Second Donation to Georgia Tech Library Archive’s Retrocomputing Lab: Power Macintosh 8500

Me and the Power Macintosh 8500/120 in the Georgia Tech Library Archives.
Me and the Power Macintosh 8500/120 in the Georgia Tech Library Archives.

When I met with Georgia Tech Library Archives’ Department Head Jody Lloyd Thompson and Digital Collections Archivist Wendy Hagenmaier to donate three vintage computers (a Dell Dimension 4100, Apple Performa 550, and Apple iMac) and other computing hardware a week and a half ago, I noticed that they had room for one more computer, so I pitched them the idea of my making another donation to fill the gap between the Performa 550’s 68030 processor and the iMac’s G3 processor:  an Apple Power Macintosh 8500/120. They agreed to accept, so I set about preparing the computer for them.

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My Power Macintosh 8500 was in very good shape, but like many vintage computers with persistent clocks, it needed a new lithium battery.

To replace the Power Macintosh 8500's on-board battery (upper left corner of photo), you have to remove the motherboard.
To replace the Power Macintosh 8500’s on-board battery (upper left corner of photo), you have to remove the motherboard.

I replaced the battery, installed Mac OS 7.5.5, a number of different software titles (including Apple’s Plaintalk Speech Recognition–I threw in a Plaintalk powered microphone, Project X/Hot Sauce, and Cyberdog). I discovered that the plastic inside the case did not age well. The PowerMac 8500 has a lot of plastic components that are held together with flexible tabs or clips. When I applied a small amoung of pressure on the tip of these clips to release them, most of them would break. Luckily, the case ties together very well, so I only had to piece some parts back together with clear tape (the power button/light assembly) and metal duct tape (one drive plate cover on the front of the case). To help dissipate heat, I  added a rear slot fan made by Antec.

I made a video demoing the finalized system, which I’m including embedded below (I apologize for the flicker, but my digital camera doesn’t have enough adjustment features to match the refresh rate on the Apple 14″ Color Display).

In addition to the Power Macintosh 8500, I gave the Archives a box full of software and late-1990s/early-2000s video games for Macintosh. These might help facilitate more connections around campus (Computer Science, Media Studies, and Game Studies).

As I’m leaving soon for City Tech, I believe that we can do more together in our work with vintage computing. I floated the idea of a symposium, conference, or some other kind of connected project. Also, from what little I have learned so far, there’s a lot of investment and interest in computer technology in NYC (and Brooklyn in particular). I am looking forward to making new connections with others studying retrocomputing and New Media. I know that many opportunities await.

Inaugural Donation to Georgia Tech Library Archive’s Retrocomputing Lab

Wendy Hagenmaier, Jason W. Ellis, and Jody Thompson next to Apple Performa 550 and iMac.
Wendy Hagenmaier, Jason W. Ellis, and Jody Thompson next to Apple Performa 550 and iMac.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of making the first donation of three computers to the Georgia Tech Library Archives, which is launching its own Retrocomputing Lab for scholars and students to use. The Georgia Tech Library Archives is already well-known for its significant Georgia Tech Science Fiction Collection and other holdings.

I met with Department Head Jody Lloyd Thompson and Digital Collections Archivist Wendy Hagenmaier to setup the three computers and talk about each machine’s provenance and current operation. We set the computers up on the right side as you enter the Georgia Tech Library Archives. This is a temporary location as the Archives makes plans for their use in Archives for the time being and possibly more in the future as part of the on-going Georgia Tech Library renovation project.

Apple Performa 550 and iMac.
Apple Performa 550 and iMac.

From my personal collection–which I am having to cull before moving to Brooklyn for my new job at City Tech, I donated three computers: an Apple Performa 550 (1994), Apple iMac (1999), and Dell Dimension 4100 (2001). Before donating the computers, I refurbished each to be in as factory-fresh condition as possible.

For the Peforma 550, I installed a PDS ethernet NIC and replaced the SCSI hard drive with one that was less noisy than its original one. Then, I installed Mac OS 7.6.1 and some software including the AfterDark Star Trek: The Next Generation screensaver and ClarisWorks, and utilities for working with files and disk images.

For the slot-loading, DV iMac, I replaced the motherboard battery and performed a fresh install of Mac OS 9.2.1. The optical drive suffers from a weak ejection mechanism. I made sure that the bottom plastic bezel fit properly, but reseated it had no effect on improving the drive’s ability to eject discs correctly. I warned the librarians about this, and recommended buying an external, Firewire optical drive and using the paperclip ejection method in the meantime.

