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Rasmus

Power Cords for early Macs (128K, 512K, 512Ke, Plus)

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Okay, so I'm the author of this ancient site:

 

http://www.earlymacintosh.org

 

I've recently been updating the links and such for it. The thing that triggered this was a question I got from a reader about the correct original power cords for the pre-SE machines. I've never addressed this question, and I responded by saying that there are two cords, one earlier and one later, but having looked around a bit on eBay I'm starting to wonder of I've gotten the cords mixed up.

 

This is kind of an issue on eBay, as sellers cobble together materials to form "complete" sets. My site was created to try to show what consistent, "correct" accessory/manual/hardware sets should include, and the power cords are one element in that I'd like to cover, but my certainty has taken a hit, so I'm asking for help on this timeline.

 

Did the switch occur in 1986, with the release of the 512Ke and Plus? Or was it earlier, in 1985 at some point? Another thing I'm fuzzy about is exactly when the second-generation 128K and 512K started shipping, the ones with the "Macintosh 128K" badge on the back (instead of just "Macintosh") -- I might have once known and/or deduced this but now I'm not sure. Anyhow, that would be another possible moment the cords changed.

 

The cord I think is the earlier one (128K, 512K) looks like this:

Power1.thumb.jpg.2133862a9099f950b8de432bd0ddfdb8.jpg

 

The cord I think is the later one (1986 512Ke and 1986 Plus, not sure after that -- also not really sure about the 1986 Plus) looks like this:

Power2.thumb.jpg.7ed854dae906a0bbe8b887da443e32b3.jpg

 

So what is your experience? Which cord is which?

Edited by Rasmus

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I can't give any authoritative answer, except a suggestion to carefully check all of Apple's photographs-- both promotional and in the manuals, to see what the power cords were at the time.

 

Photo galleries such as this one may also be instructive.

Edited by Dog Cow

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55 minutes ago, Dog Cow said:

Photo galleries such as this one may also be instructive.

Yeah, that and a current seller including what I thought was a later cord in what is being sold as a complete 1984 Week 34 set is what set off my uncertainty about this. Your suggestion about the manuals has borne fruit, but I'll put that in a separate reply.

Edited by Rasmus

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2 hours ago, Dog Cow said:

I can't give any authoritative answer, except a suggestion to carefully check all of Apple's photographs-- both promotional and in the manuals, to see what the power cords were at the time.

Okay, so I've got all the early manuals and while I wasn't sanguine, since the power cord is often cleverly hidden in promotional photos (to reduce the sense of clutter), nonetheless the cord is shown in the manual when it needs to be -- when they tell you to plug the machine in and turn it on!

 

So I'm not going crazy, and I was right about the most basic sense of the timeline, i.e., which came first.

 

Here's the relevant page from the first Macintosh manual, neatly showing the M0001 model number, the power cord, and the squared-off connector for the mouse:

IMG_1110.thumb.jpg.5380b9f02352a9615afff35c66eb3079.jpg

 

Here's the relevant page from the first Macintosh Plus manual (1986), showing the same set of materials, now with the later power cord and rounded-off mouse connector:

IMG_1109.thumb.JPG.f4d55623dcdb89e42b4a2eb7afdba48d.JPG

 

So we have two clear end points, but what happened in between is still slippery. If those two eBay sales (one a Week 32 box, the other a Week 34 box, so both are August 1984 packages, the same time the first Mac 512K boxes were being packaged) are accurate, the cord was switched out by that time.

 

IIRC, I don't think there are 400K external drives with the rounded-off connector. Right? Those began with the 800K external drives and 512Ke/Plus in 1986. So that was probably when the mouse connector changed, too. So it is just about the power cord.

 

So that's maybe the timeline, that the cord was changed around that time, when Macintosh 512K production began (it was released in early September 1984). It would be interesting to see of there are Fat Macs around with the earlier cord... I'm thinking maybe not?

 

Edited by Rasmus

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Just wanted to say that your site is one of my favorite resources. Thank you for caring about the little details!

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My (long departed) Mac 512k came with the "early" style power cord.

