Episode 4: Big Mac: One Man’s Obsession With Vintage Apple Computers

Adam Rosen is an Apple Consultant and collects Macintosh computers, software and Apple nostalgia. He is curator of the Vintage Macintosh Museum which he runs out of his home outside Boston.

Our discussion covers rare items in his collection, and photos are from his website, VintageMacMuseum.com Adam also speaks more broadly about the Apple ethos and the future of the Macintosh platform.

Restoring legacy Apple systems to a functioning state is a labor of love for Adam, he writes:

“I inherited two models just about three years back, both of which powered up but that’s about it. Neither one contained a working floppy drive, hard drive, or keyboard. The last two items are (of course) non-standard parts. At the rapid rate of about a half day of effort every 18 months, I’ve ambled through a slow odyssey that’s included buying two keyboards, an external Apple ProFile drive, and a rare Lisa X/ProFile hard drive adapter, in order to get a (mostly) working system.”

Read more about his Apple Lisa experience at VintageMacMuseum.com

His collection was bolstered by a donation from an ailing collector, Joe Story, who lamented, “I just want to see it go to a good home.”

“A few weeks ago Joe learned that he had pancreatic cancer. It’s incurable, and he doesn’t have long to live. Understandably, this brings focus and clarity to one’s efforts. Along with attending to personal matters Joe felt it was important that his archive of vintage Apple items go to a place where they could be appreciated and enjoyed, rather than recycled or otherwise disposed of.”

Read more about Joe Story’s contribution to The Vintage Mac Museum

Fighting space constraints, Adam has started collecting Apple miniatures.

“As an active collector I suffer from the ailment which eventually affects most people who have this hobby: I am running out of space. Two bedrooms, half my living room (home office) and half the attic are taken up by Mac equipment, spare parts, memorabilia, etc.. I don’t want to move, but the collecting urge still burns hot, so I’ve started to downsize my Macs.”

Read more about the “Miniature Mac Museum” on VintageMacMuseum.com

Adam’s collection includes several repurposed Macs by Jake Harms, a converted Macintosh/aquarium or “Macquarium,” and iLamp built from a iMac G4 computer.

Read more about the iLamp on VintageMacMuseum.com or JakeHarms.com

“In 2006 Apple stunned the world (again) by announcing they were going over to the Dark Side: the Macintosh was going to switch to Intel processors. Apple had been secretly compiling Mac OS X on Intel chips ever since it’s evolution from NeXTstep, and the G5 marked the end of the line for the PowerPC Macintosh. To allow developers to prepare their software for the change, Apple provided special Macs with Pentium-based motherboards inside PowerMac G5 cases for testing purposes. Called Developer Transition Systems (DTS), these Trojan horse “PowerMacs” came with a special developer version of Mac OS X 10.4.1 for Intel and were leased, not sold, to developers. The mothership required all DTS units to be returned after one year, so very few of these hybrid Macs survive outside the gates of Cupertino. This DTS is in working condition but does not have a copy of 10.4.1 for Intel.”

Read more about the rare items in Adams collection on VintageMacMuseum.com

As part of his consulting work, Adam maintains vintage systems and software to perform file transfers for clients who can no longer open their old files:

“The Cube contains my repository of pre-OS X Classic Mac software, over 7GB worth of vintage word processors, graphics programs, database software and utilities. Some of this is installed on the other workhorse machines – the Mac Plus, Quadra 840av and PowerBook Wallstreet – with the remainder accessible when needed. The Cube also contains a shared folder within which I copy the elements for file transfer and conversion work – original files, intermediate stages, and final versions.

With this set of machines I can read and copy files from nearly any Mac generation and common storage format – floppy disk, hard drive, Zip and Jaz, MO cartridges, etc.. Really old files from the Mac Plus get relayed to the Quadra via LocalTalk, then from there to the Cube via Ethernet. The Wallstreet handles most of the file conversions, and once work is completed files can be copied to my Mac Pro to burn to CD or left on the Cube for direct access via FTP.”

