In July I bought an Apple Macintosh SE of a Dutch guy. It is in a very good shape, he said he used it just for work back then. I wanted to buy this to know how Macs (or let’s say old computers in general) were used in the 80s. I also think it’s pretty neat to look at, it got some kind of cult status.
Only problem is: Since it was a Dutchman I bought it of, everything is in Dutch. I don’t know any Dutch.
But that shouldn’t be a huge problem, I bet there is an English version I can download, load it to a 3.5 Floppy and pop it into the Mac, I thought to myself… Well, unfortunately it ain’t that easy.
The Floppy Drive
The floppy drive of the Mac SE (not just the SE, the Plus and many others used that drive as well) doesn’t support ‘normal’ HD (high density) 3.5 floppys. The Macintosh SE uses an 800k floppy drive, which doesn’t support 1.44MB-floppys, only, you guessed it, 800k floppy. As far as I understand, the 800k floppys are the counterpart of the 720k floppys which were used by IBM PC’s. They’re physically the same DD (double-density) floppys, but the IBM PC used a fixed speed to write on them, where Apple used a variable speed. That’s why the capacity is 800k instead of 720k. So even of I have a DD-floppy, I couldn’t just copy the necessary files onto the 720k floppy and put it into the Mac, the Mac couldn’t read that floppy.
Fortunately I was able to get a DD-floppy from my dad, so I tried to format that floppy with the Mac SE… and it worked! So now I have a floppy which is formatted in a way that the Mac can read.
I tried to eject it but for some reason the floppy would’t come out. The flap were in the right position but it wouldn’t come out… There is a button to the right of the Mac, which I can use to eject the floppy manually. I used a pliers and that button to get it out, it worked, but for some reason the floppy drive is turning, even if there is no floppy inside. So I guess I have to open the Mac and find out why that floppy drive wouldn’t stop. None the less I tried that floppy on my PC, but surprise, surprise: it cannot read it. So yeah that experiment brought me nothing instead of a now malfunctioning floppy drive.
I later found out, that there’s even an official version of the exact same Mac SE that I have, but it has a floppy drive which supports the ‘normal’ 1.44MB HDD floppys, called the Mac SE FHDH… what a bummer.
Opening the Mac
So me and my father opened the Mac to figure out why the floppy drive is now malfunctioning. Opening the Mac is surprisingly easy, there are only a few screws and nothing is glued together, not like the new Mac’s.
After opening the Mac we had to remove the mainboard to get access to the floppy drive. The floppy drive is screwed to the hard drive. So now, that we have the floppy drive out of the Mac, we applied some WD-40 to the mechanical parts. We assumed that would solve the problem because it moved a bit sluggish.
We put everything back together and booted the Mac. Unfortunately it still made that sound. So we opened it up so we would have the floppy drive again. We figured out that the servo-motor, which controls the floppy up and down to get it into a safe position, wasn’t moving anymore but was endlessly spinning. That’s why it made that noise. There is a switch that makes the motor stop, but it never turned to that position.
We removed that servo and opened it up. We found the wrongdoer. It appears that one of the gears in the transmission was broken. I took it out of the case, it even broke some more after a while. Because it is out of plastic, it got brittle after all that time.
It looks like I have to replace it, god knows where I’m getting a replacement of that gear…
But since it is the servo, that only controls the up and down movement of the floppy, which can also be made manually with little hole on the right of the floppy drive in the front panel, it isn’t a huge deal. It’s just not possible that the Mac ejects the floppy itself. So for now we just didn’t put that servo on the floppy drive and we screwed everything together. And voilà, no noise and the floppy drive actually works again.
Now I can continue to find a way to put that English System on the Mac…
One way to transfer files onto the Mac would be over the SCSI port. It’s a port which was used for external hard-drives, printers or later on cd-drives.
One idea would be to transfer those files via two ZIP-drives. One ZIP-drive is connected to my PC to get those files onto the Zip disk. The second ZIP-drive is connected via SCSI to the Macintosh.
I was looking around on many sites, couldn’t find one that actually had a SCSI port. Most of them had parallel port…
I also looked for an SCSI hard drive. Apparently they are still used in server racks. Wasn’t able to find one either, but even if I found one I would still have needed some kind of SCSI-USB Converter.
Another way would have been to use a SCSI2SD Adapter. It’s a card which emulates a storage over SCSI with an SD Card. Those can also be used for Amigas or pretty much any device which had a SCSI port. It was probably my first choice but I found something else…
External Floppy Port
So there is a guy named Steve Chamberlin, who created this neat Emulator for the external Floppy Drive Port. https://www.bigmessowires.com/floppy-emu/
The best part of it is probably, that the Mac SE is confirmed compatible. It’s also compatible with the Apple II or Lisa, who knows maybe I’ll get one of these later on…
So I immediately bought one.
Surprisingly the package already arrived after one week!
So I tried out the emulator and it worked perfectly.
There was already the System 7.1 included with the SD-Card so I installed it.
It’s technically a downgrade since there was a 7.5 version on the Mac, but yeah everything is in Dutch :/
I’m very glad the installation worked 🙂
to be updated