Category: 68000

Sega Saturn

This is my Sega Saturn, which I bought used at The Record Exchange (now simply The Exchange) on Howe Rd. in Cuyahoga Falls in October 1999.

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I know this because I saved the date-stamped price tag by sticking it on the Saturn’s battery door.

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The Saturn was Sega’s 32-bit game console, a contemporary of the better known Nintendo N64 and the Sony PlayStation.  It lived a short, brutish existence where it was pummeled by the PlayStation.  In the US the Saturn came out in May 1995 and was basically dead by the end of 1998.

The Saturn was the first game console that I truly loved.   Keep in mind that I bought mine after the platform was dead and buried and used game stores were eager to unload most of the games for less than $20.  If I had paid $399 for one brand new in 1995 with a $50 copy of Daytona USA I might have different feelings.

The thing that makes the Saturn intensely interesting is how it was simultaneously such a lovable platform and a disaster for Sega.  It’s a story about what happens when executives totally misunderstand their market and what happens when you give great developers a limited canvas to make great games with and they do the best they can.

When you look at the Saturn totally out of it’s historical context and just look at on it’s own, it’s a fine piece of gaming hardware.  Compared to the Sega CD it replaced the quality of the plastic seems to have been improved.  The Saturn is substantial without being outrageously huge.  The whole thing was built around a top-loading 2X CD-ROM drive.

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It plays audio CDs from an on-screen menu that also supports CD+G discs (mostly for karaoke).

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It has a CR2032 battery that backs up internally memory for saving games, accessible behind a door at the rear of the console.

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It has a cartridge slot for adding additional RAM and other accessories like GameSharks.

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There were several official controllers available for it during it’s lifetime.

The two I own are the this 6 button digital controller:

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And the “3D controller” with the analog stick that was packaged with NiGHTS:

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You can see the clear family resemblance to the Dreamcast controller.

My Saturn is a bit odd because at some point the screws that hold the top shell to the rest of the console sheared off.

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That’s not supposed to happen.  All that’s holding the two parts of the Saturn together is the clip on the battery door.  Fortunately this gives me an excellent opportunity to show you what the inside of the Saturn looks like:

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Despite all of this, my Saturn still works after at least 15 years of service.

I should explain why I was buying a Saturn for $25 at The Record Exchange in 1999.  You might say that several decisions by my parents and misguided Sega executives led to that moment.

My parents never bought my brother and I videogames as children.  I’m not sure if they thought games were time wasters or wastes of money.   Or, it could have just been they didn’t have any philosophical problem with them but they were uncomfortable buying a toy more expensive than $100.  Whatever the reason we didn’t have videogames.  Considering how many awful games people dropped $50 on in the pre-Internet days when there was so little information about which games were worth buying, I can see their point.  I also know now that there were plenty of perfectly good games that were so difficult that you might stop playing in frustration and never get your money’s worth out of them.

Instead, videogames were something I would only see at a friend’s house…and when those moments happened they were magical.

I can’t speak for women of my generation but at least for a lot of males of the so-called “Millennial generation” videogames are to us what Rock ‘n Roll was to the Baby Boomers.  They are the cultural innovation that we were the first to grow up with and they define us as a generation.  If you’re looking for particular images that define a generation and I say to you “Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock” you think Baby Boomers.  If I say to you “Super Mario Bros.” you think Millennials.

By 1996 or so I was pretty interested in buying some sort of videogame console, but I was somewhat restricted in what I could afford.  The first game system I bought was a used original Game Boy in 1996.  However, shortly after that my family got a current PC and my interests shifted to computer games: Doom, Quake, etc, which is what eventually led to the Voodoo 2.

By 1998 I noticed how dirt cheap the Sega Genesis had become so my brother and I chipped in together to buy a used Genesis (which I believe we bought from The Record Exchange).  I quickly found that I did enjoy playing 2D games but I was really enjoying the 3D games I was playing on PC.

