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Rare Apple '80s MultiServer, '70s Apple II ROM prototypes appear on eBay

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 
A handful of rare, never-before-seen Apple prototypes have appeared for sale on eBay, including an unreleased product from the 1980s called "MultiServer," and a prototype ROM board from the 1970s.

Four days remain on the listing for the Apple MultiServer model, a product that was allegedly being developed at Apple in the mid-1980s. Though the device was never released, the front of the casing looks nearly finished, complete with the product name and Apple logo.

The listing for the empty chassis notes that it is in excellent condition and includes a 3Com 3 Server metal chassis painted Apple white, with Apple-specified connectors on the back. The front design plate was made by Frog Design Inc.

The MultiServer's frame measures 17 inches by 16 inches and is 6 inches tall, and the seller noted it is "big and heavy." When packaged and shipped, the seller says it will weigh about 24 pounds.

"Now I don't know why anybody would want this other than to get a Christmas present for somebody who really does have everything," the listing reads. "(Of course I have kept it for approximately 25 years so who am I to talk.)"





A second listing on eBay is for a prototype ROM card developed by Apple Computer Inc. in 1978. The seller suggests the board could be from an early Apple II, but added they are "not sure."

The hardware includes the Apple logo and name with the words "ROM CARD," and a copyright date of 1978. It states it was made in the U.S.A.



Yet another rare product for sale on the auction website is a prototype power adapter for a Macintosh PowerBook Duo 270C. The notebook was one of the first portable computers sold by Apple, and that model was released in 1993 before being discontinued in May of 1994.



The seller notes that the PowerBook itself available for sale is not a prototype, but was used by an Apple manager. The notebook includes a rare prototype power adapter by ASTEC and not sold to the public.

The seller said they have been collecting Apple products for over 10 years, and the unit was found at a recycling surplus center. The PowerBook and prototype power adapter was found in a computer hard case with an Apple employee business card. The auction does not include the business card or case.
post #2 of 32
I wonder if Steve was around if he would buy this for himself?
An Apple man since 1977
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An Apple man since 1977
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post #3 of 32
I wonder if Woz is cleaning out his attic?
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post #4 of 32
I remember, at the time, I thought the Duo was pretty inventive. You plugged it into a proprietary dock, which gave you all the normal ports and turned it into a desktop computer. Nowadays, portable computing is almost as powerful as desktop computing and you can hook up an external keyboard, mouse, and display easily, creating the same effect.

I think Seinfeld had a Duo in the background in his appartment on the show for a long time. The model of Mac there would change over time, but I do believe the Duo was there for quite some time.
post #5 of 32
The MultiServer case looks a bit like a IIfx. I think the age is more like "Late 80's" than "Mid 80's" for that reason. . .
post #6 of 32
The ROM board looks like a standard Apple II ROM card, which was used to provide Applesoft BASIC to Integer Apple IIs, and Integer BASIC to Applesoft Apple IIs. There was a switch on the back that you could use to flip between using the card's ROMs or the ROMs in the Apple II. The card went into slot zero.

http://sturgeon.css.psu.edu/~mloewen...ROMcard-1L.jpg

The card in the auction looks like the switch was removed. I see leads soldered into the switch's pads on the board, maybe it was wired to a remote switch to make it easier to flip. There's a good chance that this is not a prototype but rather a board that was used by an Apple II developer to build custom firmware for the machine.

The ROMs look like they may be EPROMs (with the window covered to prevent accidental erasure). The board also looks modified. I wish I could have it in posession just for a couple hours so I could study it, and dump the ROMs to see if there's anything interesting on them.
post #7 of 32
seeing that 10BASE2 / 10BASE5 connection is giving me nightmares....
post #8 of 32
I had a PowerBook Duo, and physically, that's the same AC adapter it came with. The only difference is the label. So it says "ASTEC" instead of having the normal Apple label, BFD. I wouldn't call something advanced to that degree a prototype, it's more like a preproduction unit from the OEM. If anyone pays the price he's looking for for such a mundane item (even factoring in the laptop that comes with it), they're crazy IMHO.

