Blast From the Past

Macworld, January 1986

Dan Knight - 2001.04.10

I was fortunate to find a full set of 1986 Macworld magazines on eBay. The full set of 13 issues (one each month plus a Winter issue) predates my first use of the Macintosh; several predate the appearance of the Mac Plus, the first Mac I ever used.

The only two Macs available back then were the original Macintosh 128K and the 512K "Fat Mac."

Cover stories: Apple Hard Disk 20, ImageWriter II, Apple Personal Modem.

Hard Drives

This was over two years before Apple released the Mac II and SE, the first two Macs designed for internal hard drives. In fact, until Apple produced their own hard drive, the Mac OS didn't even have a hierarchical filing system (HFS) - that was introduced with the Hard Disk 20 and Finder 5.0. (Back then, Apple had separate version numbers for the System and Finder. For more on that, see MacKiDo's Early Mac OS History.)

The old Macintosh filing system (MFS) supported folders, but not subfolders, and the folders were only imaginary - the whole directory was linear. With HFS, the Mac had real folders which could contain other folders.

Anyhow, Lon Poole typified the 20 MB Hard Disk 20 as having "vast expanses of disk storage space" (especially compared with 400K single-sided floppies) and a competitive $1,499 price. Technical specs included 85 ms access, 2744 RPM rotation, and a 7.5 MHz transfer rate (we guess that means 7.5 Mbps).

The Hard Disk 20 was not the first hard drive for the Macintosh, but it was the first from Apple. Like several of the others, the HD20 sat beneath the Mac and added 3" to the computer's height. Unlike other hard drives, the HD20 connected to the Mac's floppy drive port, not the serial port. (The third alternative was the GCC HyperDrive, which actually mounted inside the Mac and used neither the floppy nor serial port.)

Earlier hard drives had to emulate a floppy, the only medium Macs understood until now, which meant a 10 or 20 MB drive might have dozens of partitions. Thanks to Finder 5.0 and HFS, Mac users had access to the entire 20.77 MB on the Hard Drive 20.

The biggest complaint about the HD20 was the noise. The next biggest: you couldn't boot from the drive itself, but had to first boot from a floppy. Of course, the serial hard drives had the same problem.

This issue had lots of ads for hard drives. The MacBottom prided itself on fitting beneath the Mac and not taking any extra desk space. Paradise Systems offered 10 and 20 MB drives that sat next to your Mac instead of ruining the Mac's "carefully thought-out ergonomics" by raising the computer 3-4". Meacom offered an $895 20 MB alternative to the GCC HyperDrive.

The review of the HD20 compared it to the Paradise Mac-10 serial hard drive and the internal GCC HyperDrive 20, the first Mac hard drive you could boot the computer from. Bootup from a floppy took 21 seconds, the HyperDrive took 30 seconds, the Paradise 49 seconds, and the HD20 a long 75 seconds.

To open and save files, all the hard drives outperformed the floppy. The Paradise and GCC drives too 19 seconds to open a test file in MacWrite, while the HD20 took 21 seconds and the floppy 27. To save the test MacWrite file, the HyperDrive needed just 17 seconds, the Apple HD20 took 22 seconds, the Paradise complete the task in 24 seconds, and the floppy took an excruciating 47 seconds.

More Memory

Hard drives are nice, but there were far more ads for memory upgrades, both kits to bring the original Macintosh to 512 KB and cards that would give these early Macs as much as 2 MB of contiguous memory. (Remember, this was before the Mac Plus.)

Why would anyone want so much memory? So they could use Apple's Switcher to have multiple programs open at the same time and switch between them. With 2 MB of RAM, you could have eight programs open at once.

  • The Three to One Touch Board not only added 1.5 MB of RAM to a 512 KB Mac, it also used a 12.5 MHz processor, which "more than doubles your processing speed," according to the ad. (We don't understand their math.)
  • MassTech offer the FastMac upgrade, which added 1, 1.5, or 2 MB of RAM and "high performance memory interface design."
  • TheMax from MacMemory Inc. "installs in minutes to give your Macintosh 1.5 MB of memory." The ad even promises a 4 MB future.
  • VOAD Systems offered upgrades to give a 512K Mac 1, 1.5, or 2 MB of RAM.
  • Mac Doctor Electronics offered a parts kit to upgrade the 128K to 512 KB for just $173.
  • Need more than 2 MB? Micro Conversions offered a 1/2/4 MB upgrade to make your Mac "the ultimate Macintosh."

If the Mac Only Had Color - and Then What?

David Bunnell's editorial asked why the Mac didn't have a color display, said it wasn't important, noted that with the ImageWriter II the Mac could print in color (what you get isn't what you see), that existing color computers (IBM, Amiga) were fairly pathetic (definitely the case in 1986), and that at some point in the future color would come into its own - once we had good color output.

Apple Personal Modem

Imagine a modem just 4-1/2" by 3-1/4" that plugs right into the wall. That's right, no power brick. The $399 modem worked with both the Mac and the Apple II line and supported both 300 and 1200 bps settings.

Survival Tips for the Jazz Age

It was supposed to be the biggest thing since Lotus 1-2-3 on the PC - Lotus Jazz for the Macintosh. The program was a memory hog. "Because of the way Jazz manages memory, using the program on a 512K Macintosh often feels like living in a well-furnished house that lacks closets; the surroundings might be comfortable, but storage space is limited."

Jazz worked in RAM and really cried out for at least a megabyte of RAM. The more memory your Mac had, the larger the spreadsheet or database you could work with.

Jazz was probably intended to take on Microsoft Excel, which isn't even mentioned in this article. Today Jazz is another footnote of failure in Lotus history, along with 1-2-3 for Macintosh, Magellan for the PC, and a lot of other interesting concepts that never quite took off.


Iomega was pushing their Bernoulli Box, which had 5, 10, and 20 MB cartridges. (Yes, these are the same folks who later invented the Zip drive.)

Sir-Tech announced Wizardry, one of my all-time favorite games, for the Mac.

Beck-Tech had a full-page ad for the Fanny Mac, a cooling fan that fit into the handle of the compact Macs.

Mirror Technologies offered a double-sided floppy capable of storing 800K of data - twice as much as the Mac's internal 400K drive.

Macware was promoting a new program called FileMaker, which went on to become the dominant database program for Mac users.

MacConnection had one of their familiar fold-out ads, although it was only four pages back in 1986.

A two-page ad promoted Macworld Expo, to be held in San Francisco on Jan. 16-18, 1986. This was the second Macworld Expo.

The next page had an ad for ThunderScan, a clever scanning head that replaced the cartridge in your ImageWriter printer.

On page 150, Microsoft was promoting FORTRAN for Macintosh. Huh?

Aldus Corporation was promoting PageMaker, their 1995 program that created desktop publishing.

Way back on page 183, DataViz was promoting MacLink as "the 'intelligent' link between your Macintosh and the IBM PC." Today they're up to version 10 or 11 of their useful conversion utility.

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