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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 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.

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In my previous article I talked about the Macintosh G4 and specifically the “Digital Audio” model. This time I’m going to talk about another G4 Mac sometimes referred to as a DRR G4 but more commonly known as the MDD or Mirror Drive Door model. Looking at the images above and below it becomes fairly obvious how these machines got their nicknames.

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The case overall is basically the same as the Digital Audio versions case and in fact all the G4 tower PC’s are similar with exception of the face and back. The case color scheme is more silver this time around as well as the cases area of the two drive bays has a mirror like plating, hence the name. This is actually quite reflective and I guess is useful to see if your being snuck up on while browsing on OS X or as a impromptu weapon against Medusa attacks. Also on this mirror finish section we have the power button at the top which glows a nice white when powered on as well as a welcomed frontal audio jack for headphones. The speaker is now placed at the very top with four decorative vent looking recesses at the bottom. Missing are the reset button and programmers button found on the Digital Audio and earlier G4 tower cases.

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The rear of the MDD is the opposite layout of the earlier Digital Audio case. This time the expansion bays are at the top while the various ports and jacks are near the bottom.

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The available ports are exactly the same but in a different orientation. Two USB 1.1 and two Firewire 400 jacks followed by Ethernet and modem jacks and finally an audio output jack and a jack for those Apple high definition speakers. The only addition is an audio input jack next to the audio out.

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Opening the case is the same as before and super easy with a side handle that pulls up and away.

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Inside it’s basically a reverse layout of what we saw in the Digital Audio machine.

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On the section of the case that does not fold out we have two full 5 1/4 drive bays for optical drives as well as a fan and three spots for hard drive mounting. Two 3 1/2 inch HDD bays under the 5 1/4 inch bays and one vertical oriented 3 1/2 inch HDD bay to the left under the power supply. I have two hard drives currently installed. One 80GB drive that holds Mac OS X 10.5.8 and a second 180GB drive for data.

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Like other G4 motherboards the MDD motherboard has quite a few chips soldered on underneath making the board look slightly bare from the top.

1) CPU – The MDD model G4s came with many CPU options up to dual 1.42ghz G4 PowerPC 7455 chips. Mine was the lowest powered model and came with dual 867mhz chips with a 133mhz front side bus. Note that many models in the MDD line came with dual CPUs on a sort of CPU module. As I said previously in articles its hard to compare the power PC to the far more common Intel X86 CPU’s in speed but this would roughly be equivalent to a Pentium 4 or maybe a 1.4ghz Tualatin PIII but this is only a rough guess.

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2) RAM – four slots supporting up to 2GB of DDR RAM which is also why this model is also sometimes referred as the DDR G4. Unfortunately the Power PC 7455 can only use at most 50% of the DRR RAM bandwidth meaning there is no improvement over the previous models and their PC133 SDRAM as far as memory speed is concerned.

3) Four 64 bit PCI slots (which work fine with regular PCI cards) as well as one x4 AGP slot for video. Keep in mind that if your using a x8 AGP card whether a MAC card or a PC card that has been flashed with a mac BIOS you need to disable pins 3 & 11 to get video. This applies to all G4 Mac’s with the exception of the AGP 2x Sawtooth models. This issue is due to apple using the at the time unassigned pins 3 & 11 for the “ADC” apple monitors connection. When AGP x8 came out those pins were suddenly used for something else so basically they wouldn’t run on a G4 Macintosh. The way around this is to disable the pins completely either by taping over them or cutting the traces making the card AGP x4.

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The card I’m using in this machine is a Geforce4 MX. Not a particularly interesting card but it more or less does the job. The MX was a budget card and less advanced then even the preceding Geforce3. For me it’s enough since I really only use this machine for one game and messing with OS X but the MDD G4 can support up to a Geforce 7800 GS with the earlier mentioned Pin modification.

4) Wireless airport adaptor for wireless internet

5) IDE connectors – There are actually three IDE connectors but one is obscured behind the huge CPU heatsink. The one located behind the heatsink is an ATA-100 connection intended for your primary hard drive.

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The two connectors located at “5” are an ATA-66 connector for two secondary hard drives and a ATA-33 that is intended for the optical drives.

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Regardless I have a separate Sonnet ATA-133 PCI controller card installed in my machine for the optical drive and main hard drive while my secondary hard drive is attached to the ATA-66 labeled connector.

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6) CMOS battery used for saving settings.

