And happy 38th birthday to Macintosh.
Welcome to 128k.site, which I hope to make into a very modest blog about using a 128k Macintosh for everyday work in the third decade of the 21st century.
“Impossible!” I hear you cry. The near-uselessness of the 128k is axiomatic, but I have some family history which makes something of a counterpoint: My grandfather wrote a substantial book on his 128k in the mid-1980s, and continued to use it until he replaced it with an LC II. There are, I’m sure, a hell of a lot of similar examples.
So is the reputation for uselessness deserved? In some ways I think it might be. The two famous limitations are the RAM-based MacWrite’s 8-page maximum document length, and the floppy-swapping required on a single-disk system. As I’ve prepared to start this blog, even knowing what to expect, I’ve been surprised by just how limited the 128k is in terms of software availability. A lot of the software that I used as a kid (and that I half expected to use here) requires at least a 512k. It seems as though the release of the 512k so soon after the original Mac drove (or at least allowed) a lot of Mac development — this might also be because of the release of more accessible development tools (themselves enabled by the 512k). But MacWrite was updated to use disk-based storage, and Microsoft Word solved the problem immediately. I’m writing this post in WriteNow 1 (which came out some time later, but is small enough to work on the 128k).
Storage is a real problem. It’s extremely impractical to work with a single 400k drive. My 128k’s internal floppy is working, but its inject/eject mechanism isn’t 100%, and of course my 400k floppies are all nearly forty years old. I have a couple of external 400k drives, but one has similar problems and another is totally dead. I have two wonderful FloppyEmus from Big Mess o’ Wires, but they don’t seem to like disk repeated disk swapping very much. I could emulate two floppies by plugging one FloppyEmu into the internal drive port, but then I’d miss out on the warm red glow of the real drive. So I’m cheating, slightly. Well, quite a lot when you take into account how much faster the FloppyEmu is than a real floppy, even though it runs over the floppy interface. More on that later.
The 128k can’t use Apple’s HD20 floppy port hard disk (although see the 512k Blog’s work on that — it can theoretically be forced to load the software, but it lacks the memory to load both the hard disk driver software and the Finder). I will source a serial hard disk if I can, but of course they’re incredibly rare and subject to eBay’s insane vintage Mac prices despite inevitably being sold “untested”.
The intention is to write everything on the 128k itself — unless something goes wrong with it. Obviously the content will need to be transferred to a modern computer for posting. For the time being I will do that via the FloppyEmu SD card, but I’d like to work out if there’s a way to do it via networking or perhaps a terminal program. (I also gather there’s a TCP/IP stack for the 128k… .) I did consider printing the posts on my ImageWriter, scanning them, and posting that, but… no. Too cute by half.
That’ll do for an introductory post. I don’t know how often I’ll update the thing, but I’ll try to do so at least once a week. The internet is littered with blogs begun and abandoned, but I’ll try not to add to the pile.
Thanks for reading.