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Tempest

Mac Plus or Mac SE?

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I have a perfectly good working Macintosh SE that I use as my compact Mac (mostly for gaming), but this week I was given a free Macintosh Plus.  The Mac Plus had issues that I fixed (resoldered the analog board, replaced the disk drive, replaced bad memory), and now it's up and running, but it does need a keyboard (thankfully I can use my IIe mouse with it).  Unfortunately Mac Plus keyboards are kind of pricey ($100 seems to be the going rate), and I'm wondering it it's worth dropping that kind of money on a free Mac when I have a nice SE sitting right here.  I'm inclined to do it because I've always liked the 'classic' look of the Plus over the updated SE, but I'm working if there are any major disadvantages when using the Plus.  Like I said, I use my compact Mac for gaming so that's what I'm mostly concerned with.

 

As far as I can tell the only advantage the Plus has is that it's quieter as it doesn't have a fan.  Of course that may actually be a liability as I hear they tend to overheat, especially when you have the full 4MB of RAM in them.  But my game room is in a cold basement so maybe that won't be an issue?  The Plus also has a slightly different keyboard layout (arrow keys mostly), and I'm not sure if any early games take advantage of that or not.  Were there any games that would only play on an early Mac like the Plus and not an SE?  Usually it's the OS that makes the difference, but maybe there were hardware dependencies?

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A Plus and an SE with the same amount of RAM* should be almost 100% compatible. The SE will be a bit faster due to architecture improvements, and of course has the fan (though I think heat-related failure rates of pre-SE Macs are generally overstated) and internal SCSI if you like that. I don’t have an SE at the moment but would be surprised if it broke any games that work on a Plus (of course, the really old games might not work on a Plus in the first place). 
 

* noted because old games that inappropriately assume the screen buffer is in a fixed location can be broken just by adding RAM

Edited by Crutch

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I actually traded my Plus for an SE that I repaired about a year ago (I still have both, just use the SE on the desk now). I have found zero compatibility issues with old games. Everything runs/plays exactly the same. The SE is a bit more convenient for every day use with the internal SCSI2SD, and I am using an FDHD model so it makes a bit easier in that sense as well. The positive I love about the Plus is the keyboard and mouse, which are built like tanks compared to the ADB stuff. Sounds like those are missing, however, so it wouldn’t matter.

 

For day to day use, I’d use the SE over Plus. Keep it if you like or trade with someone, I’d say.

Edited by LaPorta

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8 hours ago, Crutch said:

A Plus and an SE with the same amount of RAM* should be almost 100% compatible. The SE will be a bit faster due to architecture improvements, and of course has the fan (though I think heat-related failure rates of pre-SE Macs are generally overstated) and internal SCSI if you like that. I don’t have an SE at the moment but would be surprised if it broke any games that work on a Plus (of course, the really old games might not work on a Plus in the first place). 
 

* noted because old games that inappropriately assume the screen buffer is in a fixed location can be broken just by adding RAM

Yeah that's what I figured.  So other than the look there really isn't any advantage.  I might just get that keyboard and keep it as a backup Mac just in case.  Then again after all the repairs I had to do on the Plus there's no guarantee that it won't die on me.

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8 hours ago, LaPorta said:

I actually traded my Plus for an SE that I repaired about a year ago (I still have both, just use the SE on the desk now). I have found zero compatibility issues with old games. Everything runs/plays exactly the same. The SE is a bit more convenient for every day use with the internal SCSI2SD, and I am using an FDHD model so it makes a bit easier in that sense as well. The positive I love about the Plus is the keyboard and mouse, which are built like tanks compared to the ADB stuff.

I have a SCSI2SD as well but I have it in an external enclosure so I can swap it between my Macs.  I keep thinking I should put it inside the SE, but it's a pain to get out if I ever need to update the firmware or take the card out.  Plus the enclosure raises the height of the screen to a better level for me (I'm kind of tall).

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9 hours ago, LaPorta said:

For day to day use, I’d use the SE over Plus. Keep it if you like or trade with someone, I’d say.

Agreed; the Plus is lovely as an æsthetic object, but the SE is a markedly better computer for normal use and, as noted above, not really less compatible.  I have a Plus out all the time with an HD20, but honestly, primarily as ... almost like a small sculpture, rather than for regular use.

