• apple,  g3,  powerbook,  restoration,  vintage

    Wallstreet Rebuild Project Comes to an Unsatisfying End

    Back in July, I started a new project to rebuild my PowerBook G3 Wallstreet for the third time. I’ve been working on diagnosing and testing spare parts on and off since then. I even went as far as getting a second donor machine for parts.

    In that time, I’ve become and expert in disassembling and reassembling the Wallstreet series laptops. Different RAM boards. Different CPU boards. Cleaning. Reseating. A replacement disk drive. Cleaning again. Removing the PRAM battery and letting it sit on the charger for an hour before attempting to start it up. And, yes, swapping the power in/sound board and power distribution board. Nothing worked. Several discussion threads on 68kmla.org that suggested that the G3-series of PowerBook laptops can be extremely fussy with replacement parts.

    After reading through many of the forums posts, I started thinking about trying to find a new source of spare parts on eBay or used Mac resellers. I even started thinking about trying to work out the specific technical requirements for finding compatible replacement surface mount capacitors in an attempt to replace them all.

    Recently, while scouring eBay for a second possible donor Wallstreet laptop, I ran across a listing for a Power Macintosh 7200. The 1998 Wallstreet uses a PowerPC 750 G3 CPU running at 266MHz. The slightly older PowerMac 7200 from 1995, runs on a PowerPC 601 CPU running at 120MHz. I placed a bid on the PowerMac and won it.

    At the end of the day, I’m a little disappointed in myself for not being able to restore the PowerBook G3 to working condition. I have to admit that there was a strong feeling of nostalgia that was tugging at me to get it working again since I used to use one of these notebooks early in my IT career. I felt that the PowerMac would be a suitable replacement for what I was looking for in 2021, which is an Apple Macintosh with an OEM floppy drive; one that can read 800k and 400k floppy disks so I can make disk image files for use with modern computers and emulation software. Many of my older floppy disks are old Mac System 6 and Newton software disks that I want to be able to carry forward and archive.

    So, for now, with both of my Wallstreet G3 laptops shipped off to the local recycling center, my repair effort has come to an unsatisfying end. On the bright side, the PowerMac 7200 is in fantastic condition and I am looking forward to upgrading it and installing vintage Classic Mac OS software on it.

  • apple,  g3,  powerbook,  restoration,  vintage

    PowerBook G3 Wallstreet Technical Resources

    Apple Service Source PowerBook G3 Guide, pg 11

    The other day I mentioned that I was getting started one last time to try to get my 1998 PowerBook G3 up and running again. This is the third time it has failed after having replaced the Sound/AC In board (820-0986-B) and having to replace the 4GB ATA IDE OEM hard disk (and the keyboard, because I’m a klutz).

    The PowerBook G3-Series

    It is important when planning your repair of a PowerBook G3 that there are multiple version of this laptop. It says so right on the bottom of the laptop – “Macintosh PowerBook G3 Series“.

    Identifying the specific version of PowerBook G3 can be a bit tricky.

    My particular PowerBook G3 is identified as being the September 1998 edition, using the code names PDQ (Pretty Damn Quick), or the one I knew it by, “Wallstreet”. According to EveryMac.com, PDQ was a refinement to the Wallstreet model to address inventory problems that Apple was grappling with at the time. Looking at the Wikipedia page for the PowerBook G3 Series, you quickly realize that there are three generations of PowerBook G3: The original Kanga version (1997) based on the earlier PowerBook 3400c, the Wallstreet models (May 1998 and September 1998), Lombard (1999) and the final revision known as Pismo (2000). Technical distinctions aside, I still plan on regerring to my particular unit as ‘Wallstreet’, since it is the style the PDQ is a descendant of.

    When verifying which vintage Mac I am working with, I like to use the excellent MacTracker application for macOS, iOS/iPadOS and the EveryMac.com website.

    Technical Resources

    Now that we can identify the particular model of Macintosh, we will need to refer to technical documentation to get a specs readout and learn how to disassemble the computer for repair.