Read the original post about the G4 Cube on VintageMacMuseum.com or visit Adam’s consulting page at OakBog.com

Adam left us with a word of truth for all collectors:
“Leave enough room – be careful: it starts to add up quickly…”

he’s curator of the vintage mac museum when she runs out of his home in malta in massachusetts outside boston. Our discussion covers wear items in his collection and photos are from his website vintage mac museum dot com. Adam also speaks more probably about the apple id those and the future of the mackintosh platform. It may be helpful for some of our less technical listeners to have a super brief history of apple. Steve jobs and steve wozniak founded apple in nineteen seventy six and release the lisa computer in nineteen eighty three, what does proceed the mcintosh line we know today was a landmark for personal computing as its the first consumer facing computer with a mouse and graphical user interface or go live, rather than attack space command line interface he july it’s still be a deal that we use today, all be it with fingers mostly steve jobs was forced out of apple in nineteen eighty five and found it next day computer company and at higher education in business markets, apple acquired merged next in nineteen ninety seven that allows jobs to become ceo once again just as the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. [1:53] After canceling the new line of touch base personal digital assistants jobs would go on to introduce the imac the ipod to the iphone in the i pad before he passed away in two thousand eleven, we pick up our conversation and a seminal moment in nineteen eighty four when adam like many americans apples into ms nineteen eighty four several commercial, which we have created for you here we shall on january twenty four apple computer will introduce macintosh, [2:29] and you’ll see why nineteen eighty four will be like. [2:35] And i saw that during a tubal remember and our members in the room is like as a boba silence after watching what who’s that and what’s it’s talking about it you shouldn’t mystique was there, i first used a mac then to get to your question about a year later, so that was i was a senior and in high school when a commercial iron and that next fall i went to college and so within my first year in college and started seeing some of the max at some of the labs there and first, you don’t play around with them start hit the experience so how did your first mackintosh experience take you to where you are today to consulting. Well good the mac is always been a part of what i’ve done. Put that will you i’ve used max’s that point college where i had switched over you know and start using as undergraduate i never stopped using them, so it’s always been part of my personal viewing and professional computer and then my early career your first job was with bose corp, most of the time working in their a b corp communications group and then from there and i was working as a recording engineer and digital media stuff, and these are the days i get apple was the company that you were doing all that on so is surrounded by max workers to, can i get freelance production for a few years and then i went to work for recording studio again apple is the big player in this industry so i was always surrounded by a lot of apple equipment, both personally supporting in a professionally you know using a personally and professionally my switch to consulting came. [4:09] After i be working at a job in the studio for about eight years and, was looking for something else and both your short decided to you know go out and try a consulting on my own but that point focus on the computer side of things rather than the east side of things. This is also good time an image i start running my business full time as far as the apple tilting two thousand six and this is right in middle of apple rise after steve jobs to come back yo your where your favorite era has begun. [4:41] But you’re destroy by leaps and bounds so that was of for two is the very good kind to say hey i’m available here is an apple tech and console because there was a lot of people need help, when your savvy with computers you always wanna have parts around i assume that it started with having a bunch of computers around and and kind of. Blossomed into this but when did you decide that you are going to see that this was a collection and not just a bunch of parts. [5:10] So it’s not as far as the current stuff to have parts around your parts the stairs redundancy things like that is is more for the current operation. I had a was ten an early version running on mike my current back at the time and picked up an old mac plus, a local flea market here and got a copy of the original mac os, which i haven’t used that started in college your to after it so did you to three versions things happen very quickly and i didn’t see you all day one release and was struck what’s the day i’m really curious now like how much in that original os, has been retained to this day. I got the disk images and loaded up and on the left side of my desk i had mac system one on the right side of my desk i had the twenty year old long-awaited os ten and i’m like this is really cool, so that was the moment when it went from just having all stuff around really appreciating what do stuff can do. So then you buy one more making you buy another making a difference is i know i have little mac you want issue with that and then sue no well six months later told pilot make it should i get some collecting all back snow. [6:25] And you sue very wisely said abounds in yourself that you didn’t want to collect pass the power pc air at that. Time, the chips were made by motorola and they switch to intel i have here june sixth of two thousand five and so you