Upgrading the CPU

I decided to upgrade the CPU in my MDD Mac since the CPU it came with was barely what I needed to do what I wanted to do with this machine. Third party CPU upgrade kits seemed to be overpriced so in the end I decided to go with a cheap $25 upgrade to a single 1.25ghz CPU. Now the value of this upgrade is somewhat debatable since I was going from a dual CPU configuration to a single CPU and OS X can take advantage of dual CPUs but my main purpose of this rig was to play a few select games which didn’t really take advantage of dual CPU anyways so I figured the 383mhz bump was worth it.

When considering a CPU upgrade for any G4 Macintosh keep in mind the CPU modules are not compatible across models so make sure the CPU your looking at is specifically for your model, for instance for a MDD model or Sawtooth G4.

I also wanted to (and needed to with this CPU upgrade) bump the front side bus speed up from 133mhz to 167mhz which required a small modification to the motherboard.

First disconnect any cables from the motherboard and then remove the currently installed CPU which can be done by unscrewing the various screws holding the heatsink on and then gently disconnecting the CPU module from the motherboard. It will look like this with the module removed.

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next unscrew any screws fastening the motherboard to the case and remove. The modification we need to do to enable 167mhz FSB is the desoldering and removal of a resistor on the underside of the motherboard.

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The piece we need to desolder is labeled as R676 and is located near one of the corners of the large black heatsink.

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Desolder this component and that’s it. You can now install a faster CPU and have a slightly higher FSB.

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The final step is to reassemble and install the new CPU. Here is my 1.25ghz G4 CPU module before installation and reapplying the heatsink.

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And lastly booting the machine and checking the system information to confirm everything.

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I like the MDD G4 Macintosh. It’s super easy to work on and plays the few early 2000 OS X exclusive games I need it to play just fine. It does have its issues though. It’s a shame there was no real improvement with the DDR RAM being used over the older PC133 SDRAM. Also upgrading the CPU if you have an early model like mine can be a small chore requiring a modification not to mention the modification needed to use a more powerful AGP video card. Another problem is the fan. This machine can be pretty loud and I noticed it is significantly louder then my Digital Audio model G4. For me the fan isn’t to loud and doesn’t come anywhere near the noisiness of my dual Tualatin rig but I can see how it can annoy some people and the noise level did seem to be a common complaint when I was doing research on the model. I would still recommend a MDD model though if you just wanted to casually mess around with those few early 2000’s OS X games and you can pick up a rig cheaply.

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The G4 Macintosh was produced between 1999 and 2004 in three main distinctive variations known sometimes as the “original G4’s” or “Sawtooth” models, the “Quicksilver” G4’s and the “Mirror Drive Door” or MDD G4’s. Even among these there were motherboard variations. For instance early models of the “original” line lacked an AGP slot. The G4 I’m going to talk about today is a sub model known as the “Digital Audio” G4 and falls somewhere between the original line and the Quicksilver models. Basically It has the motherboard of an early Quicksilver model in the case of the original line.

To be honest I’ve grown kind of fond of the G4 towers over time. They tend to strike a sort of balance between the good things about apple such as design and the Power PC CPU and a IBM compatible such as expandability and more standard ports and drives.

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The case design for all the G4’s is more or less the same basic design with most of the variations concerning the color and style of the frontal bays. The digital audio G4 uses the same case as the Sawtooth line and is a pleasant white/bluish color. There are also these handle looking things that are on every corner which in all honestly are nice for assisting lifting and moving the relatively heavy tower. On the front we have two 5 1/4 bays.

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Internal shot of the two bays.

one usually sports a DVD/CD drive as mine does and the other sometimes a 100mb ZIP drive depending on your model. Mine obviously lacks the ZIP drive but one can be added easily enough.

Also on the front we have a grill for the built in speaker as well as a power button that glows a nice white when powered on as well as a programmers button and a reset button beneath that. The programmers button can be used to bring up a console window for debugging and can also be used to update firmware.

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Under the fan slot we have a standard power jack and to the left we have our built in ports. At the top we have a modem jack and two audio ports. The top jack is a standard headphone jack and below that is an apple speaker mini-jack for high fidelity apple speakers. Further down we have a Ethernet port followed by two Firewire 400 ports and a pair of USB 1.1 ports. Below that we have five slots for internal expansion cards. The top one is taken up by my video card since the G4 machintosh’s do not have built in video. further down I added a Firewire/USB card for more connectivity.

