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Tinkering With A Vintage Macintosh: Part 1

Recently, I came into possession of an original Macintosh 128K; you know, the January 1984 Macintosh that was previewed to the world by a confusing but extremely memorable SuperBowl ad involving a sledgehammer entering Bill Gates's face. The moment I laid my eyes on this beautifully old piece of hardware, there was but one thought in my mind: I have to write a retro platformer for this thing.

This statement doesn't require too much elaboration, but I will remind the world about my still-in-progress game "Aromatherapy", which was supposed to be an exploration platformer that twanged at one's retro heartstrings by presenting itself as the screen of a CRT monitor. An idea I was particularly proud of in the conception of Aromatherapy was that the monitor was supposed to start glitching and breaking more and more as you advanced in the game. A lot of the idea was based around how much nostalgia I have for a time period of computing I did not even live through. While I haven't worked on Aromatherapy in some months now (since March), I am interested in continuing work on it again when inspiration strikes me again. Until then, I've decided to occupy myself with a perhaps even more inane venture.

So, there's the goal: write a platformer for the Macintosh 128K. Whether or not this platformer runs on the Mac OS or is just 68k assembly inside a beautiful Macintosh box is yet to be decided. However, for this post, I have decided to focus on a slightly smaller goal: getting the Macintosh to boot. Therein lies the first problem of this post:

Problem 1: I do not have a Macintosh 128K system disk.

Now, it is possible that the simplest and most reasonable thing to do here would be to go on to eBay and try to buy myself a system disk, but that sounds extremely boring and we will not consider the thought of it for another moment. Besides, a lot of what I will describe in this post lays the groundwork for tools we will find necessary in upcoming posts. No, what I'm going to do here is make myself a system disk.

Everything I describe in this post is liable to be a function of the exact hardware and software I am in possession of. Here is the hardware that I will be using:

  • Macintosh 128K (January 1984; the November 1984 model should also work)
  • Powerbook 145B (what is relevant here is the existence of an Apple "SuperDrive", and the ability to run System 7)
  • MacBook Pro 9,2 (mid-2012 with CD drive)
  • Sony USB Floppy Disk Drive
  • Techworks 3.5" 1.44MB Floppy Disks
  • Memorex 3.5" 1M 2S/2D Floppy Disks

Here is the software that I will be using:

We return to the problem statement. I have a Macintosh 128K and no system disk. My first thought was to just download a disk image from the internet (which I did) and then dd it onto a floppy disk. There are a few problems in the second part of that thought. The Macintosh 128K is only capable of reading from a 400K floppy disk.

NOTE: This post was sitting in my drafts folder, incomplete. I didn't want to let it fester, so here it is.

Hatkirby on September 9th, 2015 at 1:00:00am
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