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Mac Prodigy SE


macrumors 65816
Original poster
Mar 12, 2006
N'Albany, Indiana
I just found one of these things. Basically it looks like a SE except it has a tag on the front that says "Prodigy SE by Levco". Model number is M5010. Anyone familiar with this kind of Mac? I Googled around and I didn't get any good answers.


macrumors 65816
Original poster
Mar 12, 2006
N'Albany, Indiana didn't come up with anything

Found this though. Link

Prodigy SE

From: Max

Just installed a Levco Prodigy SE in my Mac SE. Current configuration is 16-mhz 68020, 68881, and 2-meg RAM. As would be expected, the speed increase is genuinely awesome... beyond belief... stupendous... etc. What’s nifty about Levco’s arrangement is you can “lobotomize” (disconnect) the Prodigy board by hitting the Interrupt switch during Shutdown. A neat trick: for some of the writing I do, I have to use (icch) Tempo, and Tempo dies a horrible death on the 68020. Simple: Interrupt, reset, and you’ve got a garden-variety 68000, 8-mhz Mac SE. Do your dirty Tempo business, save the file, Interrupt, Reset, and you’re back up to a Prodigy! For System 4.0/Finder 5.4, the controls for the Prodigy reside in a “module” for the new control panel. Select the module, and you can turn on/off the 68020 or the 68881. In short, you can configure an SE to run like a Mac II, a standard Mac SE, or anything in between. AND... Levco has just lowered the price for the basic Prodigy SE to $1499. For 68881, add $300. For 2-meg, add $500. I think this means that MacMemory’s TurboMax board is dead.



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Lord Blackadder

macrumors G5
May 7, 2004
Sod off
That's a very interesting variant - and a clever way to ensure system compatibility. Not too many 68020 Macs out there.

I used to have a Mac II and Mac IIfx back in high school before my old man threw them out "by accident" while cleaning the garage. :(


macrumors 65816
Original poster
Mar 12, 2006
N'Albany, Indiana
Another link (japanese)

当時は大変高価なアクセラレータだったのだろう。 なかなか

or as Google translates.

68020RC16MHz and 68881RC25B (the coprocessor) the distinctiveness which is adopted
Forcing accelerator.
Underneath the picture the left 41256 (SIP) 64 the 2MB memory baud which was used
[do] is loaded.
Because 41256 is 256KB with 8, it becomes 64÷8X256=2MB.
At that time very much it probably is the expensive accelerator. Very
It is the rarity which you do not happen to see!

Another link (google cache, don't know if it'll work)

Hardware /Board
Prodigy original from levco only 20 made
Prodigy SE from Levco only 85 made
Monstor board from levco only 300 made

that's based off of what someone told someone else.

I suppose, I'm pretty damn lucky. This is going on my wall for sure!


macrumors 65816
Original poster
Mar 12, 2006
N'Albany, Indiana
newly found info just in case someone else is doing research on this machine.


16th November 1987
From Issue Number: 811

The latest acquisition by Scientific Micro Systems Inc, Levco Corp, of San Diego, California is working on an Inmos Transputer based accelerator package for the Unix-based Macintosh II and Macintosh SE. The package, due for launch in Europe after the Which Computer Show? in January, is called TransLink. A TransLink card is plugged into the Macintosh: for the Macintosh II this is a single-slot NuBus card that can hold up to four Transputer modules; the TransLink SE card for the Mac SE plugs into the SE Bus and holds up to two Transputer modules, which can be either the the T414 integer processor or the 20MHz T800 floating point processor. Inter-Transputer links are configured using a Levco-developed programmable link switch which functions like a switchboard and enables up to 32 Transputer links to be interconnected - links have a DMA transfer rate of 20 Megabits per second. Individual Transputers can be configured with 256Kb 120nS memory option or 1Mb and 4Mb with 100nS RAM. Transputers with different memory sizes can be mixed on a card. All software for the TransLink system runs under the Macintosh Programmer's Workbench and includes a C compiler, Occam assembler, linker and loader as well as the Inmos Occam development system. Levco is currently developing a software simulator for the system. TransLink is intended for applications such as scientific computing, signal processing, image processing, artificial intelligence, high-resolution graphics and bid databases. Prices will be available just prior to the Which Computer? Show.



