Be­come a retro gamer

Turn a clas­sic Mac into a games console

Mac Format - - LOVE YOUR MAC -

1 Screen

The Macin­tosh SE has a 9-inch, black-and-white CRT dis­play with a res­o­lu­tion of 512x342 pix­els.

4 Disk drive

The SE came with ei­ther dual, 800K floppy drives, or a sin­gle floppy drive and a 20MB hard disk.


The Mo­torola 68000 runs at 7.8MHz and has 68,000 tran­sis­tors. A mod­ern Core i7 has over two bil­lion.

5 Key­board

The Ap­ple Desk­top Bus in­ter­face is ob­so­lete now, but the SE’s key­board ac­tion is still re­spon­sive 30 years on.

3 Mem­ory

1MB was a lot in 1987. The first Macin­tosh, re­leased just 3 years ear­lier, had one-eighth as much.

6 Ex­pan­sion ports

As well as two ADB ports, the Macin­tosh SE has two RS-422 se­rial ports for a printer and a mo­dem.

A work­ing slice of 30-year-old com­puter his­tory for un­der £100 is an in­cred­i­ble bar­gain

The Macin­tosh SE is prob­a­bly the eas­i­est of the all-in-one clas­sic

Macs to ob­tain sec­ond-hand. I found a work­ing one on eBay for un­der £60, in­clud­ing postage. It didn’t have a key­board though, so I had to bid on a vin­tage Ap­ple key­board too, which added £40 to the to­tal ex­pen­di­ture. Still, a work­ing slice of com­puter his­tory from 30 years ago for un­der £100 is an in­cred­i­ble bar­gain if you ask me. And a ridicu­lous waste of money, if you ask my chil­dren.

The key­board ini­tially suf­fered from a Re­turn key that was per­ma­nently stuck down, but when I took it apart to try clean­ing the mech­a­nism, it sud­denly re­cov­ered. I think the rear case screws had just been done up too tight and the cir­cuit board was flex­ing against the keys. The mouse was the old ball type, nat­u­rally, and this was also a bit sticky, so I cleaned the ball and rollers with cot­ton buds dipped in gin. Un­for­tu­nately, whereas sim­ply re­mov­ing the case had mag­i­cally fixed the key­board, the same process some­how mag­i­cally broke the mouse and the but­ton stopped work­ing when I re­assem­bled it. I spent half an hour on my hands and knees look­ing for a non-ex­is­tent spring that might pos­si­bly have fallen out with my notic­ing. Once I was sat­is­fied that no such spring was there to be found, I added a blob of hot glue to the top of the mouse but­ton switch to act as a spacer, and the but­ton re­gained its for­mer sat­is­fy­ing click.

An­cient soft­ware

Lode Run­ner wasn’t in­cluded on this Mac. It was orig­i­nally a free game, but it had to be passed from friend to friend on 3.5-inch floppy disks. You can down­load it from the in­ter­net still, but the Macin­tosh SE uses an 800K floppy disk drive with a com­pletely ob­so­lete drive mo­du­la­tion, so you can’t cre­ate diskettes for it from a ‘mod­ern’ 1.44MB USB floppy disk drive.

Rather than try to con­nect an ’80s Mac to the in­ter­net and down­load the game di­rectly, I bought an 800K diskette that con­tains a col­lec­tion of clas­sic Mac games from res­cuemy clas­sic­ for about £12. When it ar­rived, the first thing I did was copy the diskette’s con­tents to the SE’s tiny 20MB hard disk – and it was just as well that I did, be­cause this floppy disk drive had just one gasp of life left in it. Part way through the file copy, with just one game left to go, it failed. Since then, it hasn’t man­aged to read or write to another diskette. I built a sim­ple drive head cleaner to try to re­move three decades’ worth of grime and ox­ide (see the How To guide on page 78), but

even this wasn’t enough to res­ur­rect the drive to copy the one re­main­ing game to the Mac.

Rat­tling loose

Af­ter I had run about 10 or 20 passes with the diskette cleaner, the slid­ing diskette cover pinged off and got stuck in­side the floppy drive. Care­fully wag­gling about in­side with a but­ter knife didn’t free the cover, so I re­signed my­self to open­ing up the case and dis­man­tling the floppy disk drive com­pletely. With hind­sight, I don’t re­ally know why I both­ered, since the floppy drive wasn’t work­ing any­way, but luck­ily it didn’t mat­ter. The top two case screws on the Macin­tosh SE are so deeply re­cessed be­hind the car­ry­ing han­dle that my long­est Torx T15 screw­driver couldn’t reach. I tried as­sem­bling another elab­o­rate con­trap­tion by chain­ing to­gether the screw­driver heads from sev­eral elec­tric screw­drivers but the end one got wedged. And while I was rat­tling that to try to free that, the floppy disk slide cover fell out by it­self! I de­cided to quit while I was ahead and gave up on clean­ing the drive heads.

The games that suc­cess­fully copied from the floppy diskette in­clude pretty de­cent ver­sions of Tetris and Mis­sile Com­mand, so I’m quite happy with my clas­sic Mac games ma­chine. It sits among my grow­ing Mac mu­seum in my sit­ting room and I leave it plugged in, so that guests can try and beat my high score at Mis­sile Com­mand (they never will). But, frus­trat­ingly, the one game that didn’t copy across to it was Lode Run­ner, so my retro gam­ing itch still isn’t quite scratched yet.

The Macin­tosh SE uses an 800K floppy disk drive with a com­pletely ob­so­lete drive mo­du­la­tion

1 6 4 2 3 5

Mis­sile Com­mand was a great way to show off the Mac’s mouse in­ter­face – it’s vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to play with a key­board.

Be care­ful with mech­a­nisms when clean­ing un­der keys.

Even though Lode Run­ner’s graph­ics are mono­chrome, that be­lies the con­tin­ued ad­dic­tive­ness of the game.

This rather re­volt­ing mess is what shook out of the Macin­tosh SE’s key­board.

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