Macintosh System 6 – The Speed Demon of the Mac OS Family

I recently had cause to fire up my old Macintosh SE, one of the original all-in-one Macintosh models. It was donated to me by a family friend some years ago, but it was never of much interest to me, and as a result has spent more time gathering dust than doing anything else.

Macintosh SE

By today’s standards, the Mac SE’s screen is ridiculously small, and the lack of color seemed a curious omission, particularly given the emphasis Apple placed on the color capabilities of its cash cow Apple II. I have read that Steve Jobs was behind this decision (of course!), reasoning that since color printers were rare to non-existent for the average user of the day, the principle of WYSIWYG demanded that the Macintosh screen be similarly monotone. In the end, irrespective of the reasons behind its design decisions, a small screen, black and white device did not fire my imagination and it has spent the majority of its time sitting quietly on a back shelf in the HappyMacs lab since being donated…

…until recently. I needed some information on an old app that would not behave properly on any of my System 7 or later Macs. My long ignored Mac SE was running System 6, and so I set it up and powered it on. What immediately and absolutely impressed me about it was the speed of the machine! I know that saying “Macintosh SE” and “speed” in the same sentence may seem like a bit of an oxymoron, but the numbers bear it out. My Mac SE goes from power on to desktop in only 22 seconds, making it the fastest booting vintage Mac in the HappyMacs lab! In addition, applications seem to launch in a heartbeat and system shutdown is nearly instantaneous.

What lay behind this remarkable performance? Well, for starters the SE is rocking an Applied Engineering Warp 030 Motorola 68030 CPU accelerator. Research into the available Applied Engineering Warp 030 accelerators of the day revealed that both 40 MHz and 50 MHz models were produced. There are no utilities loaded onto the SE (yet) that can tell me what clock rate my SE’s Warp 030 is running at but I plan to find out in the near future.

M68030 at 50MHz

However, an accelerator alone is not enough to explain the speed. A 68040 is generally understood to be 2x to 3x the speed of an equivalently clocked 68030. Given this, if I assume that my SE has the fastest AE accelerator that was made for it, the 50 MHz model, then the performance of the SE should be in the same rough neighborhood as a 25 MHz 68040 based Macintosh. Happily, I have one of those, a Quadra 660AV, and I measured its boot performance: 63s from the end of its power on RAM tests to full desktop, approximately 3 times longer than the boot time of the Mac SE.

Astute users will quickly point out that this is not an apples to apples comparison (pun intended!). There might be RAM speed differences, there might be hard drive performance differences, and of course there was a pronounced OS difference: the Quadra 660AV is running Mac OS 7.6.1 while the Mac SE is running Macintosh System 6.0.7.

System 6 About Dialog

This last difference is the one I want to focus in on, because I believe it is the true story here. I wasn’t really sure how to calibrate the impact of this difference. System 6 is a nearly wholly unknown territory to me. My experience with Macs started with the early versions of System 7 and moved on from there.

I did a little web research and discovered what the SE’s boot time suggested – System 6 is a speed demon, and despite its age, is still remarkably capable relative to System 7, which replaced it. System 6 ruled the Macintosh world from 1988 until System 7’s debut in 1991. During that period of time, Apple’s CPUs were clocked in the 8 MHz to 16 MHz region, RAM was expensive and not provided in generous amounts and hard drives were sized in the 10 MB to 100 MB range. In short, computers were relatively limited in the resources they provided, and their operating systems had to be in step with the constrained platforms they were deployed on. System 6 was light because it had to be!

This begins to explain the performance of my Macintosh SE. When you couple a (for the time) beefy 50 MHz 68030 with a light OS that is more in step with a 16 MHz CPU, you begin to experience real speed.

I decided to test this idea by pairing System 6 with a more typical machine of its day. I settled on the Macintosh IIsi as the test machine, a decision guided by the need to meet the very pragmatic requirements of (a) being reasonably available on eBay these days, (b) supporting System 6 and finally, (c) being clocked in the 16 MHz to 20 MHz range.

Macintosh IIsi

I will report on the results of my testing in an upcoming post. For now however, I will note that this particular post may not occur for a little while. The Macintosh IIsi I purchased on eBay almost immediately introduced me to one of the truly vexing problems associated with working on really early Macs – blown capacitors on the motherboard. My next post already has the working title of “(Un)Happy Macs”, and will concern itself with the issues I encountered, and how they were overcome.