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Unlike many of the earlier Mac’s I’ve reviewed here the G4 uses a seemingly higher quality plastic and a lot more metal so the case feels much more sturdy and less prone to “brittletosh” issues. Opening the case is getting inside is ridiculously easy and may be the easiest time I’ve ever had getting into any PC or Mac. All you do is lift the handle on the side of the case and….

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Once open you have almost full and unimpeded access to the board. At first I thought the motherboard seemed very barren and unpopulated but many of the chips and capacitors are actually mounted on the underside of the board. There are also three spots on the bottom of the case for mounting hard drives. Currently I only have one lowly 40GB IDE drive mounted.

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On to the motherboard.

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1) CPU – The Digital Audio G4’s came with a variety of CPU speed options starting at 466mhz. Mine is the highest end model sporting a 733mhz PowerPC 7450 processor sometimes refered to as a G4e (enhanced) as it is a redesigned and improved version of the G4 CPU. Its very hard to find CPU comparisons between PPC and Intel x86 CPU’s on the web but I would wager its perhaps equivalent to a faster Pentium III. This motherboard is running on a 133mhz front side bus.

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2) CMOS battery – Is the standard 3.6 V lithium battery to save settings. Like all Macs the death of these batteries tend to cause more issues then what I see happen in PC’s. If your having odd instabilities replace these things first.

3) RAM – Three slots for SDRAM supporting up to 1.5gb of PC133 RAM

4) Expansion slots – four 64 bit 33mhz PCI slots and one AGP x4 slot for a video card.

Video – The Digital Audio G4’s came with one of several video cards. Mine came with an AGP ATI Rage 128 Pro with 16 MB VRAM. Keep in mind that if your using a x8 AGP card whether a MAC card or a PC card that has been flashed with a mac BIOS you need to disable pins 3 & 11 to get video. This applies to all G4 Mac’s with the exception of the AGP 2x Sawtooth models. This issue is due to apple using the at the time unassigned pins for “ADC” apple monitors connection. When AGP x8 came out those pins were suddenly used for something else so basically they wouldn’t run on a G4 Macintosh. The way around this is to disable the pins completely either by taping over them or cutting the traces making the card a AGP x4.

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This card is a Macintosh version so it comes with both a VGA port and an Apple Display Connector port. Its not really the most exciting card but it does well enough for 90’s games and some early 2000’s games. Your going to want to upgrade though for any series turn of the century gaming though. Officially the Digital Audio models were sold with up to Geforce 2 or 3 cards installed (some conflicting information).

5) Wireless airport card connector for well….connecting to wireless devices.

6) IDE connectors – Two ATA-66 connectors for connecting a total of four IDE devices. In my setup I have my DVD drive connected to the onboard ata66 connector but I’m using an ATA100 PCI card to connect to the hard drive.

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7) ATX power connector.

I haven’t really done much to this machine since I got it. I’m currently running OS X 10.4.11 which is the highest officially supported version of the OS.

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I haven’t used this particular Mac much because I have a more powerful MDD G4 that I will eventually cover here that I use for present general early OS X stuff. That said I do like the Digital Audio G4. most of all I like the color scheme and ability to easily add a ZIP drive, even though I currently haven’t and probably will not.

 

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For this article I’ll be taking a look at my Macintosh 7600 from 1996 but I’m also considering this a overview of the 7500 as well since they are basically the exact same computer using the same case and motherboard. The only difference as far as I can tell besides the case badge is the 7600 came with a slightly more advanced CPU, which since the CPU on these models came on a removable daughtercard you could easily upgrade/downgrade to either or.

Here’s a few pics if you don’t believe me since at one time I had both models.

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I ended up Frankensteining RAM and drives from the 7500 into my 7600 so I condensed it into one machine that I used for some time.

late 90’s Macs are some of the most hated by Macintosh fans but ironically I rather like them, at least in principal. My fondness for them though is the reason many Mac lovers probably dislike them, they are very “PC like”. You can actually easily open and expand a late 90’s Mac unlike earlier models where actually getting inside the machine and tinkering was somewhat discouraged. That said they also share qualities that I hate. chief among them is the plastic tooless cases that although makes it easy to get inside they have not aged well and are very prone to having critical retention tabs snap.

The 7600 is somewhat of a mainstay of late 90’s Macintosh computers and offers decent expansion abilities as well as being pretty easy to work on.