Sega did an oddly consistent job of porting their console games to PC in the 1990s, so I had played PC versions of some of the games that came out on Saturn in the 1995-1998 timeframe including the somewhat middling PC port of Daytona USA

So in 1999 when I came across this used Saturn for a mere $25 at The Record Exchange, I was eager to buy it.

But why was the Saturn $25 when a used PlayStation or N64 was most likely going for $80-$100 at the same time?

As I noted in the Sega Genesis Nomad post, Sega was making some very strange decisions about hardware in the mid-1990s.  At that time Sega was at at the forefront of arcade game technology.  Recall that in the Voodoo 2 post I said that if you sat down at one of Sega’s Daytona USA or Virtua Fighter 2 machines in 1995 you were basically treated to the most gorgeous videogame experience money could by at the time.  That’s because Sega was working with Lockheed Martin to use 3D graphics hardware from flight simulators in arcade machines.

At the same time as they were redefining arcade games Sega was busy designing the home console that would succeed the popular Genesis (aka the console people refer to today as simply “the Sega”).  Home consoles were still firmly rooted in 2D, but there were cracks appearing.  For example, Nintendo’s Star Fox for the Super Nintendo embedded a primitive 3D graphics chip in the cartridge and introduced a lot of home console gamers to 3D, one slowly rendered frame at a time.  Sega pulled a similar trick with the Genesis port of Virtua Racing, which embedded a special DSP chip in the cartridge (you may remember this from the Nomad post):

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Sega decided on a design for the Saturn which would produce excellent 2D graphics with 3D graphics as a secondary capability.  The way the Saturn produced 3D was a bit complicated but basically it could take a sprite and position it in 3D space in such a way that it acted like a polygon in 3D graphics.  If you place enough of these sprites on the screen you can create a whole 3D scene.

I can see in retrospect how this made sense to Sega’s executives.  People like 2D games, so let’s make a great 2D machine.  They also must have considered that 3D hardware on the same level as their arcade hardware was not feasible in a $400 home console.

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However, Sega’s competitors didn’t see things that way.  Sony and Nintendo both built the best 3D machines they could, 2D be damned.  One would expect their did this largely in response to the popularity of Sega’s 3D arcade games.

The story that’s gone around about Sega’s reaction to this is that in response they decided to put a second CPU in the Saturn.  I have no idea if that’s why the Saturn ended up with two Hitachi SH-2 CPUs, but it would make sense if was an act of desperation.

Having two CPUs is one of those things that sounds great but in reality can turn into a real mess.  A CPU is only as fast as the rest of the machine can feed it things to do.  If say, one CPU is reading from the RAM and the other can’t at the same time, it sits there idle, waiting.  There are also not that many kinds types of work that can easily be spread across two CPUs without some loss in efficiency.  If the work one CPU is doing depends on work the other CPU is still working on the first CPU sits there idle, waiting.  These are problems in computer science that people are still working furiously on today.  These were not problems Sega was going to solve for a rushed videogame console launch 19 years ago.

The design they ended up with for the Saturn was immensely complicated.  All told, it contained:

  • Two Hitachi SH-2 CPUs
  • One graphics processor for sprites and polygons (VDP1)
  • One graphics processor for background scrolling (VDP2)
  • One Hitachi SH-1 CPU for CD-ROM I/O processing
  • One Motorola 68000 derived CPU as the sound controller
  • One Yamaha FH1 sound DSP
  • Apparently there was another custom DSP chip to assist for 3D geometry processing

That’s a lot of silicon.  It was expensive to manufacturer and difficult to program.  The PlayStation, which started life at $299, had a single CPU and a single graphics processor and in general produced better results than the Saturn.

Sega had psyched itself out.  Here the company that was showing everyone what brilliant 3D arcade games looked like failed to understand that they had actually fundamentally changed consumer expectations and built a game console to win the last war, so to speak.

When the PlayStation and N64 arrived they ushered in games that were built around 3D graphics.  Super Mario 64, in particular made consumers expect increasingly rich 3D worlds, exactly the type of thing the Saturn did not excel at.