Unhappy Mac

Also of some interest, as I started to dig into System 6, was the very real problem of loading software onto a non-networked older Macintosh that supports only dual sided 800K floppies, a media type that has long since disappeared from both Macintosh support and public consciousness. I found two interesting workarounds and will share those in another upcoming post.

Box of 800K Floppies (398x356)

Until then, my limited work with it to date suggests that System 6 is a remarkable OS, so light that it practically floats, and yet so capable that it will run all the major applications of its day in the blink of an eye, and even get you on the internet! If you haven’t tried it out, it may be worth your time. More to come…


Recovering from No Startup Chime, Power Mac G5 – The Saga Continues

Some time back (February 2015), I posted a piece on recovering from no startup chime on a Power Mac G5. Researching on Google, it was clear that this was a fairly common problem, and I was pleased to be able to share a solution for it.

G5 Quad

I recently had this problem occur again, once more on my original personal Mac, a late 2005 2.3 GHz Power Mac G5 Dual. This particular machine seems to get into this state once a year or so. This is surprising, since my other Power Mac G5, a 2.5 GHz G5 Quad (also a late 2005 offering), has never once exhibited this behavior.

At any rate, I smiled knowingly to myself when I unexpectedly encountered the all too familiar “no startup chime” situation on my G5 Dual a few days ago, and of course I followed the solution recipe that I had posted in my earlier piece on this problem – I unplugged the machine and let it sit overnight, the objective of which was to cause the on board SMU to reset. The next day, I plugged the G5 Dual back in and confidently hit the power button, expecting it to chime either right away, or on the second attempt. I was more than just a little disappointed when it didn’t do either. It not only didn’t chime, it didn’t do much of anything else at all, except spin up the hard disk and run the fans, both of which were clearly audible.

Maybe I hadn’t waited long enough with the machine unplugged? Maybe the PRAM battery was dead? Maybe I needed to try using the infamous, and usually totally ineffective, SMU Reset button on the motherboard? I walked through all of these potential solutions, but to no avail. The machine stubbornly refused to chime and boot. Frustrated, I dug back into Google and once again went through everything I could find on this problem and its solution. Happily, a pattern started to emerge in my research, suggesting that it could be a monitor or video card related issue. Countless web authors stated that reseating the video card, or simply attaching a different monitor, would miraculously rouse the sleeping beast and return the G5 to a working state.

With nothing to lose and nowhere else to turn, I decided to try this. I attached a different monitor and hopefully powered on the G5. Nope, no difference. No chime, no boot. This left only one path – reseating the video card. Although the concept made no sense to me in the context of this problem, I decided to try reseating the card, an nVidia GeForce 6600. The location of this card is shown in the image below.

Video Card Location, Power Mac G5.jpg

Reseating the card was a LOT more difficult than it sounds, due in no small part to the fact that removal of the card was impeded by a small plastic tab on the corner of the PCI-E slot into which the card was plugged. This tab steadfastly resisted all efforts to remove the card, and then, when I finally prevailed in that task, proved equally effective at inhibiting the re-insertion of the card. After about half an hour of fuming and fussing with it, I finally accomplished a reseat of the video card, wondering whether I had damaged the card in the process of attempting this seemingly nonsensical “fix”.

With no real expectation of success, I hit the power button and to my complete surprise, I was rewarded with a robust chime and a full and successful boot up of Mac OS X. Had reseating the video card ACTUALLY accomplished this result, or was it just a random co-incidence? I honestly don’t know, and given the difficulty inherent in accomplishing the reseat, I don’t plan to experiment with it again until a “no chime” situation occurs in the future. I can report that the G5 has been successfully booting ever since. The no chime scenario has been once again banished. Who knows when it may raise its head again.

My thoughts turn to defeating this issue once and for all. I have long suspected that there is an incompatibility between the nVidia GeForce 6600 video card in the unit and the monitor to which it is attached (a ViewSonic VP2130b), since the monitor will not always detect the video and display anything after a boot up. The same monitor works flawlessly however when paired with my G5 Quad. So, I am going to head over to eBay and purchase the same model of video card that the G5 Quad has (an nVidia Quadro 4500) and swap out the current card for this higher end part. Hopefully, this will resolve the incompatibility issue once and for all, and perhaps the “no chime” issue at the same time.

