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Got my Powerbook 145 - what now?

r00li

Member
Joined
Aug 23, 2016
Messages
18
Location
Slovenia
So I was interested in vintage computing and now finally I have decided to do something about it.

And my first system (mainly because I got it cheap) is Apple Powerbook 145. It came from ebay (as most things do) and had some serious issues upon arrival. It came without a power supply and upon plugging in a correct universal adapter a strong smell of burning electronics started coming from it. I opened a thing up and found a blown reverse polarity protection diode (D16). Somebody apparently didn't know what they were doing. I removed the diode and botched in a standard diode right onto the power connector and the thing came to life.

Then when I was closing the thing up I noticed that one of the screen hinges looked a bit weird (there was a gap). I tried applying a bit of pressure to the hinge and the whole thing just collapsed. The posts that hold the screws shattered. Classic problem for these computers. Used a bit of a special metalic putty and attached the posts back and finally closed the damned thing.

So the computer is now working for the most part. To be specific the hard drive doesn't work - I can't hear it and it isn't detected by the system. The battery is apparently dead, same goes for the backup battery.

Problem is the software. I know that this is meant to be used with system 7. Problem is that it is mean to be installed. Which I can't really do since I don't have a hard drive. Is there any way of using system 7 with only a single floppy drive? Because when I eject the floppy it just starts to complain that it needs it back. I did find a copy of system 6 on the internet that runs on this machine. This one actually allows me to remove the floppy and use the system. Sadly this means constantly swapping floppies back and forth whenever I want to do anything. So... are there any workarounds to this? Ones that won't cost me 100€?

The other question is... how to keep the hardware from dying? Are there any caps in there that are in need of replacement? I can't see any classic electrolytics which is good. But what about others? I also found that the monitor contrast slider is very sensitive and that the contrast drifts wildly when the whole thing is first powered up. It stabilizes after a few minutes of use though. I am guessing that this isn't normal? I've also noticed some vertical "ghosting" on the screen. Is that to be expected or do I need to do something about it?
 

NeXT

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Kamloops, BC, Canada
By that point there was almost nothing that you could use a floppy only mac for. Most applications required either a hard drive or a second floppy drive.
 

RWallmow

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Oct 19, 2006
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Anoka, MN USA
SCSI2SD "powerbook edition" or the PowerMonster CF are probably your best bet for replacing the hard drive since working 2.5" SCSI hard drives are pretty scarce, its not cheap, but you can spend A LOT more trying to find WORKING 2.5" SCSI drives.

From there personally I would install System 7.0.1 on it, probably don't want to go 7.5.5 unless you have the RAM maxed out (8MB IIRC), and even then it would probably be pretty slow. I have MacOS 7.0.1 disk images on my site that can be written from a PC with a USB floppy drive.

As far as other issues, I am pretty sure they were using all solid (tantalum or ceramic) capacitors by the time of the 145, unlike some of the earlier powerbooks (like my PB 100) with their leaky failure prone aluminum electrolytic caps. So it should be pretty reliable, electrically speaking.
 

Osgeld

Experienced Member
Joined
Feb 20, 2016
Messages
266
Location
Tennessee
it has an external scsi port, if you can find the screwball HDI30 cable you could use an external hard disk

looks like the cables are sort of easy to find, around 20 something bucks, then you need an external enclosure (I am going to put one up for sale for like 10 bucks otherwise that's going to cost you on ebay or whatever) then finding a hard drive to put in it, think I paid 30 for my 1 gig apple drive (which you dont HAVE to have an apple drive)

all of a sudden your pretty close to the cost of a modern solution above and have a lot more bulk

as far as OS goes, it will run 7.5.5 on 8 megs of ram, dunno about performance my fairly gimped 16Mhz LC2 with 10 megs ran the desktop just fine but you could feel the weight of it all when running applications, I use 7.0.1 on that and on my 4 meg SE and both do quite well
 

mojorific

Experienced Member
Joined
Nov 1, 2013
Messages
246
Location
Ontario, Canada
Getting into vintage computing would be much easier with a desktop. You aren't dealing with the myriad of problems associated with a laptop, and the expansion possibilities are much greater. As you have experienced, old plastics become brittle, batteries no longer function, power supplies die, not to mention the limited amount of expansion capabilities. Also there is the issue with brand and model specific components.

I would recommend that you avoid laptops, and go for a older desktop apple or pc variant. You can get relatively cheap older 486/pentium based dell/compaq systems, which are also compatible with the xt-ide, making it easy to build, maintain, and transfer files.
 

glitch

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Feb 1, 2010
Messages
4,964
Location
Central VA
it has an external scsi port, if you can find the screwball HDI30 cable you could use an external hard disk

looks like the cables are sort of easy to find, around 20 something bucks, then you need an external enclosure (I am going to put one up for sale for like 10 bucks otherwise that's going to cost you on ebay or whatever) then finding a hard drive to put in it, think I paid 30 for my 1 gig apple drive (which you dont HAVE to have an apple drive)

You can also use a Zip drive with it, which has the added benefit of being able to back up and transfer files with a modern PC using a USB Zip drive. I assume there are utilities to read HFS from Windows, it's built in on Linux and of course OS X. They're not the fastest thing available but they're fine for goofing around.
 

RWallmow

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Getting into vintage computing would be much easier with a desktop. You aren't dealing with the myriad of problems associated with a laptop, and the expansion possibilities are much greater. As you have experienced, old plastics become brittle, batteries no longer function, power supplies die, not to mention the limited amount of expansion capabilities. Also there is the issue with brand and model specific components.

