Restoring the “A” to a Quadra 840AV

Regular readers of this blog will know that some time back, I acquired a Quadra 840AV, the last and the fastest of the 68040 Macs. As a product, the Quadra 840AV was notable in many regards. Clocking in at 40 MHz, it was the fastest 68K-based Mac that Apple would produce. The primary 68040 was augmented by a 66 MHz DSP coprocessor, designed to provide the 840AV with a range of audio and visual capabilities (hence the “AV” designation) that were largely offloaded from the main processor. Also, the Quadra 840AV featured the then incredibly innovative feature of interleaved RAM. Taken as a package (40 MHz CPU, 66 MHz DSP and interleaved RAM), the 840AV was simply a screamer in its day.

Quadra 840AV 02

The 840AV, and its lesser sibling the 660AV, while unique for a variety of technical reasons, were especially touted for their A/V capabilities. You can imagine my distress then, when my 840AV’s speaker started crackling one evening, and then went ominously and completely silent. Something on the motherboard had fried, popped or otherwise gone into permanent retirement, and the 840AV had suddenly dropped the “A” from its moniker and become simply an “840V”!

Not being a particularly handy electronics technician type, I quickly decided that my likelihood of repairing whatever was wrong on the motherboard was infinitesimally small. However, being resourceful and persistent, and recognizing that the 840AV had three perfectly good NuBus expansion slots, I sought out a alternate sound card for the machine on eBay. If you can’t go through a problem, go around it! I was fortunate to quickly happen upon a Digidesign AudioMedia II card, bid on it and win.

DigiDesign AudioMedia II

Drivers for the AudioMedia II seemed easy enough – I readily found the Digidesign software archives (http://archive.digidesign.com/download/sndrvr) and downloaded the right stuff. It is amazing that it is all still available to this day, more than 20 years later, but it all still is. To this point, the story has been largely recounted in earlier blog posts on the topic. So what happened? Read on…

I inserted the card into the machine, installed the drivers into the Extensions folder and restarted the venerable Quadra, full of hope that I had restored the (now) 840V back to its full 840AV designation. Alas, this was not to be the case. There was no audible change at all, and despite my best efforts with various versions of the drivers and various re-installs, the new AudioMedia II could not be enticed to make even a peep.

After a time, I decided that perhaps the card was bad, or perhaps I had the wrong drivers… or perhaps something else entirely unknown was wrong. I resolved myself to watching eBay again, and waiting either for an 840AV motherboard to come along, solving the original problem, or for a new AudioMedia II, replete with the original drivers, to come along, perhaps resolving the current problem.

Since then, no Quadra 840AV motherboards have shown up on eBay. Lots of AudioMedia II cards HAVE shown up, but none with the original drivers. In all this time, the Quadra “840V” has remained stubbornly silent. I am nothing if not persistent, and so from time to time, I would return to this matter, making renewed efforts, always with no success. Then, just recently, an “aha!” moment.

AHA-moment

Documentation on the Digidesign software archive is minimal, and seemed to suggest that the provided sound drivers were all that was needed. Slightly more documentation, but still quite sketchy, was provided within the driver’s StuffIt archive. One evening, rereading that documentation for the nth time, I was struck by the continual mention of ProTools and their DigiSystem INIT. Hmmm… DigiSystem INIT… Perhaps I was still missing a key piece of software?

I went hunting for the lightly referenced INIT and found it at http://archive.digidesign.com/download/daedsi. For an 840AV running Mac OS 8.1 (as mine does), the right version seemed to be 2.96 (near the bottom of the page) and so I downloaded that one.

Yesterday, I installed the INIT into the “840V”’s extensions folder, alongside the already installed AudioMedia II sound drivers, and with fingers and toes crossed, restarted the Quadra. Sigh… again I was greeted with roaring silence. The Monitors and Sound control panel did not show any alternate sound input or output sources, and any control panel or application that should have created sound remained oh so very quiet.

Then I remembered that for whatever reason, it was only possible to select the AudioMedia II as a sound input and/or output via the long dead and gone “Sound” control panel – it could not be done via the Monitors and Sound control panel that shipped with Mac OS 8.1. For this reason, the DigiDesign audio driver StuffIt archive provided a copy of this older control panel. I found it and fired it up. Eureka! I was greeted by this happy sight in each of its Input, Output and Volume selections, finally showing DigiDesign (the AudioMedia II) as an available sound input and output:

Sound Control Panel With DigiDesign

Nearly trembling with anticipation, I fired up SimpleSound and made a new selection… Sound! Glorious Sound! It made a noise! I tested all sorts of sound applications after this and THEY ALL WORKED! After such a long struggle, this was serious gratification!