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The 7500/7600 both use the “Outrigger” style case that’s basically a desktop style casing. These models both come with a 1.44mb floppy drive and SCSI CD-ROM drive. To the left of the CD drive bay is room for another drive. When I bought my 7600 off Craigslist it had a purple SCSI 100mb ZIP drive installed in this bay that I promptly removed for another project. To the left of this bay is a built in speaker and below that is a manual power button. Thanks to the brittle plastic my tabs holding the power button in place have broken so it is not always reliable. Thankfully there is a power key on the keyboard.

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I used an Apple Design M9280 ADB keyboard with mine.

The number after the 7600 on the case badge designates the CPU speed that the machine came with stock. Mine came stock with a 132mhz CPU.

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The back features a full range of connections. First from the left we have an external DB-25 SCSI connector. This is followed by two ethernet connector types. First the AAUI or Apple Attachment User Interface, a type of ethernet connector I honestly never knew about before this machine. Next to it is a more standard 10Base-T ethernet jack. Next are two Geoports which are for printer and modem interfaces. This is followed by the Macintosh DB-15 VGA out, of course if you need to connect to a standard VGA monitor adapters are plentiful. Next is a ADB port for keyboard or mouse (your supposed to plug a keyboard in here and then the mouse into the keyboard). Finally we have two 3.5mm minijacks for a microphone and speakers.

Above the ports we have a nice array of video in/out jacks. My models only has RCA stereo out but it does have stereo audio in as well as composite video and S-video in. I don’t really do any editing or work like that much on a Macintosh but these must of been pretty convenient in its day.

There are only three expansion slots as you can tell from the plates on the right but seeing as so much is built in I never found this to be so much of an issue.

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The cover comes off relatively easy. You need to depress two plastic tabs located under the front bezels overhang and then pull forward. With luck your will slide off without anything snapping off. You cant see it here because I removed them but theres is a lot of annoying and flimsy metal shielding across the front drive bays. I have upgraded my machine a little. I replaced the stock 4x SCSI CD drive with a 8x SCSI CD drive from another Macintosh. Macs are very touchy about what drives you use so for simplicity sake I just pulled mine from a Mac from the same era. There are of course ways to get non apple drives to work but for the CD drive I didn’t go through the hassle.

I also added a second SCSI hard drive that you cant see in this image. It is a 2GB IBM SCSI drive. I had to first install it in my other G3 machine and format and initialize it before the 7600 would detect it.

The insides again unfold relatively easily giving access to the motherboard.

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Most of my little tabs and what not have snapped over time. I have to watch the right part of the chassis doesn’t fall down on my hands since the little black plastic stand that props it up also snapped some time ago. With access to the motherboard lets take a closer look.

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1) CPU – Here we have the CPU card. To be honest I like the PowerPC line of CPU’s and I like how easy it is to swap out CPU’s in this fashion. The 7500 shipped with a 100 MHz PowerPC 601 CPU while the 7600 sported a 120 MHz, 132 MHz PPC 604 or a 200 MHz 604e. The front side bus is 40mhz to 50mhz controlled by the CPU card. Mine was originally a 132mhz model but when I received it my machine had been given a 300mhz G3 CPU upgrade. Interestingly my 7500 also had a G3 CPU upgrade leading me to believe these were fairly common upgrades and generally recommended as they seem to really give the Mac some additional power.

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2) PRAM Battery – running without a battery or a low battery seems to have much harsher effects on a Mac then a PC. 3.6V PRAM batteries are relatively cheap and should probably be the first thing to check/replace if your machine is acting odd or unstable.

3) RAM – The 7500/7600 use 70ns 168-pin DIMMs with the standard amount being 16-34MB. I haven’t really expanded mine to much beyond that but the eight slots support 512mb officially and 1GB unofficially with 128mb DIMMS. This is actually a pretty incredible amount of RAM for a consumer computer of the time.

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4) L2 cache – The 75/7600 use a COASt (Cashe On A Stick) module for L2 cache up to 256kb. I don’t know if the machine will support sticks larger then 256k such as 512kb or 1mb but initial research suggests it will. When using a G3 upgrade card such as myself I have read it is advisable to remove the L2 cache stick as the G3 cards have faster L2 cache on the CPU card.

