Inside the Macintosh 128K

Introduction

Today we are going to take an in-depth look at one of the most iconic computers of all times, the very first Macintosh, released in 1984. It was renamed to Macintosh 128K in September 1984, as a second version of the Macintosh with 512 kB was to be released in 1985.

Its historical importance comes from the fact that it was the first computer targeted to end-users to come with an operating system that had a graphical interface, a mouse, and a 3.5” 400 kB floppy disk drive (at the time, most computers used 5.25” 360 kB floppy disk drives). It had a 9-inch black-and-white video monitor with a resolution of 512 x 342. It had 128 kB of RAM and was based on the Motorola 68000 microprocessor, which was one of the most powerful CPUs available at the time.

The computer didn’t come with a hard drive, so the operating system and programs had to be loaded through floppy disks. All the time, we see people listing old Macs on eBay, saying that it is “defective” because the operating system is not loading and the computer is showing an icon with a floppy disk and a question mark. (The person selling the computer does not realize that old computers didn’t come with a hard drive.) This is the normal behavior of the computer when it doesn’t find a floppy containing the operating system, and it means the computer is working as expected.

The Macintosh 128K was yellowish in color, the same tone as the Apple IIe.

Macintosh 128KFigure 1: The Macintosh 128K

Nowadays, the first thing you will notice looking at the original Macintosh is how small it was. In Figure 2 we compare it to a 21-inch LCD monitor.

Macintosh 128KFigure 2: The Macintosh 128K compared to a 21-inch LCD monitor

Differently from the Apple II and Apple III, the keyboard was not part of the body of the computer; it was connected to the computer using a spiraled cable similar to the ones used by telephones. The keyboard was mechanical and almost identical to the one used with the Apple IIe, except that the old Open Apple and Solid Apple keys were replaced by the Command and the Option keys, respectively.

Macintosh 128KFigure 3: The keyboard

The mouse was rectangular with a single button. To this day, Apple mice still have only one button. It was connected to the computer through a DE-9 connector, identical to the one used on the Macintosh’s serial ports, but the mouse port used a proprietary format.

Macintosh 128KFigure 4: The mouse

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Author: Gabriel Torres

Gabriel Torres is a Brazilian best-selling ICT expert, with 24 books published. He started his online career in 1996, when he launched Clube do Hardware, which is one of the oldest and largest websites about technology in Brazil. He created Hardware Secrets in 1999 to expand his knowledge outside his home country.

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