For several months I had noticed the neglected and unused Mac SE's and a SE/30 sitting in the corner of the computer lab. They weren't used, moved, or even messed with by the kids! Upon checking with our school's techie, I found that he planned to use them for parts...but only if he absolutely had to. He was only too happy to see someone else begin to mess with them. There even was a broken SE/30 I could have in another classroom!
If we could get a few of the SE's running, I knew there were a variety of older programs we could run on them. Our spelling drill program seems to run well on any Macintosh and we surely could find a version of ClarisWorks that would run under whatever system we settled upon.
If you're not familiar with the Mac SE, it's one of the early all-in-one Macintoshes. Sold from 1987 to 1990, the SE hums along at a "blazing" 8 megahertz. Even so, SE owners and users are much like classic Volkswagen Beatle owners. There is a mystique about having and using one.
These machines were purchased used to make sure there was a computer in every classroom at my school. Needless to say, many of the recipients were underwhelmed. When the school landed a big computer grant and soon-to-be troubled 5400's began rolling in, the SE's first went to storage areas of classrooms and eventually out the door. That was really too bad, as there are lots of things an SE can do. Most vintage Mac sites humorously list "fish tank," "floral design," or "glass brick" as possible uses. Andy Ihnatko started a bit of a cult movement with his Original MacQuarium. His original directions along with some good diagrams are available online as a downloadable PDF file (96K). Other sites also usually list some very effective down-to-earth uses, including email machine, word processor, and other low intensity jobs.
My biggest task with the SE's was cleaning them out and upgrading the RAM to the SE's maximum of 4 megabytes. (The SE/30 turned out to have dried mud inside of it!) I installed a clean copy of System 7.0 and upgraded it to 7.0.1. I was in business. The task took the better part of a weekend, however, as I was trying to work on 4 machines and also learn the innards of the SE series.
Monday morning arrived and the one ready-to-go SE blew its 800K floppy drive 15 minutes before my class was to come in. I quickly opened it up and unplugged the floppy drive. It was back up and running by the time the kids got there. It's primary use the first day was for SpellTutor spelling practice and lots of "games" of PhrazeCrazePlus (117K). I also installed a copy of my gradebook on a zip drive. The SE, running System 7.0.1, handles a zip driver just fine! It can also handle CD-ROM drivers. I don't know if that's a credit to Apple, Iomega, or both, but it made me a very happy camper.
When you dig into one of these little dolls, it's best to have some type of guide. I used two issues of MacADDICT Magazine (February & March, '97--nos. 6 & 7). These well written articles are also on the web. I'd missed the February article because I spent so much time hunting a mention of my one and only font, MSDWT Manuscript, which was on their CD that month. There wasn't any mention in print of it, but then, they might have used it as a bad example! Kelley Boylan notes in the February issue, "The monitor's CRT (cathode ray tube) stores enough electricity to make you lay down and be still for an extremely long time (approximately forever)."
When you open up the SE, it should be in the screen down position. I'd really recommend a towel or something under it to protect the screen. I got away with this once, but... You can also set it up, but need to exercise caution there also, as it will be sitting ON the motherboard.
Opening up the case requires the use of a very longhandled T-15 Torx screwdriver. I first used a makeshift one, but later found Sears had just the right one in stock. A case splitter prevents scuffing up the case during opening, but a bit of care and a standard screwdriver will do the job. I chose the latter.
Getting the motherboard off isn't too bad after you get the various plugs undone. Having someone around with nimble small fingers would certainly help. Installing RAM is a breeze, but you have to either clip a resistor or set the jumpers when you upgrade to 4 MB of RAM. The best instructions I found for this were in a RAM upgrade book from Mac Bargains (Mac Zone). Getting the motherboard back on the chassis can be a bit tedious and requires care as components can easily be damaged by a wrong move.
Swapping hard drives involves some work entirely too close to the CRT, but can be done with reasonable caution. The mounting bracket on one SE/30 didn't make a neat fit to the 160 MB drive I was installing. Apparently, that's about the best you can do--two screws fit and friction has to do the rest!
We finished the 1997-98 school year with three SE's in regular use. But the year had also marked the arrival of a new administrator with some new ideas. He issued a end-of-school-year mass cleanup order. Teachers found themselves wondering what to do with their unused SE's. "Put it in a box...or...hmm...dump it in Steve's room? He teaches special ed and probably can't count anyway."
The SE's began to appear in my classroom in volume. Some folks asked. Some left a note with the computer. And some were like babies abandoned in a basket on a doorstep. While I'm a major advocate for Macs and using classic Macs, I didn't even try to talk folks out of it.
There's lots more to the story...even a happy ending. Click here for page 2.
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and updated 5/11/2008 (many expired links deleted - :-) - Sorry!)