So, for those of you looking to make use of a DigiDesign AudioMedia II NuBus sound card (which I have read repeatedly is one of the best sound cards ever released for 68K Macs) in a Quadra 840AV running Mac OS 8.1, here is the recipe for success (and I bet it works for other versions of Mac OS as well – I simply haven’t tested any but Mac OS 8.1):

1/ Get version 1.4.1 of the AudioMedia II sound drivers at http://archive.digidesign.com/download/sndrvr/

2/ Get version 2.96 of the DigiSystemINIT at http://archive.digidesign.com/download/daedsi/

3/ Extract the Sound Control Panel that is included with the drivers and copy it to your Control Panels folder. Personally, I left the Monitors and Sound control panel there, and put the Sound control panel into a separate folder called Control Panels (disabled), but you can do as you see fit.

4/ Restart the Quadra.

5/ Start the Sound control panel and select the DigiDesign entry for each of Sound Input and Sound Output. Adjust the volume to your liking.

6/ Enjoy!

For me, this has restored sound to my Quadra “840V”, returning it to full 840AV status. I hope that it may be equally successful for you.

New Addition: Multiscan 720 17″ Display

New Addition: Multiscan 720 17

It has been a bit quiet here at the blog of late. Its not that there hasn’t been a lot going on, just that none of it has been particularly “blog worthy”. Today, something that perhaps is. I was able to find an Apple Multiple Scan 720 17″ display (model M4552) on eBay, bid on it, and won it. These are very rare beasts indeed these days – I have only ever seen three of them on eBay and I bid on, and won, all three. The first one was part of the Power Mac 7100 I acquired a few years ago, the second was packed very, very poorly, and was DOA, and the third I just recently took delivery of and is the subject of this post.

I communicated with the seller ahead of shipping, telling him my DOA tale of woe, and asked that he take extra special care with the packing of this latest acquisition. He did, and the monitor arrived safe and sound, and in perfect working order. The photo above shows it connected to the Power Mac 7100 I mentioned above and working like a charm.

I had hoped to connect it to my Quadra 840AV, but it does not seem to be compatible.
After scouring the web for an hour or so, I cannot unearth a User Manual or a Service Manual for the monitor, and so I cannot definitively say that it is not compatible with the Quadra 840AV, but since it works flawlessly with the 7100, and not at all with the 840AV, I think a lack of compatibility is a safe conclusion! The fact that the 720 monitor was released AFTER the Quadra 840AV is also a hint I think.

All is not lost however. I have a NuBus video card that I picked up some time back. I think my next project will be to install that into the 840AV and see if it is capable of driving the big 17 incher. In the meantime, the new 720 monitor is clearer and sharper than the older one, so I have replaced the older one with the newer one on the 7100. So, even if I can’t get it going with the 840AV, there is still benefit.

Vintage Mac Fans Take Note – 3 Quadra 840AVs for Sale Right Now on eBay

Vintage Mac Fans Take Note - 3 Quadra 840AVs for Sale Now on eBay

Just a quick post today to draw your attention to a truly unusual happening – there are no fewer than THREE Quadra 840AVs for sale on eBay right now! The above picture is a screen shot I made this AM.

The Quadra 840AV was the fastest 68K Mac that Apple ever produced. Its’ specs were maxed out for the day, and it was a very expensive machine, which presumably kept sales volume low. This makes 840AVs quite rare on eBay… usually! I waited for around ten months before I was able to purchase one when I was in the market.

However, there are three of them on sale on eBay right now. If you are interested, this is your chance.

I need to note that I am not associated in any way with any of the sellers. I just noticed this unusual alignment of the stars and thought I would point it out. Happy hunting!

Fun with Windows 3.1 (on a 68K Mac!)

Windows 3.1

A little light hearted fun for today’s post. Back in the day when System 7 ruled and Macs were all 68K based, Microsoft finally started to make progress on its stumbling Windows offer and released Windows 3.1 in March of 1992. As history would show, Windows 3.1 and its future variants, including Windows for Workgroups 3.11, were a runaway market success. Windows 3.1 sold over three million copies in its first two months of availability. So successful was Windows 3.1 that Forbes Magazine named Microsoft “the most innovative company operating in the U.S.”

