Apple Archive

What Can You Squeeze Into a Compact Mac?

- 2000.05.18

Sure, the screen's small. They aren't fast, and no, they can't run Mac OS 8.

What am I referring to?

The compact Macs: the Macintosh Plus, SE, SE/30, Classic, Classic II, and Colour Classic Macintosh.

Remember when you just got your nice new Macintosh? You know, the one in the box with the Apple logo? You probably didn't order it on eBay; you most likely bought it from a respectable Apple dealer for over $2,000 maybe ten years ago. Now you probably go to flea markets and see old Mac SE's sitting there for $10 or $15, all the while you remembering that old compact sitting in your closet at home.

Well, the time has come to open that closet. Pull out your old Mac! Connect the keyboard, mouse, hard drive (if you have an external one), and plug it in. Turn it on and listen for that "beep" that only the Macintosh could have.

Notice how much memory you have installed. If you have a Mac Plus, SE, or Classic, which all feature 8 MHz 68000 processors, the maximum RAM is 4 MB. If you don't have 4 MB of memory, that is the first thing you should get. (It's cheap, don't worry.) If you have 4 MB, you are perfectly capable of running System 7, which you can get for free from Apple's website (links here). If you have a Plus, SE, or Classic, do not use 7.0.1. Make sure you download version 7.0. If you are using a Plus or SE, make sure it is the 800K disk version. (These models can run System 7.1 or 7.5-7.5.5, although they tend to take up a bit more memory than 7.0. dk)

If you have a Macintosh SE/30, which has a 16 MHz 68030 processor and a 68882 FPU, you can have up to 128 MB of memory! The SE/30 can run up to System 7.5.5, and if you have at least 8 MB of RAM and an 80 MB hard disk, I would install 7.5.3, which as well can be obtained for free from Apple's website. However, you will notice that the startup screen on systems above 7.5 do not look very nice in black and white. This is why I try not to install anything above 7.5 on a compact Mac.

If you have a Classic II, which features a 16 MHz 68030 processor (and room for an optional 68882 FPU), the maximum amount of memory is 10 MB. It can run up to Mac OS 7.6.1, but I don't recommend it. If you do not have at least 4 MB of memory, make sure you buy the extra RAM. The Classic II shipped with system 7.0.1. Chances are good that you still have that installed, which is fine for most uses. If you have 10 MB of memory and at least an 80 MB hard disk, upgrade to System 7.5.3.

Colour ClassicIf you have a Colour Classic, which, like the Classic II, features a 16 MHz 68030 (with room for an optional 68882 FPU), you know that they are a bit bigger, more modern looking, and have a 10" colour screen. The Colour Classic also shares a lot with the Macintosh LC II, including the LC PDS slot, which enables you to install accelerators or ethernet cards (or both, with the Sonnet Presto Plus). On the Colour Classic, the maximum memory is 10 MB. The Colour Classic shipped with System 7.1 and enabler 401. If you have 4 to 8 MB of memory, stick with system 7.1. If you have 10 MB and at least an 80 MB hard disk, go with 7.5.3. Even though it can run up to 7.6.1, like the Classic II, I don't recommend it.

Now that your compact Mac is up and running, you probably want to know what programs are useful. I like Microsoft Word 5.1a for word processing. It is stable, fairly quick, and only requires 1 MB of memory. It is also readily available at many used software places, and it can often be found at flea markets for several dollars. You can also use Microsoft Excel 4.0 and PowerPoint 3.0 without a problem.

For those of you who don't like Microsoft products, AppleWorks 5 works very nicely on an SE/30, Classic II, or Colour Classic. It does require a 68020 processor and System 7, so it will not work on a Mac Plus, SE, or Classic, although ClarisWorks 3 will.

Plug in a modem, install MacTCP, and you can have a nice little computer to check your email or the local weather. Eudora 1.5.4 works fine on an SE/30, Classic II, or Colour Classic. Internet Explorer 2.1 or Netscape 1.1.2 work great on those computers as well.

If you have a Plus, SE, or Classic, you can probably still use Eudora 1.5.4, but Internet Explorer or Netscape will not work. Check on the internet for a copy of NCSA Mosaic.

In terms of games, utilities, and other things, there are some great classic game sites out there. You can start with the Low End Mac links page. MacAddict has some downloads of utilities, games, and some other programs. If you subscribed to MacAddict for a long time, a lot of older versions of "The Disc" have a lot of great stuff for compact Macs. C|net's has a ton of software, but they don't give very clear system requirements, and it is easy to download something that requires a 68030 processor by mistake, hoping to use it on your Mac Plus.

If you really demand speed, don't throw that compact Mac away! Give it to a child. It's amazing what they can do with KidPix and a Mac SE! If you don't have a child, try to donate it to a local school - they may need computers.

If no one you know of will take it, see if anyone wants it on an email list. You can start with Low End Mac's extensive collection, which even includes a list just for compact Macs. There is always someone out there who can use a compact Mac.

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