said, this is this is gonna be the constraints of or the vintage magnesium when did that when did you coin that. Show some different constraints on it that the first, show err apple la apple has actually had three cpu architectures, [7:03] reviews for the mac over the years there’s early machines and we talked about the se and se thirty where were all made by motorola with the motorola sixty eight thousand series, the offer to the sixty k max apple shifted to power pc processors in it was nineteen ninety four. It was made power pc was a joint venture actually between motorola apple and ibm to manufacture the chips all three of them manufactured chips. And then they switched again, in two thousand five to the two of a couple over the course of a couple years with you than five just six the intel chips so currently using so, originally was just sixty eight k max collected just a sixty k max and then started because of those those days the power pc maxwell current your collecting them you are using them and people are giving away because they just had three great and you know on the machine. [7:57] By the time the until max came out you know it’s okay this this other area is over so all down the. [8:06] Yo did you do to your question was setting limits with saying alright i’m gonna say up through the end of the power pc air and now is the limit of it because the current air is the intel max. Okay that boundaries moving forward we are are still in the intel mac arrow but we are approaching the end of it. Weather they chino change the arm chips are not a lot of with a mac is going is no undergoing transformation but the other reason for banning it is so that. My possessions don’t out grow the space that i have to keep them in right and obviously use the word vintage there has to be a little bit of time. Get there and since then you’ve acquired things that came even before the sixty k matt mac i guess i read on the blog about. The joe story story b and how that kind of supplemented the collection if you wanna talk about that. [9:08] Well that’s example of of how the collection grows yes, joe storage cases of la away i didn’t know before contacted me last year, had been a long time apple collector himself of some of the really old book whitman to sixty k or equipment and the lease and it may i just meet nineteen eighties apples of his, area folks when the good we went on shift over to legally in the machines you know that were around that and. [9:37] Joe unfortunately was diagnosed with fatal illness within even have much time left and. Like a lot of the people who have this type of equipment. [9:50] Yo you don’t want your collecting it for reason you think its special you think its worth holding on to the reasons may be different but you know he ever was collecting them for some reason and you don’t wanna see them just discarded or or, yo we cycled or carelessly you know the people who don’t appreciate what the value or some people have no idea what this is all people like this is amazing you can get rid of this. Jojo new with this new my efforts to the museum yours to on line and he lives in the boston area of the boston area, in contact me and just asked if i would be willing to take his equipment as part of my collection so that he knew would go to a good home to his family didn’t want it. Give me time to sell it all that stuff and more than half of. What i have has been given to me because people wanna see you go to a good home. [10:45] They’ve sought me out and asked for. Yo were it at boarding exactly by equipment any day are the places like that but far more of a, are people who are finding be is a collector and saying i want this stuff to go to waste can you please, you know give it a good home or let me know what i can do with. [11:05] So a collection like this takes up a lot of space and i understand you have a blog post where you can show some of the things you are trying to do not to downsize but miniature as your collection. [11:19] Feeling in right it it’s more like okay of one of room to have more machines in my house, but i can i can buy smaller items like you know buttons and pins in this article i push to receive a little miniature back alarm clocks and reproductions things like that which you know, [11:37] i think you just tell you that the quickest way to any collectors hard to your car collector gonna will just a little miniature working version of the car now like how much i must have twelve of them have right, [11:48] and that lamp is incredible to the G4 for the white before lamp. [11:54] The the i love yes me by jake arms who this is the latest from my my site that’s another way to re purpose old computer john i’m collecting me keeping working in and functional the other thing is that we purpose them in some way and, at that imac was crying out in the street and you have a aquarian as well right but maybe not i want to tell you that running i have won the original bacteria made out of a mac plus. [12:22] The list is you don’t know what that is i’m aquarian is a hollowed out mac with an aquarium taking sides you have fish floating around and the people who love you made them over also to models over the years, the fellow maybe i’ll and jake harms he actually started making the aquariums out of the colored imac style of imacquariums, [12:41] and he is all tank with the curved glass front to match the screen with the original screen is and in fact if i ever, yeah if flash when i finally have a public space for my collection i am gonna hire jake the polish up all the cases does this guy like old car restoration to come back looking better than new condition. [13:02] You’re busting shine gloss is like wow they really look like that when i’m fresh out of the box, and when you talk about really collectible items