Adding External Mass Storage to Your System 6 Mac

In this final and long overdue post on System 6, we will look at adding external mass storage to your System 6 Mac, typically a crucial element in loading application software onto it. After all, you won’t get far with 800K floppies!

External Zip-100 AppleCD300e Larger Set of Floppies

There are several types of mass storage you could choose to add: external hard drives, removable drives, CD-ROM drives, tape storage and so on. All of these are supported by System 6 and are viable options. However, we are going to focus on the two of these that I believe offer the most versatility: the Iomega Zip drive and the CD-ROM drive. Both are still readily available today (if only on eBay). The CD-ROM drive offers a standard media format that a great many programs are distributed on, and the Zip drive offers 100 MB of read/write storage – fundamentally a “super floppy” (this WAS part of the marketing literature for it, way back when!).

I am going to approach this article in the same way as I approached the work: I started with the Iomega Zip drive and then added the CD-ROM afterwards.

External Zip-100

You will of course need both hardware and software to accomplish mass storage for your System 6 Mac. The software of course is freely available on the web, but the hardware will set you back a few pennies. For System 6 Macs, you will want to restrict yourself to SCSI-interfaced Zip 100 drives, and similarly, SCSI-interfaced external CD-ROM drives. As of this writing, SCSI Zip 100 drives are still in abundant supply on eBay, running anywhere from $50 to $100 depending on the seller and the condition of the drive. For the CD-ROM drive, I would attempt to purchase an Apple CD 300 drive, for the simple reason that the drivers are easy to get and are known to be compatible with System 6. You can of course chose different hardware, but you will need to ensure that you also find System 6 compatible software for your drive.

From a software perspective you will need the Iomega Zip driver, v4.2.This can be picked up at www.macgui.com. Unfortunately, it is not yet out on Happy Macs Gopher site. I have a whole System 6 section that has yet to be loaded! For the CD-ROM driver, you will need Apple CD-ROM Software, v5.3.1. This can be found at the Mac Driver Museum, www.3rz.org/mirrors/macdrivermuseum/disk.shtml. By the way, you can also get the v4.2 Zip driver here, so this COULD be your one-stop-shop.

Alright, with the preliminaries out of the way, lets get started! For all of this work, I used my (by now) trusty Mac IIsi, running System 6.0.8.

Macintosh_IIsi

I started by connecting up my external SCSI Zip 100 drive and restarting the machine, just to establish that nothing happens until the driver is loaded. Sure enough, nothing happened! Zip disks, when popped into the drive, were roundly ignored by my Mac. So far, so good. Now I copied the Zip 4.2 driver (a single file) into the system folder and restarted. The restart was clean and Zip disks, when inserted into the drive, now popped up on the desktop as they should. In this case, I inserted a disk labeled System6Exchange, and you can see it mounted on the desktop image below. Well… that was too easy!

ZIP Mounted

… and it stayed that way. Using Iomega Zip drives with your System 6 Mac is incredibly simple. Just connect the drive, add the driver to the System folder, restart, and all is well. This is software the way software should be! Try doing this with a Windows 3.1 PC of the day! It would take days of fiddling to get this right, starting with the nearly Herculean task of getting a SCSI card into the system and running. Take it from me, System 6 Macs were way, way easier to work with than their PC counterparts. I have experienced this from both sides. I was a PC user at the time, and it was a nightmare to add new hardware to a PC. Remember the old ad? Macintoshes were “plug and play”, while PCs were “plug and pray”? 🙂 It wasn’t just clever advertising – it was TRUE!

So now you can read Zip 100 disks on your System 6 Mac. Great! But how do you load anything interesting onto those disks so that you can use them to transfer software and other data onto the Mac? Zip 100 drives are largely a relic of history now, but happily, historical relics remain in abundant supply on eBay. Even given that however, the long and the short of it is that you will need another vintage Mac to write anything useful onto those Zip 100 drives

There are two approaches here. For the first one, you can physically transfer your existing Zip 100 drive to another vintage Mac that supports a SCSI termination, and then load a Zip disk from there. In my case, I have another SCSI Zip drive on my Power Macintosh 7300/200, and I used it to load software and images on to a Zip 100 disk, which I then loaded into the Zip drive on my System 6 Mac. This let me load up my Mac IIsi with software, up to 100 MB at a time.

