iFixit goes back to the future, tears down original 128k Mac

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
While Apple celebrates the Mac's 30th anniversary, repair specialists iFixit waxed nostalgic as they took their screwdrivers to a 1984-vintage Macintosh 128k.

Macintosh 128k


As noted by iFixit, the first-generation Mac sported an 8 megahertz Motorola 68000 processor, 128 kilobytes of DRAM, 400 kilobytes of total storage --?on a 3.5-inch floppy disk --?and a 9-inch, 512 pixel by 342 pixel black and white CRT. The beige box sold at retail for $2,495 --?$5,594 today.

Macintosh 128k


Input and output capability came in the form of then-high speed serial ports. Both the roller ball mouse --?which was notable for its relative lack of electronics --?and mechanical keyboard connected via bulky DE-9 plugs.

Macintosh 128k


iFixit awarded the Macintosh 128k a 7 out of 10 repairability score, though the crew made no mention of which decade the score applied to --?some components, presumably, being easier to acquire in 1984. They dinged the machine for its soldered-on RAM and lack of internal expandability, as well as the possibility of a high-voltage electric shock from the display.

Macintosh 128k


The computer was loaned to iFixit by The Vintage Mac Museum, a private collection of Apple computers and memorabilia run by historian Adam Rosen.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27

    Repairability: 7/10?! Insanity. Gotta love this image, though. It says everything.

     

  • Reply 2 of 27
    Ok, if you ever needed proof that iFixit were just media whores, this is it.
  • Reply 3 of 27
    I had one of the, buying mine in early February of 1984. Biggest mistake? Upgrading it to a Mac Plus, which swapped out the back portion of the case which had all of the Macintosh Team's signatures stamped into the plastic on the inside.
  • Reply 4 of 27
    what does lack of internal expandability have to do with a repairability score?
  • Reply 5 of 27
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by coffeetime View Post



    I had one of the, buying mine in early February of 1984. Biggest mistake? Upgrading it to a Mac Plus, which swapped out the back portion of the case which had all of the Macintosh Team's signatures stamped into the plastic on the inside.

     

    Me too!.  it still sits in my basement.

  • Reply 6 of 27
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by ScartArt View Post



    what does lack of internal expandability have to do with a repairability score?

     

    I think PC's and Apple II's all had socketed RAM so if a chip was bad, you can just replace it.

  • Reply 7 of 27
    Somewhere in my storage I have one of those. Bought in 1984, it was my first computer. I've been Apple ever since. One thing that seems strange is that theirs doesn't show signs of the signatures cast into the inside of the shell. Per Wikipedia: "The original Macintosh was unusual in that it included the signatures of the Macintosh Division as of early 1982 molded on the inside of the case."

    Mine has those.
  • Reply 8 of 27
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,563member

    Yeah you can repair if you know how to trouble shoot these kinds of systems consider I have my original 128KB with the signatures and upgrades the memory to 512MB by unsoldering the 128KB parts and soldering in the new 512's then I had to fix the diode on the flyback transformer which those were sizes wrong in the original design, well the entire flyback circuit was design wrong and video board went from rev A to K or L before Apple redesigned it completely to fix all the issues with it. I believe I also put in the new crystal to run the mac faster but they had a bad habit of not allowing the Floppy drive to work properly if you clocked it too fast.

     

    The sad part is I fired up may original Imac last year and it gave me the sad mac face, from what I remember it looks like one of the memory chips when bad. It looks like the same error which caused me to up grade from 128 to 512.

  • Reply 9 of 27
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by winstein2010 View Post

     

    I think PC's and Apple II's all had socketed RAM so if a chip was bad, you can just replace it.


     

    RAM of that era was a whole different beast. The single most expensive part on a computer was RAM, and I do remember having chips go bad once every few years.

     

    Somebody wrote a book which said that the downfall of East Germany was caused in part by the Soviets pushing the failed development of a 1 Mbit DRAM chip, which the US and Japan had, which bankrupted the government.

  • Reply 10 of 27
    I upgraded one or two of my friends Mac 128K's via a strap on kit. If it had been rated iFixit style back then, I think it would have only earned a 4 or 5 out of 10. The Torx screwdrivers back then were almost unheard of (I had a set and back then they cost a fair amount)!!

    But to also be fair - Apple did give on the DRAM and go to SIMM modules later. But even then you had to cut a resistor or later a strap to get the machine to see the DRAM. And any of this work voided the warrenty.

    But that also made a niche market at least for me to earn a few bucks doing Midnight Engineering upgrades now and then for friends.

    The Mac was amazing back then - we all felt like pioneers in a new world and had true love for our computers.
  • Reply 11 of 27
    jm6032jm6032 Posts: 147member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post...I believe I also put in the new crystal to run the mac faster but they had a bad habit of not allowing the Floppy drive to work properly if you clocked it too fast...

    I don't know if this carried over to the Mac, but if I remember correctly, in the Apple II the clocking of data onto the magnetic media was controlled by the CPU itself, thus if you changed the clock frequency that would change the size of the bits on the magnetic media. Any one Mac should have been able to read it's own floppy, but I don't know if you could take that floppy to another Mac.