there too that i read about in your collection one is i think the quadra that seems to be, [13:17] i kind of beta unit. They came in with a sticker an apple sticker and some different things on the mother board then we’re on the production unit did you ever get that up and running. [13:31] Oh that is running it it’s not actually the hookup and what city under the desk but that was it its a quadrant which of the sixty to force for, sixty eight of wishers max in the case of the to see i series which was do thirty series max, so someone took a quadruple mother board and stop eighteen and older case and used it in apple engineering so it might have been, after tone a couple collectors it wasn’t the motherboard of the first quadrant like its okay which is the choir seven hundred, and if it was up to seven hundred board in that case that probably would’ve been a mockup and engineering, in this case it was a later model o’clock to six fifty in that case and people said well you know it was probably some guy apple engineering who took all parts lying around problems of the other computer, and the property of engineering sticker on the back of the. [14:25] Get good to have people who recognizes you know i got from a guy who runs a store that sells these used an old max, any to keep kyle for interesting stuff for me you saw this and said hey i got this you know mac to but it seems to have acquired a mother board and then generic sticker on the back are you interested in it and like gas, don’t do anything i’ll be down tomorrow to at and that’s people so what are you looking to collect now. I don’t doing nothing in particular until i get more space in a long wish list but i’ll know it when i see it. And this kind of lead us to the next thing is the apple developer transition system which was when they introduced the intel cards they kind of again stuff to, pentium board energy five case and put it on a lease to developers and somehow you got one of these i wonder if apple has asked for it back and and talk about the software that, [15:27] that’s the kind of software struggles if they have an ass no have it back now though if you look at the photos. You may have noticed the serial number is is grayed out of it but at the time they were supposed to have been returned you know, is it ever been on the market in the first place is for sale on e bay probably would’ve been pulled from the day this was a trooper about like that that you know quad your cobble together thing. [15:58] So apple made to shift again they have purchased intel that person to purchase next. [16:04] To get next step and next step ran on power pc and intel machines. The master power pc but they were contemplating transition back to the intel chips and in secret for a few years apple was compiling mac os ten also on intel machines, so they could make the change you know what at whatever point they wanted to if any did decide to do it in own in two thousand five the media announcement but they need to prepare, yo developers no harder manufactures need to get ready for the change ahead of time so they were stuff available on day one so what apple did was the ship developers. They would you five cases to the power mac g five case which is a big tower same size as the mac pro, but it has an intel motherboard inside wasn’t even a pro like a precursor mac pro mother board or anything that apple ever shipped, it was just an off the shelf penny and was paying for yo intel motherboard twenty things you find in a micro tower it, you know best buy generic pc and apple call this the developer transitions in. Least of old friends leasing to developers you know for your urine after the time and, and then they required to develop or send them back and exchange it would get it was an imac to get your current released machine so they didn’t lose money or play on the hardware but it was, it’s just an interview no use this while you heat up after software and had three release versions of. [17:38] Os ten software this is the tiger errors attend out for recently switched over, what i have so i have what is machines that you know again any like any of these things and thousands go out not all that came back i’ve heard over the years and apple made some but not a huge effort to, yo to get them back which probably wouldn’t be the case today but the outside some were made out i think there was for like long as you don’t sell or whatever you know we don’t really care. So they get same shop actually, that gave me the quadrant faq found this saying someone had been using it as a pc cuz intel motherboard and was just gonna sell it for scrap metal cuz was that you know under power pc. So when i talk about some of the other items that are listed under the rare items in on the website that, the apple id email and newton were how do you think that the new influenced where apple has gone today so the meat wasn’t in. [18:40] Revenue no it’s not the mac os was just in the let the use of laptop that laptop clam shell form factor, everybody who visits i have one in my office you have stuff some of the stuff that i have a set up in a couple rooms in my house, and right lights up my front door in my home office i have a wall of all blacks and the maid is sitting this one was a have out, everybody gravitate to that is interesting kids and adults the newton. [19:08] Get a couple ways with that sort of went the new notably is the grandfather to the iphone. [19:16] No the new military personal digital assistants point and handwriting recognition keep your database with you the team that did the new most of them left and form palm computing. Which became the palm pilot with which then became the trail and the trail was arguably the first smart phone on the market. The second one on the market was the the blackberry