Now the MultiServer, that's something to get excited about if you like rare Apple stuff. Even though it's an empty shell, it has the mysterious aura of an unshipped product.

~Philly
post #9 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by tylerk36 View Post

I wonder if Steve was around if he would buy this for himself?

Apple probably has lots of old stuff sitting around in their offices. Much more interesting and valuable stuff than this for him to take home.
post #10 of 32
I really love the Mini and all but that box is not a server by any means. At the rate Apple is going their desktop market will slip to zero and the idea of building any sort of credible box that can be tasked as a server will go out the window.
post #11 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by ruel24 View Post

I remember, at the time, I thought the Duo was pretty inventive. You plugged it into a proprietary dock, which gave you all the normal ports and turned it into a desktop computer. Nowadays, portable computing is almost as powerful as desktop computing and you can hook up an external keyboard, mouse, and display easily, creating the same effect.

I worked at a university computer store in the early 90s, and the Duos were pretty sweet. The Duo Dock had a floppy drive and could be outfitted with a math coprocessor. I think it also had VRAM to support large monitors, and space for an internal hard drive. The insert/eject was motorized, most likely to prevent damage to the dock connector-- you'd push it most of the way in, then the mechanism would take over and gently complete the connection. There was an Eject button on one side, I think it would sleep the machine (or shut it down) and then gently disengage the laptop and push it out a couple inches. There was even a keyed locking mechanism built in to prevent theft.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ruel24 View Post

I think Seinfeld had a Duo in the background in his appartment on the show for a long time. The model of Mac there would change over time, but I do believe the Duo was there for quite some time.

I think during Seinfeld's run there were only three Macs: In the early years it was a Mac Classic, in the middle years it was indeed the PowerBook Duo and DuoDock, and in the final years it was a Twentieth Anniversary Mac.

~Philly
post #12 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by zorinlynx View Post

The ROM board looks like a standard Apple II ROM card, which was used to provide Applesoft BASIC to Integer Apple IIs, and Integer BASIC to Applesoft Apple IIs. There was a switch on the back that you could use to flip between using the card's ROMs or the ROMs in the Apple II. The card went into slot zero.

http://sturgeon.css.psu.edu/~mloewen...ROMcard-1L.jpg

The card in the auction looks like the switch was removed. I see leads soldered into the switch's pads on the board, maybe it was wired to a remote switch to make it easier to flip. There's a good chance that this is not a prototype but rather a board that was used by an Apple II developer to build custom firmware for the machine.

The ROMs look like they may be EPROMs (with the window covered to prevent accidental erasure). The board also looks modified. I wish I could have it in posession just for a couple hours so I could study it, and dump the ROMs to see if there's anything interesting on them.

Yes, looks like a standard board hand modified. There may be something special on those roms, or there may not be. I does not look that special.

The Multiserver looks special.
post #13 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post

I really love the Mini and all but that box is not a server by any means. At the rate Apple is going their desktop market will slip to zero and the idea of building any sort of credible box that can be tasked as a server will go out the window.

Too funny for words. Really!
post #14 of 32
Looks like the precursor to the Xserve.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crimguy View Post

The MultiServer case looks a bit like a IIfx. I think the age is more like
"Late 80's" than "Mid 80's" for that reason. . .
post #15 of 32
I hope someone ultimately makes a museum of Apple products and the prototypes that led up to those products.

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post #16 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crimguy View Post

The MultiServer case looks a bit like a IIfx. I think the age is more like "Late 80's" than "Mid 80's" for that reason. . .

I wonder what kind of storage it had. Probably something like 10-30 Megabytes? 40 tops. That was a lot back in the upper Paleolithic period of personal computing.

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post #17 of 32
I loved the Duos. The 230 was my first Mac.
There were also available a whole variety of, both, Apple and 3rd party "mini-docks" that you could just pop onto the back connecter that would enable you to connect everything from a single particular peripheral to "multi-mini-dock" for a full keyboard, floppy/hard disk, monitor, ethernet, etc.
I still get that "First Mac excitement feel" when I think back on it. Oooh! dialing up to AOL on 14.4k modem. Sweet!
post #18 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by ruel24 View Post

I remember, at the time, I thought the Duo was pretty inventive. You plugged it into a proprietary dock, which gave you all the normal ports and turned it into a desktop computer. Nowadays, portable computing is almost as powerful as desktop computing and you can hook up an external keyboard, mouse, and display easily, creating the same effect.

