy drive.

Here we see the back of the case which is similar but a little different then the 7500 or 7600 due to a different motherboard. There are three slots for expansion cards located on the far right.

We have a power connector and a pass through for a monitor top center and starting at the bottom left we have a SCSI connector followed by a lone ADB port followed by a Ethernet jack and then modem and printer jacks. Lastly we have a display jack for the built in graphics. To the right of the display jack we have another modem jack that my model came with as well as jacks for the audio, a audio out and mic input. This section may vary since it can be swapped out with various “personality cards” which I’ll talk about when we get to the motherboard portion.

Taking the top of the case off reveals pretty much the exact same thing we saw with the 7500/7600 machines.

Opening up the plastic folds and lifting the drive bay compartments reveals the motherboard as well as a space for a hard drive which is mounted on a sled much like in the drive bays. Mine came with the original 4GB hard drive and OS 8.6. The motherboard is much smaller then the motherboard of the 7500 or 7600 in the same case.

Here we have the drive and its sled removed.

The motherboard in the desktop model uses the exact same board as was found in the minitower.

Here is a closer shot of the area on the board were going to look at first with the CPU, RAM and ROM.

1 ) CPU – The G3 macs including the desktop models all used the PowerPC G3 750 CPU. The Desktop model came most commonly with a 233 or 266mhz CPU with 512k6 of L2 backside cache. They also came with a 300mhz CPU with 1mb of L2 cache option. My model was originally a 266mhz version but I upgraded mine to a 300mhz CPU with the 1mb of L2 cache.

The CPU modules have the L2 cache on them and install pretty much like you would on a PC  with a ZIF socket. You simply remove the heatsink, lift the lever and remove and replace your CPU. Keep in mind to change the CPU speed you will need to set jumpers on these motherboards which I will detail further down the page. When I replaced my 266mhz CPU with a 300mhz version it was still running at 266mhz until I set the jumpers although it was detecting the full 1mb of L2 cache as opposed to the 512kb on the original CPU.

2 ) RAM – the G3 has 3 RAM slots for PC66 SDRAM. Generally the machine sold with 32 to 64mb of RAM but is expandable up to 768MB. I have mine with the full 768mb of RAM. You can use faster PC100 or 133 RAM but it will operate as PC66.

Also keep in mind your going to want lower profile RAM since if the RAM is even a little taller then the stock CPU heatsink its going to cause issues with the top fitting. you can make it work but its awkward and pressed down on the motherboard.

Also of note for games. If you are experiencing audio stutter in games as in the example below TURN OFF virtual memory in the OS.

 

3 ) ROM – Like a lot of earlier Macs the G3 has its ROM on a module. early A revisions of this ROM did not allow slave devices on the IDE bus thus limiting you to one device per IDE controller. This was fixed with revision B and C. I have a later B revision of the ROM, the $77D.45F1 but if you do have an early revision A it is advisable to track down a B or C revision and swap them out. You can find this information under the Apple system Profiler in the OS.

3b ) Video – The onboard video as well as the SGRAM is located under the modem on my machine and next to the PERCH card slot. Early models had the ATI Rage II+ chip on board and later motherboards like mine have the Rage Pro or Rage Pro Turbo chips. This came with 2mb of SGRAM on the board expandable to 6mb.

4 ) “Personality” card or PERCH card – This card basically is the audio card for the Mac providing a simple audio out and mic input. These cards were known as “personality” cards or PERCH cards and are upgradable. My G3 has the simple audio card known as “Whisper” but can be upgraded to the “Wings” card which includes A/V input for video capture. There is also a very rare “Bordeaux” card which features DVD decoding capabilities.

My machine also has the optional 56k model seen just below the PERCH card.

5) Pram Battery which is you CMOS battery for retaining data.

6) CPU and FSB jumpers – This is the jumper block for setting your front side bus, CPU multiplier and PCI clock speed. The G3 comes from the factory with a preinstalled jumper block set to whatever your machines factory configuration is. as seen below.

This is usually under a warranty void type sticker. If your planning to upgrade your CPU or overclock your going to need to set these jumpers. Keep in mind the G3 motherboard uses the smaller 2.00mm sized jumpers but these can usually be found very cheaply on Ebay.

A guide to setting the jumpers can be found here and here.

Here is the jumpers after the factory set block is removed.

7 ) PCI – the G3 has three PCI slots available for expansion with the appropriate MAC version PCI cards.

I have cards installed in two of my three PCI slots. I will detail these upgrades at the end of the article.

