Writing on an old mac

Rusty33

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 8, 2011
273
52
Australia
Hi all,

I am looking to purchase an old mac that I can use for the sole purpose of writing manuscripts. My question to the group is this: how old can I go and still expect to get some practical use out of the machine? In particular I am interested to know...

- at what point did Apple begin incorporating floppy drives that can be read/written on modern machines? Alternatively, is there another means of transferring files from an 80s mac to a modern computer?

- I note that early versions of MacWrite were extremely limited in their capacity to work beyond 10 pages...at what point did word processors actually become capable of handing long documents?

- At what point was it possible to save documents as an RTF? (software/version recommendations would be most appreciated).


I have recently had my eyes on a Macintosh 128K, but have been reading that the 400KB floppy disks were a pain, that MacWrite was extremely limited (to 10 pages) by the available memory, and that converting MacWrite files to RTF is a massive undertaking...would this be a fair assessment?

Based on my research, it looks to me like the Macintosh SE FDHD (with its 1.44MB disk drives, HDD and increased memory) represents the oldest (semi)practical option...has anyone had any experience with this (or older)??

Many thanks!
 

havokalien

macrumors 6502a
Apr 27, 2006
650
49
Kelso, Wa
Depends

Not sure on the RTF. But if you want a compact yes an SE will do everything your looking at. ClarisWorks which turned into apple works I think can change or save documents in RTF. Not sure which version. There are a lot of other older macs that have the same stats and age as the SE they are not all in one tho.

So like my title says it depends.
 

David Schmidt

macrumors 6502
Aug 22, 2006
319
10
Southeastern USA
- at what point did Apple begin incorporating floppy drives that can be read/written on modern machines? Alternatively, is there another means of transferring files from an 80s mac to a modern computer?
As noted, the SE was first with the FDHD drive (not all SEs had them).

- I note that early versions of MacWrite were extremely limited in their capacity to work beyond 10 pages...at what point did word processors actually become capable of handing long documents?

- At what point was it possible to save documents as an RTF? (software/version recommendations would be most appreciated).
MS Word at version 5.1 really started to be full fledged; if you got a newer machine like an LCIII or so, it would probably be able to handle it. If you really go all the way back to an SE, MS Word 3 was the standard for a lot of folks. I am not sure if Word 3 could export to RTF, but Word 5.1 can.

I have recently had my eyes on a Macintosh 128K, but have been reading that the 400KB floppy disks were a pain, that MacWrite was extremely limited (to 10 pages) by the available memory, and that converting MacWrite files to RTF is a massive undertaking...would this be a fair assessment?
Quite fair. You don't want to actually use a 128k. It was underpowered even in its day. They weren't actually suited for real use until the 512k model came out, and of course the Mac Plus was on the market for years after that. MacWrite is a pain, too - you have to use something else (I use Word 5.1) to upconvert from MacWrite to RTF.
 

Rusty33

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 8, 2011
273
52
Australia
As noted, the SE was first with the FDHD drive (not all SEs had them).


MS Word at version 5.1 really started to be full fledged; if you got a newer machine like an LCIII or so, it would probably be able to handle it. If you really go all the way back to an SE, MS Word 3 was the standard for a lot of folks. I am not sure if Word 3 could export to RTF, but Word 5.1 can.


Quite fair. You don't want to actually use a 128k. It was underpowered even in its day. They weren't actually suited for real use until the 512k model came out, and of course the Mac Plus was on the market for years after that. MacWrite is a pain, too - you have to use something else (I use Word 5.1) to upconvert from MacWrite to RTF.
David - thank you so much for your advice...this is fantastic!

Much appreciated.
 

Anonymous Freak

macrumors 603
Dec 12, 2002
5,248
599
Cascadia
If you don't mind the small screen, an SE SuperDrive or SE/30 with Microsoft Word 5.1 would be a great little writing machine. (Or an early PowerBook - the PowerBook 100 makes a *GREAT* little writing machine if you run it from RAM disk - dead silent.)

But just about anything with a 1.4MB floppy drive would work fine. Even better if you get something with Ethernet. (Which the SE and SE/30 can have.)
 

Hrududu

macrumors 68020
Jul 25, 2008
2,216
495
Central US
Are you dead set on a compact AIO Mac like a Classic II or SE? If not, I would go for something with an 040 processor and run Mac OS 8.1 on it. I used a Quadra 800 as my primary setup as recently as 2002 and it is still a VERY usable machine. It ran AppleWorks and Microsoft Office 98 like a dream. Another great little machine that is often overlooked is the LC III+ which only had an 030, but it ran at 33MHz and held 32MB of RAM. If you're set on a compact Mac, then I would go in this order:
Color Classic - a few more pixels to work with and 10MB of RAM
Classic II - 16MHz and 10MB of RAM
SE, Classic, - both are 8MHz and only have max 4MB of RAM.
 

velocityg4

macrumors 603
Dec 19, 2004
5,151
1,657
Georgia
I'd go for a IIsi with an Apple Portrait Display. The display was designed with desktop publishing in mind. In advertising it was always paired with a IIsi so I think of them as perfect together.

Then you can run your choice of System 6 or 7.

I also think the IIsi is one of the best looking Macs Apple ever made. If you want you can also use an Ethernet card with the NuBus adapter. Then you can transfer documents by file sharing or email. You can also get the IIci with 3 NuBus slots then you can add an Ethernet adapter and a better video card.

Really, with the right know how you could use an Apple II. They do have the fastest keyboard to onscreen feedback.
 

