[NTLK] Off Topic: Macintosh SE/30 - to buy or not to buy?

James Fraser wheresthatistanbul-newtontalk at yahoo.com
Mon Sep 10 13:08:45 EDT 2012


--- On Mon, 9/10/12, William Maloney <william.maloney.09 at cnu.edu> wrote:

> Wow, had no idea buying a vintage Macintosh had so many other
> dimensions to it. 

Honestly, apart from failing capacitors in the compact Macs, owning a vintage Macintosh is not (typically) that big of a deal.  I'm sorry if I frightened you with my previous post, but anyone buying a compact Mac (i.e. a particular type of vintage computer with certain widely-known problems) should know just what it is that they're getting into.

The thing to bear in mind with vintage computers of -any- kind is that manufacturers typically expected (and still typically expect) end users to keep the machine for 2-3 years, then the machine would be supplanted by a newer, faster model (and/or the manufacturer would go bankrupt). That's how computer manufacturers have ended up doing things like, say, using relatively fragile foam pads in their keyboards so that if you bought their machine (or rather, the kit for their machine):


...and kept it around for 20 years, you would then have a machine with an inoperable keyboard. :(  Unless, of course, someone were to take pity on you and mail you the necessary (and scarcely to be had) replacement foam pads:


So compared to relatively obscure machines like the Sol-20, compact Mac owners have it made.  Until someone stumbled across his blog, Charles Eicher apparently spent more than a -decade- trying to locate replacement parts for his Sol.  If you want to replace the capacitors in a compact Mac, on the other hand, you can expect to have the parts in your hands before the week is out.
Granted, the replacement process requires a steady hand and soldering skills, but if you don't feel up to it, there always seem to be a few folks around who are willing to take care of the cap replacement for you.  It's just that owning a vintage computer isn't necessarily the "plug it in and turn it on"-type experience that we're all used to with newer computers.

>The Macintosh in question was an SE FDHD but not the faster, more capable >SE/30. 

I'm sure this is going to sound pretty sad, but: you've made my week. :)  

By that I mean I'm glad my guess that the machine you were looking at might be an SE FDHD (as opposed to an SE/30) turned out to be correct.  Even if it wasn't the machine you wanted, at least you were able to determine just what is was the owner had to offer.

That said, the SE/30 is a nice machine to have and it's unfortunate that the machine in question didn't turn out to be that particular model. Still, the '30 isn't a particularly rare machine and it does show up at places like flea markets and thrift shops sometimes.  Not to mention LEM Swap:


...although it's more desirable to pick up a compact Mac in person, not only to see exactly what it is you're getting, but also because the cost of postage and packing is frequently worth close to (if not in excess of) what the machine itself is worth. 

>Pity what happens when we read the fine print. 

At least you didn't make an unnecessary trip...and your money stayed in your pocket. ;)

>If it is still in Richmond, VA when I drive up next week, I will probably >stop by and take a look. 

The SE isn't a bad machine.  And $25 for a conversation piece that will turn heads when visitors see it your living room isn't too bad a deal (with the aforementioned caveat, of course).

>but I do not have a torx to check it out.

If you have not much money, you might want to consider a WTB post on LEM Swap.  There are people getting into (and out of) the vintage Mac hobby all the time and folks are always selling Macs and Mac-related items there.  If you can't find a long-shaft T-15 Torx (the tip must be at least 6" from the handle so you can reach the screws) locally in, say, a dollar store (they've been spotted there on occasion), you can always try asking there.

But, yeah, unfortunately, purchasing a vintage compact Mac without opening up the case and examining the logic board is pretty much tantamount to buying a used car without opening up the hood and taking at least a cursory glance at the engine.  It's well worth taking a look and checking things out firsthand so you don't end up with a high-tech paperweight, though some do people have vintage computers on hand in strictly static displays (the Computer History Museum, for one).


James Fraser


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