Edited by cheesestraws

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Having two Macs is never a bad thing. They're very comparable, as everyone has said. You may want to pick up a pair of LocalTalk or PhoneNet boxes and play around with networking them.

 

In terms of the Plus vs SE debate, don't forget the Classic is also comparable. Its advantages are RAM expansion being easier (as long as you have the card) since no Classic board used resistors and its screen being easier to adjust without taking the case off. The ROM disk is also a nice perk. However, the Classic is notorious for capacitor problems and has design limitations based on it being the cost-cutting model of the SE (no second floppy capability, only one ADB port, no expansion slot, weaker power supply). The SE wins overall between these three machines.

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If you don't want to drop the dough on the peripherals, there are ways around it. This blog post links to a PS/2 keyboard -> Mac 128k/512k/Plus converter, based on an Arduino (of which a clone is $5 or less), as well as a simple adapter for using Atari ST or Amiga mice. That might be a more affordable and sensible option, given how crazy 128k/512k/Plus mice and keyboard have gotten.

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8 hours ago, Daniël Oosterhuis said:

That might be a more affordable and sensible option, given how crazy 128k/512k/Plus mice and keyboard have gotten. 

There's also a number of mouse alternatives available.  The magic search term is 'quadrature mouse', the Amiga, Atari and Acorn Archimedes also all used them but with different pinouts/connectors.

 

I built an analogue stick mouse replacement out of junk drawer bits here:

 

And I am really, really not a hardware person.

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Actually .... I just realized I have a spare Plus keyboard. Platinum I think, with some yellowing, but in great shape otherwise. It’s possible the comma key switch needs replacing (might just need the WD40 treatment though), otherwise it works perfectly. $50 to a 68kmla’er. DM if interested. Happy to test it again also. 

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Turns out my friend has a spare keyboard and mouse that he's going to let me have.  Given what everyone has said, I'll probably keep the SE out and keep the Plus as a spare.  

 

My current spare is a Classic that even after recapping has an issue where the top right corner flickers and 'wobbles'.  I think a bad battery may have caused some damage years before I got it.  I should see if I can find a better board for it some day as the rest of the unit is good.

 

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Looks like my repair job on the analog board wasn't thorough enough.  I'm still getting occasional screen dimming/flickering issues.  Is there a picture that shows the most problematic solder points that should be inspected?  I did the connector areas but there must be something else.

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8 hours ago, Tempest said:

Looks like my repair job on the analog board wasn't thorough enough.  I'm still getting occasional screen dimming/flickering issues.  Is there a picture that shows the most problematic solder points that should be inspected?  I did the connector areas but there must be something else.

Are the capacitors original?

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On my plus I had to resolder the Flyback, Yolk Connector and the analogue -> logicboard connector (J1), I believe the flyback and J1 where the issues but the Yolk connector was visibly cracked too. You also need to make sure you remove as much of the old solder as possible and flow new solder on or you won't get a good connection

 

I'm betting it's the flyback joints on your board, they seems to often get overlooked when people are working on these analogue boards

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13 hours ago, max1zzz said:

On my plus I had to resolder the Flyback, Yolk Connector and the analogue -> logicboard connector (J1), I believe the flyback and J1 where the issues but the Yolk connector was visibly cracked too. You also need to make sure you remove as much of the old solder as possible and flow new solder on or you won't get a good connection

 

I'm betting it's the flyback joints on your board, they seems to often get overlooked when people are working on these analogue boards

I just redid the flyback and the two connectors.  It seems ok now, but we'll see what happens when I leave it off overnight and then turn it on.

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8 hours ago, Tempest said:

BTW how on earth are you supposed to get those black 'rivet' things that hold the cardboard on back in? 

Pop out the thing in the middle, and then I usually use plyers to squeeze the end things together as I pop it into the board(if that makes sense)

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9 hours ago, Torbar said:

Pop out the thing in the middle, and then I usually use plyers to squeeze the end things together as I pop it into the board(if that makes sense)

Ah ok.  For some reason I was trying to push it in, not pull it out.  Not my brightest moment...

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