Great news for Microsoft, but bad news for the rest of us, and certainly not news that the Mac community of the time appreciated. The Windows of the day was (in my opinion, and I was a user of it at that time) a dreadful product – unstable, unfriendly and completely lacking in the sort of intuitive operation that made Macs so popular with their faithful. Can you say AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS? 🙂

Against this backdrop, some inventive soul decided to have a little fun with System 7’s astonishingly awful competitor, and created a Mac program called, appropriately enough, Windows3.1. The About dialog for this program sets the tone:

About Windows

I tripped across this program while trolling the UMich archive for Mac abandonware, and initially thought I had found an x86 emulator, with the real Windows 3.1 bundled in. This sounded so unlikley that I had to download it and give it a shot.

This is what greeted me when I fired it up on my Quadra 840AV:

Windows 3.1

It certainly looks quite convincing, and for a moment it had me wondering… had I really come across a Mac based Windows emulator? So, I decided to try running File Manager, just to see what it would do with the Mac file system. Hmmm… here is what that effort netted me:

Error Dialog 01

Notepad? Same sort of thing:

Error Dialog 03

In fact, EVERYTHING that you can click in this program produces some form of nonsense goobledegook error message; just the sort of uninformative, misleading and ultimately unhelpful responses you might have gotten from the real thing – it IS a real Windows 3.1 emulator! 🙂

…well, actually not. Clearly it was a gag program. It still IS a gag program, and I STILL have fun firing it up and clicking away, getting all those silly error messages.

So, if you feel like a little light hearted diversion, head on over to UMich, pick up this program and let ‘er rip – it will make you LOL (to apply today’s nomenclature to yesteryear’s product).

Adventures with Nu Technology

Adventures with Nu Technology

Well, it is official. After much poking, prodding and testing, I am sad to say that something about the motherboard audio circuitry on my Quadra 840AV is irretrievably broken. Do I drop the “A”, rename it to “Quadra 840V” and move on? 🙂

Perhaps someday, but not yet. Never one to accept defeat easily, I began looking for a sound card for the Quadra 840AV – after all, it has several Nubus expansion slots available. In short order, I have found a DigiDesign AudioMedia II card on eBay, and the drivers for it from the DigiDesign support archive (http://archive.digidesign.com/download/sndrvr/). Kudos to DigiDesign for keeping this venerable software available after all this time.

So, I have a Nubus sound card on order, and the software needed to drive it (hopefully, anyway). When the card arrives, I will make my first attempt at expanding a Quadra via its Nubus expansion slots. I am sure it will be eventful. Hopefully, it will result in glorious sound emanating from the Quadra 840AV once more. I’ll keep you posted!

Multi Mac Backup? Go for Their G-Spot!

Multi Mac Backup? Go for Their G-Spot!

Backing up in Style with the G-Drive Q!

Wow, that sounds a bit racy for a blog about vintage Mac technology, doesn’t it? Well, actually, it is the Q-Spot I am talking about anyway, but that doesn’t sound NEARLY as interesting, and anyway, I just couldn’t resist the title! After that title of course, the topic of this post will seem pretty tame – backing up multiple different generations of Macs using only one hard drive, and potentially using that same drive to move data around any or all of these Macs – but still of interest.

As a collector of vintage Macs, perhaps I have a unique problem, but lets consider the problem for a moment anyway. My current generation iMac is equipped with Thunderbolt, Firewire 800 and USB 2.0 ports. At the other end of the scale, my Quadra 660AV offers only SCSI! In between, my G4 Cube supports Firewire 400 and USB 2.0 and my PowerMac G5s supports Firewire 400, Firewire 800 and USB 2.0. Thanks to some aggressive upgrading, my PowerMac 7500 has USB 1.1, in addition to it’s native SCSI (I have purchased a Firewire 400 PCI card for it, with which I hope to upgrade it to Firewire as well). With this wide variety of access technologies, how do I routinely back up all of these machines without a multitude of different backup drives?