8 ) 50 pin SCSI connector for connecting relevant SCSI devices such as hard drives and CD drives.

9) Two ATA-2 IDE connectors for connecting IDE hard drives and CD-Rom drives. If you have an early ROM board then you can only have one device per connection as opposed to two in a slave/master configuration. You are also limited to drives of up to 137gb with the onboard controllers.

10) PSU connector

11) Floppy connector.

My Expansion cards

I have installed two PCI cards in my G3 Macintosh as upgrades

1 ) Sonnet ATA-133 controller card

This is actually the same card I had installed in my G4 MDD Macintosh. I decided to pair this card up with both a 52x speed CDRW drive as well as a 40gb Maxtor ATA-133 hard drive for added speed. This allowed me double my CD speeds and dramatically increase the speed of accessing my hard drive. Using a PCI IDE controller also allows you to overcome the 137gb size barrier of the onboard controller.

2 ) ATI Rage 128 PCI video card w/ DVD decoder.

Not really a huge upgrade over the onboard video but an upgrade that offers a little more power and DVD decoding abilities. The Rage 128 chip is a decent chip that offers good compatibility with games in general and should work fine with late 90’s Mac games. I believe the card pictured above is the 16mb version though there are 32mb cards available. These cards are also fairly cheap and available online. Just be sure to buy the Macintosh versions.

So in the end what do I think of the G3 desktop? I like it. Even though it is basically the same machine as the minitower model I have a soft spot for desktop designs and the desktop just fits into my setup better. The desktop model also seems lighter then the tower model though since it uses the same 7500/7600 series case it comes with the same issues of being made of very brittle plastic. Expect hinges and tabs to bust off when working with this machine. Overall I feel the G3 makes a good rig for playing late 90’s Macintosh games and offers a good range of expansion options. With OS 8 or 9 loaded on your hard drive your good to go.

The Color Classic was a much beloved but underpowered classic compact Macintosh released in February of 1993. Along with the Color Classic II released that same year it was the only “classic” compact Mac to feature a color screen. Unfortunately the Color Classic was very underpowered and was comparable to Apples low cost LC machines. It has a very low RAM limit of 10MB and its 16mhz 68030 CPU was strangled performance wise by its 16-bit data bus. Compare this to its big brother the Color Classic II which featured 36MB of maximum RAM and a 33mhz 68030 on a full 32-bit data bus. Unfortunately the Color Classic II or Colour Classic II as it is also known was never sold in the US and only in Asia, Europe and Canada. Even in places it was officially sold it was not overly common and importing one can command a high price. If you do live in the US though there is a practical solution to turning your Color Classic into the machine it should of been in the first place and that is to replace the motherboard with that of a Macintosh LC 550, essentially transforming it into a Color Classic II. In this article we will be looking at one such machine. Except for the case label on the front and a slightly different motherboard this machine is for all practical purposes a Color Classic II.

The Color Classic and Classic II use the same case and only differ externally by the name plate at the bottom. The case itself is a departure from the earlier styling of the compact Macs and has a much rounder case design. The main attraction to the Color Classics are the built in 10 inch (9 inch viewable) Sony color Trinitron monitor. Former models in the compact Mac lines all used black & white monitors and later macs immediately following the color classics used lesser quality shadow mask monitors.  The monitor in these models is known to give a very crisp image capable of 512 x 384 pixel resolution. The down side of this monitor and its lower resolution is that many games from the time required a 640 X 480 resolution. One popular modification does allow you to increase the Color Classics resolution up to the required 640 x 480 increasing game compatibility also adds stress to components and may result in a shorter overall life span of your Macintosh.

Above the monitor we have a built in Microphone, a new feature for Macintosh computers at the time. Below the monitor we have a standard 1.44mb floppy drive as well as a power LED and controls for volume level and brightness.

One thing to note about the Color Classic is the the power switch on the back does not actually power up the system. To initiate boot you need to use an Apple keyboard with a soft power on button on the keyboard. The switch on the rear is simply to activate the power supply. To the right of the PSU we have two pots for monitor adjustments and in the center above our ports is a security lock.

From the bottom left to right we have two ADB ports for keyboard and mice followed by a printer port, modem port. external SCSI port, microphone jack, audio out jack and finally a space for an expansion card. My Color Classic came with a Ethernet card installed.

Getting access to the motherboard in a Color Classic is exceptionally easy and all you need to do is gently press down on the two plastic tabs and pull away from the case. The plastic cover should come right off. To remove the motherboard itself just grasp it firmly and pull away from the case.