5) ROM – This slot actually confused me for a long time. It’s a ROM slot for some kind of ROM chip which the system I assume would NEED to function yet on both my machines it was not present. It wasn’t until later I found out the ROM chip is on the underside of the motherboard and this slot was left in case any ROM upgrades came later this slot could be used to implement them.

6) Video Ram – Like many Macs the 75/7600 has built in video capabilities. I was not able to find specifics except that at max it supports 1152×870 resolutions at 24-bit and 1280×1024 at 16-bit. The on board video supports up to 4MB of VRAM which is what the four slots are for with 2MB being standard. I was able to lift two 1MB sticks from my 7500 for this machine maxing it out. Keep in mind you need the full 4MB to achieve the highest resolutions. This though is rendered pointless since I did eventually install a dedicated video card.

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7) DAV (Digital Audio Video) slot – This is another slot that took me some time to figure out what it does. Apparently this slot with a cable can be combined with certain expansion video cards. according to here “The DAV connector provides access to the Audio/Video card”s 4:2:2 unscaled YUV video input data bus and associated control signals. By means of a 60-pin cable to the DAV connector, a PCI expansion card can gain access to the digital video bus on the Audio/Video Input/Output Card and use it to transfer real-time video data to the computer. Such a PCI expansion card can contain a hardware video compressor or other video processor.”

8) These are just internal connectors. From top to bottom we have two SCSI connectors, power connector, speaker/CD audio jack, floppy connector and finally 3.3v power connector.

9) The 75/7600 fortunately come with three PCI expansion slots. Adding a video card or two is probably a good choice. There are really no Audio cards made for the Mac to speak of so video upgrade is really your best option. Keep in mind you need Macintosh specific cards. The PCI slots themselves are the same as a PC but the cards BIOS is different. The video card I am using is a RAGE 128 w/16MB of RAM.

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The lack of an AGP slot limits your options but I find the Macintosh Rage 128 cards to be pretty cheap and abundant as well as providing enough power for the majority of 90’s Mac games. You can also add a Voodoo 2 mac edition or if you can find and afford one a Mac edition Voodoo 5500. I actually chanced across a boxed card at a swap meet for $3 once so they can be found.

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So my final opinion? The 7500/7600 can be found pretty cheap and easily off places like Craigslist. I’m running OS 8.5 on mine but they can run OS 7 and 9 without issues according to your needs and wants. With a G3 upgrade and 1GB of RAM these things fly for a machine that came out in 1996. Even with a moderate graphics card like the Rage 128 and a more moderate amount of RAM such as 512MB or even 256MB you should be able to do most of you 90’s Macintosh gaming with ease. The SCSI can be a bit of a hassle though if your not familiar with it and of course replacing drives is more of a hassle. It just makes a nice all around 90’s gaming Macintosh in my opinion and for a time served as my main Macintosh

The toolless cases though as with most 90’s Macs I could do without. It seems kind of cheap and as I’ve said the plastic did not age well and is prone to cracking.

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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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As I write this article the G3 that is the topic of concern is sitting several feet from me in a large box waiting to be shipped across the country to a new waiting owner. This is not because its a bad machine but because I can basically do everything I personally need to do as far as Mac gaming on the older more portable 7600 that coupled with the fact the Power Mac 9600 still has my eye for eventually being my go to high end classic Mac. So before this machine leaves my life lets take a look at it and let me give you my impressions.

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The G3 minitower uses a case like the 8600 and 9600 but according to Wikipedia it is slightly shorter. First off let me say this thing has a fair bit of weight to it. On top we have a 1.22 floppy followed by a CD-ROM drive and under that is a 100mb Zip drive. The Zip was optional but I see them on a large number of G3’s I come across. The Zip and CD-Rom drives are both IDE. As you can see my machine has a Sonnet badge on it since it received a G4 CPU upgrade at some point. Middle bottom you can see the speaker  and on the right is the little power button.

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Now we have the back of the machine with its various ports. On the very top left is the external SCSI port followed by the ADB port for your Macintosh keyboard/mouse. Below that is the Ethernet port, your printer/modem port and finally the VGA port. The G3 still does not use a standard VGA port so if your using a PC VGA monitor your going to need one of those adapters.

macvgaA few MAC to VGA adapters

Below that you have the A/V ports. There were three levels of a “personality card” that would go here. The lowest version known as “Whisper” was just the sound card for the system and offered no A/V capability. The card installed here is the mid level card known as “Wings” and offered sound as well as some A/V capture and output abilities. The highest level card known as “Bordeaux” featured improved sound capabilities for the system as well as better A/V capture quality and DVD movie playback ability. Finally there are 3 expansion slots for three PCI devices, somewhat of a step down from the six PCI slots in the Power Mac 9600.