    I like to start with the above mentioned app and website, but I do also like to look up the technical specifications of the PowerBook G3 in the Apple KB support archive.

    Another resource that I like to look up is the Apple Service Source documentation. AppleRepairManauls.com has a wide selection of technical information about Apple hardware, including the PowerBook G3 M4753 Service Source manual.

    If you are more of the get straight to what I need to know tear down kind of person, PowerbookMedic.com and iFixIt.com have Wallstreet disassembly directions. To help diagnose the problem with your Wallstreet G3, iFixIt.com has put together a troubleshooting checklist.

    Both vendors offer spare parts sales. PowerBookMedic.com also offers send in repair services, however, when dealing with computers that are over 20 years old, finding a good source of reliable replacement parts is becoming difficult to source.

    Mac OS 8 Software Disc

    Once the hardware is repaired, you may need to reinstall Mac OS. This is something that I like to do with all of my restored systems. At the time of this post, I was able to track down a restore CD on MacintoshGarden.org for the entire PowerBook G3 Series of laptops. You will need to burn the disk image .dmg file on to a physical CD before using it.

  • apple,  g3,  powerbook,  restoration,  vintage

    PowerBook G3 Rebuild

    Some time ago, I purchased a used PowerBook G3 Wallstreet laptop. I had used one at work in the early 2000s and wanted to add one to my vintage collection.

    Being over 16 years old when I purchased it, needing some work to getting it running properly again was to be expected. Shortly after purchasing it, the Sound/AC board had gone bad. I was able to source a working part and a repair guide from PowerBookMedic.com.

    G3 motherboard in chassis with sound/AC in board (top) and charger board (bottom).

    More time passed and the stock 4GB ATA IDE hard disk failed. I sourced another OEM part and installed it. While reassembling the G3, I accidentally broke one of the clips for the spacebar takes to a stupid mistake. Another OEM part later, the PowerBook G3 was put back together. Except, after replacing the disk drive and the keyboard, the laptop refused to power on again. And, so, the 1998 PowerBook G3 sat. And sat. And sat. Until today.

    Today, I decided to stip the unit down and look for the reason why my troublesome PowerBook refused to boot. Using the repair guide, I disassembled the 22-year old computer once again. As I removed components from the chassis there were no obvious defects. The main Lithium Ion battery pack was not swollen and did not show signs of leakage. Likewise, the motherboard, the sound/AC In board, and the charger board did not appear to have an erupted, bulging, or leaking electronic capacitors. Aside from a few soldering jobs on my eMate and Original Newton MessagePad, my knowledge of electronics is fairly limited. Still, nothing appears to be out of order.

    System components: modem (top), processor card with PowerPC CPU and RAM (center left), Apple 4GB ATA disk (center right), charger board (bottom left) and the sound/AC in board (bottom right)

    Having torn down the PowerBook and not finding any obvious defects, I am going to attempt one more round of repairs on my G3 laptop. My plan this time is to source another sound/AC In board, since it was the cause of the first failure. After having had to replace the power supply during my Power Macintosh G4 Quicksilver rebuild, I also plan on sourcing a replacement charger board.

    Since this will likely be the last time I will attempt to service my old guy, I am also thinking about options for replacing the battery pack. It will eventually leak, and I don’t want to have to deal with electrolyte damage. The G3-series PowerBooks were designed to accept two battery packs – one in each of the two module bays. I would ideally like to keep the 20x CD-ROM module in the right bay and loading in an Apple floppy disk drive or a third-party Iomega Zip Drive in the in the left module bay. As a last resort, I will look for a period accurate spacer that might be available.

    I also plan on looking into replacing the OEM 4GB ATA IDE hard disk with a 2.5″ SSD solution. I used a similar 3.5″ SATA SSD to IDE conversion kit in the aforementioned G4 Quicksilver rebuild project. It really speed up machine performance and I am hoping to do the same with the G3 Wallstreet if I can find a bridge accessory that can fit into the 2.5″ drive tray.