SkyBell

macrumors 604
Sep 7, 2006
6,565
140
Texas, unfortunately.
Really, with the right know how you could use an Apple II. They do have the fastest keyboard to onscreen feedback.
I second this; I love using the clackity keyboard on my Apple IIc. And that 9" green monochrome monitor is actually quite pleasant to use in word processing.

Not to mention the IIc and matching monitor are quite the good looking pair. ;)
 
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Alexroddie

macrumors newbie
Oct 24, 2013
1
1
I have recently conducted an experiment along these very lines. My machine of choice is an LC475 running System 7.1. I've done some substantial upgrades to get the machine into a decent working condition (Ethernet, modern hard disk, massive RAM upgrade). For file transfer, I use Transmit which connects to an FTP server running on my Windows PC (which contains my active Dropbox account). This way I can transfer files in and out of Dropbox, from my vintage Mac, very fluidly.

I use BBEdit 4.5 as my word processor of choice as I tend to use plain text for everything, but as someone else mentioned Word 5.1 is also very capable and is probably your best bet for rich text.

I'm absolutely loving using this machine as my main writing computer and intend to continue doing so for the foreseeable future!

I wrote up my experiment here:
Two months writing with a vintage Mac
http://www.alexroddie.com/2013/10/two-months-writing-with-vintage-mac.html
 
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ApplemanY

macrumors newbie
Jan 27, 2015
9
0
Cambs UK
Alex

I am just getting my old LC475 working again... not that I dont love my MBP with R/D but its there (and there are others) and the thought of it not working...

Would you be willing, please, to share what upgrades you have done and which were and were not as successful as you perhaps hoped?

Which screen?
VRAM?
RAM?
Keyboard?
Which Ethernet card? Do you have 10/100?
Did you go for 68040 upgrade too?
Have you gone up to USB...how?

Colin in UK
 

MichaelLAX

macrumors 6502a
Oct 31, 2011
784
14
Based on my research, it looks to me like the Macintosh SE FDHD (with its 1.44MB disk drives, HDD and increased memory) represents the oldest (semi)practical option...has anyone had any experience with this (or older)??
The SE does not have any "increased" memory capabilities. It is maxed out at 4MB RAM just like its predecessor, the Mac Plus.

The SE/30 on the other hand, has the '030 CPU chip (instead of the 68000) up to 64MB RAM capability and with an added board connected internally to its 030 slot, the ability to use an external monitor with color, as well! Of course it already has the 1.44MB SuperDrive.

Another add-on (one or the other, but not both [unless a board with a pass-thru slot is acquired]) could be an ethernet board for network capabilities.
 
Last edited:

Algus

macrumors regular
Jun 8, 2014
222
84
Arizona
Cool that other people do this. I've got a Performa 637CD running System 7.5.3. Usually though I just do the work in Basilisk emulating the configuration of my actual Performa. That way I can run it on my MacBook Pro when I'm not at home. Corel WordPerfect has been my favorite word processor since the 90s. These days though I mostly use it for working on tabletop game campaigns :p

I have my Performa networked so I can FTP files over as its the least amount of hassle. I need to invest in a better solution for diskettes so it is easier to get new programs on the Performa but Basilisk runs my preferred System 7 setup so well that I've just not bothered.

I love old Mac keyboards though. So satisfying to type on!
 

roadbloc

macrumors G3
Aug 24, 2009
8,784
213
UK
Cool that other people do this.
+1.

Whereas what I use isn't as old as your or the OP's machines, I rely on my iMac G4 for my writing. It's written all three of my books so far and I don't plan on giving it up and getting a new machine anytime soon. I think its great that people are still finding use for old hardware.
 

Anonymous Freak

macrumors 603
Dec 12, 2002
5,248
599
Cascadia
Note that about a decade ago, I knew a professional writer who still used a Macintosh II-series (I don't recall exactly which one,) as her main writing machine.

Her problem came when she had to get her manuscript to her editor - AOL had stopped allowing her to connect with AOL version 3 software; her printer had broken; her floppy drive was broken.

In the end, I fixed her printer and her floppy drive. (The printer "broken" was just a nasty "buried deep inside" paper jam, the floppy drive was that the metal shutter of a disk had come off, and stayed inside the drive mechanism. A pair of needlenose pliers got the shutter out, and it continued to work fine.)
 

David Schmidt

macrumors 6502
Aug 22, 2006
319
10
Southeastern USA
(The printer "broken" was just a nasty "buried deep inside" paper jam, the floppy drive was that the metal shutter of a disk had come off, and stayed inside the drive mechanism. A pair of needlenose pliers got the shutter out, and it continued to work fine.)
Isn't it nice when problems are mechanical in nature...
 

Rusty33

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 8, 2011
273
52
Australia
Rusty: What did you end up choosing?

Alex: Read your article on your website. Absolutely beautiful read. It made me end up buying a Performa LC475 that I am picking up shortly.
Love that this old thread has been resurrected after all these years!

I ended up getting a Macintosh Classic - which served me faithfully for several years. I love it’s small form factor...I used to set it up in different rooms in my house to smash out text In Word 5.1. Unfortunately The HFS floppy disks became completely unreadable at around OS 10.14 or 10.15 - and I Was forced to start using an iMac G3 (which I literally found on the street) as a bridge computer...to copy the files from the classic onto something my MacBook pro can read. Certainly not as clean as it used to be....and makes me wish I had insisted on finding something that was Ethernet compatible.

Perhaps it isn’t too late to find myself an LC475...how to the CRTs on those things hold up? interested to hear how your jo Ironjaw

PS - Alex - I agree,that article of yours was a fantastic read!
 

MichaelLAX

macrumors 6502a
Oct 31, 2011
784
14
SE/30 (Mac Classic on steriods) supports an internal Ethernet card with the benefits of an ‘030 processor.
 
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