Sega had gambled on consumers being interested in the types of games they produced for the arcades: Games that were short but required hours of practice to master.  By 1997-1998 consumers’ tastes had changed and they were enjoying games like Gran Turismo that still required hours to master but offered hours of content as well.  1995’s Sega Rally only contained four tracks and three cars. 1998’s Gran Turismo had 178 cars on 11 tracks.

Sega’s development teams eventually adapted to this new reality but it was too late to save the doomed Saturn.  Brilliant end-stage Saturn games like Panzer Dragoon Saga and Burning Rangers would never reach enough players’ hands to make a difference.

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For the eagle eyed…This is a US copy of Burning Rangers with a jewel case insert printed from a scan of the Japanese box art.

By Fall-1999 the Saturn was dead and buried as a game platform.  Not only had it failed in the marketplace but it’s hurried successor, the Dreamcast, was now on store shelves.  That’s why a used Saturn was $25 in 1999.

The thing was that despite the fact that the Saturn had failed, the games weren’t bad, and since I was buying them after the fact they were dirt cheap.  I accumulated quite a few of them:

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Oddly enough, my favorite Saturn game was the much criticized Saturn version of Daytona USA that launched with the Saturn in 1995.

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The original Saturn version of Daytona USA was a mess.  Sega’s AM2 team, who had developed the original arcade game had been tasked with somehow creating a viable Saturn version of Daytona USA.  The whole point of the game was that you were racing against a large number of opponents (up to 40 on one track).  The Saturn could barely do 3D and here it was being asked to do the impossible.

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The game they produced was clearly a rushed, sloppy mess.  But it was still fun!  The way the car controls is still brilliant even if the graphics can barely keep up.  I fell in love with Daytona.  Later Sega attempted several other versions of Daytona on Saturn and Dreamcast but I vastly prefer the original Saturn version, imperfect as it may be.

Another memorable game was Wipeout.  To be honest, when I asked to see what Wipeout was one day at Funcoland I had no idea that the game was a futuristic racing game.  I thought it had something to do with snowboarding!

Wipeout was a revelation.  Sega’s games were bright and colorful with similarly cheerful, jazzy music.  Wipeout is a dark and foreboding combat racing game that takes place in a cyberpunk-ish corporate dominated future.  I still catch myself humming the game’s European electronica soundtrack.  The game used CD audio for the soundtrack so you could put the disc in a CD player and listen to the music separately if you wished.  Wipeout was the best of what videogames had to offer in 1995: astonishing 3D visuals and CD quality sound.

From about 1999 to 2000 I had an immense amount of fun collecting cheap used Saturn classics like NiGHTS, Virtua Cop, Panzer Dragoon, Sonic R, Virtua Fighter 2, Sega Rally, and others…As odd as this is to say, the Saturn was my console videogame alma mater.

Today I understand that something can be a business failure but not a failure to the people who enjoyed it.  To me, the Saturn was a glorious success and I treasure the time I have had with it.

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Apple Macintosh SE

This is my Macintosh SE, that I purchased sometime before mid-2003 at the old State Road Shopping Center Goodwill.  If we believe this Apple serial number decoder my Macintosh SE (serial # F9063FVM5011) was built in the 6th week of 1989 in Fremont, California.

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This Macintosh SE still works, outside of the fact that I’ve never seen the hard disk activity light blink.  It runs System 7.0 and seems to have been upgraded from the stock 1MB RAM to 4MB.  At the moment this is my oldest working Macintosh.

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In my post about the original Macintosh I said that machine held a lot of promise but was incomplete.  The Macintosh Plus vastly improved the situation in 1986 by adding 1MB of RAM standard and a SCSI port for adding a hard drive.  But considering how many pictures you see of Mac Pluses sitting atop an external hard drive you can’t really call that machine totally complete either.

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The Macintosh concept really lent itself to having an internal hard drive.