    It would be nice to rebuild and upgrade my G3 Wallstreet laptop. However, given it’s age and previous failures, for me, this rebuild attempt will be more about the journey than the end result. That said, if I have learned anything from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, launched in April 1990 and still making scientific observations today, it’s that you shouldn’t count out old hardware as long as someone is still willing to service it.

  • mac os x,  macintosh,  security,  vintage

    Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger’s Java Updates

    Running Mac OS X Tiger? You’ll have some Java updates to apply!

    When restoring vintage Macs, I like to upgrade Mac OS / Mac OS X / OS X to the latest release to make sure that I have the very latest software on my gear. For my latest project, I am installing Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and all of the available updates from DVD and Software Update. Looks likes Java has had quite a few updates.

  • apple,  messagepad,  newton,  vintage

    Patch Newton OS 1.0 to Use the Getting Started Card

    An Original Newton MessagePad with the Getting Started PC Card

    Over the last year, I have gotten into retro computing. More specifically, restoring vintage computers to keep myself busy. Since the start of 2020, I have restored a 2001 Power Macintosh G4 Quicksilver, a 1997 eMate 300 notebook, and a 1993 Original Newton MessagePad (OMP).

    When I got my OMP, it was sold as-is, broken, and incomplete. To get the OMP working again, I just needed to put in a few hours of research, another couple of hours for electronics soldering work, and a pair of inexpensive electrolytic capacitors. I still have lots of room for improvement with my soldering skills, but as far as my OMP was concerned, the hard part was behind me. Now, it was time to find the missing pieces for my little green guy.

    Front and back of Apple’s 1993 Getting Started Newton Card

    One of the accessories that I have been searching for is an Apple Getting Started program card. After several months of searching eBay, I finally won an auction for one of these cards. These black and red credit card sized PCMCIA cards, PC Cards for short, include a few little programs that new Newton owners use can use to get to know their device better. For example, on the 1993 version of the card that I have, are the Handwriting Instructor (Instructor), Newton Tour (Tour), and CalliGrapher (Game) applications. When my card arrived, I early loaded it into my OMP. I was created with an error message that stated that the card couldn’t be read and prompted me to erase the card.

    I was not expecting this error message.

    I also tried the card in my other Newtons and my eMate and got similar results. I was starting to think that the card might be bad or the previous owner might have tried to use it for something else. Still, this is a ROM card, which can only be read, so I started to thing that my recently refurbished OMP, specifically, it’s card reader, might have been bad. So I started searching the Internet for clues.

    One real possibility was that I was jut holding it wrong 1. I started to get the hang of Newton OS 2.x and the MessasgePad 2×00, but I am less familiar with Newton OS 1.x and the 100-series MessagePads.

    I found a NewtonTalk.net archive that lead me to a blog post by Pawel over on his AppleNewton.co.uk blog. Pawel was having a an issue where his cards weren’t being recognized by his OMP either. Thankfully for Pawel, his solution was an easy one. Unlike the MessagePad 2×00 and eMate devices, the OMP requires that the card lock switch be re-engaged before the card can be read. But, that wasn’t my problem because I had inserted the card and engaged the card lock. So, what was my problem then?

    The OMP had a PC card lock switch in addition to the eject button.

    Fortunately, the solution to my problem was also straight forward, if not slightly more difficult to implement than flipping a slider on the OMP.

    Early Newton devices, including the OMP and it’s 100-series siblings have volatile memory in them. Unlike or iPhones or later model Newtons, when the batteries deplete, the contents of memory are lost on these old devices. To save your data from being lost, there are three ways to protect your data. The first is a backup coin cell battery in the Newton that can preserve the contents of memory while you are changing out the main battery. You can also plug-in the Newton to achieve the same effect if you don’t have a coin cell battery installed. A bold move, but some people like living life on the edge. Secondly, you can back up the contents of the Newton to a backup PC card. These cards were available from Apple and third-parities. The third option is to use the Newton Backup Utility (NBU) to save the contents of the Newton’s memory to your Classic Mac OS or Windows PC. All of this is to say that my OMP had lost the contents of RAM memory long before I received it. As a result, when I was able to finally start it up again, it had reverted to the software that was loaded into it’s ROM, which included Newton OS 1.00.