If you look inside the bay where the motherboard came out you can see the edge connector on the far side where the board interfaces with the rest of the computer.

The floppy drive and hard drive are accessible by removing the outer case via four t15 screws much like the older compact macs. My machine came with a 120mb SCSI 50 pin hard drive. The hard drive can be removed without removing the analog board with a little effort but the floppy drive usually requires its removal to access it. Also of note the speaker is also housed in a plastic shell below the PSU and behind the floppy drive. The speaker also needs to be removed to access the floppy drive.

Before I start talking about the motherboard I need to restate as the title says that this is NOT a stock Color Classic. Stock I feel this machine is pretty underpowered so thankfully when I picked this unit up it had been upgraded by replacing the motherboard with the motherboard from a Macintosh LC 550. The Macintosh LC 550 motherboard is essentially the same motherboard in the fairly uncommon Color Classic II thus by swapping boards with a 550 board you turn your Classic I into a full fledged Classic II with two minor differences. The first difference is the name badge on the front of the case which I suspect can be swapped out if by some random chance you come across a Classic II’s badge. Second, depending on what you read the Color Classic II either has the exact same motherboard as the LC 550 or the LC 550 has slightly more video ram maximums ( 512k maximum in a Color Classic II as opposed to 768kb maximum in an LC 550). The LC 550 having a higher VRAM max makes sense as it was meant to drive a higher res monitor but still many sources on the internet claim they use the same board.

There are other upgrades you can perform on a Color Classic I or II such as the “Mystic” mod which allows a 68040 CPU or even Power PC CPU mods but these require software and/or hardware modifications where as the LC 550 mod is simply a matter of swapping motherboards and that is all. LC 550 boards have gotten harder to find in the US but price wise it’s still a cheaper and easier option then paying a hefty premium to import a Color Classic II.

The board itself is extremely compact. Take note of the metal legs on the underside when removing or reinserting the board back into the case as they can break off and short components as they rattle around inside a powered on machine.

1)  Edge Connector – This is the connector that the board uses to interface with the rest of the computer when inserted into the case.

2) PDS or Processor Direct Slot – A rather limited form of expandability slot. Usually cards using the PDS slot were specific to the CPU used thus a PDS card meant for a 68040 would not work on a 38030 with a PDS slot. My particular Color Classic has an Ethernet card occupying this slot but another popular card was the Apple IIe emulator card which let one play Apple IIe games on the Color Classic I and II.

3) CPU – The LC550/Color Classic II are equipped with a Motorola 68030 running at 33mhz on a 33mhz front side bus utilizing a full 32-bit data bus as seen on this board. This was a pretty speedy CPU at the time and is worlds better then the 16mhz 38030 in the original Color Classic which was strangled performance wise by a 16-bit data bus motherboard.

4) Coprocessor – Here is a socket for an optional 68882 math coprocessor to assist in floating point math. This was an option on both Color Classics and the LC 550. My motherboard thankfully came with one installed. Not terribly useful for games but nice to have none the less.

5) PRAM – standard PRAM battery for holding saved data and date/time.

6) VRAM – Here is the systems video ram for the built in video controller. On the original Color Classic you had 256kb with the slot allowing for expandability up to 512kb of VRAM. On the LC 550 we have 512kb standard with the added RAM via the neighboring slot for a total of 768kb. As I stated earlier there is some mixed information on the internet on if a true Color Classic II board allows up to 768k or is maxed out at 512kb like the original Color Classic.

7) RAM – The original Color Classic was restricted to managable but still low amount of 10mb of RAM but the Color Classic II and LC 550 board we see here comes with 4mb solder onto the board with the ability to expand up to 32 additional megabytes via a 72 pin RAM slot for a full 36mb of RAM as I have on my machine.

In conclusion the Color Classic is a neat little machine. It takes up barley any space which is also part of the reason it has such a cult following in places like Japan where space is at a premium. It also has a very nice and crisp color display unlike previous compact macs which were limited to monochrome displays. While the power and expandability of the original Color Classic is pretty poor the Color Classic II is everything the original should have been and if you happen to come across one pick it up if you like Macs. If your in the US however finding a Classic II may be daunting so if you do have an original model keep an eye out for the LC 550 motherboard, perhaps from an LC with a dead monitor. The motherboard swap is literally just a drop in replacement and you instantly have yourself a Color Classic II with maybe a little extra VRAM.

