Digital Fossils

Old Mac Restoration Is Sometimes One Frustration After Another

- 2008.06.17 - Tip Jar

Would you like a glimpse into the fun and games of playing with fossil Macs? Of course you would.

Allow me to entertain you with how I spent last Friday....

Shortly before I moved to Indiana, a friend made a contribution to my Mac museum: He showed up with the bed of his little truck full of former educational Macs, with the explanation that some might be working and some might not, but I was welcome to them. We schlepped the whole lot into my attic, I dutifully entered them into my MacTracker program, and I promptly got too busy with work and preparations for the move to do much tinkering with them.

Last week, I decided it was time to start taking inventory of what exactly I had on hand, and so I set up a work station in the corner of the dining room where I could begin the process of sorting out what worked and what was just parts. I was going to start with the two Quadra towers, but I noticed that the 900 had "N.G." Sharpied on the side of its case, and the 950 didn't have an internal CD-ROM drive. I had an external SCSI CD drive someplace, but I didn't feel up to messing with it at the moment, and so I chickened out and went with the Power Mac 7100 instead.

The 7100 booted up smoothly, and a quick check showed it to be sporting 40 MB of RAM and a pair of 1.5 GB (!) drives. While the OS 8.6 upgrade was installing, I dug out my OS 9.1 CD and prepared to install the newer OS. Unfortunately, nothing I could do would convince the machine to boot from the CD-ROM.

"Okay," I thought, "we'll set that puzzle aside for later."

Next on the list was a Centris 650. I plugged it into the keyboard and monitor, powered it up, and got the big blinking question mark telling me that it couldn't find an OS. I already had my OS 8.6 CD in hand before noticing that the drive on the Centris was one of the archaic ones that needs caddies, of which I had exactly none.

Okay, the Centris gets set aside for later, too.

Back up to the attic I went, and down came the Quadra 610. Or so I thought. You see, the model number had vanished from the front of the case, so I used the info on the bottom to enter it into MacTracker. The case bottom had proclaimed it to be a Model M2113, which was definitely a Quadra 610. But if it was a Quadra 610, then why did it have an HDI-45 video port? Quick, Robin, to the Internet!

A bit of digging told me that what I had on my hands was a Power Macintosh 6100. The mystery only deepened, however, when the serial number on the back of the case was consulted. Everything I could find said that the standard 6100 had been discontinued in late 1995, but this one was clearly dated February of 1996. There was a version of the 6100 that had been produced into 96, however - the 6100/66 DOS Compatible, which had a 486DX/66 processor on a daughter card.

When I popped open the case, there was no daughter card. There was no riser for one, either, so probably it had been removed when the computer was decommissioned. Great. With no riser, I couldn't just pilfer the video card from the Centris 650 to do a hardware check. Now I needed an HDI-45-to-DB-15 adapter if I wanted to function test the apparent 6100. (And this still didn't answer why the data placard said it was an M2113...)

Quadra 950Having suffered through all this, the Quadra 950 didn't seem so daunting anymore. I decided to put my lower back at risk by hefting almost forty pounds of tower case down from the attic. Once plugged in, the 950 whirred smoothly to life. Nosing around revealed that it was running a pretty bare-bones install of OS 7.6, with 24 MB of RAM and a single 230 MB hard drive. But there was that "No Good" 900 upstairs - what was "No Good" about it? Power supply? Motherboard? CPU? Did it have RAM or hard drives I could salvage for the 950?

Were these wise questions to be asking a little after midnight on a project I'd started before lunch?

What's next? I could find a video output adapter for the 6100. Conversely, I could try to transplant its hard drive into the Centris 650. I could try to find a CD caddy for the 650. I could raid the 900 for parts to boost the performance of the 950.

I'm definitely open to suggestions.

Be sure to tune in for the next exciting episode of Digital Fossils to find out! LEM

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