The DuoDock was a great concept. But, where I worked, no matter how much I tried to prevent it, some users insisted on having their docks on a shelf above their desk. Not usually an issue, until they would try to put a sleeping Duo in the dock! The dock would spit the sleeping duo out, and about 75% of the time it would crash to the desk or floor!

Quote:
Originally Posted by PhillyMJS View Post

I had a PowerBook Duo, and physically, that's the same AC adapter it came with. The only difference is the label. So it says "ASTEC" instead of having the normal Apple label, BFD. I wouldn't call something advanced to that degree a prototype, it's more like a preproduction unit from the OEM. If anyone pays the price he's looking for for such a mundane item (even factoring in the laptop that comes with it), they're crazy IMHO.

I was thinking exactly the same thing. It's been a long time since I saw any of those, but even the "ASTEC" label didn't really throw me at all. Who knows what could have made it through the supply chain all those years ago!
post #19 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

I hope someone ultimately makes a museum of Apple products and the prototypes that led up to those products.

Ever seen the documentary "Welcome to Macintosh"? They interviewed someone who has a horde of old Apple and Mac hardware in pretty good (i.e. working) condition, and from nearly every era. He could sell them if he wanted to.

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post #20 of 32
The reason the Duo fail in the market place is because Apple at the time did not market the product right. When most people view the product they thought they were required to buy the docks as part of getting the Laptop. Instead of a $2500 purchase it soon turned into a $4000 purchase. At the time the Duo 230, 240 and 270c were the lightest, fastest and longest battery life Laptops on the market, but Apple did not market it that way. They market is the Docking Laptop, having portability but still able to have all your ports and full size keyboard and monitor.

They found out too late if they market as a smallest, lightest Laptop first and said you can dock it you like they would have sold loads more.

I wish it was a bigger success. I still have a working Duo 230 and 270C along with Duo Dock2, I used that dame thing until 2000 when I could no longer stand surfing the web and turtle speeds.
post #21 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by viggen61 View Post

The DuoDock was a great concept. But, where I worked, no matter how much I tried to prevent it, some users insisted on having their docks on a shelf above their desk. Not usually an issue, until they would try to put a sleeping Duo in the dock! The dock would spit the sleeping duo out, and about 75% of the time it would crash to the desk or floor!

If I remember correctly, you could dock a sleeping Duo, that was one of the great selling features since HP make docks for their laptops but you have to be powered off at the time to dock. I had a Due and would never shut it down, just put it to sleep and dock it and undock. Not it kicking it out completely was rear as well. It has motor inside that slowly pull it in and release it so it would not come flying out.
post #22 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post

If I remember correctly, you could dock a sleeping Duo, that was one of the great selling features since HP make docks for their laptops but you have to be powered off at the time to dock. I had a Due and would never shut it down, just put it to sleep and dock it and undock. Not it kicking it out completely was rear as well. It has motor inside that slowly pull it in and release it so it would not come flying out.

True, and besides the Docking station was more than just a box, it actually carried additional RAM, HD, CD, and processing power. I remember I had a co-processor in my dock, so the computer was way faster docked than on the road, which is exactly what I needed.

If Apple would bring the DuoDock back, it would not only have additional RAM, DVD, but additional processors too.
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post #23 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

Ever seen the documentary "Welcome to Macintosh"? They interviewed someone who has a horde of old Apple and Mac hardware in pretty good (i.e. working) condition, and from nearly every era. He could sell them if he wanted to.

I wonder if the whole collection could be donated to the Smithsonian?

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post #24 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post

If I remember correctly, you could dock a sleeping Duo, that was one of the great selling features since HP make docks for their laptops but you have to be powered off at the time to dock. I had a Due and would never shut it down, just put it to sleep and dock it and undock. Not it kicking it out completely was rear as well. It has motor inside that slowly pull it in and release it so it would not come flying out.