 

Regarding rounded mouse plugs, Apple went to that style at least when the Apple IIc was released in 1984, don't know if it carried over to Macintosh peripherals right away though. I'll have to check my early revisions "Mouse IIc" which was still a rebranded Macintosh mouse (later Mouse IIc got its own case design).

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My 512k was manufactured in September 1984 (if I remember correctly) and has the early mouse and power cord.

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I found one of the “early” cords at goodwill recently. Wouldn’t surprise me if the 128/512k came in with it too, but goodwill probably recycled it :/ 

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I'm starting to think the "early" (ribbed) cord shown in that drawing and the manual is one that was designed especially for the Macintosh, while the one I thought was a later (angular) cord is an more generic Apple cord? Used for another Apple product, then revived for the 512Ke/Plus. I'm getting this vision of Jobs looking at a prototype with that cord with the "Electricord" logo on it, and objecting to that, as well as wanting a cord that would match the squared-off style of the Macintosh connectors more perfectly.

 

Or maybe the one that didn't get used was a design that was rejected, then later revived for the 512Ke/Plus?

 

When official Macintosh cords weren't available when the promotional photography was being done, they just used the other cord. The Electricord logo can't be seen, so it's fine. It's also a little smaller, so less prominent in those photos, which might have been desirable. The manual actually has one shown as well, in the very first image, with a dreamy blond guy sitting in front of a blackboard, gazing at a Macintosh prototype.

 

I don't think they are different suppliers -- both cords were made by Electricord. [I don't remember where I learned that, but I believe it's correct.]

 

Maybe the change happened in September 1985, when Jobs was forced out? No more special-edition power cords! :-)  [Just kidding, but not really...]

Edited by Rasmus

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Oh, yes, I think I have several of those angled cords in my printer cord collection. Unfortunately my collection is such a garage sale mishmash that it is hard to be certain what cords in my possession came with which computers. I'll have to go make a count of types, at least.

 

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49 minutes ago, slomacuser said:

Ah, that at least shows me where I got the idea the cords were made by Electricord: both ends of the "early" cord say "Electri Cord, Westfield, PA" on them in tiny print:

IMG_1124.thumb.jpg.2d505b732b043d76240de3c1aacf49ed.jpg

 

Also, one possibly useful detail there. The "early" cord says "Electri Cord" while the later cord that came with my 512Ke (see OP) says "Electricord" in a fancier font and has a sort of lasso motif going on.

 

So I really wonder what the cord in those August 1984 boxes says on it. Is it "Electri Cord" or "Electricord" -- could help date them. One wonders if that design is Electri Cord's own -- and those cords were cheaper than the custom, Apple-designed Macintosh cords used at first. The ones seen in those early promotional ads and photos, at least, would then just be generic cords from Electri Cord used in the development process, and not Apple-branded (at that time). Later Apple started using them, adding the Apple logo to the plug end.

 

I'm about as far down this rabbit hole as I'm willing to go, but more notes from people about their 128Ks and 512Ks would be useful.

Edited by Rasmus

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I was just looking at the right-angled cords in my collection. I won't include pictures unless you want, because it is so hard to know where any of my stuff is from so it won't likely help you much, but FWIW, all three are labeled Yakita (one is Yakita-S, it doesn't look any different from the others, although each of the three is a different shade of brown/beige/grey). They also have a little apple on the male plug, but in a different spot.

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7 hours ago, Rasmus said:

 

IIRC, I don't think there are 400K external drives with the rounded-off connector. Right?

 

Rounded connector was a frogdesign, by Hartmut Esslinger. See "Keep It Simple: The Early Design Years of Apple, 2014"

The square design was Manock's. Apple switched to Esslinger's design in 1985 to save materials in manufacture. Uses less plastic. Esslinger was very critical of Manock's industrial design for Macintosh. He was definitely not a fan. You need to read this book if you haven't. It has too much good information in it to not read it.