It wasn’t until 1987 when the Macintosh SE was released with an option for a built-in hard drive and the Apple Desktop Bus for peripheral accessories that you could really say for the first time the original vision of the compact Macintosh was complete.  In addition there was an expansion slot crammed in the back of the machine (behind Torx screws), which is where Apple got the “System Expansion” moniker from.  The SE was based on the same Motorola MC68000 CPU running at 7.83Mhz as all previous compact Macintosh models but added a fan that probably led to increased reliability due to better cooling.

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It’s notable then that at the same time the Macintosh SE was released in March 1987 the Macintosh II was also released, which totally changed the conception of what the Macintosh was.

Some time in 1989 my mother visited a computer store in west Akron and picked up some Apple brochures that sat preserved in a drawer for years until I found them.  From one of those brochures, here is the state of the Macintosh lineup in early 1989.

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The Macintosh II was basically the Macintosh re-imagined as an open, expandable desktop personal computer in the vein of the IBM PC AT and was based on the more powerful Motorola MC68020 CPU.

The Macintosh II implicitly admitted the Mac platform was too expensive to be the “computer for everyone” and finally dispensed with the appliance pretenses of the compact Macs.  Instead, Apple positioned the Macintosh II as a business workstation priced at a cool $5500 (before you bought a video card and monitor…Ouch).  People were doing desktop publishing and graphics design on Macintoshes before the Macintosh II but I suspect that once you used a 13in 640×480 screen and enjoyed the benefits of what was then a fantastical amount of RAM and the 68020 CPU you were loathed to go back to a 68000-based compact Macintosh like my SE.

So there’s a certain disappointment to the historical fact that by the time Apple built a compact Macintosh that really paid off the original concept the future was pointing to expandable Macintoshes that resembled desktop PCs.

With that said, if you had purchased this machine at the time, I suspect that you were very happy with it.

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When you sit down with one of these machines at a desk you quickly understand how the subtle angle of the front of the machine puts the screen right in line with where you eyes want to look.  The lovely glow the 9″ black and white CRT focuses your attention despite it’s small size.  I think this would have been an enjoyable machine to own in 1987-1989, even considering that the price tag at the time for the model that included this 20MB hard drive would have been somewhere substantially north of $3000.  Plus, you could play Shufflepuck.

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The Macintosh SE is also the best example I own of Apple’s Snow White design language, which saw it’s heyday in the Macintosh line from 1987 to 1990.  Previously I’ve talked about how I love the angular, metallic look of many pieces of 80s electronics.  Snow White goes in the opposite direction by emphasizing ornamentation and subtle curves in injection molded off-white plastic.  The overall effect is stunning.  It’s somehow very 1980s but at the same time stands out among other designs.

You can learn more about the different components of Snow White from Ed Tracy’s excellent 1998 graduate school project about Apple’s industrial design.  You may have also seen these wild prototypes that came out of the studies that designer Hartmut Esslinger from Frog Design created for Apple while developing the Snow White look.  One of the first Snow White products was the memorable Apple IIc, which may be my favorite looking computer, period.

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The idea behind Snow White was to take full advantage of the fact that Apple used injection-molded plastic cases rather than the sheet metal other computers used.  If computers need air vents for cooling anyways, why not adorn plastic computer cases with horizontal and vertical lines that look like vents so they distract your attention from where the real vents are?

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On the front of the Macintosh SE this results in a “grill” that contains the floppy drive, the hard drive indicator light and an air vent.

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Adding the grill drastically changes the appearance of the front of the machine as compared to the original Macintosh case, even though both machines have basically the same dimensions.  The front of the original Macintosh is dominated by the large bevels that surround the floppy disk drive where on the SE the floppy disk is de-emphasized as a thin line that matches the rest of the grill.

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My favorite Snow White design element is the pedestal of vertical lines along the base of the Macintosh SE and the Macintosh II series cases.

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The lines on the pedestal help to conceal the air vents on the side of the machine that had been much more apparent on the previous compact Macintosh cases.