    Turning to the good folks on the NewtonTalk list lead me to the answer that Newton OS 1.00 is just too old for the Getting Started card that was included with the OMP. Matej pointed me to an old Newton FAQ that was written back in 1995 by Jean-Christophe Bousson that documented the fact that Newton OS 1.01 or later is needed to use the Getting Started card. The Newton OS 1.05 and 1.11 update packages are available for download from the United Newton Network Archive (UNNA).

    The Getting Started card needs Newton OS 1.01 or later to work.

    With the answer in hand, I turned my attention to the task of actually installing Newton 1.01. Like a fool, I read the release notes for the Newton OS 1.05 update. It specifically mentioned that users should backup your Newton before installing the update as installing any of the 1.0x updates erases your Newton. Except, I couldn’t get my OMP to backup to any of my computers. Not my vintage Power Mac G4 Quicksilver; not my iMac; and not my M1 MacBook Pro. It also didn’t matter which tool I used. Newton Connection Kit (NCK), Newton Connection Utilities (NCU), macOS Newton Connection (NCX). I decided to give up on the backup step since I didn’t have any data to save. I put NCX into Newton 1 install mode and the 1.05 update package immediately transferred to the OMP. From there, I was able to run the update without issue. Once the upgrade to Newton OS 1.05 was complete, when I loaded the Getting Started PC card into my OMP, everything worked as expected.

  • apple,  messagepad,  newton,  vintage

    Restoring a Newton MessagePad to Working Order

    My restored Apple Newton MessagePad (1993)

    I recently picked up an as-is Apple Newton MessagePad on eBay. I mostly wanted it for the accessories: a pair of third-party game PC cards, a 9W AC adapter, and the original Apple Mac OS (Classic) and Windows 3.5-inch floppy disks.

    When I got the Newton, I realized that it powered on, but there was no sound and the display was on but not displaying an image. As it turns out, this is a common problem with vintage Newtons and can be fixed with just a couple of new capacitors.

    To fix the original Newton MessagePad (OMP), also known as the H1000, you need a PH00 Philips head screwdriver, a spudger, a soldering iron and a small amount of solder, 1x 100µF 16V capacitor, and 1x 3.3µF 50V capacitor. I used the capacitors from the OCR 24Value 500pcs Electrolytic Capacitor Assortment Box Kit I purchased from Amazon.

    I don’t have any formal electronics training, so I relied on Colin’s This Does Not Compute video, Fixing a Common (and Inevitable) Apple Newton Problem as a general overview of the work that needed to be done. Once I had a basic idea of the repair job, I used EkriirkE’s Restoring/Repairing an Original Apple Newton MessagePad 100 (OMP H1000), start-to-finish video as a detailed repair guide.

    I hope that if you come across a Newton OMP / H1000 in a similar condition as mine, that you can use this information and repair yours also.

  • games,  ms-dos,  vintage,  vmware,  windows

    Creating Image Files for Use with Virtual Machines

    This weekend, I started a small project to install some old DOS and Windows 95-family games into virtual machines (VMs) that I have running in VMware Fusion (VMware Workstation on Windows PCs).

    Trying to get old MS-DOS games, like Quake and Tie Fighter working have proven to be particularly difficult as I have long forgotten the art of configuring drivers in autoexec.bat and confg.sys.

    To help, I have found two tools that have been useful in this weekend’s hacking effort to get the games loaded and relearn what was forgotten.

    The first is Apple’s own Disk Utility. Disk Utility can be used for a number of things on macOS, but it can be used to bundle up the contents of a folder into a floppy disk .img file. Apple has a really good step-by-step KB support article on how to make disk images.

