Twentieth Anniversary Mac

The Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh (better known as the TAM) is one of the most rare examples of Apple’s legacy hardware design. Conceived of years before the iMac, but by the same designer, the TAM was an expensive limited edition computer, created in Apple’s darkest hours to celebrate their survival to this point. According to legend, Steve Jobs said it represented everything he hated about what Apple had become.

In its initial run, at $7500 USD (over $11k in today’s money) it supposedly included an option for “white glove” delivery, where an Apple employee in a tuxedo, would arrive at your home or office via limo, and set it up for you. Over the course of its short life, the price would be reduced dramatically — but never enough to sell well. As a result, not many of them exist today.

The design is striking — and polarizing — and harkens back to the all-in-one origins of the Macintosh, while leveraging then-modern technology (mostly drawn from their laptop line.) The power supply is external, and encased in a Bose sub-woofer, then connected by a strange locking “umbilical” chord that frequently causes audio issues. The keyboard, and integrated (but removable) trackpad are awful — but aesthetically pleasing, especially when tucked away under the unit, leaving a tiny footprint on your desk.

This effort wasn’t so much as restoration, as a retro-fit. I picked it up for a reasonable (but still expensive) price from a fellow hobbiest one State over, and as advertised, everything worked. The paint is peeling on the top, where a previous owner had apparently attached something with scotch tape, the umbilical is frayed a little, but does not cause the infamous buzz issue, and the impossible-to-find Comm Slot 2 riser adapter is cracked to the point of being basically unusable.

My main use case for the machine was to replace my handy but inglorious bridge machine — a Performa 6200CD. To do this, I would need a working ethernet card. Although I could make the included CS2 card work if I stood on one foot and held my tongue just right, it would fail too easily if the machine moved at all (due to the aforementioned adapter crack.) A dual PCI riser was included, but was not designed for the machine, so had a number of issues that I had to resolve.

Fortunately, the “fat back” expansion cover was included, but the position of a mounted PCI card that aligned with the external bracket left the card resting against the metal hard drive bracket — an electrical short waiting to happen. The same bracket also holds a fan. While I’m not sure the fan is strictly necessary, I decided I would have to create new brackets for both. My, relatively rudimentary, 3D printer skills came in handy, and once I replaced the aging and tiny spinning hard drive with a Compact Flash adapter, the metal components were almost entirely replaced with plastic ones.

Now I could safely mount two PCI cards — but the bracket only has space for one to stick out. While Ethernet was the primary goal, a secondary goal was a USB mouse. I tried hacking at a USB card to modify it to have internal USB connectors, but failed. Removing the metal mounting brackets from the PCI cards, and leaving off the external bracket from the expansion cover allowed me to have two cards installed — but left a gaping ugly hole in the side of my TAM.

Although the shape was unusual, and beyond my 3D design skills to match completely, I did manage to print off a replacement bracket, which I painted a dark gray, that manages to mostly fill the hole, without looking too much of a hack job.

While its technically possible to run OS X on the TAM, with a G3 upgrade card, apparently it carries some risk — and a high cost for the upgrade. Also, OS X doesn’t make a great bridge for really old Macs. Since I have a G4 Cube that can dual boot 9 and X, I decided to leave the TAM at 9.1. I’ll max out the RAM, when I can find some, but otherwise this project is done — and sitting proudly on my desk.

The STL files for my replacement brackets are available here:

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