So the kind collector who offered me my batch of Apple II computers (As discussed already here) contacted me after reading my post about what I’m hoping to collect (Hi Greg!) and offered me some more retro computers.
Naturally I said “Yes!”.
After a few days, and some discussion, I trundled my car over and collected three, computers, two marked “Suspect”, meaning I’d most likely need to do some extensive maintenance. Greg offered me a significant discount because he wasn’t sure what state the machines were in.
The New Machines
I got the three machines home and what beauties they were!
From Left to Right we have:
An Apple Macintosh SE/30. Arguably the greatest of the first generation “All in One” Macs. It has a 68030 CPU, a 68882 Maths Co-Processor, an upgrade slot, an easily upgradeable ROM and up to 128MB RAM, a truly monstrous amount for the time. SCSI for storage and “SuperDrive” support allowing both the older 800k disks to be written as well as the newer High Density disks.
An Apple IIgs. The last of the “8 Bit” Apple family, it actually runs with a hybrid 8/16 bit CPU, the 65C816, a “backwards compatible” 6502 variant with additional instructions. This was also used in the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, among others.
It’s quite upgradeable, but out of the box it has enhanced sound, graphics, a Disk controller, serial ports and an external keyboard and mouse.
A Sun JavaStation 1. An oddball system without local storage. It’s a super light “thin client” designed to run (Unsurprisingly) Java applications remotely. It can be made to run linux with some work, which is probably it’s eventual fate. Thankfully it uses PS/2 connectors for mouse and keyboard.
Let’s Evaluate Them
I had got the machines home, and unpacked them. At this point there was a two day delay as parts to upgrade my main desktop computer had arrived and so I spent time rebuilding that machine first. While I waited, I posted on the AppleFritter forums asking if anyone had any “pre poweron” suggestions. The overwhelming advice was “Just turn it on already!”
So what state are they in? Well first up I did a visual inspection of all three. They were a little dirty but nothing I wouldn’t expect of stored systems.
I started with the Apple IIgs. The first thing I noticed are that two of the feet are turning to goo. Quite common of vintage gear of this era. It’sone of the reasons I hate that “soft touch” treatment they used to do to various consumer gadgets like mice. They ALL end up melting into sticky goo. Feet can be replaced, but when the entire outer surface starts to dissolve? Ugh!
Anyway… The temporary fix in this case was simply to cover the feet in clingwrap. When I get a chance to collect needed components, I’ll dig the gross remains out, use a goo remover to clean the cavity out and add in some fresh strips of rubber cut to an appropriate size.
I also had to clean some goo from whatever had sat on the IIgs. Break out some more goo remover, followed by lashings of Isopropyl Alcohol.
A visual inspection inside showed nothing out of the ordinary, and other than a quick clean it seemed ready to go. (I later went back and checked further. There’s a “Varta” battery soldered onto the motherboard under the PSU, but it currently shows no signs of leakage, but I’ll replace it when I can)
I plugged it in to my monitor with a composite lead, plugged in power and an ADB keyboard and gingerly turned it on. Knowing it had been sold as not working, I didn’t expect much. Thus imagine my surprise when I was greeted by a boot screen followed by a “check boot device” message!
With some growing excitement I dug out my DuoDisk drive and plugged it in. This is where I encountered an issue I hadn’t expected. The DuoDisk wouldn’t fit on top of the Apple IIgs. Seriously? The feet on the duodisk were too wide apart, and there was a foot “in the middle” so the stack always ended up wobbling. I “fixed” this by sticking a wide cardboard box between the drive and the IIgs.
In went my trusty copy of Ultima V and… it worked! Wow! I have a working Apple IIgs!
Now onto the Mac SE/30. Pugging it in I noticed no “bong” noise, (Foreshadowing) but it quickly booted through to a “?” Disk icon. Huh, possibly a dead SCSI Hard disk, but so far so good. The next step was to get inside.
This proved to be a challenge, as Steve Jobs really didn’t want anyone getting inside these systems. I had to go and buy a new Torx 15 bit with a long shaft so I could connect to my screwdriver extension and connect that to the handle so I could crack the two screws in the handle.
I’d also purchased a long bullclip to act as a “case cracker” (As per suggestions on various forums, and with the 4 screws removed and the case “cracked” I was in. Being extremely careful I removed the motherboard and disconnected it from the Analog board.
Putting on the bench, there was some good news, and some bad news. The good news was the Varta battery was perfectly fine. The bad news was all 10 SMD capacitors had spewed their alkaline corrosive guts all over the motherboard.
OK. Time to work on that.
Admission time. It’s been a LONG time since I have done much Surface Mount work, so I took this very slowly and carefully. WARNING: My method works for me. it may not work for you. Do research. Plenty of people do it a different way to me.
Firstly, I delicately removed the RAM and ROM cards. Then I got some white vinegar cotton tips and carefully neutralised as much of the Cap Crud as I could, rinsing thoroughly with plenty of Isopropyl as I went. Once the board was completely cleaned, and all the surrounding pins and traces had been cleaned, it was time to desolder the little crud buckets.
Approaching them, one by one, I initially added plenty of high grade flux gel. I then added fresh leaded solder to try and break up as much of the existing solder as I could. I then carefully heated one side at a time, while bending the capacitor in the other. I would then swap sides and repeat until the cap gently came off. This worked for nine out of the ten caps. Unfortunately the smallest SMD cap just wouldn’t budge with this process. In the end I had to slowly twist that one off. Thankfully over all 10 caps, only one track was damaged, and the damage was minor. (the track has lifted a little from the PCB but is otherwise intact.)
As I removed each cluster of Caps I would clean with Isopropyl and more cotton tips, as well as, in extreme cases, a rag. There was SO MUCH crud under each capacitor. I cleaned each pad with some fresh solder and some solder braid. I inspected all locations and in one corner, where crud had got under the solder mask, I carefully scraped that back and polished the track with more Isopropyl.
Now I need to buy more Isopropyl 🙂
I’ve ordered a bunch of capacitors and I’ll resolder these when the new caps arrive.
The JavaStation needs 72 pin SIMMs so it’s been stored for now. The only issue we could spot was that the feet on this had also dissolved.
Well I’m super happy to have crossed off both one of my “essential” computers (The SE/30. Let’s hope I can get it all working) as well as what I considered a “Unicorn” in the form of the IIgs. I will be paying my supplier more next time I see him, as these are definitely worth more than I paid.
Assuming the SE/30 recaps OK, I will then work on seeing what state the SCSI internal HDD is in. If it’s completely toast, I’ll probably replace it with a SCSI2SD instead. Not cheap, but gives excellent forward compatibility.
As for the IIgs, I’m looking into what needs to be done to replace the onboard Varta battery with a new one. I’m also looking at making a VGA adapter for it, to use with my 15KHz compatible monitor. I suspect it’ll be my main Apple II system from here on out.