I know, for a guy that’s “not a Mac guy” and doesn’t really care that much for them I sure have a lot of them to talk about. Well that’s just been my luck lately and what I’ve come across in my thrift store/Craigslist scouring. Today were going to look at the classic black and white Macintosh SE or more specifically the FDHD version which is basically the exact same machine with support for high density 1.44mb floppy disk drives.

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Here we have the front view of the machine as its running some early version of system 7. No, I do not know who “Peg Johnson” is or how to change the hard drive name from what I’m guessing is the previous owner’s name. This machine is sporting the hard drive in the upper section and a 1.44mb floppy drive or “superdrive” as Apple liked to call them in the lower section.

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Usually you can tell if an SE is upgraded for high density floppy use by the badge on the front though there’s nothing stopping anyone from simply doing the upgrade to a SE and not worrying about swapping the front of the case. Originally the Macintosh SE that came out in 1987 were only capable of reading and writing 400kb and 800kb floppies but in 1989 the FDHD version was released that allowed the use of high density 1.44mb disks making things way more convenient.

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Here we have the rear of the machine. Pretty standard as we have two ADB ports for a mouse and keyboard. This is a little different from most later Macs like the Macintosh Classic which only had one ADB port in the rear. My guess is that later keyboards have ADB ports on them so you would plug your keyboard into the Mac then your mouse into the keyboard and at the time of the SE that wasn’t an option on the keyboard. I currently don’t have an old Mac keyboard so I don’t know. Next is a floppy port for an external floppy drive, a db-25 SCSI port, printer port, modem port and finally a audio out jack for headphones or speakers outputting four voice sound with 8-bit analog conversion using 22khz sampling rate. Which from what I can tell is pretty much the same as later compact black and white Macs.

I’ve outlined how to get into one of these in my Mac classic article that I linked to above so I won’t go into that again but once inside it looks pretty much as you would expect, cramped.

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Here we see the cramped innards of a compact Mac once again. The 1.44mb drive is in the lower bay and in the upper is from what I can tell by the label as well as what was standard issue on these things a 20mb Apple SCSI hard drive yet mine comes up as 10mb in the OS. Also the fan is mounted in the upper section to the back. You can see the grating for it in the rear picture and in the one above in the upper right. This is different from the later versions that have a downward bottom mounted fan.

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Here is the motherboard. If you compare it to the Macintosh Classic and Macintosh Classic II you will notice its about twice as big.

1) These are the two floppy drive connectors. I’m only utilizing one but you can always have a duel floppy configuration and no hard drive if desired.

2) SCSI connection for the hard drive

3) 3.6V PRAM battery for keeping time/settings

4) power connector to the PSU

5) ROM chips and Floppy controller – these three chips are your ROM  and floppy controller chips. the original chips should be labeled

342-0352-A  HI ROM
342-0353-A  LO ROM 
344-0043-A  IWM

these are the original chips for the 800kb SE units. mine have the newer chips labeled

342-0701 HI ROM 
342-0702 LO ROM 
344-0062-01 SWM

If you have the newer chips your good to use 1.44mb floppy drives and disks. older SE’s can be converted just by replacing these chips and then adding a drive. *there may be slight number variations to the chips*

6) the Motorola 68000k CPU running at 8mhz. This CPU is in a long rectangle form factor of the time where the later 68000k CPU’s on the Classic I, II are smaller square CPU’s.

7) SE PDS expansion slot for things like CPU accelerators and such.

8) RAM – the SE can take up to 4MB of 30 pin RAM. mine originally came with 1MB but I have upgraded it here with a full 4MB.

I rather like the boxer case style of the SE as opposed to the later more curved Classic compact Macs. The SE is surly an improvement over earlier models like the Plus and 512k Mac but its still a very limited machine. the FDHD version with support for the 1.44mb floppy is a great boon but I stick with my earlier assessment. The only compact B/W Mac really worth using seriously is the SE/30.

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The Power Macintosh 6110CD aka the 6100, 6112CD, 6115CD, 6116CD,  6117CD,  6118CD from 1994 was the first computer in the Macintosh line to use the PowerPC CPU as opposed to the Motorola 68k CPU’s found in the older Macs. On acquiring this machine I honestly did not expect much from it. Its small case lack of PCI slots, Apple’s usual “closed system” philosophy and the early PPC architecture led me to believe this machine was relegated to a fairly small era of Mac computing. To my surprise though I found that This machine could be upgraded to a surprisingly useful level and even without replacing the CPU. My original search for upgrade options led me to this site Power Mac 6100 Upgrade Guide and I have to say its a great if not dated site but was a huge help to me. As you can see above, especially compared to the keyboard this unit like most 90’s relics suffers from plastic “yellowing” cause by the use of ABS plastic. Also as you can tell from the first sentence there were several versions/configurations of this Mac. Some had a special DOS compatibility card, faster CPU or A/V additions. This model I have, the 6110CD, is pretty standard and stock.

