What do I do in 2017 with a working Macintosh SE?
August 13, 2017 10:23 PM   Subscribe

I very recently got my 29-year-old Mac SE (20 MB HDD, 2.5 MB RAM) out of storage, and - wonder of wonders, it boots and runs OK! Now what? I'd like to be able to, at the very least, be able to download the contents of my hard drive. What hardware/software would I need for that, with a Windows machine on the other side?
posted by Guy Smiley to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Start by grabbing this LocalTalk to Ethernet bridge before anybody else does. That should get you over the hardware compatibility hurdle.
posted by flabdablet at 11:05 PM on August 13, 2017

As for software: personally my first instinct would be to use a Linux machine running netatalk to make a file server the Mac could connect to.

If that looks too hard, I'm sure somebody will be along presently with a workable native Windows-based alternative.
posted by flabdablet at 11:13 PM on August 13, 2017

There are 2 elements to deal with: software and hardware. Both are a hassle, but both have solutions. I'm in a rush now, but I'll try to respond with some ideas later today.
posted by NumberSix at 7:20 AM on August 14, 2017

Does it have a SuperDrive (aka a 1.44MB 3.5" drive, as opposed to the older 800KB only ones)? Is it running System 7 at least? If so, you can copy things to floppy and any normal floppy drive (even a modern USB one) will be able to read it. It'd probably be best to find a copy of StuffIt to compress things beforehand; if nothing else, Macs store files differently than Windows PCs and just copying them to/from disk may potentially come with data loss.

The SE also has an expansion slot so, depending on how much you want to spend, how lucky you are at finding one, and how comfortable you are with opening the computer up, you could get an Ethernet card for it and then use FTP or something too. (However, note that the SE's slot is not the same as the SE-30's - they are drastically different, in fact, so be sure you get one specifically for the SE.)

Further option: find a USB to SCSI bridge adapter, pull the drive, and hook it up to that, then use something like HFSExplorer to pull stuff off the drive. This, again, involves opening the case and pulling the drive and all that and as such depends on your comfort level of doing that.
posted by mrg at 8:04 AM on August 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have a number of old macs, including an SE. I mostly use them for playing games and writing.

The most important thing you can to do RIGHT NOW is open it up and change or remove the clock battery. It doesn't need the battery to run, the clock just won't work, but exploded batteries are probably the #1 killer of old macs. Next, check the motherboard to make sure the capacitors look ok (they will probably be fine on an SE, it is usually later models like the SE/30 that suffer from capacitor plague).

Check out 68kmla.org, which is a treasure-trove of information on old macs. I recommend you join the forum! Lots of friendly people who will be glad to help you and give you pointers on your old mac.

For hardware, I recommend getting a FloppyEmu from Big Mess 'O Wires. You can connect it to the SE (as a floppy emulator or in HD20 external hard drive mode), which will let you easily move files back and forth from a modern computer (via sneakernet, it uses a microSD card). By far that has been the best investment I made for keeping my old macs running.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:31 AM on August 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

1. downloading contents: one issue that you will run into is the beloved resource fork, which contains much of the content of your files, which will vanish in a native Windows environment. one way to get around it is to first stick all your goodies into a disk image first (Disk Copy works as far back as System 6!)

2. emulation through Basilisk II or a comparable Windows-compatible emulator is one (overkill) way of taking care of both file transfer and storage in an environment which won't destroy the file contents. Seriously, at least in theory, as long as you have a localtalk-to-ethernet bridge for your SE, you can transfer files over AppleTalk! (I think this guide is overly complicated, but linked in case you do have to configure something on the Windows side.

3. another solution, possibly not overkill: instead of doing lots of workarounds with extra Windows software, just throw another piece of hardware at things and get an old Mac that has both an AppleTalk printer port, and ethernet (or find somebody near you who has one). there are a wealth of beardos at your local Macintosh User Group who would love to help you transfer files to/from your Macintosh.

4. when I fire mine up my SE any more, I usually play backgammon or a paper airplane simulator. with the right system upgrades, you can even run a very slow web server
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 3:26 PM on August 14, 2017

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