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Does the SE/30 live up to the hype?

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Hi all, we've had threads about "which compact is the best?" before, but I'm wondering if we can have a thread specifically about the vintage Mac that needs no introduction: the SE/30.

 

It gets a lot of love, and seems to be most appealing and valuable out of all the compacts.  People want this thing.  But why?  What makes it such a desirable model, and, more importantly, does it live up to the hype?

 

--------------------------------

 

I own an SE/30, and personally, I have found it to be a fantastic little computer that presents enormous tinkering possibilities.  Doing a full restore on an SE/30 is just the beginning of the road; once you've it running nice and stable, the upgrade possibilities are endless.  And that, I believe, is what makes it such an alluring little machine.  It's relatively powerful to begin with, and can only grow stronger the longer you own it.

 

That being said, the SE/30 is my first compact.  The other compacts may be equally or even more charming.  A lot of what I love about it—the sharp little black and white screen, classic MacOS vibes, the way it's small enough to sit unobtrusively on the corner of your desk—also applies to the rest of the compact line.  So am I in love with the SE/30, or with compact macs in general?

 

Curious to hear from those who have had lots of compacts for a hopefully objective conversation.

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For one, it was the fastest of the 030s in the compact line out of the box. Even the CC because the original CC had the crappy bus architecture the LC and LCII had. 

 

However, the CCII or a CC with an LC550 board will hold its own. 

 

This is likely why. 

 

The SE with an upgrade isnt a slouch either, but when it has a CPU upgrade occupying the PDS it makes it difficult to add Ethernet as well, unlike the SE/30. 

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It's interesting that the SE/30 remains a Cult Classic in terms of new mods like ants' WiFi upgrade while the CC modding craze appears to have died off almost entirely. I was never a fan of either, but got caught up in the SE/30 by way of building a IIsi intended to blow the doors off the most madly modded SE/30 extant.

 

The problem for me was that the SE/30 upgrade game was and still is a rather pricey endeavor. Thankfully I've lucked into just about everything, including the /30 except the internal grayscale card almost by accident and I've been enjoying it, but can't really think of a use I would have ever had for it.

 

It's a badly hobbled Macintosh IIcx in its lack of support for NuBus Cards (outside Second Wave's breakout box solution) and yet its 16MHz PDS has a significant speed advantage over the 10MHz bottlenecked NuBus for some purposes.

 

It's a greatly expanded SE with the Slot Manager architecture's ability to address AND house more than one expansion card at a time or expansion coupled with an accelerator. But it really should have had internal grayscale from day one. A B&W display on a Color Mac was inexcusable IMO. The SE's display was wholly inadequate for a Macintosh II class Compact.

 

The SE/30 remained a true Compact, packing up in the traditional carryall for lugging about, unlike the CC which was neither compact nor luggable.

 

The SE/30 packed the processing power of the IIcx into the Compact form factor as the IIci release eclipsed it. Pretty cool at the time and still to this day  .  .  .  so long as you never needed to use a BIG display or even a medium sized one at 24bit.

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I think the CC modding fad is dying out because more and more of the machines are dying and people aren't properly restoring them.  In addition to having a motherboard that needs caps the CC has two other things working against it: the analog board needs caps just as much and the plastics are of noticeably worse quality.  It's not hard to chip/crack/break a CC case where with the SE/30 the plastics will take much more abuse before they throw in the towel.

 

Another thing is that the SE/30 isn't as limited as the CC.  Sure, you're stuck with one internal resolution (even if you do get a grayscale card) but like others have mentioned, you can just keep piling on the upgrades.  With the CC the best you could manage on a stock machine was the Presto Plus which got you a faster processor (still stuck on a slow bus) and a network card...but you were still stuck with an inferior resolution.  Had the CC had 640x480 resolution and the CCII's motherboard out of the box it would have been a proper send off for the compacts.  That's not to say that upgrades for each aren't pricey (supply and demand) but the SE/30 is a fine machine in stock form whereas the CC really isn't. 