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This Mac used the “Pizza box” case style and is very low profile. Not much exciting going on from the front. There’s the floppy drive over to the right with the power button below it and in the center we have the CD-ROM drive.

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And here is the rear of the unit. You may notice right off that the right side is a bit raised and that would be because I broke it :(. See in my haste at one time to install the video card I pulled on the plastic tab that the top cover clicks onto and snapped it off. So now only one side of the top case cover secures closed. Its not really a big deal since even if both were broke off gravity would keep it on, not to mention a heavy monitor on top but still, it was a dumb move on my part. So, on the far left we have the power cord plug and next to it a monitor pass though plug. After that is a little slot that I have no idea why its there but to the right of it is the AAUI-15 ethernet port. This was Apples attempt to make a more “friendly” ethernet port. I never heard of it until just now. Next to that is a DB-25 SCSI port then the short lived HDI-45 video port which only appeared on the first generation of Power Macs and only used by the Apple AudioVision 14 monitor which I’ll get to later. After that you have your standard Apple printer, modem and then ADB port for keyboard/mouse. The last two jacks are audio out and audio in. The case speaker is mono but actually sounds pretty good. For some reason the audio specs on the old macs is always a mystery and rarely listed on sites but the manual states its 16 bit stereo with sample rates from 22.05, 24, 44.01 and 48 khtz. On the far right we have the reset/interrupt buttons. Lastly in the upper right side we have the Video card I installed. If nothing is installed in the PDS slot then there should be a plug that goes there.

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The cover of the 61XX series is very easy to remove. You just unsnap the two (or in my case one) plastic latches in the rear and lift up and forward and the top comes right off. This is what it initially should look like. Obviously a stock unit probably will not have anything where I have a video card. You have your power supply unit in the lower left and above that a standard 1.44MB floppy drive.

CD-ROM drive – In the center we have a 50 pin SCSI CD-ROM drive. The standard drive these machines as well as mine originally shipped with was a x2 speed Apple 300i plus CD-ROM drive. Mine was still working perfect but x2 is a little slow so I wanted to upgrade mine. generally speaking only Apple branded CD-ROM drives will work in a Mac. I’m told OS 8 and above you can use any CD drive but I’ve never had to much luck getting non Apple CD drives working so for ease of use I just salvaged a x4 50 Pin SCSI CD drive from another dead Mac I had laying around. Not a massive upgrade but it does double the stock speed. You can just as easily use a even faster speed drive if you like.

Hard Drive – Next was to upgrade the hard drive. My Mac came with a 350MB 50 pin SCSI hard drive with OS 7.6 installed. I really wanted a bigger hard drive for this machine as well as a slightly new OS. Much like the CD-ROM drive your going to have the same issues with the hard drive as Macs only want to accept apple branded drives. Luckily OS 8 doesn’t care so much about drive brands and I was able to format my 1GB IBM 50 pin SCSI hard drive in my OS 9 G3 mac. Without the G3 I would of been forced to get special Mac formatting program and temporarily replace my CD drive with the IBM drive in order to format it from a DOS/Windows style partition to a Mac compatible format. I did end up with OS 8.1 on this system since I did upgrade the RAM and added a larger hard drive. I’ve read upgrading up to OS 8.6 is advisable if you’ve significantly increased your RAM which I’ll get to eventually.

Video Card – The built in default video that comes with the 61XX series is fairly limited and inadequate for any serious gaming. It outputs to the HDI-45 port and offers 832×624 at 256 colors or 640×480 and “thousands of colors”. Its also rather slow and eats up about 640k of your systems DRAM memory to use as video memory when in use. The built in video is fine for things like 2d point and click adventure games but for more intensive games like Mechwarrior 2 you start to get slowdown and major pixelation in the FMV scenes.

