Thursday, December 23, 2004

It's Alive!!!

It's alive!!! The old Mac has had some life breathed back into it. The new power supply arrived today, and the old dog has been running ever since I installed it. I was a little disappointed to find that my old game (Warlords) had been deleted and replaced with Sim City 2000, but I was awash in nostalgia as I tinkered around with it. I played through all of the old Mac sounds. I thought it was really cool to find a sound that I made back in high school (a belch, how eloquent). I also discovered that my cousins (Jake and Kaitlyin, I know where you live), had added some sounds of their own, along with some "clever" jokes. The Mac still runs fantastic. It has system 7.1 loaded, along with Microsoft Word, Excel, Canvas, and the usual Mac fare. It also has some additional software for the HP printer (which I have) and the Teleport Modem (which I don't have). I'm debating if it would be worthwhile to spend another $30 to get a NuBus card and an ethernet adapter. If I did, I could put the Mac on our home network. I'm not really sure it would be worth the effort though, as I can currently sneaker net files over to it if I need to. I'm going to scrounge around the web for a while tonight to see if I can find a free download for the Warlords game. I'm sure that all of the original disks are long gone. It made me feel like a kid all over again to be playing on the old Mac!

It's alive!

The offending power supply

Sunday, December 5, 2004

Sad Mac

We did some shopping today, and I picked up a 3.6V 1/2AA battery at Radio Shack. Although I'm sure it was needed, it didn't solve the greater problem of getting the thing to boot. After some more testing, I think I've determined that the root of the problem is a dead power supply. I cracked it open and watched it in operation. There is some type of electro-mechanical contact switch that is getting thrown, and immediately lost. I can see the switch move, but it never stays. Occassionally, it will stick down for a second and I'll hear the happy mac chime. So I'm pretty sure that the motherboard, hard drive, floppy, and everything else are okay. I checked out eBay, and it looks like I can get a complete Mac IIsi minus a hard drive for $6 (plus $8 shipping). I'll probably get it and use it for spare parts. I'm still not entirely sure what I'm going to do with it once it runs (other than play Warlords). Any suggestions?

Return of the Mac

Ye Olde Mac IIsi returned to me this weekend. This was our family computer while I was in high school. The Mac is now getting close to 15 years old, and might still be functional. My grandmother had been using it for the past couple of years for web access, e-mail, and solitaire. A couple of months ago she started complaining the it wouldn't boot up anymore. My dad searched on the web and got a great deal on a Dell as a replacement. She has since been setup with a DSL account, and should be back on her way. I asked my dad if I could get the old Mac, mostly out of nostalgia for it, and to see if I could get it running again.

I got it all pieced back together and turned it on. It fired up on the first try to the smiley Mac. The first thing I noticed was the smell of smoke and air fresheners. My dad told me that the Mac had been connected to an outlet that was controlled by a light switch. At first, I thought it was a simple matter of the light switch being off that caused the beast not to boot. I was playing around a bit, and noticed that it was set in Black & White mode. I knew from the years of using it that it supported color, so I opened the control panel, and switched it to color mode. Bad move. The IIsi immediately shut down. I hit the power key on the keyboard, and the power light blinked for a second, but it was right back out. This must be what my grandmother had been talking about. As the PC was very old, I wasn't sure if this could be a dust issue (dust in a PC can create shorts), a blown motherboard, or something else. It had always been connected to a very nice surge suppressor, but that didn't totally count out a massive surge causing problems. Also, smoke and spray air fresheners can eventually coat the electronics and cause a short.

I opened the case and started poking around. The first thing I noticed was how cleanly the old Mac was assembled. If you open a new Dell, you'll find that everything is neatly wire tied away, but you still end up with cables criss-crossing the case and a general look of confusion inside the case. The Mac was very clean and tidy. The connectors on the motherboard for the floppy and hard drives were located right next to the mounting position of the drives within the case. This made for a very short cable run (a couple of inches, if that). No tools were needed to dismantle it, everything had locking tabs that made it easy to remove and reinstall the parts. The power supply even snapped into position. In fact, the only power cable run in the entire case was from the motherboard to the hard drive. Kudos to Apple for a great design. After some looking around, I noticed a Lithium battery in the center of the board. This set off a flag in my mind. Most PCs have a battery that supplies power to a segment of memory on the mainboard. This can be used to store settings, keep the system clock running, or any of several other options. In the Macs case, the battery supplies power to the segment of memory that retain settings. I realized that it was when I changed settings (black and white to color) that the Mac powered down. I grabbed an LED and checked for any voltage on the battery. It was totally dead. So I'm suspecting that this is the root cause for the Mac not to boot. I can order a new batter online for $6, or pick one up at Radio Shack for $15. Of course, I could just go on eBay and buy a complete Mac IIsi for $25, but that wouldn't be nearly as fun as reviving this old dog.

My mission now is to locate a 3.6V 1/2AA size Lithium battery and attempt to revive the Mac. Once I do, I'll be happily playing Warlords again!