My mistake. Hey, it's been 12 years! Yes, the Duo would dock sleeping, but the lid on the Duo could also be shut WITHOUT sleeping the Duo. That's what ejected the Duos from those docks, trying to dock a Duo that was on, not off or sleeping.

And, ok, no the dock didn't actually throw it out, but once released, there wasn't really anything keeping it there, and if the dock was tilted forward even slightly, it would fall to the floor. I had to order up a few screen replacements for those!
post #25 of 32
I have this crazy idea that Apple hardware designs from the 80s look better than most other companies hardware from the 90s and 2000s!

That server, sitting on a shelf or rack today, would not look outdated! I guess the same goes for some Macs of the time, as well. (In fact, I often see bug clunky PC laptops from today that look to be the same design generation as ancient 90s PowerBooks.)
post #26 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

I wonder if the whole collection could be donated to the Smithsonian?

Well, that stuff isn't getting any newer!

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John C. Dvorak, 2007
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post #27 of 32
The Apple ][ card looks like a card that was used to burn ROMS...

The Server is interesting...

With a Mac II case it, likely, is a prototype shared-file server (too early in time for an XServe type server).

In the early -mid 1980's, Apple had next to nothing in the way of HDDs... and nothing at all in the way of shared file servers.

There were several 3rd-parties offering "shared-file server" solutions.
-- 3-Com
-- Nestar
-- IBM Token Ring
-- Novell
-- Corvus Onninet

3-Com, purportedly, had the fastest and most reliable solution (collision detection/recovery) but it was quite expensive -- and required co-ax cable, and custom (difficult/expensive) installation.

Nestar and IBM were ring topology (each computer had a card that was wired to the preceding and following computer... Impractical to install and any failure would bring down the entire network.

Novell had a fast and inexpensive two-wire star topology (collision avoidance) offering, but relied on others for packaging parts of the solution -- so it was difficult to get support.

Corvus had a solution similar to Novel (Two-wire Star topology) and supplied all the components.

In the era when that file server shown was built, we were a reseller of Corvus networks. We installed 7 different Omninet networks at various Apple Headquarters buildings... Except for a few departments like CR, Apple wouldn't share with us what they were used for

We also installed a couple of Corvus networks at the IBM plant in San Jose.

...So, likely, the "Multiserver" was a prototype shared-file server that never saw the light of day -- because there were better solutions on the market.
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post #28 of 32
I worked at Apple between 1988-1990 in the field and I don't remember this product ever being discussed as a possibility for sales.

If I had to guess, this looks like a 1987-circa box for a few reasons. First, the overall box has many styling similarities to the Mac II which would debut in March 1987. The color is gun-metal gray (not white) which was the standard used first on the Mac II and SE and wasn't retired until 1997. The status lights are curiously based on lights I'd see on a Laserwriter of that era, not the Mac II.

The back of the device is more intriguing. Built in Ethernet (10-base-2) "thin" was unheard of back then. There was an Ethernet card for the Mac II that ran about $1000 back then. There are two 50-pin SCSI ports using the peripheral standard connection, not the version seen on Macs back then. One port is marked for hard drives, the other for a tape drive(!). It's unlikely there are two different SCSI controllers...more than likely it's just a common 7 device SCSI chain. The bizarre thing is the other side which are printer hookups. One is a standard RS-432 port found in all Macs of the era and probably supported Localtalk. The other two are old fashioned RS-232 ports. Steve Jobs hated the RS-232 standard so this was likely done after he was gone in 1985. A machine like this could more easily interface to devices like line printers or HP Laserjets...which would be a weird thing to support since Apple was selling Laserwriters (that used Localtalk connectivity).

My guess is that this was supposed to be a small office server which would make sense considering that Apple was trying to sell office systems since the failure of the Mac XL (Lisa) Office solution. The size of the device implies that you might mount a 5.25" full height hard drive for server duty in it (or maybe two). It's likely this device would have been positioned as a headless server in a Mac centric environment. In fact, I would guess that this would have been a vehicle for the first version of Appleshare, which debuted in February 1987.

