time travel is not an option.
September 1, 2010 10:23 AM   Subscribe

After a visit to my parents' attic, I have in my possession a Macintosh computer that is old enough to drive a car. It has on its hard drive everything I did in middle school and early high school. What can be done.

The computer is a Macintosh Quadra 605, purchased in late 1993. I do not recall completely, but I think it runs MacOs 5 or 6. It has only a floppy drive. Hooking it up to a monitor and putting everything on floppies and putting the floppies, one by one, into an external floppy drive and then onto another computer is not possible, because we do not own a monitor anymore. The strange and exotic cords necessary to connect this computer to anything else are also not available in this house. The computer is in South Florida, and though I would do it if there were no other options, I'd really prefer not to have to mail it somewhere or put it in my suitcase and take it back to Philadelphia when I go home next week.

So I called the Apple store at the nearest mall, and I flummoxed them completely. Then I called the guy at Mactech Pro and did not flummox him, but he said he didn't want to deal with it, though he claimed "it's probably possible to extract the data." The other authorized service providers in the immediate area seem to be focused on training people to repair machines.

This computer has not been turned on since 2000, when its monitor died. It was fine then, but it has spent the last decade in a closet and then in an attic (within a giant sealed tupperware container, so there's no water damage or insects or anything like that). The stuff on the computer is just writing I did in high school, pictures from high school, old emails from high school*. It would probably all fit easily on a thumb drive. I guess I'm wondering how likely it is that the information will be able to be taken off the machine, how much it is likely to cost me, and whether anyone knows of a place that actually will work on a machine this ancient, preferably in the Ft. Lauderdale/Miami area, and if not that, Philadelphia. Or if not that, anywhere.

* and yes, i know there could be compatibility issues with word processing documents from 1993 opening on a modern computer. fortunately i have a middle-aged computer, too--a second generation blueberry imac that has already proven its ability to open ancient documents created in clarisworks.
posted by millipede to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You may be able to get an old monitor from a thrift store...I seem them all the time.
posted by rtodd at 10:41 AM on September 1, 2010

(I should have noted: buying an old monitor, or anything else that is large and unwieldy, is out of the question. I was cleaning stuff out of the attic because my parents would prefer if I had no belongings left in this house, so I don't really want to bring more in).
posted by millipede at 10:43 AM on September 1, 2010

According to wikipedia & apple a Quadra 605 is compatible with a VGA monitor with a physical adaptor. But the signals are the right level, etc.
posted by GuyZero at 10:45 AM on September 1, 2010

Get a USB floppy drive. Get a copy of Ububtu. Do this.
posted by orthogonality at 10:45 AM on September 1, 2010

I believe the drive is a 50-pin SCSI (according to Wikipedia). You'll want a 50-pin SCSI to USB/firewall adaptor ... something like this. Take the drive out and connect it to the adapter, if the drive still works you should be good to go.
posted by geoff. at 10:47 AM on September 1, 2010

Get a USB floppy drive. Get a copy of Ububtu. Do this.
USB was invented in 1996 so I don't think that will help. The 605 has an internal SCSI hard drive, so you can pull the drive and hook it up to a SCSI adapter and transfer the files that way.
posted by sanko at 10:49 AM on September 1, 2010

What geoff said, you can see it here.
posted by Menthol at 10:51 AM on September 1, 2010

According to Wikipedia, it looks like it has a SCSI hard drive. If you removed the drive, and connected it to a USB to SCSI cable, you might be able to read it on a new Mac. I think the filesystem type was still HFS back then...
posted by Laen at 10:51 AM on September 1, 2010

Here and here and here are a couple of articles that may help you. It looks like using your Quadra's Ethernet port may work, although you might need an adapter like the ones on this page. Another option he mentions is pulling out the hard drive and putting it in an external enclosure for another machine, if you are comfortable with that sort of thing. You also may need to find a way to borrow a monitor that will work with it; there should be plenty out there.
posted by TedW at 10:52 AM on September 1, 2010

Dang, geoff beat me to it. :)
posted by Laen at 10:52 AM on September 1, 2010

Open the case, pull out the hard disk, and put it in a modern PC. I think that model would have used a SCSI disk, meaning you'll need a SCSI adapter, which are uncommon in desktops these days and somewhat expensive, so it would be easier to get someone else to do it.

The question you really want to ask the PC guy is: "Can you copy the contents of this HFS-formatted SCSI disk onto a USB disk for me?"