I found one of Levco's ex-employees' e-mail and decided to get some questions answered. Duane Maxwell is his name. He now works for Chumby Industries. Really thankful he helped me out and this small interview will provide some great historical information on the Prodigy SE.

Thanks for taking the time to help with my research. If you can't answer all of them that's okay. :)

I know what the Prodigy SE board was built to do, I'm more interested in the manufacturing part of it all.

- The Prodigy SE that I own has a silver sticker on the front that says "Prodigy SE by Levco". Does that imply that the computer was sold with the card pre-installed by Levco or was it a sticker that came with the Prodigy card for purchaser to put on themselves?

The Prodigy SE was mainly sold as a user-installable kit, and the sticker was part of that - the Macintosh SE had an internal connector for these sorts of devices. However, many people and companies didn't want kits, so Levco became an Apple OEM partner, and resold Macs with the board preinstalled. Levco also had a small network of dealers around the country that would install the kit for customers. There's probably no way to know which type yours is.

- In short, what was the main reason you decided to make the Prodigy SE? What needs were there for it?

The Prodigy SE was the successor to the Prodigy 4, a similar accelerator for the Macintosh 128K/512K/Plus. At the time, the fastest Macs you could get were 8 MHz 68000 based, while the Prodigy was a 16 MHz 68020/ with 68881 hardware floating point coprocessor and a whopping 4 MB of memory - the most a Macintosh could handle at the time. Levco was fundamentally in the hardware upgrade business - it started selling upgrade kits for the Mac 128K to increase the memory to 512K. At the time, Apple was selling the same upgrades as a motherboard swap at some price on the order of $500-$1000, while Levco's price was around $200 or even less if you bought your own memory chips elsewhere.

The Prodigy 4 worked on Macintosh 128K and 512K, and included the SCSI port that was found in the Macintosh Plus. It was introduced the same day as the Mac Plus - Apple didn't offer a device with similar memory and performance for over a year afterwards with the Mac II, or in the same form factor with the SE/30 three years later.

- In creating the Prodigy SE, did you work alongside with Apple or was it more of a third party modification?

Apple's design of the Macintosh SE presumed the market for such devices - that was a lesson learned when the more "closed" Macintosh 128K/512K/Plus ecosystem developed third-party upgrades despite Apple's discouragement.

During the 128K/512K era, Steve Jobs was at the helm of Apple and really didn't want anyone messing with his perfect appliance. He felt that no one should care about mundane things things like "memory" or "performance" - that developers should build for the device as sold by them. However, the Apple sales force was unable to get Macs into major corporate accounts due to the low performance and lack of upgradeability, and worked with companies like Levco "under the table". It got quite silly for a while as Cupertino was completely oblivious as to what was happening in their regional sales offices.

All that changed when Jobs left Apple - the very next day, Apple actively sought out us and other similar "renegade" companies and started an official dialog on how to alter the basic Macintosh design to create an official hardware upgrade ecosystem. The Macintosh SE and, to some degree, the Macintosh II were the results of those conversations.

The availability Prodigy greatly helped Apple's transition to the 68020 - by the time Apple came out with the Mac II, most developers had cleaned up their code to work on that processor, since many programs initially wouldn't work. For instance, MacWrite simply didn't work on the 68020 - when the author was told that there was a machine out there that it wouldn't run on, his first response was "OK, who's the smartass that built a 68020 Mac?" - he already knew there was a problem and was hoping that he had some more time to fix it, but the Prodigy showed the writing on the wall. The Prodigy came with a special software patch to handle MacWrite's 68020 bugs.

Some other programs, mostly ones dealing with the audio, were carefully tweaked to the 8MHz performance, and those got fixed as well. Because Mac II prototypes were rare, Apple at one point recommended developers buy Prodigy upgrades, and even purchased them for some high-profile developers.

I personally flew up to San Jose to install the Prodigy upgrade in Andy Hertzfeld's Mac.

- What was the starting price of the Prodigy SE?

