“Are you interested in any other old Macs?”
Upon hearing those words I knew I was in trouble.
I was in a small electronics thrift store, part of a local recycling center that tries to sell whatever will still power on. I was there to pickup a Macintosh LC II advertised for $20. Normally LC II’s go for a bit more, but they did not have the monitor adapters, keyboards, or mice required to see if the unit worked beyond the startup chime.
I was about to walk out with more than just an LC II.
The salesman brought out two Macs: a Power Mac G5 which I will cover in a later post, and a Power Macintosh 6100/66 DOS. Naturally the G5 could use a DVI monitor and USB keyboard so he showed me that it was in working condition. The 6100 was in the same spot as the LC II: all I knew was that it had a happy startup chime.
I pulled off the 6100 cover and found that the hard drive was gone. But the CD, floppy, RAM, L2 cache, and DOS card were all there.
I made an offer on all three, and walked out thinking “where am I going to put this stuff?”
Rest in Peace
The LC II turned out to be a bust. While it had the happy Mac chime in the store, at home it would alternate between happy chime, sad chime, and an angry machine gun sound as if to warn me against disturbing dead computers. The ADB port wouldn’t work even when the Mac managed to boot from a floppy. The hard drive appeared dead, but then worked fine when I attached it to another Mac with an older SCSI port.
I pulled the 80MB SCSI drive and sent this one back to the recycling center.
Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad
The other two worked fine. I had an old 350MB SCSI drive to put in the 6100 so I went to work on it first.
- I took the 16MB DIMM leftover from my 6300CD upgrade and installed it in the DOS card.
- I installed System 7.5 from a CD.
- The CD did not have the components for the DOS card, so I downloaded and installed the software from Mac GUI.
Without the special cable that lets you switch between Mac and DOS modes there was no good way to test the card. The PC Setup software reported that it was working, but I was done until I could hit eBay and Fry’s for more upgrades. Which I of course did the next day.
- Fry’s sells a 3.6 volt lithium battery that works as a PRAM battery replacement in many Macs, so that came first.
- I got the cable I needed with a couple days thanks to a great eBayer.
- With the cable I could confirm that the DOS card worked, so I downloaded DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.1 from the web and installed both.
- I got another VGA monitor adapter so that I wouldn’t have to share the one on my 6300.
- Next up was a Farallon 10baseT Ethernet transceiver.
- Finally I received and installed two 128MB SIMMs for a total of 264MB of RAM (8MB is on the board). You can actually have up to 520MB of RAM in a 6100, but 256MB SIMMs are rather rare and expensive even today.
6100/66 Test Drive
Much like the 6300, the 6100 is surprisingly usable given the age of the equipment. System 7.5 is fairly quick. Office type applications run well. But anything Internet related ranges from unusably slow to literally unusable. Some sites are still accessible if you’re willing to wait and suffer a less than perfect rendering, but this is not a machine you can use to browse the modern web.
DOS and Windows 3.1 seem to run well enough. Apple’s implementation, which allows you to switch screens based on a hot key and share peripherals like the floppy drive, works flawlessly.
It’s interesting to try and get these networked Macs to see each other via AFP.
- My modern MacBook Pro can share files with and remote control the G5 tower.
- The PowerBook PDQ can mount shares from the G5 tower.
- The 6300 OS 9 partition can access the personal file sharing folder on the G5. But it cannot access any other folders that are shared.
- The 6100 on System 7.5 can’t see anything from the G5, but can see shared folders on the PDQ.
Basically the PowerBook PDQ is acting like a bridge for the 6100. I can download something from Macintosh Garden or Mac GUI on the G5; grab it on the PDQ and move it to a specific folder; then download it from the PDQ to the 6100.
Should You Get One?
Much like with the 6300, if you want to run classic Macintosh games and applications your best bet is to pickup a G4 PowerBook, iMac, or tower that is capable of booting OS 9. If you just want to run classic apps then a G5 with Tiger will be even faster, but beware that compatibility is not 100%, especially with games.
Modern virtual machines will run a lot of old Windows stuff including Windows 3.1, so if that’s your interest you may not even need an old computer, much less an old Mac with a DOS card. SheepShaver isn’t as polished as the commercial PC emulators, but it may satisfy your curiosity if you want to play with Macintosh abandonware.
Still the 6100/66 DOS holds a unique place in Macintosh history as one of the few classic Macs Apple shipped with a literal Windows PC inside. Macs today use Intel processors which means virtual machines can run Windows at full speed. And the Mac is so popular with so many applications that few of us even need Windows.
But back then there was a lot of software which was PC only. Niche categories had few or no comparable offerings on the Mac. There was SoftWindows, but it had to emulate an x86 processor. While impressive it was quite slow compared to a real PC. And it couldn’t run some software at all.
If you’re nostalgic for one of these machines you can still find them cheap online. The only problem is that they use what are now rare 50 pin SCSI hard drives. If you’re going to restore and play with a SCSI drive Mac from this era or earlier, make sure the unit you buy comes with a big enough drive. Another option is the SCSI-2-SD card. I’m looking to add one to this 6100 and will post a review once I do.