There are several video upgrade options via the PDS slot on the motherboard. One is to buy a PDS video card but this requires drivers and I’m not to familiar with PDS video cards. Also I decided I was not going to bother upgrading the CPU so something not to powerful but powerful and simple enough to run most era games was needed. There is a A/V card which offers audio visual inputs and 2MB of VRAM but For the most powerful video upgrade with the least hassle I decided to hunt down a 4MB HPV or “High Performance Video” card which basically just add VRAM video memory to your system.

First off your going to need a PDS T-bracket adapter in order to get the card to install in the case.

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The HPV (or A/V card or whatever compatible video card you choose) goes into the brown expansion slot and then the whole thing installs into the motherboards PDS slot.

I choose to upgrade via the 4MB HPV card because they are relatively cheap (mine was about $25), offer noticeable improvement over the on board default video and requires no additional software or drivers. The Mac automatically detects the card if a monitor is connected to it and takes advantage of it. The 4MB HPV card ups the Maximum resolution to 1152×870 at true color.

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These cards originally came installed on the high-end first gen PowerMac 8100 series. They come with 2MB of VRAM (Video Ram, faster then DRAM) soldered onto the card and the option to add 2MB more VRAM via the four SIMMS that accept 68 pin 80ns 512kb sticks. One thing to note when looking for a 4MB HPV card on places like eBay is the less capable 2MB 7100 series HPV card is far more common and looks very similar to the 8100 card. The writing on the 2MB card is yellow where on this 4MB card its white. Also the 2MB card has “VRAM 128K X 8” printed in yellow on the edge of the card by the soldered on RAM chips. They both have the same number of soldered on RAM and SIMM sockets but the chips are of smaller capacity. Both HPV cards also give you a standard Macintosh video output for use with standard Mac monitors and with a common VGA adapter like I use you can use any VGA monitor. You can even use both display outputs for a duel display option if desired. I found my performance and quality in games like Mechwarrior 2 did noticeably improve after installing and using the HPV card with FMV scenes no longer being pixelated but quite smooth and in game play improving in general.

Now to the motherboard itself.

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1) CPU – here is the soldered on PowerPC cpu. The stock CPU was a 60 MHz PowerPC 601 RISC microprocessor. It doesn’t require a fan and I’m guessing is faster and cooler running then its Intel x86 Pentium contemporary. Later models upped the CPU speed to 66mhz and this was usually reflected on the case badge. This new type of CPU was a major transition for Macs adding much more power and versatility but possibly raising incompatibility issues with much older applications and games that ran off the older 68k CPU family.

2) Cache SIMM – the slot next to the CPU is for your L2 cache RAM. My 6110CD did not come with any L2 cache installed and from what Ive read most did not come stock with it but its possibly one of the best upgrades you can do. 256K cache sticks seem to be by far the most common and adding  one can boost system performance by up to 30%. There are supposedly 512K and 1MB cache sticks but I’m not 100 percent certain they are compatible with the 61xx series though I assume they are. I can tell you unlike the very common 256K sticks they aren’t very common. From my readings I’ve found that the 512K sticks give insignificant improvement over the 256K sticks but the 1MB cache sticks supposedly give a massive performance boost of possibly up to 80%.

3) ROM – 4MB system ROM. no reason to mess with this at all.

4)  PDS slot – This is your PDS or “Processor Direct Slot”. This is where you plug in your T-bracket so you can connect video cards or CPU accelerator cards.

5) RAM – above the two SIMM slots are 8MB of RAM soldered directly onto the motherboard so even if these slots are empty you will have 8MB of RAM to work with. The SIMM slots take 72 pin FPM RAM sticks (EDO will work but act as slower FPM RAM). officially Apple states two 32MB sticks can be used + the 8MB on board RAM for a total of 72MB of system RAM. Unofficially you can go higher. I am using two 64MB RAM sticks for a total of 136MB of system RAM which is plenty of RAM for running just about any game or program of the mid 90’s acceptably. 264MB can supposedly be achieved by using two rather pricy 128mb 72 pin sticks.

6) SCSI – on board 50 pin SCSI connector for the hard drive, CD-ROM drive or whatever SCSI device you have installed.

7) PRAM battery – This is the equivalent of a PC’s CMOS battery and saves certain information. When this battery is dead or low your system may do very odd things. When I received this Mac my PRAM battery was dead and I encountered some odd behavior. My machine would not display anything to a monitor the first time it was powered up but had to be powered off and restarted to get the system to display. Also after installing the IBM hard drive I had a very hard time getting the system to boot from it without holding down certain keys on the keyboard when booting up. Replacing the battery instantly alleviated all these issues. Generally this is probably one of the first things you want to replace when you get an old Mac.