Clearly, to use one drive to back up all of these machines, that drive would need to support SCSI, USB 2.0, Firewire 400, Firewire 800 and Thunderbolt. If you should ever find a drive that does all this, please let me know! I haven’t found one yet. The closest I have come, and the inspiration for the title of this post, is G-Technology’s G-Drive Q. It sports the “Q” moniker because it supports 4 different interfaces: USB2.0, Firewire 400, Firewire 800 and eSata. On top of that, the G-Tech Drives are still the coolest, most fashionable looking drives out there. Originally styled to match the look of the PowerMac G5 (and then Mac Pro) aluminium case, they still look fabulous today. Regrettably, they are no longer actively sold by G-Technology and you will need to troll around on eBay to get one.

Even with all those ports, the G-Drive Q still doesn’t solve all of my backup problems, but it does solve most of them. I use my home network to back up my Quadras and my PowerMac 7500 to my PowerMac G5. Then I can directly connect the G-Drive Q to the PowerMac G5 (Firewire 800), the G4 Cube (Firewire 400) and my current generation iMac (Firewire 800). I can then use this G-Drive Q based back up to move files around to just about everything else, even to the PowerMac 7500, since its USB 1.1, while slow, can be used to access the G-Drive Q as well.

Need to backup or move files amongst a family of Mac technologies? Go for the G-Spot!

[For the record, I have no affiliation with G-Technology – this is simply the rambling of a happy customer]

Sounds Like Trouble … And More Trouble

Sounds Like Trouble ... And More Trouble

What do you do when an Audio Visual (AV) computer like the Quadra 840AV looses its Audio? Sounds like trouble to me. Ever since I got my current Quadra 840AV on eBay, I have had trouble with erratic startups. Sometimes I get the startup chime and other times I do not, and the machine just sits there and will not boot (you can hear the hard drive spinning and the power supply fans running, but no boot). I suspect that the power supply is behind all of this, but I have not managed to find a replacement yet, and so when this happens, I just (im)patiently restart the machine repeatedly. Usually, after two or three restart attempts, the chime sounds and the machine boots. Annoying, but not mission critical.

So today, when I went to boot the Quadra 840AV and I did not get the start-up chime I was not worried. I applied my usual restart cure, but after 6 or so unsuccessful restart attempts I started to get worried. Since I suspect that a marginal power supply is behind all of this, I decided to just leave it running (but unbooted) for a time, to ensure that all the power supply and logic board capacitors were fully charged, which should reduce the current draw on the power supply somewhat on the next restart. Imagine my surprise then when 60s or so later, the Quadra suddenly sprang to life and started to boot. How could this be?

It IS worth noting that for both the Quadra 660AV and the Quadra 840AV, start up time is a function of the amount of RAM in the machine. At start-up, if you have not disabled this function, the machine runs a RAM test, the duration of which is pretty much directly proportional to the amount of RAM you have installed. In the case of the Quadra 840AV, I have maxed it out at 128MB, and so the start-up RAM test does take somewhere in the 30s to 60s range to complete. During this period of time, there is ZERO user feedback. You hear the start-up chime and then to all outward appearances, the machine just sits there doing nothing. At the end of the test, the monitor suddenly springs to life and the boot begins, but if you did not know better, you would assume that something was wrong with the machine.

In my case, I did NOT hear the start-up chime, and yet a minute or so later, the machine began its boot. Deducing that perhaps the speaker had failed (it had been making “popping” noises in the last day), and that is why I didn’t hear the chime, I restarted the machine. No chime, but again, after a disconcertingly long RAM test delay it booted and ran. I pulled up the Monitors and Sound control panel and tested the sound function – nothing. OK, so the speaker HAD probably failed. I plugged in a pair of external speakers. Still nothing. What am I to conclude? It definitely sounds like trouble to me … or rather it does not sound at all, which definitely IS trouble. I will have to dig into this and try to sort out what has happened. This IS how failures happen. All of a sudden, one day something just doesn’t work any more.

Meantime, as the title suggests, I have more trouble with sound on this machine… the power supply makes a fairly loud, high pitched and oscillating sort of noise that just burrows into my brain after a while and gives me a headache. I already suspected that the power supply needed help. Now I know for sure. At a minimum, I will need to extract it from the machine and rebuild it with a new, silent fan. I did this to my PowerMac 7500 and the result was glorious silence. You can barely tell that the machine is running. So, I am keeping my eye on eBay for a Quadra 840AV compatible power supply. When I find one, I will pick it up, strip it down, replace the fans and generally rebuild it. Hopefully something close to silence will reign supreme after it is installed into the Quadra.