Quadro 4500

So, to summarize, simply unplugging a G5 that won’t chime and boot, and leaving it for 24 hours or so, still seems to resolve the situation most of the time. In the event that this does not do the trick however, try reseating the video card. It has worked for me at least once! If and when I gather more information on the solution to the “no chime” problem, I will post it as well.

Happy booting!

Using TurboGopher to Access HappyMacs Archive

I mentioned in my last post that perhaps the most “classic” way to access the HappyMacs software archive was to do so from a classic Mac, via the TurboGopher application.

TurboGopher About Screen

I have TurboGopher, which is a FAT binary, running on both my 68K Macs and my PPC Macs, and so it should work for any classic Mac you may have. I have tested it from Mac OS 7.6.1 onwards.

This post is a mini tutorial on how to access the HappyMacs gopherspace from TurboGopher, and how to set the default font in TurboGopher so that the HappyMacs gopherspace renders nicely on your Mac.

Default Font and Size

Let’s start with the default font. Like many gopherspaces, the HappyMacs gopherspace uses some ASCII art to make the site a bit more visually attractive. In order for this art to render properly, it is key that the Gopher client (TurboGopher in this case) uses a fixed width font. I have settled on the Monaco font for no particular reason other than that I like the way it looks, but you can use any fixed width font that appeals to you. However, all the screen shots below feature Monaco.

To set up Monaco as the font to render gopherspaces with, go to the Gopher menu in TurboGopher, as shown below:

1 - TurboGopher Prefs

From the Preferences dialog, drop the Other Preferences list in the middle of the window and select Default Font & Size, as shown below:

2 - Default Font, Size

Now navigate the font and size list to select Monaco 12, as demonstrated below:

3 - Monaco 12

When done, the result should look like this:

4 - Resulting Screen

Accessing HappyMacs Archive

Now that you have the default font and size set properly, accessing the HappyMacs gopherspace is a breeze. Once more go to the Gopher menu in TurboGopher and select Another Gopher, as shown below:

1 - Another Gopher

In the resulting dialog, type in “”, as demonstrated below:

2 -

If all is well, you will be greeted with the following display of the HappyMacs gopherspace:

3 - Resulting Screen

That’s it! Note that the image of the classic Macintosh, and the “Welcome to HappyMacs” banner are both examples of the ASCII art I mentioned above.

Bookmarking the HappyMacs Archive

One last thing. All of us live in the modern age, even if we have a certain fascination with vintage Macintoshes and MacOS, and so we are attuned to the idea of web browser bookmarks. Wouldn’t it be nice to bookmark the HappyMacs archive so that you did not have to type in the address every time you wanted to access it? Well happily, TurboGopher lets you do just that, although it is not entirely obvious how to do this until you have walked through it the first time. So… let’s walk through the procedure here.

When you start up TurboGopher, it presents two windows – the Home Gopher window and the Bookmark Worksheet. This later window is the bookmark list that we want to work with. By default it comes preset with a number of what were helpful gopher links back in the late 1990s. These days, they are all dead links, and need to be replaced with more current ones. Let’s add the HappyMacs archive to the list, and then delete all the others.

To do this, follow the procedure above to arrive at the HappyMacs gopherspace site. Next, position your cursor on the window’s top bar and type Opt-c. This copies the gopherspace’s URL to an internal copy/paste buffer. Now, position your cursor on the top bar of the Bookmark Worksheet window, click once and type Opt-v. This pastes your HappyMacs gopherspace URL into the bookmark list. Finally, to get rid of the preloaded and now dead links, position your cursor on each of them, one by one, click once, and type Opt-x. This deletes them, one by one. When done, you should be left with just the HappyMacs gopherspace in your list.

Bookmarking the Floodgap Systems Gopherspace

There is one other site you might wish to add. I think of it as the father of all current gopherspaces – I have made it my Home Gopher in TurboGopher. is the gopherspace of the same Floodgap Systems people who bring you the Overbite plugin for Firefox and act as the general champions of Gopher in today’s world. You can follow a procedure similar to the one for arriving at the HappyMacs gopherspace to get yourself to the Floodgap gopher page and then add it to your bookmarks list. You may also wish to make it your Home Gopher, which you can do by editing the Home Gopher definition, available as the first selection in the Preferences dialog under the Gopher menu of TurboGopher.