    I wasn’t having much success in using Disk Utility to create CD and DVD .iso files. So, rather than waste many hours on troubleshooting, I chose to download InfraRecorder for Windows and load it into a Windows 10 Insider VM. The free software can be downloaded from Ninite.com – a site the provides safe utility software for Windows PCs without all of the malware, bloatware, adware…you get the idea.

    Finally, if you are looking for some old boot disks or OS installers, WinWorld has a full library of software that should have what you are looking for. For me, I needed that Windows 98 Second Edition floppy to get the oakcdrom.sys file since my original floppy went missing over a decade ago.

  • apple,  lifestyle,  macintosh,  newton,  vintage

    These Old Macs

    One of the things that I have been doing to keep myself busy during the craziness that is the COVID-19 pandemic (please keep wearing your face coverings in public) is to refurbish some of the old Macintosh computers in my collection.

    In particular, I am working on a PowerMac G4 Quicksilver (2001) restoration and a PowerBook G3 (1998) repair. Neither machine is working right now, which is understandable since they are 19 and 22 years old, respectively. Rather than talk about each repair project, I figure it would be more helpful to share some of the resources that I have found online to help others repair and overhaul their vintage and obsolete status Macs.

    Repair Information and Manuals

    When many Mac enthusiasts think of repair guides and tear down instructions, we think of iFixit.com. They offer a great service for sure and I have ordered my share of repair kits from them. But they are not the only game in town.

    If you are looking to repair or restore an old PowerBook, you will want to take a look at PowerbookMedic.com. They have repair guides and reasonably priced spare parts to get your old MacBook back in top condition. They also offer some parts and repair services for the iMac and Mac mini.

    Another great site is AppleRepairManuals.com [http://www.applerepairmanuals.com/index.php#tools]. They have a wealth of information in the form of Apple service guides as well as other helpful tips that you will need while servicing your new and old Mac, iPod, Newton, or Lisa.

    Finding Spare Parts for Your TLC Project

    Once you have found the part number for the component that needs replacing, sure, you can use eBay. Many of my component searches start there. But there are other online retail options that specialize in vintage hardware. Depending on the Mac, Other World Computing (OWC) might have the part. I recently purchased an inexpensive PRAM battery from them for the G4. OWC also has a neat IDE/ATA to SATA adapter and SSD conversion kits. Once I have the G4 booting again, I plan to replace an old spinning hard disk with a 120GB SATA SSD. That should give that old boy a nice little speed bump.

    One of my new favorite sites for spare parts is UsedMac.com. Need a replacement IDE drive for your Mac, a floppy drive for your PowerBook, or an external Jaz drive? No problem. I just recently ordered a 6GB 2.5″ IDE notebook drive from them. It was super cheap.

    The Newton

    I came to the Newton late in its life. Like weeks before Steve Jobs came back to Apple and killed it late. I am still intrigued by the Newton and how cool it looks. Old Newtons and eMate portables can still be found on eBay. But sometimes you need that special part. For all things Newton, you will want to check out these great resources.

    Newton Research offers a modern version of the Newton Connection Utilities that will run on modern versions of Mac OS. I was able to connect my Newton MessagePad 2100 to my Macbook Pro 2016 with Mojave.

    Chuma.org has a good write up for how to get Ethernet working on your MessagePad.

    Don’t forget UGreen’s USB 2.0 Type A to RS232 DB9 serial cable. This UGreen cable has a built-in FTDI serial converter so you won’t need a driver on the Mac / Windows PC side to get your Newton to connect and sync.

    Software

    Restoring hardware is only half of the equation. Once you have restored your computer, you may need to download and OS for it. Let’s face it, 1.4MB floppies, in my collection at least, aren’t holding up well. CDs are holding up much better. Regardless if you are the victim of bit rot, scratched discs, or may not be the most organized person in the world, the Internet has you covered.

    MacintoshRepository.org has a wide selection of Apple system software for the Mac, Apple //, and the Lisa. WinWorld’s library of Apple-related software is rather extensive with disk images for System Software 0-6, Mac OS and Mac OS X. You can also download A/UX and NeXTStep.