As a second approach, you can purchase a USB-interfaced Zip 100 drive and use it to load a Zip disk from a USB equipped Mac. I do this as well from time to time. The very PowerMac G5 upon which I am composing this post has a USB Zip 100 attached to it and I use it to load Zip disks routinely. You can see this setup below:

Powermac G5 Dual w Zip

I do not believe that you could plug a USB Zip 100 into a modern Mac and have it work. If any reader tries this and it works, please let me know. My limited work in this area, posted to this blog on July 1, 2013 in the article “Mac OS Standard is Not So Standard” suggests that you cannot write Zip disks in the Mac OS Standard disk format required by System 6 with a Mac running anything beyond Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. So, I am pretty sure that you will need a vintage Mac to implement even this second approach. If you should find differently, please do let us know!

OK! Onto getting a CD-ROM up and running on System 6. I had quite a bit more trouble with this one, although the outcome was eventually successful. To save you quite a bit of frustration, let me cut to the chase. Before you start down the CD-ROM trail with System 6, you need to add an obscure extension called Desktop Manager to your System folder. This was the key breakthrough in my efforts to get CD-ROMs running on my Mac IIsi. The ever-helpful Macintosh Orchard site, from which you can download Desktop Manager, describes it thus:

“Prevents desktop rebuilds when swapping back and forth with System 7. Allows desktop mounting of CD-ROM. Needed for some file serving apps. Part of AppleShare File Server 2.0.1.”

The key part is that second sentence of course … allows desktop mounting of CD-ROM. After I tracked down and installed Desktop Manager, the rest of was easy.

I am not sure if both of these are needed, but since this is how I approached the task, I will report both. I first loaded Apple CD Setup 3.2, and then when that did not resolve the issue, I loaded Apple CD-ROM 5.3.1.My guess is that all that is really needed is Apple CD-ROM 5.3.1. This is available from the Mac Driver Museum mentioned above.

With Desktop Manager and Apple CD-ROM 5.3.1 loaded, plus a restart, CD-ROMs inserted into my Apple CD 300 drive spin up nicely, and after a disconcertingly long pause, mount cleanly on the desktop. In the screenshot below, you can see both the Zip 100 disk from the steps above and the CD from this step mounted on the desktop.

ZIP and CD-ROM Mounted

When it was all said and done, and with the Zip disk and the CD-ROM together in an external SCSI chain, my Mac IIsi installation looks like this:

Mac IIsi w Zip and CD

Here is an additional “hack” for those interested in trying it. If you have a bootable CD-ROM (in my case a Mac OS 7.6.1 CD), there is a device driver located on track 0 of the disk. This is part of the requirement for being a bootable CD-ROM. If you insert such a CD-ROM into the drive and let it spin up BEFORE you power on your Mac, the Mac’s ROM-based SCSI manager will read and load the device driver from track 0, giving you “software-free” access to the CD-ROM drive. I tried this early in my work above, and after the bootable Mac OS 7.6.1 CD I used had mounted on the desktop, I ejected it and put a different, non-bootable CD into the drive. With the device driver from the original CD still loaded, my Mac went ahead and obligingly mounted the second CD on the desktop too! So, in the worst case, you can “seed” your CD-ROM session with the driver from a bootable CD, and then switch that out for the CD you are trying to work with. Your mileage may vary, but it worked for me.

… and that’s that! You now have both Zip-100 and CD-ROM mass storage up and running on your System 6 Mac. Load away to your heart’s content!

 

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(Un)HappyMacs – A Mac IIsi and Gooey Caps

My recent interest in Macintosh System 6 led me to acquire a new Mac for the HappyMacs lab – a System 6 capable Macintosh with a larger screen (14” or more) than the rather diminutive one available on the Mac SE that was, up until this time, the only machine in the lab running System 6.

Macintosh_IIsi

As I explained in my last post, I ultimately selected a Macintosh IIsi as my new “System 6 Engine” for the very pragmatic reasons that it was still relatively available on eBay, it did not cost the proverbial “arm and a leg” and it supported System 6 natively. Regrettably, I ran into trouble with this new acquisition almost immediately, and it took me more than just a little while to work through the universe of potential problems and zero in on what was actually going wrong.

Unhappy Mac - Color

As advertized, the machine arrived without a hard drive, but it did include a working floppy drive, and so it was immediately bootable. I have System 6 boot floppies from a separate purchase on eBay, and so I popped one in the floppy drive and powered up the machine for the first time. Unfortunately, it failed to boot (for reasons I did not understand at the time), and then to make matters worse, failed to eject the floppy. The mechanical floppy eject button did not do the job it was designed for, and I was reduced to gently prying the floppy out of the drive with a pair of needle-nosed pliers. This was not a good start!

