Since the beginning of the year, I have felt the urge to expand my blog, while it is all well and good writing about the hardware I come across. I felt like there was more I could do with BMV aside from covering what hardware I was using. So with that in mind, I have decided to occasionally interview members of the gaming and computer community. who’s work I admire and appreciate.
My first interview will be with someone who has been with me almost every step of the way during my Macintosh repair, yet until a month ago, I had never spoke to. I truly was ecstatic when he said yes to a Q&A session via email and can’t thank him enough for his time. I also could not think of anyone else I would like to open up this new chapter of ByteMyVdu.
So watch this space and don’t forget to keep on geeking!
The Story So far
So, for what seems now like an eternity, I have been working on the old Macintosh Plus. I certainly feel like I’ve been through a war with this computer to say the least. Any of you following my blog with know I have spent some time restoring this classic computer. At the beginning of last year, the display died, leading me to fault-find the analog board and replace component after component, finally getting the beast to power up, only to have the floppy drive start jamming up. It really has been a labour of love and not one I should care to repeat any time soon.
No time to shake your floppy disk
After 25+ years, the lubricant inside the floppy drive of the Plus has seen better days, now resembling a dried goo. So, time to take the floppy drive apart. Now if you have a Plus and you have read horror stories about people messing up their drives, it is probably because they didn’t do it properly. It actually isn’t that hard, so long as you take your time and pay attention to what you are doing. Before you start, a good idea is to consult the tutorial on the 68kmla forum which does a pretty good job of showing you how to service an 800k floppy drive. Again, pay attention to what is says. There are springs inside the drive, which if pulled to far, will loosen their tension and result in your drive being permanently buggered.
So after taking the drive apart, I used silicon grease to lubricate all the areas that needed doing. I really thought at this point that everything was going pretty well, which is usually when disaster strikes! When I rebuilt the floppy drive, I couldn’t help but notice the whole mechanism felt stiff and not smooth at all. Stripping it down once more, I reapplied more grease and still the whole mechanism felt like it was grating. It couldn’t be grit or dirt as I had cleaned the whole thing out, so that left me thinking perhaps it was the lubricant I was using. I had bought silicon grease after reading someone one the 68kmla forum recommending it. Removing as much as I could with an alcohol swap, I used some wet lubricant, designed for bicycle chains. I’ve used this on a front door lock which was sticking and boy did it work. A year on and the lock still works super smooth.
If it worked for the lock, I was hoping it would work for the floppy drive. Sure enough dropping a few dabs, the drive ran back and forth much smoother then before. With this promising start, I reapplied fresh lubricant to all the needed areas and reassembled the drive. Unlike my first attempt the Plus did not lock up while trying to eject a disk, it ejected it each and every time I inserted a floppy. Time for a big sigh of relief right?
What no power?
After rebuilding the system and leaving the lid of, I tried firing up the Plus to test it before closing the lid. Anyone who works on their own computer, will tell you never to put the lid on until your completely sure, without a doubt that the damn thing is working, for the exact reason I am about to describe.
Thinking nothing could go wrong, I flicked on the power switch and the Plus did not power up, instead it made a slight fizzle and then nothing. Unlike previous fizzles, this one was like the CRT discharging, which was odd. Turning it off and wearing protective gloves, I wiggled the lead linking the analog and logic board together and tried again. Still nothing from the Plus. This was getting frustrating. Why was it not booting? I hit the side of the analog board and suddenly the Plus fired up, which meant a dry joint.
Reflowing some of the caps and joints that I thought looked suspicious, I managed to get the Plus working once more. I still suspect a component to be the guilty party, but I wont know that until I’ve used the Plus further.
For now however, the old beast appears to be working.
Thanks has to go Prof. Thomas H. Lee for his amazing PDF guide (which I will be doing a blog about very soon), Thrashbarg for his overwhelming help when problems far exceeded my electrical knowledge, and finally all the guys on the 68k Macintosh Liberation Army Forums.
For now, keep on geeking!
Today’s blog was written on a Classic Macintosh
When I began ByteMyVdu, one of my earliest posts was about my 1986 Macintosh Plus, which had been given to me by my elder brother, just before departing for Australia. The poor Plus died shortly after I began using it regularly at my girlfriends for writing blog entries and playing the odd game of “Space Quest”.
One morning after making my first brew of the day, I returned to my desk to begin writing a blog entry for BMV, only to find the screen had gone blank. Flicking the power switch and trying the brightness didn’t do anything. A small knot of dread slowly grew in the pit of my stomach. The early compact Macintosh computers used passive cooling, meaning they where not fitted with fans. Leading to a reputation for over heating or simply cooking them selves to death. Failing video was a good sign your Mac had succumbed to heat exhaustion or dry joints.
The fact of the matter is this didn’t have to be so, back in the mid 80’s the technology was around that would have allowed these machines to operate without hazard of failing caps, just as it is today. However the decision was made to fit components that simply didn’t allow enough tolerance for the long term operation of the computer and the analogue board within.
So why was I sitting in my dressing gown in front of my Plus on the verge of tears? Simply because I knew the road to recovery was not going to be an easy one….for either of us. The power board would have to come out, which would require the CRT inside the computer to be discharged. Holding roughly 1,500 volts, any mistake on my part would be most regrettable. Before I undertook the task, I found a pair of railway electricians gloves, made from thick rubber, they where perfect for protecting me from the high voltages I was exposing myself to.
A word of warning, if you are currently working on or thinking of repairing a classic Macintosh computer, such as the 128, 512, Plus or SE. Make sure you know what the hell you are doing. As you are placing yourself near extremely high voltages, which could cause fatal injury! If you have to work on it, make sure you wear the proper protective clothing. Don’t play Russian roulette with your safety! Now that you’ve thoroughly been told, I’ll cover what happened next in part II