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I lost most of my original cords in an ill-considered purge at least a dozen years ago.  It's not like they were all Apple, there were Tandy, HP, Sun in there too.  In addition, who needs 20 and 40 MB hard drives cluttering up the house, right?  So sad.  (at least I packed away the old keyboards, mice, software and adapters) A few years ago, when I got a large trove from someone here and found several older apple power cords mixed in with the AppleTalk cables, I was ecstatic.

 

I really appreciate that some folks are trying to bring this information together in a researched and authoritative way, before it becomes unavailable.  Thanks for putting this together.

 

 

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16 hours ago, Rasmus said:

So I really wonder what the cord in those August 1984 boxes says on it. Is it "Electri Cord" or "Electricord" -- could help date them. One wonders if that design is Electri Cord's own -- and those cords were cheaper than the custom, Apple-designed Macintosh cords used at first. The ones seen in those early promotional ads and photos, at least, would then just be generic cords from Electri Cord used in the development process, and not Apple-branded (at that time). Later Apple started using them, adding the Apple logo to the plug end.

You're probably right about this. I found another angled plug cord, which until recently was plugged into a 512K that I got from its original owner (so, good chance it actually went with that machine). It had an Electricord plug that looks just like your "early" model, except where the apple is on yours, there's just a bulls eye. I can see how it would have been easy to re-brand those.

 

I don't know if you are following other threads on the forum, but at some point, I would love your input on this thread:

No rush, but I'm guessing you have a lot of original materials that would be helpful. I'm going to be ferreting away at this problem for a while.

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I went up into the attic and found another of the "later" cords. I'm pretty sure I got this one with a 512K, and it is noticeably different on the connector (female) end from the one that I got with the 1986 512Ke. It is possible that I have them mixed up, but I don't think so. The plug (male) ends with the Apple are almost exactly the same.

 

So it looks like it is possible to tell the 1984/1985 cords from the 1986 cords used in the 512Ke and Plus. Both have "Electricord" with the lasso font but it is smaller, on the other side, and not isolated in a box. Here they are side-by-side:

 

Power3.thumb.jpg.4c7f76a475813718c2dc2fbb521bc90c.jpg

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26 minutes ago, tanaquil said:

You're probably right about this. I found another angled plug cord, which until recently was plugged into a 512K that I got from its original owner (so, good chance it actually went with that machine). It had an Electricord plug that looks just like your "early" model, except where the apple is on yours, there's just a bulls eye. I can see how it would have been easy to re-brand those.

Interesting. Just when I thought we'd reached the end of this!

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I wonder if Apple itself was always perfectly consistent about shipping each system with a particular kind of cord. Since they were all interchangeable, it would have been awfully easy to use a spare one in a pinch. Or an otherwise scrupulously maintained machine might come home from a repair shop upgrade with a swapped-out cord.

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Apple maybe had multiple suppliers, just like they had multiple suppliers for the ICs. Having only a single supplier for a component is risky business practice.

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Also remember that the power cords were packed into the white plastic software "accessory" boxes along with the disks, manual, and so on. I can't remember of the box itself was shrink-wrapped, but most likely it was. So that was a different assembly line -- the cord and its Mac didn't meet until the customer opened up the box.

 

So the obvious moment for a cord change was when the accessory box changed, which happened three times, in May 1984, September 1984, and June 1985.

 

But yes, the real world isn't always so neat and tidy, and there's incontrovertible evidence that both cord designs were around at the start. I think we can say that the early Mac had the "early" cord and the "later" cord (not its similar 1986 version) was introduced by September 1984. What we can't say with any precision is when the "early" cord was discontinued, if it ever was.

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On 5/23/2018 at 9:51 AM, Rasmus said:

[...] Another thing I'm fuzzy about is exactly when the second-generation 128K and 512K started shipping, the ones with the "Macintosh 128K" badge on the back (instead of just "Macintosh") -- I might have once known and/or deduced this but now I'm not sure. Anyhow, that would be another possible moment the cords changed. [...]

Note: FWIW, this appears to have happened in the 47th week of 1984 (November). Apparently, the serial numbers support this conclusion. You don't find the "Macintosh" badge on the back after that week. So the second-generation 128Ks were shipping by December 1984.

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