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Sadly, the pedestal feature is often hidden behind the keyboard sitting in front of the computer.

Apple also produced monitors, CD drives, external hard drives, printers, scanners, and other accessories with Snow White designs from about 1986-1990.  A fellow could fall down a deep rabbit hole collecting all of them.

I’m somewhat enamored with the various Snow White computers and accessories.  In my opinion the Snow White designs have so much more personality than practically every other personal computer ever made, including Apple’s current product line.  Plastic might be out of vogue today, but Snow White showed us that plastic can be just as profound as brushed metal.

Before I really dug into learning about the Snow White look, I thought the Macintosh SE looked a bit funky.  The loss of the beveled edges the original Macintosh introduced gives the Macintosh SE a fat “chin” below the floppy drive.  If you sit a big keyboard in front of it so that the main Snow White feature you’re looking at is the grill below the screen, the machine loses at lot of it’s appeal.  However, as I have read more about Snow White I have come to appreciate the appearance of the Macintosh SE.

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Sega Genesis Nomad

This is my Sega Nomad, the portable version of the venerable Sega Genesis videogame console, introduced in 1995.  I don’t remember which thrift store I found it at, but it’s likely to have been the old State Road Goodwill, sometime in the early 2000s.

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The Genesis is better known as “the Sega” (as in, “remember when were were kids and played Sega at your house?”) than by it’s real name.  It was Sega’s one and only true hardware success.

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By the end of the 1980s through a combination of quality first party games and tight control of third party publishers Nintendo had come to dominate the home videogame console market.  The Genesis broke Nintendo’s near monopoly and setup the first great “console war” of the 1990s.  Powered by the venerable Motorola 68000 CPU (which also powered the Apple Macintosh and is one of the great CPUs of all time) the Genesis was home to Sonic the Hedgehog, edgy fighting games, and popular sports games.

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While they were riding high on the success of the Genesis in the early to mid 1990s Sega made some bizarre decisions about videogame hardware that damaged their relationship with consumers in the years to follow.

There are a lot of companies that you come to find out 20 years later had design concepts or prototypes for ideas that seemed really cool but in retrospect were probably best left on the drawing board.  These drawings for Atari computers that never were and these Apple prototype designs come to mind.  There are probably sound reasons why these things were never produced for sale.  In Sega’s case, they actually produced some of their bizarre ideas and basically every one of them was either an embarrassing failure or was received with apathy by the public.

When you consider the numbers of consoles and hardware add-ons for consoles that Sega either produced or licensed to other companies it’s staggering to think how much hardware they produced in such short a time between 1991 and 1995:

  • There were two versions of the Sega CD that added better graphics and a CD-ROM to the Genesis.
  • The Sega CDX that combined the Genesis and the Sega CD into one semi-portable console.
  • The Sega 32X add-on for the Genesis that added somewhat pathetic 32-bit CPUs to extend the Genesis’s lifespan.
  • An attachment for the Pioneer LaserActive that combined Genesis and Sega CD hardware with a LaserDisc player.
  • The JVC X’Eye that was a combination Genesis and Sega CD console licensed to JVC.
  • The Sega TeraDrive that somewhat unbelievably combined an 286-based PC and a Genesis.

The Nomad is another one of these bizarre hardware ideas.  The technology of 1995 could not provide the Nomad with a crisp screen, a manageable size, or anything that could be considered better than horrendous battery life.

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Here’s the back of the Nomad.  Notice there is no battery compartment but there are contacts for a battery accessory.  You were expected to attach an external battery pack to the back of the Nomad to actually use it as a portable game system.  Without the pack, the Nomad is already over 1.5 inches thick on it’s “thin” edge.  I don’t have a battery pack so I can’t speak directly to what the weight and battery life are like with the pack installed, but you read phrases like “the low battery light told you when the Nomad was on” and “horrendous” to describe the battery life.

The Nomad’s screen, while much better at producing color at the Casio TV-1000 I blogged about in February, has some serious issues with ghosting.  As you can imagine, this is an issue with games like Sonic the Hedgehog that have fast movement.