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I am on the fence to be honest. While I like my SE/30 I've been thinking why I need one in my collection since I already have bunch of maxed out (in terms of RAM) Pluses.  I know that Unix, BSD and Linux distros need better CPU than 68000. 

 

Ok, lets see which games and programs apart from web browsers require more than 4 MB and 030 while still running in  1-bit graphics mode. Any clues? To put in other words what are the "killer apps" that require SE/30 specs and wont run on Plus? 

Edited by CharlieFrown

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If you had a choice now, i wouldn't recommend the SE/30. It is too popular and it has become expensive as a consequence.

 

If you want a good compact, get an SE.

If you want a good 030, get a Mac IIcx. They are usually cheaper than SE/30s. As a rule, add-on cards (in this case NuBus cards) are more plentiful, easier to get and cheaper than SE/30 PDS cards. Furthermore, you can insert 3 NuBus cards without having to buy expensive adaptors.

Colour/grayscale is much more easily obtained on a IIcx than on an SE/30.

However, if you want both in one compact mac, then the SE/30 is the way to go.

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Yep, the Cache Card suffices, but a IIcx/Rocket/NIC/Monster Pixel Production Card would be more fun than a IIci with only its pathetic VampireVid, IMO.

 

As far as compacts go, the SE/Radius16/Radius TPD/SCSI NIC project is a lot more fun than the RCPII/IIsi/Asante NIC/50MHz PowerCache SE/30 build for me, but that's mostly due to personal history. Its FDHD upgrade hack is imminent. [}:)]]'>

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I think the 128k is still the most magical because it feels more modern than most computers of that era (no I don't own a xerox)

Its not the fastest or most capable Macintosh but it shows the idea of a "all in one" better than any computer before it.

 

(yes I know about the ibm 5155 etc but those are dos/386 based)

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Dunno, s gorgonops has pointed out, the 512K prototype used for the introduction of the RAM starved 128K is the seminal GUI based computer. The 128K was the first RoadApple, woefully inadequate even for the task of making its own introduction. [}:)]]'>

 

Confuzzled the three slot IIci with the two slot limited Q700 above, oopsie! [:I]]'>

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If you had a choice now, i wouldn't recommend the SE/30. It is too popular and it has become expensive as a consequence.

Sure and You don't recommend a IIfx or an 840AV either I assume for the same reasons? Models are popular for a reason, people want to use them.

 

Stock SE/30's can still be found at a reasonable price and are usable as is. Same with a SE (but I prefer the superdrive models more then the 800K ones).

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Dunno, wanting to collect them, wanting to upgrade them or not and wanting to actually use them and for what appear to me to be distinct questions with wildly different answers for every individual and his or her budget for the hobby.

 

I don't really think the SE/30, the IIfx, the 840AV, the TAM, the Cube or the 128K can ever live up to any level of hype heaped upon them by their respective adherents.

 

The journey of discovering the limits of technologies past would be the appeal for me. The SE/30 is quite limited, but the superstar in its handicap league.

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I know that Unix, BSD and Linux distros need better CPU than 68000.

 

...but my HP 9000/360 has a 25MHz 68030 and runs HP-UX 7, 8 and 9 - of course it has a monster graphics card and the thing weighs 200+ pounds with all the components stuffed into a 2 foot high cabinet and needs some weird RGB monitor, but it runs UNIX.  The reason that I have a few SE/30's is because they are nice, fast (for their age), weigh a lot less than my HPUX machine, are mildly expandable (its pretty easy to throw ethernet and a version of system 7 on them) and if you are patient, keep your eyes open and are handy with a soldering iron, you can get one for a reasonable price. (mine averaged to $55 ea, not counting the micron card that I sold)  My last two were under $45 each.

Edited by Juror22

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Its FDHD upgrade hack is imminent. [}:)]]'>

Nice :)

 

I have an SE/30, with 20mb RAM and an Ethernet card. It’s okay, but I’d say a bit over hyped. It REALLY should have had grayscale from the factory. That, combined with its extensive use of leaky caps knocks it down in my book.