The machine is very simple to open. The side comes off by depressing the aquamarine colored “button” on top and pulling out.

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From here you just flip up those two colored plastic tabs near the bottom and both sides easily just pull up and out of the way.

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Here is the motherboard exposed.

1) First off the CPU is a little more traditional looking at this point compared with some older MAC models from the mid/late 1990’s that used PDS slots for CPU cards. The G3 tower came with a G3 CPU anywhere from 233 to 33mhz. The G3 is roughly equivalent to the Pentium II of similar speed though most tests place is as slightly faster. My machine came with a 500mhz G4 upgrade, something I didn’t especially want or need. This upgrade placed this machine on par with a Pentium III PC.

2) Here is the personality card as I mentioned before. It is installed in a special PERCH slot. The one installed here is the mid level “Wings” card that acted as the machines sound card as well as a video capture and A/V out card offering composite and S-video connections.

3) This is the built in video and video SGRAM. Early motherboards had an ATI Rage II+ chip used for graphics but mine was a later revision and had the updated ATI Rage Pro Turbo onboard graphics chip. The slot below the graphics chip is for the SG video RAM. Mine here has been fully expanded to 6MB of video RAM. The ATI chip, especially the later Rage Pro Turbo is a decent video chip and can handle most games of the time competently.

4) Here is the ROM slot with said ROM inserted which are common on most older MAC’s.

5) Three slots for RAM. Officially the G3 tower model supported up to 128MB of PC66 SDRAM but can easily support up to 768MB via three 256MB sticks. 768MB is the amount currently installed in this machine.

6) These are the the IDE ports and above that one 50 pin SCSI slot. Early ROM A G3’s only support one device per IDE cable but this was corrected in later revisions of the ROM.

7) Floppy cable for the 1.44 MB floppy drive

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So final impressions on this machine. The G3 Mac is really the last and fastest of the old world Macintosh computers and as such The G3 minitower makes a excellent “tweener” Mac, meaning that its really good at transferring files between newer macs and older macs where a direct process may have format incompatibility issues. It can run early versions of OS X as well as OS 8 and 9 without issue. The built in ability to use SCSI and IDE is also very convenient as you can enable and format and enable SCSI hard drives on it for use in older Mac’s if you wanted. For me though it seemed just a bit to fast for the era of Mac games I was looking to play as well as not offering the enhanced expandability I was looking for in more PCI slots. It gave me a lot of audio and video stuttering issues with games like Sim Isle and Full Throttle and I never could figure out why. Its possible to much Ram was at fault but I never bothered to check. Games like Quake though ran beautifully on this machine and the option to add USB or a Mac Voodoo card via the PCI is a great bonus. I would definitely recommend picking one of these up if you see them locally for a good sub $50 price. If you have one shipped though they are heavy so be prepared to pay a hefty shipping cost.

The Macintosh Classic II is in many way similar to its less powerful sibling the Macintosh Classic. It was the last of the iconic black and white compact Macs and perhaps the most powerful next to the excellent Macintosh SE/30. The case looks very similar besides the label on the front and back indicating if the machine is a Classic I or II. Keep in mind there were two cases for the Classic II both looking alike except that the later cases have holes on the side for the speaker to allow better sound. My case is of the older type. There’s not a lot I can say about it that I didn’t say about the Classic as far as form goes. This machine was found off Craigslist and suffered from the common “stripped display” issue that plagues many of these macs. The issue is commonly caused by leaking caps on the motherboard. after cleaning the board in distilled water and allowing it to dry It operated flawlessly when reinstalled into the Mac. This is a temporary solution though and if your board suffers from this problem it requires the motherboard to be “recapped” or the capacitors replaced. this is neither to difficult or expensive and you can typically find someone on the internet who offers the service for around $40 or so plus parts.

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The machine came with the same black and white 9 inch display as the Classic, sported the standard 1.44MB floppy dive and had the same Monaural four-voice sound with 8-bit digital/analog conversion using 22-kHz sampling rate for sound as the Classic did.