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Oddly, the blurring actually does a good job at hiding the awful color dithering in Virtua Racing.

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Apparently part of the cause of the Nomad’s notoriously poor battery life is the high voltage florescent backlight which also lights the screen in an uneven way.

If you had paid $180 for a Nomad in 1995 expecting a portable Genesis as advertised, you would have cause to be unhappy.  In that respect, the Nomad was a failure.

The thing is though, is that if you just consider the Nomad to be a miniature, self-contained Genesis model, it’s pretty fantastic.  The saving grace of the Nomad is that it has everything a Genesis has:  An AV output, a second controller port, and a six button controller.  I have several Genesis controllers and I dislike all of them.  The buttons feel clunky and the D-pads feel mushy.  The Nomad’s controls seem much sharper.  I like the smooth, convex buttons on the Nomad much better than the rough, concave buttons on most Genesis controllers.

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Now, you can’t use the Nomad with the 32X (because the AV output that’s necessary to connect to the 32X is covered up by the bulk of the 32X) or the Sega CD (because the Nomad lacks the necessary expansion port) but in all other respects it IS a Genesis.  It uses the same AV cables and the same power brick as the Genesis Mark 2 model.  If you want to collect Genesis cartridges and play them on a real Genesis but you lack space for a real Genesis in your residence, the Nomad is for you.  You would do yourself a favor though, by plugging it into a TV (especially a late-model CRT TV).

One problem the Nomad shares with the Genesis Mark 2 is that the connection between the power input and the PCB board can become weakened causing the Nomad to randomly shut off or not turn on at all.  My Nomad had this problem until my father opened up the unit and re-solderer the power input’s connection to the PCB.  One of the five screws on the back of the unit is a security screw, so safely cut that screw post, which does not affect the structure of the case at all.

If you really, really want to use the Nomad as a portable Genesis there are mods available to help.  One mod replaces the florescent backlight with an LED for significantly improved battery life but otherwise stock appearance.  Another mod replaces the mid-90s vintage LCD with a modern LCD for improved screen clarity.

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Apple Macintosh

This is my original Apple Macintosh (aka the Macintosh 128K) from 1984.  I believe I bought it somewhere around 1998-2000 at the old State Road Shopping Center Goodwill in Cuyahoga Falls.  Unfortunately it only worked for a short time after I found it but in that time I had a lot of fun with it.  I keep it around today as a piece of history.

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This is it.  Model M0001.  The original Macintosh.  The machine with the Ridley Scott 1984 commercial.  More has probably been written, said, and filmed about this computer than any other in history.

You can identify an original 1984 Macintosh among other classic Macs by the way that the rear name badge just says “Macintosh” and the way that the front of the computer just has an Apple logo and no model name.

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The original Macintosh did not have a hard drive.  It ran from 400K 3.5in floppy disks.  I found this Macintosh with the mouse and keyboard (minus the letter Z) but with no disks, which created a problem.  I made some posts on the old RoadRunner newsgroups and found some local Mac nerds to help me out.  One of them a disk that had been formatted 400K with an significantly old System and copies of MacWrite and MacPaint, which is basically what you would have received in the box in 1984.  To my amazement, we found that the old Macintosh worked.  Compared to the Apple II, the crisp black and white image was a revelation.

Through some research I found sites like mac512.com that (at that time) had a lot of old software available to download, assuming you had a Mac that could write the 400K floppy format.  My mother and I made a trip to a local Kinkos that had late model Power Macinitosh towers (probably Power Macintosh 9500 or 9600s) that still had floppy drives.  We spent about an hour or so filling up a few floppies with old games like Shufflepuck, Kung Fu and Stunt Copter.

Later I came to realize that this Macintosh had been upgraded to about the specs of a Macintosh 512K with 0.5MB RAM, an option which Wikipedia says cost $995 back in the day.

