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A Review of the TinkerBOY DB9 to USB Mouse Adapter

uncle_chopstick

New member
What follows is a review of an adapter cable which converts the DB9 connector on the rear of a Macintosh 128K and other variants to USB. This will allow the owner of a vintage Macintosh with this connector to use a modern USB mouse with their system, a highly useful scenario. The adapter is available from TinkerBOY. TinkerBOY has his own website, but I also noticed it available from eBay and another one. I decided to purchase mine directly from his website.

DB9 to USB Mouse Adapter on TinkerBOY's Website

I had initially been interested in the Wombat converter from Big Mess o'Wires. However, this converter is only suitable for systems with the round ADB connector, so I was obliged to eliminate it from my consideration.

The cable arrived in a little under three weeks. I eventually discovered how to connect it. Initially I was not able to plug it in to the mouse port, which I found extremely confusing for a brief period. The connector certainly is the correct type. Eventually I turned the system on to its front and attempted to plug it in from above, at which point I was successful. There is a flange on the lower half of the plug which fouls the case housing underneath the mouse port. It is possible to connect it, but only by pushing the logic board up ever so slightly to allow the plug to move into place. I worry that this may damage the board with the progress of time. Frequent plugging and unplugging may cause the port to work loose from the logic board, for example. My fears may be unfounded, and I am willing to take advice on this point, but the fewer chances one has to take with a vintage computer, the better. I have considered removing the flange, but the plug would fall apart if I did this and it would need to be secured some other way, possibly with glue of some kind. It may not have been tested on the case of my system, which originally was a Macintosh 128K that was later upgraded to 512K. The case design of other systems of the period may have been different, so I cannot say whether this issue affects them as well. All things considered, it's probably not a big deal.

And indeed it does work. Modern mice seem to have a much higher DPI specification so it may be necessary to change the mouse or the mouse settings. This should not be an issue in Macintosh System 6, but when I was using System 3.2 there are not a lot of options for setting it in the software. Some mice have a button for changing the DPI as well, so it may be a good idea to try one of those.

I noticed that the movement of the pointer stutters during a disk access operation. I initially put this down to issues with the laser, the mouse pad, or a particular mouse I had not used before, but when I tried another mouse and the same thing happened I realised that this was probably due to an interrupt occurring with disk access. This may be normal for the Macintosh, although I conducted some brief research and could not find any conclusive information on this point. Indeed I later realised that my own M0100 mouse also does this, which I had initially put down to the mouse ball being misshapen. It could also be due to another hardware issue with my particular system. In any case, there are no issues with the adapter on account of this.

I tried two wireless devices with the adapter for this review. The first was a Kensington Pro Fit Wireless Vertical mouse and the second was a Logitech MX Ergo Trackball Mouse. The Kensington did not function correctly. The system refused to accept a boot disk after the wireless dongle was plugged in and the pointer refused to move. There were no issues with the Logitech. Since my experience with wireless devices was varied, I would be pleased to know something of the experiences of other enthusiasts.

The right mouse button functions the same as the left mouse button, as does depressing the mouse wheel. Turning the mouse wheel was not mapped to any function as far as I could tell.

In the week or so I have had the opportunity to use the new device, I am impressed apart from the difficulty in connecting it. If anything happens to my mouse, I know I will have another option that will allow me to continue using my system, as it cannot be used without one. I could also connect a mouse of a more ergonomic design such as a vertical mouse, something that was not available at the time of manufacture of this system but which many people would consider important today for the purposes of avoiding injury. I am pleased to recommend it.
 
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