  • Reply 12 of 27
    mhiklmhikl Posts: 471member

    Heard of people turning their old macs into fish tanks. Bet some get salt water in the eyes regretting such a move. 

  • Reply 13 of 27
    I had to upgrade the ROM in a prototype Mac SE one time. I had no clue what I was doing and had to pull really hard on the old ROM to get it. When it did come out my hand jerked up and knocked the back of the tube. I stood there stupidly holding the small piece of glass while listening to air rushing in. I felt a bit like the astronaut in 2001 uselessly trying to plug the air hose back into his helmet.
  • Reply 14 of 27
    arlorarlor Posts: 496member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post



    Ok, if you ever needed proof that iFixit were just media whores, this is it.

     

    Did you ever seriously believe they were publicizing all these nice photos for any reason other than to sell their services? 

  • Reply 15 of 27
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Patrick Byars View Post



    I upgraded one or two of my friends Mac 128K's via a strap on kit. If it had been rated iFixit style back then, I think it would have only earned a 4 or 5 out of 10. The Torx screwdrivers back then were almost unheard of (I had a set and back then they cost a fair amount)!!



    But to also be fair - Apple did give on the DRAM and go to SIMM modules later. But even then you had to cut a resistor or later a strap to get the machine to see the DRAM. And any of this work voided the warrenty.



    But that also made a niche market at least for me to earn a few bucks doing Midnight Engineering upgrades now and then for friends.



    The Mac was amazing back then - we all felt like pioneers in a new world and had true love for our computers.

     

    The torx drive I had was about 10 inches long.  And you needed the "case popper tool".

     

    Repairability is all relative to the time.  These days very little is repairable by the users.

     

    iFixit may have dinged the 128k Mac for soldered RAM chips, but I have one sitting right here that I un-soldered the original RAM chips from and replaced with larger capacity chips to make a 512K Mac.  And added a SCSI port.   

     

    You could buy a kit with the connectors and parts you needed and then ordered the RAM chips from a parts house.  This was a common third party upgrade done by many early Mac users.  

     

    And I can remember replacing the power supply board myself.  

     

    A very common problem with the early Mac's was a capacitor that controlled the screen refresh on the monitor that would burn out and people would replace the capacitor themselves.  I know a friend who made that fix himself on a number of original Macs.

     

    And all new Macs are not that bad.  I installed a SSD in a Mac mini a couple of weeks ago.

  • Reply 16 of 27
    arlorarlor Posts: 496member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Patrick Byars View Post



    I upgraded one or two of my friends Mac 128K's via a strap on kit. 

     

    What good would a strap on do on an old Mac 128k? Today's iPhones vibrate much more dramatically. They're also much easier to fit. 

  • Reply 17 of 27
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member

    Haha - very cool. And the presenter even went to the trouble to wear 80s clothes.

  • Reply 18 of 27
    "...and mechanical keyboard connected via bulky DE-9 plugs."

    The keyboard plugged into the front via an RJ-9 jack like you see on a telephone handset cord. This is smaller than the RJ-11 plug that goes into the wall jack.

    I'm pretty sure the name of the serial port at the back for the mouse, etc. is "DB-9" as well.
  • Reply 19 of 27
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post



    Ok, if you ever needed proof that iFixit were just media whores, this is it.

     

    iFixit reviews motor vehicles:

    Toyota Prius: 0/10 Cramped front wheel drive layout. Proprietary engine and transmission. Transmission is sealed. Hybrid batteries wear out and may not be economical to replace.

    18 Wheeler: 10/10 Multiple engine and transmission sources. Easy accessibility to all parts. Engine can be rebuilt in frame. Built to last 1 million miles making all repairs economical.

  • Reply 20 of 27

    How many people here miss the simplicity and speed of old computers? When I say speed I mean the speed with which they could accomplish a task. A long time ago these machines could do some tasks just as fast or even faster than a machine of today. This is only because they weren't running so many processes at once. One of those old machines would choke if it had to do anything graphical related to a current web browser, but give them a publishing task or spread sheet task and they were fast. I miss that.

     

    I am gradually switching from conventional self contained computing to cloud computing. My need for speed is just in RAM for streaming videos. I don't need a fast CPU anymore. My low spec 2009 HP desktop is getting a RAM upgrade and a small SSD. This will give the convenience of fast opening programs and fast booting. The RAM will allow fast streaming and make the browser quick. When I open my files stored in the cloud it will be almost as fast as opening them from an internal drive.

     

    By putting a very bare bones version of GNU/Linux or possibly BSD on the machine, I'll be running a very fast OS on a fast SSD. I believe this type of machine will give me many years of really fast computing and internet browsing. It will be simple, uncomplicated, and trouble free. With almost all of the programs I'll ever need running in the cloud I won't need horsepower. I will just need an up to date browser. I'm going for simple.

     

    IFixit promotes repairing machines in order to save money and to save the environment. It takes a lot of resources to manufacture an entirely new machine. Fixing or upgrading an older one that might use a bit more power is still more environmentally friendly than buying a new one. It will also save the user some money. I like their philosophy. If writing a story about the repairability of an old Mackintosh machine gets them some publicity then I'm for it.

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