Macintosh SE

Launched in 1987, the Macintosh SE was the successor to the Macintosh Plus, and the first Mac to ship with a built-in hard drive (depending on how it was configured.) Despite being hampered by the same aging tech specs as the Plus, the SE was the first compact Mac to have an internal expansion slot, which allowed for things like an external monitor or network card.

Purchased for $45 on eBay, this unit was barely-functional, filthy and smelly when it arrived. Following my initial success restoring my own Mac Plus, this was most ambitious restoration — and it ended up being more difficult than I could have imagined. Although it wouldn’t boot, swapping parts with other Macs proved that the logic board was stable. My initial attempt to service the power supply failed, and it was replaced for $35 from eBay. When that proved insufficient to revive the machine, another analog board was purchased for $70. With the guts over 65% replaced, the unit sprang to life and (after cleaning the heads) turned out to have a functioning floppy drive… but a dead hard drive. Fortunately, that was easily replaced on eBay for around $40. An era-appropriate keyboard and mouse and user manual were also found on eBay for about $60 combined, and another $35 was spent to max out the RAM. Total project cost exceeded $280.

Although it was gross when it arrived, the case was intact. After a thorough soak, scrub and strategic baking soda rub, the unit cleaned up fairly well, with only a few light scratches. Attempting to improve the condition using a magic eraser was ill-advised and left some (barely visible) swirlies in the plastic. A multi-day soak in 40v liquid peroxide and hot water in the sun restored the original color consistently.

I ended up selling the unit to a fellow hobbyist for $280 plus $30 shipping to help defray the cost. Given that shipping cost $90, this project was not profitable — but it was instructive. Overall, I found the SE to be a noisy and generally unimpressive machine for the era. If I could find one, I’d much rather have a SE/30.

A video of this unit in action can be viewed here.

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