4 - Resulting Screen

Editing Gopher Bookmarks

One more “last thing”! Like any good bookmark, you can rename TurboGopher bookmarks to anything you want as opposed to having the actual URL show up in the list. To do this, highlight the bookmark of interest, go to the Gopher menu of TurboGopher and select Edit Gopher Descriptor, as shown below:

1 - Edit Descriptor

In the resulting screen, type in the name of your choice in the Title section of the editing screen, as demonstrated below:

2 - Editing Screen

I did this for both HappyMacs and Floodgap, and here is my current Bookmarks Worksheet:

3 - Resulting Screen

…and that really is it for this TurboGopher tutorial!

Happy Gophering!


HappyMacs Software Archive is Open!

Over a year ago, I posted about my plans to make my collection of vintage Mac software available online via a Gopher site. I am pleased to announce that this has finally happened. The HappyMacs Software Archive is now open and ready for your use.

HappyMacs Software Archive

As planned, and in keeping with the “vintage” nature of HappyMacs, the HappyMacs Software Archive can be accessed via Gopher at URL:


For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Gopher, it was an early contender for the crown that was won decisively by HTTP (and the web in general). Gopher is a purely text-based environment, which makes it wickedly fast, but puts it at a serious disadvantage relative to the text, image and other capabilities of HTTP. With its richer mix of media, HTTP won the day and Gopher slowly faded from view. The good news is that it remains alive and vibrant to this day, albeit with a smaller audience.

Using a vintage protocol to present a vintage software archive had a certain poetic wholeness to it, and so I chose Gopher as the publication mechanism for the HappyMacs archive. As time allows, I may also put up a web interface to the same library. Please rest assured that when I do so, I will take care to ensure that it operates correctly when accessed using vintage web browsers such as iCab. In the meantime however, and by design intent, Gopher it is!

How do you get access to this archive? You can’t exactly go out and get a current Gopher browser, so what do you do? Well perhaps you can’t get a modern Gopher browser, but you can endow a modern web browser with the Gopher protocol and thus gain immediate access. The good people at Floodgap Systems ( support the Overbite project, which delivers a plugin that upgrades Firefox to Gopher-capable status.

Picture 1

To get Overbite, visit URL:

Then simply press “+ Add to Firefox” button and then restart your browser. Voila! You now have access to Gopher URLs!

Unfortunately, Overbite is not available for Chrome, IE or Safari, so you will need Firefox for it.

HOWEVER, you are not tied to Firefox for long, unless you want to be. You are only interested in using Gopher to access the HappyMacs Archive because you have an interest in vintage Mac software, and that implies that you have and can use a vintage Mac. SO, use Overbite to visit the archive and download TurboGopher, a FAT binary Gopher browser that runs as well on a 68K Mac running System 7 as it does on the last of the PowerPC capable Macs that could run Mac OS 9.2.2 natively.

TurboGopher About Screen

Once you have TurboGopher installed, you can now access the HappyMacs archive directly from your vintage Mac environment, using TurboGopher to do today exactly what it was meant to do all those years ago.


Failing Floppies – An Update

Something of a breakthrough occurred yesterday in my quest to understand what was causing pretty much all of my vintage Macs to behave erratically with respect to mounting, reading and writing floppies.

Floppy Disk

In my last post on this topic, I had more or less concluded that the age of the media itself was the likely culprit, and that after all this time, it simply could no longer hold its bits. Yesterday I conclusively proved that this was not the case, thus pointing the finger squarely back at the drives themselves (or at least the combination of the older media and the older drives).

I was reorganizing the Happy Macs lab, tying to simultaneously tidy it up and make room for more equipment. I was successful in this endeavor and was able to bring back to life the very first vintage Mac I had acquired, a Power Macintosh 7500/100 (upgraded with a NewerTech 400 MHz G3 accelerator).


I was lucky enough to have purchased this Mac from its original owner, who had used it to manage a printing business for some time, and then retired it to the back of a closet for the next 20 years or so before deciding to list it on eBay. I thus had the beginners luck to acquire a lightly used and carefully preserved vintage Mac, and one that didn’t even have to endure the rigors of shipping! The owner’s location was only 10 miles or so away from my work and so I simply drove over and picked it up.