series and then you know later, what jobs that apple they came out with the iphone is their own take on this without the keyboard but the touch screen and all the other things that the guy for successful, but the iphone was in some ways you know in advance for than a reaction to, the problem and the black trail and the blackberry and both of those devices all from the new. [20:03] To that little bit around about their the other thing that’s interesting about the email and i tell this to people. Green translucent me translation plastic curvy so it looks like kermit the frog get of computer. [20:21] What is that you know you should look at this and see what did apple start doing in the years when steve jobs came back with started making really cool curvy colorful yosemite translation computers like the ibook. Which came out of the time well industrial designer behind the maid was a very young johnny i’ve, and he didn’t number products at the time which the products were answered successful but jobs recognized i’ve talent, and yeah retained him and of course he became the driving force behind the product as i for the last fifteen years so the email that you see. [20:59] Good more direct influence on that in apple is the design language that became the ibooks and the semi translucent. [21:07] Two thousand air systems. [21:10] You also have another rare item that’s the twentieth anniversary mac this is a really strange thing director mind around as a computer user kind of explain this to people. [21:22] What is that right. Twentieth anniversary mac is a machine that apple break out it’s actually the twentieth anniversary of apple none of the mac it was a mac for the twentieth anniversary about. And it was suppose to be the division initially was was gonna be this you know. Example of where the mac was having wrap was going in this cutting edge you no forward thinking high end product. And. [21:51] It’ll be cable visionary ridiculous at the same time because it was you know very expensive machine that would serve under powered and sold really as a statists symbol mac, take executive things like that was honestly priced at seventy five hundred bucks and sold. So nine and drop the price to fifteen hundred for the discontinued it at the time which is considered a. You know that should of a commercial flop results like why you doing this the target there’s no need for. [22:23] But i did like at that time for those reasons the if you’re viewing it visually what is the flat panel apple had laptops are ready to the power box if you know flat panel screen to didn’t have any flat panel max. This is a flat panel mac mounted vertically it’s not very thick it’s only about four five inches thick she can’t see if your looking straight on the front is on this little, nice stand bracket that you could adjust the tilt angle. Oh nice ounces the built in those clothes i with bows what iraq was working poses time that happens so it seems sort of the belt but has a separate sub woofer which is also the power supply that connects to it, vertical cd drive track pad on the desktop and you know it it was. Under powered and visual you’ll get visually just meant to be more a statement of anything else however. [23:17] Over time i look at it as what is this actually this is a mac in a vertical form factor that is a flat panel screen, you know that has all the computer pretty much behind it you are the bulk of it and it’s actually very similar to what they wanna bring out is the flat panel imax that’s another interesting design that was the other, so the main product that the young johnny i’ve worked on in coming up with concepts like that, so i find it very interesting that two products that were set of not commercial successes for apple pie made and the twentieth anniversary mac, both had enough innovative designs that again the designer was kept and one of influencing you know the future mac designs. Much more than your you would of thought at the time. Since they were flops of and then of course that becomes you know what was a flop to didn’t make very many of them and they become desirable as collectible item. Could you see twenty years down the road slow carl this is interesting and there’s not many made so, you know you struggle with defining rights offer to go with the hardware e in addition to being period correct but there is this great passion of mac users who want to. [24:34] Use a black hardware outside of the bounds that apple sets on them. As well as i know the power pc there are still people who are developing, there’s a mozilla content for fox that runs on on power pc still in and support some of the more recent advancements to the web so there’s this great passion and what do you think it is about apple products, that you know out lives. Other technology so massively that’s yo that’s a good question and that’s something people of ask me, [25:13] about not so much why collect which is part of what you were talking about it on your practice is about but also what’s up with apple. You know why do so many people cuz this summer collects everything. You know you look kind of an eclectic for any any kind of things watch american pickers you see you see a lot of people like that but. [25:37] There’s something so many people who weather apple collectors or they’re right you are cute you doing modeling yo hardware, when current software or keeping go running really old harbor the people surrounding news by the way speaking of that i’m running web stuff on the top of the nude which is your lease to, scratch your head you know why i’m have the answer to that are pretty and says just because i can. You know which school do it but i think part of the other answer to you know why keep using the old hardware is. In apple’s case it’s often obsoleted