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The rear of this unit is also very similar to the Classic except for the inclusion of a port for a microphone on the far left. Next to the microphone port we have the standard ADB port for keyboard/mouse, port for an external floppy, db-25 SCSI port, two ports for a printer and then modem and finally a headphone port.

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On opening the Classic II up it also looks very similar to the Mac Classic. These machines typically came with a 40 or 80MB hard drive. Mine came with a 40mb drive. Like all the compact macs it is very cramped in there and you have to take a lot of caution not to be electrocuted by the capacitors for the CRT tube. The drive on top is going to be your floppy drive while the hard drive is attached below that.

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The motherboard though looks very different from the Classic.

1) This slot looks like the RAM expansion slot from the Classic but actually it is a slot to add a FPU or math co-processor or additional ROM. A few third parties did make FPU add ons for this slot but they are not very common.

2) This is the CPU. The Classic II really bumped things up in terms of power from the Classic I. This CPU is a 16mhz 68030. The Classic I used a 8mhz 68000.

3) Floppy drive connector.

4) SCSI connector for the hard drive.

5) 3.6 V lithium PRAM battery to save settings.

6) RAM slots for up to 10MB of RAM. this is a good deal more then the 4MB limit on most other classic compact Macs.

7) Power connector

mclas25

My Classic II is running System 7.1.0 which is a fairly typical OS for this machine. you can run the sleek System 6 if you wanted but lose some features or upgrade to System 7.6.1 which I think this machine can handle pretty easily.

There wasn’t a whole lot to say about the Classic II that I didn’t say already about the Classic I. I do think this is a much more capable machine with a better CPU and the capability or more RAM, 10MB as opposed to 4MB limit of the Classic I. I would also say that this may be the most capable of the black and white compact Macs next to the SE/30. The Classic II shares the same CPU as the SE/30 but unlike it the Classic II uses a 16 bit data bus as opposed to 32 bit meaning that the RAM is limited to 10MB and is overall a slower system despite the same CPU. If you want that iconic compact mac look but still want good functionality, don’t mind the B/W screen and don’t have a ton of money to splurge on the SE/30 I would recommended the Classic II if you can find a working one for under $40.

 

Some of the all time classic Macintosh computers are the all-in-one compact Macs from the late 80’s and early 90’s. Praised for their beautiful industrial design and portability they are iconic, they are also in my eyes, kind of useless. Keep in mind this is coming from a gamer and someone who has not been enthralled to apple. There’s plenty of good things I can say about the old macs and in particular the Macintosh Classic (not to be confused with classic Macintosh’s in general). They are portable, have a sleek design, are user friendly and helped launch desktop publishing among other things, they have there place but as a game machine or even just everyday computing or web browsing well, not so much. I can just say if I had a compact mac and my friends had a 386 PC with even a crappy sound card and VGA card I would be terribly jealous. The Macintosh classic is a later iteration of the early compact macs which include the Macintosh Plus, Macintosh SE and others. It is in almost all ways a step backwards from the Macintosh SE/30 which preceded it but it still brings some nice improvements over some of the earlier Macs. It should be noted though that this model was intended as a low-end Macintosh and for first time users so efforts were made to keep costs low. Like most classic Macs you’ll see these going for stupid high prices on Craigslist or eBay a lot of the time. Be patient, I picked this one off of Craigslist with mouse and keyboard for $25. the gentleman I bought it off of recovered it from a school years ago and didn’t want to see it go to waste.

classm1

The Mac Classic uses a fairly simple design. As can be seen the monitor came with the unit and was built in. The monitor is a 9 inch monochrome black and white CRT display. The image from these monitors is actually pretty good. The one here is bright and sharp. In one way the monitor being built in makes setup very simple as well as helps portability but being stuck with black and white can be a major drawback. This comes from someone who loves black and white movies and I’m certainly not a graphics centric person but for games its just limiting. It does lend a certain style though to games meant to be played on this system. Under the monitor you can also see the standard Mac SuperDrive a 1.44MB floppy drive able to read mac and ms-dos floppies. Screen brightness is now software controlled so no brightness dials are on the case.

classm2

Here is the back of the unit. I always liked the little handle on the top of the older compact Mac cases, its a nice touch. From left to right we have a ADB port for your apple mouse or keyboard (or both since they were made to be daisy chained), a DB 19 port for an external floppy, a DB 25 SCSI port for SCSI stuff, and two mini din ports for printer and modem. Lastly is a convenient little headphone jack for the Monaural four-voice sound with 8-bit digital/analog conversion using 22-kHz sampling rate. (thank you Vwestlife at the vintage computer forums for that info).