Dell Dimension 4100.
Dell Dimension 4100.

For the Dell Dimension 4100, I installed a 3Com NIC donated by Mark Warbington. I installed Windows 98 Second Edition and painstakingly installed the drivers for the components in the Dell (this was a laborious process, because despite having the Service Tag number, some recommended drivers did not work on all of the components).

I provided two sets of speakers–one for the Performa 550 (it’s internal speakers had stopped working about a year ago) and one for the Dell Dimension 4100. In the event of future hardware problems, I gave them spare AGP video cards, optical drives, a 3.5″ floppy disk drive.

Also, I gave them some spare motherboards, controller cards, and hard drives that might be useful for displays in the Library.

The Georgia Tech Library Archives have big plans for making digital archival work and learning an integral component of what they do. If you have functional and working computer hardware or software, you should consider donating it to the Georgia Tech Library Archives, or if you have technical skills for working on older hardware and software, you can donate your expertise and time, too. Contact Jody and Wendy by email or phone here: Georgia Tech Library Archives contact information here.

UPDATE: I made these four Google Glass videos while working on the iMac DV:

Georgia Tech Library Tours Promote Writing and Communication Success in ENGL1101/1102 and LCC3403

Georgia Tech Library's Main Entrance
Georgia Tech Library’s Rotunda Entrance

Last Friday, I brought my ENGL1101 (College Writing I) and LCC3403 (Technical Communication) students to the Georgia Tech Library for a tour of the facilities and services (and archives for LCC3403).

I believe that libraries are an incredibly important part of one’s on-going learning, personal development, and professional distinction. Libraries aggregate knowledge for its readers through books, journals, databases, and other media. Libraries make it possible for readers to build connections between sources of knowledge, visualize relationships between books on the shelf or articles in a database, and discover things chaotically, serendipitously, and orderly. Libraries, in their own right, are a university for the self-motivated, curiosity-fueled learner. It is the kind of place where people like Ray Bradbury earn a cap and gown.

For these reasons, I am a firm believer in taking my students to the library early each semester and reminding them of its virtues and possibilities throughout the semester. I tell my students that the library is one place where you can grow beyond your peers and become part of a larger conversation in your field of study (or in other domains of knowledge that might enrich their success in untold ways). Furthermore, the Library is the embodiment of interdisciplinarity, because it unites all the disciplines’ collected knowledge in one place for all students and faculty.

Practically, I encourage them to use the library early and often so that they won’t think that it is difficult or hard later on when it might count a lot more in their studies.

Librarian Sherri Brown
Librarian Sherri Brown

With the help of Sherri Brown, the reference and subject librarian for the School of Literature, Media, and Communication and the Writing and Communication Program, I easily reserved a time for each tour and she coordinated with the other librarians and staff to pull off a well-orchestrated, hour-long tour.

Inside the Rotunda
Inside the Rotunda

We began in the rotunda entrance of the Library for a brief introduction to the library and its computing resources.

Learning about the Multimedia Studio
Learning about the Multimedia Studio

Then, we walked downstairs into the basement to visit the Multimedia Studio and its terrific wide-format plotter.

First Floor East Commons near the Science Fiction Collection
First Floor East Commons near the Science Fiction Collection

We stopped by the first floor, east to see the circulating Science Fiction collection before going upstairs to the second floor, east to see the periodicals and microfiche area.

Second Floor East and Periodicals and Microfiche
Second Floor East and Periodicals and Microfiche

Then, Justin Ellis, Library Associate in charge of Gadgets talked with my students about the many technologies from cameras to laptops to tablets that can be checked out for fun or study (or both).

Justin Ellis
Justin Ellis
Gadgets, like books, are a technology to be circulated via the Library.
Gadgets, like books, are a technology to be circulated via the Library.

My LCC3403 students had a special treat on their tour, because we visited the Georgia Tech Archives where Jody Thompson, the Head of Archives, introduced institute-oriented holdings (e.g., the Technique or planning reports) and how to search them. They will be using the Archives as part of their final project to propose and implement a technical communication solution to a problem that they identify around campus.

Head of Archives Jody Thompson
Head of Archives Jody Thompson
Learning about the Archives
Learning about the Archives

Many thanks to Sherri, Justin, and Jody for helping my students navigate and use Georgia Tech’s incredible Library!