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8) Audio – This looks to be the on board audio chip and next to it is the 4 pin audio connector that goes to your CD drive.

9) Floppy connector

10) power connector

Its hard to not talk about the early Power Macs and not mention the AudioVision 14 inch Trinitron color monitor that was the monitor meant to be used with the HDI-45 connector found only on the first gen PowerPC Macs. Fortuitously my Mac here came with the matching AudioVision monitor so I had something to use while I hunted down a HPV card.

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The AudioVision 14 was created from Apples relentless determination to make everything as “user-friendly” as humanly and perhaps inhumanly possible. I could argue that in many cases they have done just the opposite of this but despite the HDI-45 port being a failure I quite liked this monitor. First thing you will notice about the monitor is the two speakers built in. The HDI-45 port transmits audio and ADB as well as video to the monitor with the goal of condensing many things into one connection. Your audio controls such as mute and volume are right on the front of the monitor at easy reach. The monitor also has a built in microphone located on the top.

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On the left and right sides you can see the various inputs for ADB cords, headphones, audio input and the unsupported video port that generally has a plug to cover it up, mine did not. A cable adapter was made allowing the use of the AudioVision on systems lacking a HDI-45 port as well as a much more useful adapter that allowed one to use a standard Apple monitor on the HDI-45 port as seen below. This adapter was much more useful then the latter.

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Despite its flaws I did honestly like the AudioVision monitor and thought the picture and speakers were pretty good and the form factor and size perfect for the 6110CD. Unfortunately it has a fixed resolution of 640×480 which I found was far to much of a hindrance especially when I had a nice HPV card.

In the end I didn’t expect much at all from the small and humble 6110CD but after researching a little and discovering the surprising wealth of upgrades the 6110CD can be made into a very acceptable machine for a very small amount of money. I didn’t even push the upgrades to there highest level. with a CPU accelerator, 264MB of RAM, 1MB of L2 cache and a powerful PDS video card you would have a very capable and small form fitting 90’s Mac. Then again for all that effort it probably makes more sense to get a 7600 9600 or a G3 Macintosh.

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I’ll just be up front, I’m A Bill Gates man. Besides the Apple II and my favorite Apple machine the Apple IIGS I’ve never liked apple products very much. Maybe its me, being primarily a gamer the Macintosh platform never offered very much to me. I’ve also never been a fan of the strange pretentious “hipster” pseud-culture that has tended to develop around the platform. Despite this I can not deny their impact on the computer world as well as some genuinely innovative things to come out of the platform. That being said I will restrain my impulse to post any “top 10 reasons Mac’s suck” links and get to the current computer in question, the Macintosh 5200CD. Even to the Mac world this model is seen as a failed design and one of the worst Macintosh’s ever built. Ironically, although I do agree with this statement I still find it more useful then the much loved Macintosh se/30 which is commonly held up as one of the best models ever produced.

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The 5200CD released in 1995 is an “All-in-One” Macintosh, meaning that the monitor, speakers as well as main unit and various drives are all together In one package. All you need is a keyboard and mouse and a single standard power cable and your set to go. The results of this design in general are a mixed bag. It makes for a very convenient and space saving set up. The down side being that upgrading is hard if not impossible depending on what you wish to upgrade. Limited space inside also makes expansion options few. Another thing is if your monitor dies your pretty much better off just finding a whole other new machine. This particular 5200CD I snagged for $2 at an electronics meeting. Sometimes non savvy sellers may assume the unit is a simple monitor and that can reduce price at times. I’ve had a 5200CD prior and like this unit it had the same structural issue, the plastic body. I like to call these units “Brittletoshes” cause the old plastic is so brittle. I’ve dealt with plenty of old plastic cases before but for some reason the plastic of the 5200 cracks and snaps at the slightest pressure. The vented plastic sides tend to snap if you carry it wrong and apply any pressure to them. The plastic buttons for volume snapped when attempting to adjust sound and every single plastic tab on the back panel snapped off on attempting to remove the rear plate to access the computer innards. Fortunately this does not really effect the computers functionality and is mostly a cosmetic issue. As you can see from the frontal picture the screen is a rather generous 15 inches and is color unlike the older compact macs like the classic and prior. there is a built in 3 1/2 inch 1.44mb floppy drive as well as a mac cd-rom drive either x2 or x4 speed. My unit has a x4 drive installed since it is a later model with the 1GB hard drive installed. In the lower right corner you can also find a convenient headphone jack as well as an inferred sensor for use with a remote, more on that later.

