Vintage Macintosh Restoration Project – Part 1

I recently started to think back to some of the old computers of my youth, the ones that shaped my interest in computers at an early age and had a tremendous influence in regards to who I am today. There was a little store in the mall near my house that sold computers in the early 80’s, and I remember spending as much time as possible playing on those computers until I was kicked out of the store, only to return again a few days later and repeat the cycle. Sometime in late 1982, my parents realizing that my passion for computers was something positive that they should nurture, brought home a Timex Sinclair ZX-81 computer, including a 16K expansion pack!

Timex Sinclair ZX-81, including 16K Expansion pack

I spent countless hours programming this little computer – it was about 6.5 inches square and roughly one inch thick at the back. Shortly after that, I ‘upgraded’ to something more powerful – a Commodore VIC-20. I think a month or two later, I got my hands on a Commodore 64.

Commodore VIC-20 and Commodore 64

These computers were great at the time – I spent hours upon hours writing programs on the Commodore 64, visiting online bulletin board systems (BBS) via modem and playing many, many games. A bit later, I got a PC compatible computer which had become the defacto standard for home computers. All these computers shared one thing in common – they all used ‘text-based’ interfaces. To do anything with them, you had to understand how to issue commands from the command line, either in Basic or in DOS. This all changed one sunny afternoon in 1984, when while taking the bus back home from school, my friend Sylvain Gingras was telling me about a new computer called a Macintosh that his dad had brought home.

I still remember that day when I first saw a Macintosh and could actually try out it’s fancy new graphical user interface. You see, up until this point, all the previous computers I had used (ZX-81, Commodores, PC’s, etc) all used a command line interface. Sure, there were programs you could load up and run that would bring up something akin to a graphical user interface (GUI) – one that stands out in my mind is Norton Utilities. At the time, if you had a computer, you almost certainly wanted to get your hands on a copy of Norton Utilities. It used extended text characters (like lines that formed corners, or fancy double line characters, to display what could be described as a rudimentary, text-based ‘GUI’ albeit only using text.

Norton Disk Doctor

While much more user friendly than issuing somewhat cryptic-commands at a prompt, these were till text-based and still depended on keyboard ‘commands’ to perform actions. It’s important to note here that there computer mice we relatively obscure peripherals in 1983-1984. Microsoft designed and sold their first mouse in 1983, but it was a very niche product designed primarily for use with their text-based Microsoft Word application. That is, until the Apple Macintosh made its appearance onto the computer scene, and changed how people interacted with computers forever.

Macintosh 128k. All About Apple Museum.

I remember sitting down in my friend Sylvain’s kitchen and seeing the Macintosh on the table. I remember being struck by how compact the whole thing was. Most computers were bulky, or had to be used with a television. The only other computer I had used at the time which had a built-in monitor was a Commodore PET at school, and those beasts weighed close to 50 pounds!

Commodore PET 4032

The Macintosh was sleek and light by comparison and could easily be moved from one room to another, or like in this case, put on the kitchen table and quickly moved elsewhere when it was time for dinner. I remember Sylvain reaching behind the Macintosh, flipping the power switch and hearing a faint beep coming from the inside. The sound of a fan spinning up could then be heard and the black and white screen came to life, displaying a small icon of a diskette with a flashing question mark on the center of the screen on a grey background. Sylvain pushed a small diskette he had sitting next to the computer into the floppy drive slit on the front of the Macintosh and the drive immediately began reading from the disk and suddenly displayed “Welcome to Macintosh” in a graphical box on the monitor. About 10-15 seconds later, the ‘desktop’ came up and the computer was ready to use. I reached for the mouse and began moving the arrow pointer on the screen. This was my first interaction with a mouse, since I had never used a true GUI and mice had just appeared less than a year prior. This was about 1 year before Windows 1.0 was released and I was amazed and enthralled interacting with this Macintosh. From that day on, I could only dream of ever getting my hands on a Macintosh – the Macintosh 128k started at $2,499, many times more expensive than a PC clone, etc. I went back to my PC and over time became more and more content with what I could do with PC’s and their new GUI’s, etc. Still, I remembered that day and that Macintosh computer on that kitchen table and how it changed my perspective on computers and making them easier to use for the masses.

In Spring 2018, I began thinking back to that day and how I had always wanted one of those all-in-one Macintosh computers, but could never afford one. It occurred to me that after so many years, perhaps Ebay had some for sale. I began looking and was amazed at the amount of people selling and buying vintage Macintosh computers, parts, software, etc. I wasn’t alone wanting one of these antiques and decided to do some research with the ultimate goal of getting my own Macintosh, just like I did over 30 years ago, but for much, MUCH less money…

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