Don't bother getting the Mac up and running, unless you like that sort of nostalgia.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:54 AM on September 1, 2010

Oh man, if you had found this ~3 months ago, I could have easily helped you out. I just recycled a ton of pre-2000 macs.

As it is, I may have Apple Desktop Bus and or Apple Video adapters still lying around, so that you might be able to plug it into a ps/2 mouse & keyboard and a standard VGA monitor. I'll have to check. In the meantime, if you could take a picture of the back of the machine and post it in this topic, It'll help enormously.

As far as getting your files off, plugging it into a network may be the idea solution. Even with a SCSI adapter, you'll still need a mac to read the file system, I'm not sure about Linux, but I know windows machines won't be able to read the drive.
posted by Oktober at 11:26 AM on September 1, 2010

The SCSI>USB adapter path may be the best way to go.
Going over the network via ethernet won't work since you need to enable File Sharing on the old Mac, and you need a monitor to do that.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:46 AM on September 1, 2010

The "HFS-formatted" bit is important: your average Windows support guy [sorry 'bout the bigotry there] won't differentiate between HFS and HFS+, much less help you with either.

But pulling the drive is a good idea. Do you know anyone with a fairly modern Mac? You can get a case with SCSI pins inside and USB outside, though they're not exactly free. If you're still stuck in a week, Memail me and I will see about getting you some help from the nice folks on the Sun-Rescue list (where many subscribers have relevant Mac gear and a fondness for saving older data & hardware).

And to think that I threw out an external case with SCSI ports like a week ago. Sorry.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:44 PM on September 1, 2010

Thank you all so much for your input so far. Here are some further things to keep in mind:
1) I have no access to any monitor. This house is monitor-free. The following computers are available to help on the mission: A macbook from 2008, a macbook from 2009, a second generation imac from 2000, an imac that is not the newest one but is one or two generations before that, from 2007ish (white all in one piece, not the lamp).

2) I am really not that technically adept with computer hardware. I don't know how to take a drive out. I could probably figure it out with instructions.

3) and yes, there is no usb on the machine.

Where would someone get a scsi>usb adapter?

Really appreciate all of this advice so far. I am also still looking for any advice on finding a business that could do this for me. I kind of want to walk in with a computer and a thumb drive and cash, and walk out with a thumb drive.
posted by millipede at 12:54 PM on September 1, 2010

Then I called the guy at Mactech Pro and did not flummox him, but he said he didn't want to deal with it, though he claimed "it's probably possible to extract the data."

I would try calling other Mac places, and also local independent shops. Tell them that you have an 50-pin SCSI drive that's formatted for the Mac (HFS is supported up to and including Mac OS X, so correct me if I'm wrong, but any Mac should be able to read this). Tell them you don't have any way of connecting to a 50 pin SCSI drive but would like the contents on a CD (mention that at this point that there's only 100MB on the drive).

I would be surprised if you can't find a shop that doesn't have some way of accessing SCSI drives, but it is possible.

If that fails, I would try looking to see if there's any Mac user groups in your area. This is a very simple thing for someone with the right hardware.
posted by geoff. at 1:14 PM on September 1, 2010

If you're not comfortable removing the hard drive from the computer and hooking it up to a SCSI-USB adapter and so on, don't bother learning just for this — this should be a dirt-simple task for any Mac service shop. Look around (even just flip through the yellow pages) for independent Apple-specialist service providers in your area, especially ones that have been around for a while, as they'll be more likely to have the necessary SCSI bits lying around already. What you're looking for is the kind of small or medium-sized shop that provides service and training and tech support to local Mac-using businesses and individuals — they'll probably have signage with an Apple logo, maybe be specialized in graphic design or video or some other longstanding Mac market niche. Just for examples of the kind of thing you're looking for, in New York this would be TekServe, for instance; in Minnesota it would be FirstTech. (In fact, if you can't find a local place, you could probably arrange to mail the computer or just the hard drive to either of these shops.)

When you've found some candidates, just call up and tell them what geoff. said: you have an old Mac with a SCSI (pronounced "scuzzy") internal drive, and you want them to pull the drive out, hook it up to another computer, and put the contents of the drive on a CD for you. This should all take well under an hour of billable labor time, and it's not at all a difficult request provided they already have some way of hooking up a SCSI drive.
posted by RogerB at 3:08 PM on September 1, 2010

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