intentionally so they can sell the product. [26:15] There’s no reason harbor can’t support new stuff for new stuff feel slightly reduce functionality. [26:22] They wanted to have you by the newest latest machines and the other tax their business model and have been accelerating that business model, but they hit a park or and i think other brands that have this type of following your lifestyle following it’s the same way it it does mark you as part of your identity you know. Up up until s ten years you were the underdog is an apple user. [26:47] You know me now apples to apples huge deducted the biggest in the death of space but you know they’re the target people wanna take down yet to sacrifice. To use a back for it to get software for it and get rid of cooling your bleeding apple computer so people like i’m willing to give that up and by the way apple where was you brought these damn machines and as your stop. You know going in this direction we’re making harbor we don’t like anymore you know that that’s your your quandary as i said they have close open and close phases and they are very much and a close phase. Right now but i think apples marketing you know it that was called jobs is called reality distortion field you know but you. [27:31] Get. What you do to build the community and bring people together that’s the truth to it br just a marking angle and i think that stronger with apple stuff which is it becomes more of your life. Can you do it with a lot of peace user on my mac user if they were the bad proudly for many years, and so you get more of people like me you know or people who. What to give there stuff you know they mean i have a hundred computers but they have the two or three old ones and they say you know hey i really don’t wanna just get rid of this can you make use of it would like to go to a good home. You know that’s where the sentiment comes from. [28:10] And the storage constraints of come up on do you see yourself trying to move this into you now. Commercial space or, trying to like what’s the next step in terms i would like to have this in a commercial space worth more accessible it really is i’ve about gonna space in my home even with what i’ve done that can keep bounded, [28:35] i think about married and get away with this, so i like many other collectors in fact i very much like to have it some where can be pretty it and your two-thirds storage and one third your display area type thing it’s tough because this isn’t something i can find itself. Yeah let’s not. It didn’t add the collection i do i get some money doing a file transfers and it pays for my buy new equipment stop it’s not enough to support a self sustaining space so, i’ve actually start talking with some of the collectors and looking into options you could share space to use the space another business or you know something like that but. My goal it’s big enough and it’s grown, [29:17] dim the screen has never been anything i planned just keep clipping out about it and use any equipment or asking about it and you get no nyla folks call you like you you’ve to call be today you know so you don’t set out it sis of events carry themselves. The needs to be intel air you know section of the mac which were nearing the end of in some form right now and then. [29:42] This is the type thing that people will be interested in or other apple museums private apple museums in, you’ll around the world is about half dozen of them to just no get a kid apple museums here in the states, most of the things you are the back or action you know someplace off the beaten path old ramshackle building does that so you can afford me a lot of money. So my goal is yes to try to make it public to i’d love to have it somewhere once twice a month in on a saturday people come by and and visit and i’ve had people who have been interested in, so see my house but you know would be more likely to come see if it wasn’t a regular location and and space. This is coming out remember money is really would be so how can people learn more about vintage magnesium. [30:36] The best way is the website would you be referring to which is vintage mac museum dot com. There’s the did websites started it actually started with that, exhibit and macro boston two thousand four so when did the name vintage magazine come about became about then, because i know i want to publicize the event we are having so i took out the domain vintage back pm dot com the website. Kinda started out as just a list of my collection which it still is but it’s also become a resource is the history of apple through the, the price of the collection way to finance larry materials and i’ve been running a blog for a long time to talk but still post your disgusting somebody equipment of some things and apple so i view it now. [31:23] Is it my collection for the two parts, this is the physical part which is in my house that some people see the most will does know about and then there’s the virtual part which is the website which really contains you know, it is over fifteen years or other information at this point that i’ve been adding to it you’re looking to other apple and just computing related sites. Okay well i’m rosenthal answer to a short question thank you so much for joining us today it’s my pleasure and i will leave you with one word of warning i give everyone a talks about collecting, [31:55] list of room be careful it starts to add up quickly. [32:00] Music. [32:08] Thanks to Matt at Wulff Media for his voice-over expertise and recreating apple commercial at the beginning of the program. If you enjoyed this podcast please subscribe and rate in your podcast app of choice, and is there some wine and collecting culture podcast dot com for more information my sister liz will be back next month with another collect.