I would recommend that you avoid laptops, and go for a older desktop apple or pc variant. You can get relatively cheap older 486/pentium based dell/compaq systems, which are also compatible with the xt-ide, making it easy to build, maintain, and transfer files.

Vintage desktops are almost always cheaper to get into, but I wouldn't say laptops are any easier or harder than desktops, I have a decent collection of both, and most laptops are really not that hard to deal with, just smaller pieces lol. Plus side for them is a laptop collection doesn't take up much space, I can fit about 6-10 laptops in the space of one typical desktop PC.

Most PC laptops are plain IDE internally, so just need a simple and cheap $2 IDE>CF adapter (there are exceptions to this, but the industry had mostly moved to IDE by the time laptops were popular, Apple being one large exception with SCSI). I have most my laptops running from CF cards, a lot easier and cheaper than XTIDE cards in the desktops (I had to solder up my XTIDE, that was a lot more work than just plugging in an IDE>CF adapter).

One drawback I will grant you is RAM upgrades are usually proprietary and hard to find, you pretty much better hope whatever laptop you collect is fully loaded.
 

glitch

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Nearly forgot! I've successfully used SD cards in PCMCIA multi-card adapters as boot drives in some older 68K PowerBooks. I don't have a full compatibility list or anything, but it might work for your machine, and it's a cheap alternative to a SCSI2SD.
 

RWallmow

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Nearly forgot! I've successfully used SD cards in PCMCIA multi-card adapters as boot drives in some older 68K PowerBooks. I don't have a full compatibility list or anything, but it might work for your machine, and it's a cheap alternative to a SCSI2SD.

If only it was that easy, the OPs 145 (and my 100 and 160) dont have PCMCIA, SCSI is the only option :(

Great idea for newer ones with PCMCIA though!!
 

r00li

Member
Joined
Aug 23, 2016
Messages
18
Location
Slovenia
Many thanks for the replies.

I will probably spring for the SCSI2SD somewhere in the future. I did some calculations and 100AUD is about 67€ which is a reasonable price.

I got the thing off ebay for 30$ (plus shipping) which seemed a pretty reasonable price. And after that minor fix the thing seems to work. So it was a small investment into vintage computing (I received my Amiga yesterday as well so it won't be an only machine). Plus I am an Apple user. It would seem only logical to try something from Apple. Further helped by the fact that this thing uses "modern" HD floppies which can be written on a modern mac with a simple USB floppy. So there was very little hassle to get it running.

I am glad to hear that there are no caps to replace (not because it would be hard but because I really don't want to disturb the plastic case too much). What about the LCD contrast changing rapidly when first turning the thing on? Is this normal or should I be worried?

From the software side I tried a few small games (arkanoid for instance) and they run nicely. I temporarily overcame the no hard drive issue by creating a RAM disk and copying stuff from a floppy there. Some older pieces of software can run like that.

EDIT: Another question. The seller included an Apple HDI-20 external floppy drive. Any chance of using that? As far as I know the answer is no, but I just want to be sure.
 
Last edited:

RWallmow

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EDIT: Another question. The seller included an Apple HDI-20 external floppy drive. Any chance of using that? As far as I know the answer is no, but I just want to be sure.

I don't think so, if I recall those were only for a few specific model powerbooks without internal floppies (like my PB100 among a few select others).
 

bibilit

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 22, 2012
Messages
88
What about the LCD contrast changing rapidly when first turning the thing on? Is this normal or should I be worried?

This is an issue with those laptops, IIRC some capacitors are present in the screen panel side, and when they are old they usually do that, replace those as soon as possible, or you will end up with a very bright and unusable screen.

The seller included an Apple HDI-20 external floppy drive. Any chance of using that? As far as I know the answer is no, but I just want to be sure.

Mainly for the powerbook 100, and 2400 (also found in some rare laptops)

If you need some help i have a contact in Slovenia, an Apple collector, will be probably able to help.

Slovenia is a wonderful country by the way, spent two weeks last July.
 

r00li

Member
Joined
Aug 23, 2016
Messages
18
Location
Slovenia
I did a quick google... apparently those caps really need replacement. To be honest I really don't want to disassemble the display. That thing feels very fragile. But I guess I'll have to do it. Replacing the caps is easy, getting to them not so much.

I did notice another problem yesterday... The thing froze on me. Three times actually. Once when just running the system, once when I was looking at system settings and once when having some fun with a game.

If you need some help i have a contact in Slovenia, an Apple collector, will be probably able to help.

Slovenia is a wonderful country by the way, spent two weeks last July.
Interesting. I didn't know that there are any Apple collectors around here.

It's always nice to see foreigners visiting our little country. Especially since a lot of them can't even find it on a map. Where are you from if you don't mind me asking?
 

bibilit

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Apr 22, 2012
Messages
88
It's always nice to see foreigners visiting our little country. Especially since a lot of them can't even find it on a map. Where are you from if you don't mind me asking?

I'm living in Paris, France, not too far to be honest.

I didn't know that there are any Apple collectors around here

He is living in a town named Metlika, and have some nice toys, send me PM i will give you his e-mail, a really nice guy.

Yes, some countries are probably not the most appropriate to start collecting vintage computers, but the Internet is improving things a lot.
 

r00li

Member
Joined
Aug 23, 2016
Messages
18
Location
Slovenia
Yep, that is pretty close.

Thanks for the offer. I don't think that I need his email right now, but I will ask you if I ever need it.

I don't think vintage computers are really that hard to get into. The only problem is getting them cheaply. Getting something like a ZX Spectrum is pretty much impossible around here even though those things were quite common. Getting something Apple related is an ebay-only thing because nobody really had an Apple computer back in the day.
 
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