I eventually did get the floppy out, and then worked through a succession of other sets of System 6 boot media until I finally experienced success… well, sort of. The machine finally did boot into one of the floppies I fed to it and presented a functioning System 6 desktop. Success! I thought… but only fleetingly. I quickly realized that the on-screen mouse pointer did not move when I moved the mouse. OK… lots of possible reasons for that… Bad mouse? Bad keyboard (the mouse was plugged into an ADB port on the keyboard, which was then plugged into the ADB port at the back of the IIsi)? Bad ADB cable? Bad system unit ADB port? Something else?

I slowly and methodically worked through all of the above, experiencing the occasional successful boot, only to be greeted by an inevitably “frozen” desktop in its aftermath. Eventually, I ruled out the mouse, the keyboard, the cable, the ADB port on the system unit, and even the monitor itself and was therefore left with only one possibility… something wrong with the system unit itself.

Mac IIsi Opened System Unit

That’s when I noticed “the goo”. Huh? …you are saying to yourself, “goo”? What in the world is “the goo”? Well, I am going to tell you! Anyone who enjoys the world of vintage Macintoshes has heard of the need to “recap” motherboards from time to time. This occasional necessity stems from the penchant of some aging motherboard capacitors (“caps”) to explode after many years of faithful service, severely compromising their intended function AND simultaneously spreading the electrolytic compound within them (the “goo”) all over their near vicinity on the motherboard.

Being aware of this, and starting to realize that the machine would never run for more than about a minute or so without freezing, no matter what I did (a behavior that sounded like a “cap” issue to me) I got out a flashlight and a magnifying glass and examined the motherboard in close detail. Sure enough, there was electrolytic “goo” on the motherboard in multiple locations. Sheesh! I had a “blown motherboard”! Below is a picture of one such site to give you a feeling for what this looks like.

Goo Site

I have bought no small number of vintage Macs on eBay and I have never received a bad one until now. I contacted the seller and he was very gracious about the whole thing. We agreed on a residual price for the re-usable parts in the machine and he refunded the difference. So, no damage had been done financially, BUT I had no “System 6 engine” either.

Recapping a motherboard is beyond both my capabilities and the facilities I have at hand, but I decided to try cleaning the goo off, hoping against reason that it was perhaps just shorting out some of the motherboard traces it was spread across. Such cleaning at least is easily done. All you need is some common rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs (such as Q-tips), both available at any local drug store (if not in your own medicine cabinet already!). Working slowly and carefully, I cleaned up all the goo sites I found. Below is a pic of a typical site I worked on:

Cleaning Goo

Eventually, I worked through a small bundle of Q-tips and was done. Would it work any better now? I powered it on, it booted up successfully… and it stayed booted! The mouse kept working and I was able to perform a successful shutdown for the first time ever. Thinking that I might have had the incredible good luck of dodging the “recap” bullet, I connected up the hard drive that was waiting to be added to the machine and powered it back on. This particular hard drive had a previously configured System 7 on it (to be replaced with System 6 as soon as possible, of course) and after a lengthy boot process, it presented its desktop and awaited my command.

I poked around in the control panels for a while, increasing the disk cache size and then enabling color for the display, and was honestly thinking to myself “well, this was too easy” when the mouse pointer froze once more! With a sinking heart, I tried again – no luck at all. No life at all. It would not boot. Here we go again…

To make a long story short, I discovered through trial and error that my motherboard cleaning efforts seem to have added about a minute or two to the system’s successful run time before it would again freeze. And freeze it would… and still does. Like clockwork, any session longer than two to three minutes results in a frozen machine. Unplug it and let it sit for about 4 hours and I can get another few minutes of run time out of it before it freezes again.

My conclusion? First, the motherboard definitely needs to be recapped, a roughly $125 undertaking when shipping in included. Second, the motherboard may not be the only issue. The power supply may also need to be recapped. I did not SEE any goo when I took it apart and examined it carefully, but that does not mean that there are not failed components in it. The time factor here (two the three minutes and then freeze) feels to me like how long it takes a damaged cap to either fully charge up or fully discharge – I am not sure which.

So, for now I have set this entire machine to the side and have purchased another one on eBay. It will be delivered shortly and I will try once again to establish a working System 6 test machine.

In the meantime, what can be learned from this experience of an unhappy Mac in the HappyMacs lab? Well I for one have learned to never again buy a Mac on eBay whose listing does not include pictures of the machine running its OS, and whose listing does not also include wording to the effect that it is fully operational. Otherwise, it is a case of caveat emptor (buyer beware)!