This Macintosh was the first Macintosh of any type I owned and the first Apple product I had owned since my grandfather gave us his Apple IIe.  Oddly enough, the later Macs I found at thrift stores or acquired used I found in roughly the order they came out: a Macintosh Plus, a Macintosh SE, a Macintosh Classic II, a Macintosh LC III, a Quadra 700, a Quadra 605, a Performa 630CD, a PowerBook 190cs, the PowerBook G3, and most recently an eMac and a 2010 Mac Mini.

The Macintosh Plus (which in many ways was the machine the Macintosh 128K should have been) gave me a good education into what the Macintosh experience would have been in the mid-to-late 80s.

While I am fascinated in these machines as old computers I’m still a PC guy at heart.  It’s just that these are the opportunities that have presented themselves.  If the thrift stores had been full of Deskpros or PS/2s I would be writing about them here too.

Since this old Macintosh no longer works, it gives me a good opportunity to talk about the way it looks.

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You can see the visual similarity between the Apple IIe (introduced in 1983) and the Macintosh with the beige plastic and the beveled edges.  Growing up with an Apple IIe, I have a fondness for the beige style that Apple did so well in the mid 1980s.  I have said before that I like my 80s stereo equipment to have the angular silver appearance of a DeLorean.  Well, I want my 80s computer equipment to have the beige plastic look of the Apple Macintosh and the Apple IIe.

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I adore the beveling around the floppy disk drive especially.  That’s the way a floppy drive should look.  It just looks important.

The way the mouse looks roughly like the Macintosh, with the mouse button mirroring the monitor and the Apple logo in roughly the same place is stunningly cute.

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I really dig the color Apple logos on the front and back of the Macintosh.  Bring back the color Apple!

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One of the things that puzzles me about this machine is: If you had paid $2495 for one of these things in 1984 would you have been happy with it?

We’ve all been told that this is the machine that like Prometheus bringing fire to man, brought the Graphical User Interface to the common person.

The reality is that this was a seriously compromised computer when it was launched.  The 400K floppies were too small.  The 128K RAM was way, way too small for the kind of graphical programs that were expected to be built for it.  The single built-in floppy drive and the limited amount of RAM led to horror stories where the simple action of copying a disk took multiple disk swaps.  It also lacked a dedicated port to add an external hard drive.

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The Macintosh Plus, introduced in 1986, corrected these flaws by coming with at least 1MB RAM, an 800K floppy drive, and a SCSI port for adding an external hard disk.  The Macintosh SE in 1987 added an option of an internal hard disk or a second floppy drive.  So, if you had bought this machine in 1984 you were probably looking longingly at the Plus and SE which had the same screen and same CPU, but corrected the glaring flaws in the original design.

Additionally, would you have been happy with the software selection?  The Mac would have come with the brilliant MacWrite and MacPaint, but after that was there other quality software to buy?  It seems like the first few years of Macintosh software were a bit tortured.  Meanwhile Apple II and IBM PC owners were cheerfully drowning in great software.

I’m sure the first two things people thought of when they saw a Macintosh back then was: This is amazing but 1) Can I have it with color? 2) Can I have a bigger screen.

Maybe this is just my “future” bias talking here but anytime I’ve tried to write anything on the 9in screen classic Macintoshes have I’ve felt visually cramped.

If you were the kind of computing enthusiast with a quick trigger finger for novel technology that was probably the kind of person who bought a Mac in 1984, what did you think of the Amiga in 1985?  Granted the Amiga had a less elegant GUI than the Macintosh but it came with an emphasis on color and multimedia while your Mac was staring back at you in crisp but dull black and white.  Apple would not add a Macintosh with color capability to the lineup until the stratospherically expensive (but eminently open) Macintosh II in 1987.

I think you have to keep in mind what the ownership experience was really like when you appreciate the historical importance of this machine.

The original Macintosh is a terrific monument to one of the best technological moments of the 1980s.  Seeing one with it’s crisp and cheery screen must have stunned people who were knew computers as boxes that spit out glowing green text in a black void.  This was the 1980s vision of the future.

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