Tuesday, June 13, 2023

New RAM card, prototype Mac Portable, demo System 7

I guess this is a review of sorts, so here's the review part: you should buy Tech by Androda's new 7MB Macintosh Portable RAM card. On my DVT prototype O.G. (non-backlit) Macintosh Portable, I get a total of 8MB of RAM as expected from 1MB on board and 7MB on the card, and System 6 works great. The card is compatible with both backlit and non-backlit machines, though on the backlit system you'll only get 5MB total without tapping one of the PDS slot addressing lines. When they're back in stock, get one, because finding RAM cards of any size (let alone maxxed out) for the Portable is difficult, and the older MacEffects 8MB upgrade — pricier but giving you up to 9MB — is no longer being made due to a lack of chip supply.
Wait, you say you want pictures of this prototype Macintosh Portable? Including its beta OS version and System 7 pre-release presentation? Oh, well, then! No, you can't escape! Sit down and watch my slide show!

Digging it out of the thick soft case, which also stores the battery and power supply. Apple used a similar, smaller case for the TechStep, though interestingly the TechStep does not support the Portable.
The Macintosh Portable was the first portable (I hesitate to say "laptop") Mac officially from Apple, predating the first PowerBook, though at sixteen pounds (7.3kg) it's not great to lug around and it sprawls across a desk. In that sense it's more like a portable workstation with battery backup. But I love the keys and I love the screen, and it's like no other Macintosh. I'm pretty proud of the condition of this unit and I've tried to keep it in good working order, including that pristine screen and good-condition keyboard and trackball (alas, I don't have the numeric keypad). There's a bit of Sculleyplastic cracking on the inside but there's practically no yellowing and the electronics are solid, though for that big thanks are due to William Jamieson who did the recap job on the logic board. Anyone who knows me knows I despise the kneejerk "it's the caps" response to any weird classic computer behaviour, but in this case, all Apple hardware from this time period — the Portable came out simultaneously in September 1989 with my favourite 68K Mac, the Macintosh IIci — has or will have bad capacitors and this unit was no exception. It should be good to go for many years to come.
Rear ports and the warning plaque, which reads: "ATTENTION! This unit is a demonstration unit only. It is not for sale or resale. Production units will comply with all applicable Federal Rules and Regulations." It does not have FCC clearance marks and seems to imply it isn't a production unit, so it's apparently not a PVT prototype, but it's more advanced than what you'd see with an EVT system (like our "Shiner ESB" Apple Network Server prototype), which is why I conclude it's a DVT. Although there's no model number, it's obviously a test unit for the original M5120 Portable.

One particularly obnoxious thing about the otherwise typical selection of ports is that the HD-15 connector, which you'd think is VGA, is actually a digital signal for which Apple never released an adapter (fortunately there are various alternative video-out options).

With the back case and battery lid off, you can see (left) the 3D-printed enclosure with a replacement lead-acid battery; (centre) the modem card and the Apple 1MB RAM card; and (right) the original Apple Hard Disk 40SC, a rebadged low-power Conner CP-3045 with a custom SCSI interface. The ROM and PDS slots in the centre are not occupied.
With the battery connected and the AC plugged in, it boots from a keypress and rather quickly into the Finder. The earliest Portables including this one came with 1MB on the logic board, so with the Apple 1MB card installed, we have 2MB of RAM. That's more than enough for ... System 6.0.6b12?? Yes, it's even running a beta version of the operating system, though the Mac Portable was first supported with 6.0.4. While 6.0.6 was pulled due to issues with the LC, IIsi and Mac Classic, those issues don't seem to be a problem with this Portable.

Even though the screen isn't backlit, it's wonderfully sharp, refreshes quickly and holds its position well. Apple bragged at the time there was an independent transistor for every separate 640x400 pixel.

Let's pull the old RAM card out. Apple sold these in various sizes but the most common is the 630-4176 (820-0225-A) card here with 1MB.
With it out, we now read 1MB.
The Androda RAM card.
There are four slots, going left to right: modem, ROM, RAM and PDS. The ROM and RAM slots have the same pin configuration but you can't put a RAM card in the ROM slot and vice versa. The ROM slot's most important use for the non-backlit models was the official Apple upgrade backlight kit, where the daughterboard connected. Kindly ignore the little pieces of Sculleyplastic.
8MB. Success!

This unit's prior owner was a district manager for Apple, but I've chosen to redact their name for privacy (if they recognize this unit and want to say hi, happy to!). There was quite a bit of software on this unit, including Aldus Persuasion and PageMaker (pre-Adobe), MacWrite II, MacDraw, HyperCard, and early versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Works, but also a number of Apple-internal packages such as the GEIS-based AppleLink (not the AOL-by-another-name AppleLink Personal Edition), the one that famously used a Macintosh Portable on Space Shuttle Atlantis to send the first E-mail from space aboard STS-43 on August 2, 1991:

The specific mission was Development Test Objective (DTO) 1208, Space Station Cursor Control Device Evaluation II and Advanced Applications. A specialized Connection Tool allowed the Portable to call into GEIS' network and access files.
But speaking of files, one I will show some grabs from is this Aldus Persuasion 1.0 presentation dated February 1991 about the forthcoming System 7. Appropriately enough it's titled "System 7.0 Demo."
I won't show all the slides (I really need to get off my butt and image this drive), and the presentation was really meant for a colour Mac, but here are some highlights including this early view of the Finder. Notice the bulgier title bars and different icons, and how what would become Balloon Help is instead represented by a diamond with a question mark.
Additionally, the Virtual Memory slide demonstrated the application switcher ... hadn't changed much from MultiFinder.
This presentation was clearly older than the 1991 date which might have simply been when it was copied over. Notice how "Customer availability [was] expected Summer 1990" — but System 7 didn't hit the market until May 1991.

Anyway, go buy the card and support vintage Mac homebrew! It's great and at a great price.

1 comment:

  1. I worked in IT at a place that was sending a ton of old electronics to salvage.

    From that I pulled 2 IIci, IIcx, PowerMac 7100, 2 IIsi, Powerbook 540c, a MicroVaxstation 3100(?) (never unboxed), Zenith Znote w/ 386SL and a Toshiba T5200/100. Plus lots of network cards.

    I played with & decided not to keep a Powerbook 5300, Telebit Trailblazer modem, Powerbook duos and a Mac Portable like you have. I think the heavy battery and having all the other choices made me leave it.

    The Vax went to a NetBSD developer I knew. After installing Linux, the Znote went to salvage. It had the Apple AAUI for ethernet.

    My mother had used a IIsi for AOL & her intro to internet. Eventually they had battery or capacitor issues & stopped working and then to salvage

    The IIcx went to salvage. I once installed MacBSD on one of the IIci systems and NetBSD. I still have them both & maxed the ram on them.

    The Toshiba went to someone at work that needed cycle correct 486. About 10 years earlier I had gotten an offer to buy one of them w/ Toshiba Unix for only $10,000!

    I still have the other Macintoshes, localtalk & AAUI adapters and nubus ethernet and graphics cards. I've wondered if I should have kept the Portable with its lead acid battery


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