I don't recall exactly, but I think it started at around $2K, and dropped over time as parts (mainly memory) became cheaper and the volume went up. The Prodigy 4 started at $4K when it first came out - but at the time it was the fastest computer you could buy. It even outran most of the available workstations from Apollo and Sun at a fraction of the price.

- How many of them did you make?

No idea - on the order of thousands, but probably not tens of thousands.

- How long did you make them?

I think they were actively on the market for nearly two years. There was also a bundle that combined the Prodigy SE with an internal hard disk. Eventually, Apple's hardware offerings caught up and the need for accelerators for that form-factor dropped. By that time, Levco had been sold to SMS, which went out of business about a year later due to some gross mismanagement - the Levco division was combined with SuperMac and jettisoned just before SMS cratered. The main Levco hardware designer, Doug Gilbert, stayed at SuperMac and worked on a number of important projects, including "Digital Film", one of the first cheap video capture cards. He finally left to become a chiropractor.

I left when SMS went down, and worked a bit with Pixar before starting Gryphon Software in 1992 - most famous for a product called "Morph", but also developer for a lot of "edutainment" CDROMs for Disney, Warner Bros, etc. Most of the rest of my history is visible on the Internet (but I'm *not* the guy who wrote all the D&D books). One other founder, Stas Lewak went to post-communist Poland and created a successful software development outsourcing firm. The last founder, Curt Johnson went back to his previous vocation as a consultant in the industrial controls business.

I think that's all of the questions that I have. Thanks again for putting in the time to help me here.

Sure, glad to help.


macrumors newbie
Jul 20, 2007
Wow, been a while since I've seen one of these...

I had one as well, I lived in San Diego at the time and bought it used. But it SMOKED the Plus that I was replacing! I think I paid somewhere around $1200 for the system, it was a bargain. Then I found yet another FatSE, this one had a Supermac accel/video board in at and it came with a truly stunning 21-inch monitor. I ended up doing most of my day-to-day work on the Supermac machine because the larger screen would save more valuable production time by reducing the amount of scrolling and zooming. But when it came to operations which needed the raw muscle, the Levco machine would get to do the heavy lifting. Side note: My good buddy had an SE with a Mobius board & full-page monitor, we truly were "the shee-it" among our circle of geek friends. I carried both of those machines around until the early 90s - mostly out of a sense of love, plus an annoying lack of funds - until I got my first color Mac, a Performa 400 I found on clearance for about $375 (in late 95?) back in a dusty corner at Montgomery Wards. Color was a sweet luxury, and out of habit (and familiarity) I could still create (and properly interpret) color design work on the Supermac faster and crunch audio better on the Levco.

Ahh, sweet memories. System 6 rocked!


macrumors newbie
Apr 15, 2013
4 didn't come up with anything

Found this though. Link
I just picked one up from eBay.
I plugged it into my MacSE and it performed much faster than expected! My SE is now turbocharged!
The added FPU is awesome!

Sound is jittery. It isn't jittery when I reboot into the Mac SE mode.
2MB memory is lower than the SE's 4MB with no option of upgrading

There is supposed to be a control panel or system extension for this but I cannot find it anywhere! I wonder if it would fix the jittery audio.

Does anyone happen to have a copy of the control panel?

Also I noticed 32 bit color quickdraw does not appear to be working (for graphics applications). Does anyone know if there is a way to enable this since I am using a 32 bit processor with 32 bit ram?
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macrumors 68020
Mar 16, 2008
Australia, Perth
Hadn't heard of this specific upgrade before, but it sounds like it was a much better option than some others of it's time.

I believe software consisted of a RAM Disk option and a "Prodigy System Resource" file. The extreme top left paragraphs of this 1987 review reveal such: levco&pg=PA72#v=onepage&q&f=true

It's just possible that the only way to get this might be to contact somebody who owns one to see if the files are on the HD of the machine they have and request a copy: SE by Levco


macrumors newbie
Apr 15, 2013
Use of existing ram

I noticed the prodigy board does not allow existing SE ram to be be used however there are other accelerator boards which do. Does anyone know if there is a workaround?

Here is one:

It came out later than the prodigy and is considerably cheaper!
I'd like to find out if Quicktime may be used with an accelerator.
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