Apple Macintosh SE


Owner: NCSC
Location: Williamsburg, VA

"Old, under-powered, and way over-priced, but still very cool." That's how I used to describe this SE. But that was before I opened it up. It's actually loaded with 4 megs of RAM, and a 68020 accelerator board that also drives the full page Radius monitor sitting next to it. This monitor works in combination with the internal monitor, giving you a large, rotated-"L" shaped screen. As you move the cursor off the left side of the internal screen, it appears on the full-page, and vice-versa. Pretty cool! It's especially fun when the bouncing ball screen saver kicks in. The ball smoothly flies off one screen and onto the other. The SE is sitting atop an 80 meg external hard drive. And, of course, its operating system ran rings around the old DOS/Windows combination. (Some say it still does. I'm not taking sides.)

Unfortunately, this particular had SE died a year or so back. It would just sit there with a blank screen, making a sound like a helicopter. People told me it was a bad power/video board. But I didn't have a spare, nor the knowledge to replace one. However, I was recently rooting around in the a basement and I found its twin. (Not really a twin. This one has only 2 megs of RAM and just a stock 68000.) Now, if these were PCs, the next steps would be obvious:

  1. Install the broken SE's RAM into the working stock SE for a total of 6 megs
  2. Install the Radius accelerator into the working stock SE
  3. Install the Radius full-page monitor card into the working stock SE
  4. Put both internal hard drives into the working stock SE
But these are Macs, and I'm no Mac expert. However, a stock SE with 2 megs isn't of much use, and a broken SE is worth even less. So I searched the Web for repair info (found Phoenix Macintosh Repair), mail-ordered a long T-15 screwdriver, and started to play. Getting the covers apart was easier than people say. Once I had them open, I realized a couple of things that are obvious to Mac people.
  1. There are only two drive bays (one floppy, one hard), and only one internal hard drive controller port. So one internal drive is all that'll fit in an SE.
  2. SE's only take a maximum of 4 megs. So no consolidating RAM either.
  3. Apple really, really didn't want you messing around inside your Mac. These things are a nightmare inside!
However, I could still swap logic boards, along with the accelerator/monitor and 4 megs RAM, giving me a loaded, working SE. The logic board on the stock SE slid out easily. (After I spent 15 minutes trying to pull off the power/video cable. I hadn't noticed the locking tab.) The logic board in the loaded SE was more difficult. The accelerator board is bolted on top of the logic board. It has a slot for the monitor card that pokes through a hole in the frame, making it seemingly impossible to slide it out correctly. I managed to pry it out with a screwdriver. (Shudder!) Unfortunately, the next day I had to have my wisdom teeth removed. (All four, all deeply impacted.) For the next week I didn't really feel like working on the Macs, or on much else for that matter. So the pieces were all spread out on the floor. At least that gave me a chance to take some pictures of it all.

Interestingly, the stock SE has a signed case. Molded into the inside of the back of the case are the signatures of the people who worked on the Macs, including Steve Jobs. I had thought that the only Macs with signed cases were the 128k and 512k models. Shows what I know. I didn't think the signatures would show up very well in a photograph, so I made two rubbings of them and scanned those in:

After a week, I was feeling much better and decided to reassemble a complete and working SE. Try as I might, I couldn't find a way to smoothly slide in the logic board with the accelerator attached. Nor could I find a way to slide them in seperately. I didn't want to get into dissassembling the entire frame, so I just pried it in with a screwdriver. (After all, I did have a spare logic board in case I cracked this one.) With a bit of work, the monitor card fit, barely. I put the case back together, plugged it in, and turned it on. And it actually worked! So now I have a 4 meg, 68020-based Mac SE with a full-page monitor. Now I'm trying to find an ethernet adapter for it.

So now the only question is what to do with the leftover pieces. There are a couple of options:
  • Find a power/video board and put together another one. (I really don't want to mess with this.)
  • Keep it all together for spare parts for the other SE. (Boring!)
  • Remove the drives and keep them together with the logic board for spare parts, then do something cool with the case. Either:
    1. Make a MacQuarium!
    2. Find a 9" mono PC monitor, a 3" PC floppy drive, and a small XT motherboard w/ power supply. Somehow cram them all into the case. Maybe even stick a small hard drive with an old version of DOS in there. And then you would have a Mac XT!

For a good on-line guide to maintaining Macs, check out Phoenix Macintosh Repair.

Most Recent Comments for the Apple Macintosh SE:

No comments yet submitted


Click here to view all comments for the Apple Macintosh SE and to leave your own.
Click here to view comments about other Apple computers.


Send comments to here! (Note the new address. Lots of space to hold photos sent my way.)

Begone! Back to the Museum!


Popular Pages