The thought occurred to me – lightly used, well cared for original Macintosh hardware, including the floppy drive; would it be more successful with my “failing floppies” than all the others? I had to try it out and was very pleased that I did.

As you can probably guess from the above, my 7500/100 mounted, read and wrote every floppy I threw at it with no issues whatsoever. It even formatted floppies successfully, something I had only ever managed successfully once before.

SO, the verdict is in. It is NOT the media. It is the drives. The same media that fails miserably on the rest of my vintage Macs works like a champ on my 7500/100. I can only assume that age, less than optimal care, and prolonged original usage have de-rated the floppy drives on the rest of my Macs. The 7500/100, gently used during its original service lifetime, and then carefully stored until I purchased it, it closer to its original state than the rest, and thus more successful with floppy media.

As I reported earlier, I have purchased another floppy drive on eBay, and will try this out on my G3 AIO. There is no reason to believe that this hardware will have been any more gently used, or any better cared for, than the rest of the floppy drives in my other Macs, but now that I KNOW that it is the drive and not the media, and I have this “new” drive in hand, I simply have to try. I will report the results here!

The Mystery of the Failing Floppies

Some months ago, I acquired a Power Macintosh G3 All-In-One, the so-called Molar Mac, and posted about it here at the Happy Macs blog. As I indicated then that I would, I have spent some time upgrading it, principally adding a much larger hard drive and installing an Iomega ZIP-100 drive into the option slot for it. I partitioned the hard drive such that I now have three bootable partitions and one major “My Files” type partition. I installed Mac OS 8.1, 8.5.1 and 8.6, one into each of the bootable partitions and now have all of them happily co-existing on my AIO. But I digress…

With these hardware and OS upgrades complete, I began a serious “shakedown” of the new AIO. I was not pleased with the results! My “new” ZIP drive is erratic at best, and almost non functional at worst. ZIP disks are only rarely detected when inserted, and in this invisible state, nearly impossible to eject.

Zip 100

Even the time honored insertion of a paperclip into the drive’s mechanical ejection hole fails to deliver the goods. Some research on the web turned up the fact that this is fairly common in older, used Zip drives. Iomega used plastic internal parts for the detection and ejection of disks, and over time the predictable tends to happen – these parts break and the associated functions no longer work. Sigh… I guess I am back in the market for another ZIP disk.
What is more vexing however is the state of the floppy disk drive, or of the floppies themselves, or both! I still haven’t determined where the real culprit lies.

Floppy Disk

For the most part, when floppies are inserted into the drive, they are recognized as being there, but are presented as “not readable”, accompanied by Mac OS’ ever helpful offer to format them. I say “ever helpful” somewhat sarcastically since accepting this offer results in the usual minute or two of the floppy formatting procedure, terminated by the not so helpful, and definitely not very useful, message that the formatting has failed – no explanation, just that it has failed. This always occurs at the very end, after Mac OS has wasted the full amount of time needed to format the disk.

Initially, I was sanguine about this. “Not a problem” I told myself. “Just a bad disk – I’ll try another”. When that “another” also failed, and then another, and then another, I began to get worried. My first conclusion was the obvious one – the drive must be flakey in some way. The most probable modality of this flakiness was simple “dirt” on the read/write heads and so I acquired a floppy head cleaning kit from eBay (you can get ANYTHING on eBay it seems!).

Floppy Cleaning Kit

These kits consist of what looks like a normal floppy disk, but with a cloth circle in the middle where the disk media would normally be, and a bottle of cleaning fluid that can be applied to the cloth circle a drop at a time. After placing a few drops of fluid onto the cloth, you insert the “floppy” into the drive and in blissful ignorance of the real nature of the disk it is now spinning, the floppy drive attempts to read it. This effort brings the read/write heads into contact with the cloth surface, now suffused with cleaning fluid, and this results in cleaning of the heads.

This all sounds very promising, and after repeating this two or three times, I hopefully popped a real floppy into the drive. The initial results were encouraging. The floppy was properly recognized, and was mounted on the desktop. Problem solved, correct? Not so fast. More testing was in order and so I tried writing a file onto the floppy. This did not succeed, failing with a disk write error. Then I tried to format the floppy. This failed as well, in the same way as above. Well, I reasoned, there has been improvements, but just not enough. So, I reran the cleaning process several more times. However, at the conclusion, the results were scarcely better. Now and then I could actually write a file onto the floppy, and now and then I could even read it back, but never, ever could I get the floppy to format successfully.