In the end, the product never shipped. Perhaps it was too expensive or customers just didn't show enough interest. Appleshare would debut anyway and would run on all Macs of the day, especially the Mac II. And you'd still need a Mac to administer it. Two years later Apple would introduce the SE/30 which was basically the guts of a Mac II smashed in a shell of a classic Mac. We sold a lot of those machines as servers since they could easily sit in closets or under desks and perform server duty. Since it had a built-in screen, it was easy to manage. And Ethernet was a third party upgrade. I still have an old SE/30 that still works. It was the best Mac of its era.

As for the Apple ][ board, I agree with the others commentators that it looked like a ROM prototyping board used by peripheral board makers to test code. The shipping version would be a version with a switch that could be retrofitted to early 1977-era Apple ][s. The early Apple ][ used an Integer Basic (4K) and this card replaced it with a 12K floating point basic from Microsoft called Applesoft (and probably coded by Bill Gates himself but ported and expanded by Randy Wigginton). Without the card, the original Apple ][ would boot and drop to a monitor prompt. With the card, the machine would look for expansion card to boot from before giving up to a prompt.

The Apple ][ was an 8-bit world and had 8 expansion slots. Slot 0 could address up to 16K of memory and the classic Pascal "Language" card was a popular option back then. The other slots could address 256 bytes of information (I think) each which would be used to operate the card. If memory serves me correctly, one of the most elegant implementations of the slot system was the Disk ][ interface card by Steve Wozniak himself. The board had just enough program memory to skip the drive head to track 0, read the first sector and decode it in memory. Then the card would run the decoded sector in RAM. The next code was just enough to load the rest of the entire track (13 sectors total in 1978, 16 sectors later) which had the rest of the disk operating system. From there, the code would shift the head to the middle of the disk where the disk directory was, read the file list, print it and return to a prompt. It was a righteous piece of code crammed into a tiny tiny boot function.
post #29 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sevenfeet View Post

There are two 50-pin SCSI ports using the peripheral standard connection, not the version seen on Macs back then. One port is marked for hard drives, the other for a tape drive(!). It's unlikely there are two different SCSI controllers...more than likely it's just a common 7 device SCSI chain. The bizarre thing is the other side which are printer hookups.

this is bizarre indeed, these are the wrong side of the SCSI interface. Moreover, the color of the case should've aged by now, even if it was preserved in a closet, and became yellowish in color.
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post #30 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by isaidso View Post

I loved the Duos. The 230 was my first Mac.
There were also available a whole variety of, both, Apple and 3rd party "mini-docks" that you could just pop onto the back connecter that would enable you to connect everything from a single particular peripheral to "multi-mini-dock" for a full keyboard, floppy/hard disk, monitor, ethernet, etc.
I still get that "First Mac excitement feel" when I think back on it. Oooh! dialing up to AOL on 14.4k modem. Sweet!

14.4K? Man, that was like a Ferrari! I remember the 2800 BAUD modem on my Apple II... The text letters appeared one at a time. lol It was like watching paint dry.
post #31 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post

The reason the Duo fail in the market place is because Apple at the time did not market the product right.

Well, at the time, people viewed Apple products differently. They had NuBus cards in them, ADB, etc.. Everything, and I mean everything was more expensive for a Mac. There was a big push, back then, to settle on a standard, and that standard was the cheaper PC with Windows. Macs were ungodly expensive. When OS 9 launched, Macs were using more standardized USB bus and PCI cards. I remember feeling sad that OS 9 wouldn't work on my Mac clone because I had ADB and NuBus. My PowerComputing clone was something on the order of $4K. Yes, I got a high-end system, but justified it because it wouldn't feel slow as soon. Never considered Apple would just make it obsolete with an OS upgrade.

I just remember full and well that Apple stock was dropping like a lead balloon and people constantly asked me why I was using a Mac because Macs were obsolete. But I never found the joy in my Dell or the one's I've built that even compared to the joy I felt owning Apple products over the years.
post #32 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

I hope someone ultimately makes a museum of Apple products and the prototypes that led up to those products.

Digibarn, in Santa Cruz, has a pretty interesting collection of 'vintage' Apple products:

http://www.digibarn.com/collections/...all/index.html
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