If you remove the cover located above the power switch you reveal knobs to adjust screen properties.

cmt16

Unfortunately Apple decided not to label these knobs but I did that for you in the image above.

classm3

this is the left side of the Mac. these are the interrupt and restart buttons. I know in the older compact macs you had to get a little plastic switch thing that you would install onto the case to access these buttons. It looks like these buttons finally became official on the Mac classic.

Now on to getting inside these. Like all the early all in one Macs these were not meant to be tinkered with by the average Joe and to help ensure that the case was screwed closed by 4 TORX screws, 2 of which at the top are extremely recessed and hard to get to without a special rare “mac cracker” tool or a long handled T15 TORX screwdriver. Originally I could not find a T15 screwdriver that was long enough so I had to make my own. I stripped a hard plastic pen and jammed a T15 screwdriver head into it from one of those interchangeable screwdrivers and that worked pretty well. eventually i did find a long enough T15 screwdriver at an ACE hardware store for a few bucks. here’s a picture of it.

cmt15

Yeah, just looks like a screwdriver but I was seriously happy when I found one. Once the screws are out the case is very easy to open, just pull back the rear of the case and expose the innards.

classm4

Here we have the very crowded inside of the Mac Classic. As an added bonus we have an exposed monitor and capacitors so you get the thrilling opportunity to severely shock and or kill yourself if you touch the wrong part. really just completely stay away from the monitor and the stuff on the right of the case.

1) the monitor, just leave it alone and don’t touch it.

2) This is the RAM card, which is a real improvement from the earlier compact Macs.

classm5

The max RAM that the Mac Classic can detect is 4MB. 1MB of RAM is on the motherboard and 3MB more are accessible via the special RAM daughter board pictured above. The RAM daughter board has 1MB of RAM soldered on and 2 30 pin slots for an additional 2MB of 30 pin RAM. Avoid buying a Mac Classic with only 1MB of RAM since it is missing the proprietary RAM expansion card. This easily accessible board is a great improvement over earlier compact Macs where in order to expand RAM you needed to remove the entire motherboard and on certain models and motherboard revisions actually cut capacitors in order to get the max RAM amount.

3) this is the tray for the hard drive. the Classic uses SCSI drives and mine is a 40MB drive which came shipped with this Mac. Remember to use Apple brand SCSI hard drives for the least amount of trouble. Under the hard drive tray is the floppy drive. the hard drive tray slides off with the removal of a screw.

4) this is the circuitry for the monitor and also the power supply, leave it alone. you can also notice now the exposed pots to adjust the monitor.

classm6

Once the power cord, floppy drive and hard drive cables are disconnected the board should slid out with very little trouble. The motherboard is very small compared to the earlier compact Macs and is roughly half their size.

1) special connector for the Mac Classic RAM expansion card. this is used for nothing but the RAM card. I believe that the line of 8 chips to the right of the connector is the 1MB of on board RAM.

2) floppy drive connector

3) SCSI hard drive connector

4) CPU, this is the Motorola 68000 processor running at 8Mhz

5) 3.6V lithium barrel battery for keeping time and settings saved.

6) These are the interrupt and reset buttons.

7) The Power supply connector.

classm7

Here is an underside shot of the Mac. As you can see the Motherboard leaves lots of space so there is room now for the fan to blow downward under the mac. make sure your Mac has its little legs lifting it above the surface else I can imagine overheating issues may arise.

classm8

The Mac classic came with the Apple keyboard II as standard as well as the one button apple mouse. The power button on the keyboard is not necessary to turn the Mac on as the rear power switch will work fine and will boot the Mac on power up. System 6.0.3 is in ROM and can be accessed by holding command + option + X + O keys during boot. I have system 6.0.7 installed on hard drive. Its very suited for this computer and boots up very quickly. You can put system 7.5.5 on this Mac but it kinda bogs things down a bit as the 68k CPU on this Mac isn’t very fast.

bottom line on this Mac is that I do like the improvements to the design such as the easy RAM expansion compared to earlier models but there really isn’t much room for any other type of expansion and there are no expansion slots on the motherboard. The CPU is a bit underpowered for the time and I really struggle to find any use for this Mac except as a system 6 novelty platform. If you want a classic compact Mac find an SE/30. The cases make good aquarium mods though.

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