Bringing History Back to Life

This section of the website is dedicated to journalling the computers I bring back to life (or my failures in doing so, where appropriate!) I got into this in early 2019 when I determined it was time to revive my original Mac Plus that has traveled the continent with me for two decades, slowly losing its will to live. I learned a lot doing that — and managed to avoid electrocuting myself — then decided it might make a fun and profitable hobby. As you’ll see from the entries, profit is rarely to be found, but restoring these little bundles of computer history has other rewards. Plus, having a hobby keeps me (and Nicole!) sane.

You can scroll through the post history in the section, and see them all, or use this index to jump to your favorite machine…

Apple IIGS

Apple IIc

Macintosh M0001

Macintosh SE

Macintosh Plus – Platinum
Work in Progress:
Macintosh Color Classic
Apple IIC plus
Atari Mega ST2

Got an old computer you want restored? Or some data on ancient floppy disks you’d like to see again? I love a challenge — contact me!

Continue reading “Bringing History Back to Life”

Finding Hope in a Long Dark Night

Last night the Whitehouse turned off its lights for the first time in history. The president hid in his bunker while the country he promised to “Make Great Again” burned. There’s no explanation but cowardice, and no voice has emerged to fill in the leadership gap. America desperately needs hope, but is left with only anger — two sides with no recourse but to point and shout at the other.

Police form a line on H Street as demonstrators gather to protest the death of George Floyd, Sunday, May 31, 2020, near the White House in Washington. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Part of me wants to attend a protest, and add my voice to those calling for justice. Part of me is saddened by the anger and violence that often results. (We settled for donating to a bail fund.) But the narrative we’re getting from the news is flawed. Not all protests have led to violence, and not all violence has started with protestors. This is a nation that is in tears — and sometimes tantrums — but there is no question that what’s going on is the result of deep pain.

We’re all a little on edge, after months of being locked down by a virus we don’t really understand. But the reality is, the effects have been disproportionately distributed among parts of the American population, creating fuel for a fire that only needed a spark to ignite it.

When you add to that a string of crimes that are blatantly racially motivated, you’ve provided the ignition — and no one should be surprised that this blew up in our face. Those reacting with self-righteous indignation about property damage are ignorantly denying years of systematic injustice. Individual Americans may largely be innocent of intentional racism, but we’re all participants in a system-wide failure to ensure every human being gets the same fair shake. If you live in our neighborhood and don’t believe me, come with me to East Cleveland and see first-hand results.

Between the pandemic, and the social injustice it has highlighted, America is facing a reckoning. We haven’t done all we could — and I’m a part of it. We haven’t loved our neighbor, we haven’t cared for the “least of these”, we haven’t lived up to the ideals this nation was created with. Instead, we’ve withdrawn from our position of global leadership, and turned inward to fight about our right to go shopping and get haircuts — while ignoring our neighbor’s right to a fair trial.

All is not lost, though. This is still a great country — despite its flaws. And there’s no better illustration than this weekend’s space launch. More than just a technical triumph, and more than just a multi-culture, multi-discipline team working together to reach a challenging goal: this weekend’s events are the result of a bi-partisan, cross-administration effort. The end of the shuttle program was a sad day in America, but the Obama administration’s move to allow commercial investment in the next generation of technology created new hope. That hope might have died without the Trump administration’s decision to double-down, and invest in it. Granted, “Space Force” sounded a little funny (and made for an entertaining new Netflix show), but Trump did good here — and that should be called out too.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken lifts off during NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., May 30, 2020. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

For me, and many others, space represents a reaching out. In the same way we are like little children, crying in pain or screaming in petulance from this playpen called Earth, we are also learning to pull ourselves up, to stand on wobbly feet and understand that we are not the center of the universe: we’re just a tiny part. For those who believe in God — or at least something greater than ourselves — its hard to look out into the void of space and believe that our current condition is all there is. It puts our childish problems into context, and provides hope that we can do better as we grow up.

Part of growing up is learning to work together. We have real problems right now… We have a virus with no cure. We have a latent racism that has not truly been healed. We have a wealth gap that is un-crossable by too many people. But if bi-partisan government and private industry can work together to get a couple dudes into space in less than 9 years, maybe we can solve some of these other problems together too…

I believe that part of the solution is a recognition that we are fundamentally broken at a level we cannot fix on our own. Humans are not naturally good — tough situations make that painfully obvious. Our natural tendencies aren’t toward making things better; we really have to work at that. And like children, we need a loving parent to help us figure it out. True hope is found beyond the human condition. And a loving Father waits with open arms to pick us up, and show us what He intended life to look like.

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:

Ignorance with Impudence

It seems like people think a pandemic gives them license to let all their worst characteristics out on display. Here in the States, we went from fear of the virus, to frustration of being stuck inside, to angry protests about rights, to finally just pretending its not a thing any more — all at break-neck speeds. And the few voices that spoke out about the irresponsibility of it all were shouted down awfully fast. Turns out you’re within your rights to show up en-masse armed for battle at a government building — as long as you’re white. If you so much as jog through the wrong neighborhood, or pass a bad check while black, you can be killed on the spot.

I’m aware that somehow this position is a political one. Generally, as a guest in this country, I try to remain politically neutral. I don’t believe that either of the two available extremes are completely right (or completely wrong), and I empathize with those who have to try to vote from their conscience in a two-party system. In Canada, I’d probably be a Conservative, but here in the States, where we have fewer and less nuanced options to choose from, I can’t really align myself with the country’s conservative party, the Republicans. Donald Trump is a reprehensible, vile human being, and that party is increasingly aligned with reprehensible, vile human behavior.

Edit: adding that time the President of the Unites States of America threatened to have American citizens shot by the miltary… via Twitter. Feel free to contrast the statement from that liberal, non-Christian former President.

And this is a source of real despair for me: of the two positions, one claims Christian ideals and Conservative morals, the other does not. But people spewing hate, spouting ignorance, or acting horribly when asked to wear a mask often identify as Republicans. While the rational folks, listening to the guidance from experts, acting in ways that protect others, and decrying the senseless death of people of color… those often claim the non-Christian Democrat party?!

Let’s call these things what they are:

Reprehensible human beings gather their weapons and Trump signs to demand the right to share a virus with the nation’s vulnerable

If you have a position on economic policy or the role of the government, then choosing to align with a particular party might make sense. But if your alignment with that position requires you to turn a blind eye to the suffering of the black community, or block hospitals with your protests, or share an article that suggests that people should die until we develop herd immunity, rather than take a vaccine… If your politics support the kind of behavior we’ve seen over the past couple months, then damn you to hell.

You look nothing like Christ.