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Here is the rear of the unit. From left to right we have the standard power socket (keep in mind flipping the switch does not turn the computer on or off, it cuts the power but is not a power on button). Below that we have the A/V module installed. I believe on some models this was optional but the two 5200’s Ive come across had this pre installed, I’ll get to this module a little later. Below the a/v module are ports for ADB which the mac version of the PS/2 allowing keyboard/mouse connection. printer port and modem port. On my 5200 the modem port is covered. I believe this is because an ethernet card is installed. Microphone and external speaker ports are also provided as well as monitor adjustment pots in the upper right corner. Lowest is the coaxial cable connection, yes, this mac can also act as a cable television.

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This is after the brittle plastic back plate is removed. To get to the motherboard you unlatch that small metal handle near the center and give it a gentle pull. The entire board should disconnect and slid out with little effort which is something I do like.

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The board layout is overall pretty simple and removing and reinserting is very easy. on the lower left there is a rather bulky external battery used I assume as the CMOS battery but I was surprised to not find a small lithium battery that was common at the time and still is.

1) That’s the ethernet card that came pre installed. I didn’t look to see the brand and I don’t feel like reopening the thing so…

2) RAM, here we have the RAM for the 5200CD. mine originally came with 40MB total (one 32MB stick and one 8MB stick) but I upgraded to the maximum 64MB via 2 32MB sticks which is a standard amount for the time. The RAM is 72 pin and I found a 32MB stick for $4 off eBay so a full upgrade would probably cost less then $10 even if your 5200 came with no RAM.

3) CPU, a 75mhz PowerPC 603. This is a PowerPC CPU and not a X86 CPU as found in IBM compatible PC’s. the non x86 CPU’s that Apple liked to use until recent 2000’s is another thing about Apple. without going into the differences between the x86 and PowerPC architecture I will say the PPC chips are technically superior and I would say the PPC 75mhz chip runs a little faster and cooler then its x86 equivalent the Intel Pentium 75mhz. Still the PC 603 is a early PPC chip. One of the biggest issues with the Mac 5200CD is that the CPU is a 64bit processor on a 32bit motherboard thus severely hampering the CPU and creating various instabilities.

4) ROM chip, basically the Bios of the mac. It contains the special Macintosh program that tests the computer on start up and if everything checks out OK, the OS loads.

5) This is the AV card

now one really neat feature this computer does well is act as a television and via the coaxial connector on the back you can use the mac as a spare TV. I do not have cable so was unable to test this feature but I’m told the feature works well from other users. The feature is easy to access from inside the mac OS. With the a/v unit supplying stereo RCA inputs as well as composite and S-video you can even watch movies or play video games in SD quality on your mac. The screen is fairly sharp and has a nice picture.

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Here I am watching Alien via my laserdisc player on the 5200CD. I do not own a remote for the setup but the inferred sensor on the front allows for the capability.

Finally for the OS I loaded Mac OS 8.1. The system came to me with system 7.5.1 which was very speedy but i prefer 8.1 for the 5200CD despite the slight decrease in speed due to a more heavy OS. 8.1 provides some extra tweaks and features as well as fixes some instability issues the system has. I find it a fair trade off but system 7.5.1 is still a good choice. My prior unit had OS 9.1 installed and it crawled so I defiantly do not recommend anything higher then 8.1 My hard drive is 1GB which for my purposes is plenty large for the OS and whatever I decide to install. The 5200CD uses a standard IDE interface as opposed to the usual Mac SCSI interface for hard drives so finding a larger hard drive should be cheap and easy if desired. I use an apple keyboard II with the power button on the keyboard. This is one of those macs that power on/off by the keyboard power button, I do not see the point of this and find it an inconvenience. also the 1 button mouse…ewww.

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overall I found this machine sluggish. even with RAM maxed out it didn’t really give me great performance. I played a few games on the system like Full Throttle and Dark Forces and although game play was certainly acceptable I had some slight choppiness with FT on some parts. I do like the all-in-One concept for space deprived situations but expansion options are pretty limited. Despite whats said about the 5200CD It does make a cheap option for playing Mid 90’s Mac games and early 90’s stuff if you don’t have a lot of space to spare at home. The plastic case though is horribly brittle and the thing pushes 50lbs all together. On the plus side you have a large color monitor and can use OS 8.1 as well as have a spare TV. combine it with a external DVD player and you really can save some space.

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