Still, incremental progress had been achieved, and the conclusion seemed obvious enough – the read/write heads were not being sufficiently cleaned by the cleaning kit. What was needed was a more intensive approach. I needed to remove the drive, disassemble it, and clean it thoroughly. YouTube provided several videos that showed how to do this in detail, and so I undertook the task, armed only with Q-tips and the cleaning fluid from the floppy cleaning kit.

Q-tips and Cleaning Fluid

The process was quite simple. After extracting the floppy from the AIO, I used a small flat head screw driver to gently pry the top off of it, as shown in the YouTube videos, and ended up with what you see below:

Dissassembled Floppy Drive

Then, moistening a Q-tip head with cleaning fluid, I carefully swabbed back and forth across the inside of the read/write head assembly, as shown below:

Cleaning Read-Write Heads

When done, I reversed the process, reassembling the floppy drive and re-inserting it into the AIO. I now had the ultimate in clean floppy heads, and surely read/write success must lie ahead.

Unfortunately, this was not the case. Same errors, same erratic behavior! This got me thinking. At this point, I could rule out the floppy drive itself as the cause of the issue. This left only the media. Could the floppy’s media surface have degraded to the point that it was no longer usable? I decided to test this theory with my other vintage Macs.

I decided to start with the best-preserved media I could find, so I went out on eBay and found a factory-sealed box of Macintosh formatted 1.4MB floppy disks, still in the original shrink wrap plastic. Then I turned to my trusty PowerMac 7300 as the normative test of whether the floppies were good or not. I was surprised to find that some were, some were not. Even my best machine was having trouble with floppies!

On to my next best machine – my Quadra 840AV. Similar results. Some floppies worked well, some were not recognized as formatted, and there was no consistency in anything. I have a variety of other vintage Macintosh and Power Macintosh machines and I found the same result across almost all of them. Floppy usage is really “touch and go”, and most definitely not reliable. I have only ever successfully formatted a floppy once, that being on the Quadra 840AV. What is going on here?

I titled this piece “The Mystery of the Failing Floppies” and for now, that is where I have to leave it. It IS a mystery, and I am not sure what to chalk up the continual failures and erratic behavior to. I am guessing that it is a combination of age, dirt and media degradation over time, but I cannot be sure. Various sources online indicate that the life expectancy of floppy media is 10-20 years, and both the machines and the media I am using are well beyond that. This is likely the major contributor to the problems I am observing. Perhaps I should be happy that they EVER work!

As to my G3 AIO, I am taking one more crack at the hardware, even given the above. I acquired another floppy drive on eBay and will try it to see how it works. If this fails, I will just need to accept that at least for now, and perhaps forever, I do not have a reliable way to read and write floppies, or I do not have a reliable set of floppy media, or both! As I learn more, I will keep you posted!

Macintosh Repository – A Great “New” Mac OS Archive

I love serendipity. Today I was searching for a copy of Power Windows, a great Mac OS system control panel that provides a number of goodies such as full window dragging, translucent menus and more. Much to my surprise, the first entry that showed up in my Google search results was a file in a new (to me anyway) site called “Macintosh Repository” ( In all of my travels through Mac Classic space, I have never encountered this site before.


A quick check around the site made it clear that this is a serious repository of Mac OS abandonware, one with an enormous collection of software titles, many of which I have never seen before anywhere else. I have added this site to the Recommended Links list here at Happy Macs, and would encourage you to surf on over to the Macintosh Repository and have a look if you are on the hunt for a particular piece of software you are having difficulty locating.

I did NOT find Apple’s Firewire 2.0, something for which the search continues, but I am still delighted to have stumbled upon the Macintosh Repository. This will not be the last time I visit. As for Firewire 2.0, I suspect that it will be found on one of the many Mac OS install disks I have – it will turn up sooner or later.

A final note – Power Windows IS a great addition to any Mac OS installation with sufficient CPU horsepower to drive the effects, and will be the topic of an upcoming post. Until then, happy hunting at the Macintosh Repository!