  • apple,  hackintosh,  mac,  mac os x,  vintage

    Apple Clones and the “Hackintosh”

    In the world of technology, there are clones and then there are hacks. Depending on who’s point of view is being used and when, clones and hacks can have both positive or negative connotations. Take for instance the well documented case of Samsung outright cloning, or copying, many aspects of early iPhone hardware and software. When talking about personal computers, Macintosh and Apple // clones are fully licensed machines while “Hackintosh” PCs are unauthorized illegal work-alike machines.

    In Apple’s long history of making computer for the rest of us, few companies have received special status from Apple to make Macintosh clones. In the mid-1990s, PowerComputing’s PowerWave 604/132 and the UMax SuperMac S900/200 are two examples of favored status Macintosh clones.

    A Hackintosh computer on the other hand, is an unlicensed personal computer built from commodity hardware and modified in such as way as to boot the macOS/MacOS/OS X operating system. To do so, one must bypass Apple’s licensing restrictions and copy protections. Hacked copies of Apple’s computers are nothing new. Dating back to the 1980s, the VTech Laser 128 and the Franklin Corporation Franklin Ace 100 were two popular, and unlicensed, Apple // clones. The name “Hackintosh” itself is an amalgamation of the words “hack” and “Macintosh”. In Apple’s view, a Hackintosh is a very bad thing. From the point of tech enthusiasts, a Hackintosh is a call back to the early days of computing when tinkering with hardware and software to make something new or work in ways that were not intended by the original thing is exciting and challenging.

    In my view, having worked with both PowerComputing PowerWave “Macs” and a “Hackintosh” or two, the experience is a little bit of both. While PowerComputing boxes were fully licensed clones of the Apple PowerMacintosh PCs of the day, and could boot and use current versions of classic MacOS, I always felt that the commodity hardware was inferior to the more expensive components in Apple’s PCs. For example, after ordering a fleet of 12 PowerWave towers, six of them were defective right out of the box.

    Tinkering with a Dell Mini 9 netbook to coax it into running Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard was both a fun science project and an oddity in the office after many of the Macs had been replaced with Windows PCs. The amount of hacking the Dell netbook to install a modified version of the computer’s BIOS and hardware driver software was not for the uninitiated.

    One the plus side, a Hackintosh offers an enthusiast a number of configuration and optimization options that are just not possible with an official Macintosh. The ability to use any case style or video card are just two examples. One big draw of a Hackintosh PC is price. Hackintoshes offer a means to get the same or better raw computing performance out of readily available hardware at a much lower price. I remember the point about price being promoted in an old computer book I purchased in the early 1990s titled “How to Build a Cat Mac”. Remember the time when we actually went to a book store to buy books? The premise of the book is that you would take the motherboard out of an old Mac and retrofit it into a PC case and use PC components with it. Unable to afford a Mac as an early teen, let alone take it part to tinker with it, building a Cat Mac was not an option back then, even if I did find the idea of building my own customized Mac fascinating.

    However, there are some significant downsides to using clones and Hackintosh PCs. For one, Hackintosh computers are not legal from a software licensing perspective. While not usually a serious issue for a home enthusiast, trying to build a business around selling Hackintosh computers to consumers is a precarious position at best. Such was the case for Psystar Corporation and OpenCore Computer currently. For me personally, inferior battery life on the Dell Mini 9 Hackintosh was a deal breaker as was having to wait for authorized clone makers to update and release their modified versions of MacOS and driver software after Apple released the software for the Macintosh. For me, not having the latest and greatest software bits to play with is a deal breaker. While I am glad that Hackintosh computers exist from a hobbyist standpoint, I much prefer to have a computer and operating system that just work. While I don’t have my Laser 128, my Dell Mini 9 netbook, or even my old Cat Mac book, I do remember all three fondly and am grateful that I was able to learn from and tinker with them.