 

Personally, an SE FDHD makes a great and reliable System 6/7.1 B&W machine :) By far my favorite compact.

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I see the SE/30 as the special edition "turbo" edition of the SE - with a good chunk of RAM (20MB+) and a faster than stock HD, it performs so much better than a standard SE or Plus.  OS 7 is responsive and the crisp monochrome screen is something that will be marvelled at in terms of retro computing collections as the years go by.

 

Are there any B&W apps/games that make use of the '030?  None I can think of.  It is worth upgrading to faster accelerators?  No, this as you can't run anything else.

 

If you are looking at a more usable vintage Mac, a souped up CC is a much more capable machine.  Coupled with a 640 x 480 mod and '040 Mystic upgrade, you can run pretty much any piece of 68K software made (pending compatibility), it's small and serves as the perfect bridging Mac between older 68K and early PPC machines.  Don't forget it!

 

JB

Edited by Byrd

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Sure and You don't recommend a IIfx or an 840AV either I assume for the same reasons? Models are popular for a reason, people want to use them.

 

Exactly. A IIfx is nice to have but I think that a IIcx for half the price is a better deal for someone starting out.

If someone was looking for a 68K mac, I wouldn't recommend an SE/30, a IIfx or an 840av on the grounds of cost. I would recommend their less sexier siblings — SE, IIcx or a Q650. Of course, if an SE/30 is available at a reasonable price, then go for it.

 

I have a IIfx but it fell into my hands and for this I am thankful. I have an SE/30 too and this I got while the prices weren't too high.

 

SE/30s can be gotten reasonably (especially in the States). In Europe it is hard to find one for less than the equivalent of USD100. SEs can be got for 50.

 

There are many more more sellers offering up their old macs for silly prices. One auction site in Switzerland has a fellow offering his Plus for CHF700 (USD700) and his SE/30 for CHF400 (USD400). [https://www.ricardo.ch/de/c/sonstige-apple-mac-s-70706/]

What I have noticed is that many more Macs on sale here are pick-up only and for that I need a day or two and an expensive rail ticket to travel to get it..

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I sold some SE/30s for between $300 and $400 on eBay.  I felt a little guilty about it.  They weren't that great of physical shape, and I made sure to post lots of pictures of any blemishes.  I retr0brited them, recapped them, installed a SCSI2SD card, and an ethernet card.  Maybe those items separately were worth it.  I dunno.

 

SCSI2SD card LEDs broke on 2 of them, so I had to mail out replacements.  I had soldered on a 2 pin connector to connect the HDD LED, but the connectors ripped the pads off.

Edited by olePigeon

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I sold some SE/30s for between $300 and $400 on eBay.  I felt a little guilty about it.  They weren't that great of physical shape, and I made sure to post lots of pictures of any blemishes.  I retr0brited them, recapped them, installed a SCSI2SD card, and an ethernet card.  Maybe those items separately were worth it.  I dunno.

 

SCSI2SD card LEDs broke on 2 of them, so I had to mail out replacements.  I had soldered on a 2 pin connector to connect the HDD LED, but the connectors ripped the pads off.

SCSI2SD are what $60 a pop, Ethernet is $120+, recap is $50, retrobrite no idea so I can see $300-400. I just looked on ebay and non working units can fetch $50 plus shipping.

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I just purchased a SE/30 in Australia.

$AU316 + $50 postage.

 

Honestly I would have paid double for it.

 

https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Apple-Macintosh-SE-30-Working-Refurbished-Recapped/263299678156

 

It has: SCSI2SD ($100 + SD card), recap (I've done on LC/CC but takes a few hours, so $100+), new ROM ($50).

 

Plus it is in good condition and 64MB ram.

 

It just arrived at home today so I haven't play with it yet, but I'll let you know if it lives up to the hype.

 

I also own SE, CC and LCI/II/III/475. 475 is probably the best working machine I own at the moment, and it is great.

Edited by mwdmeyer

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