Return of the Mac

Ye Olde Mac IIsi returned to me this weekend. This was our family computer while I was in high school. The Mac is now getting close to 15 years old, and might still be functional. My grandmother had been using it for the past couple of years for web access, e-mail, and solitaire. A couple of months ago she started complaining the it wouldn't boot up anymore. My dad searched on the web and got a great deal on a Dell as a replacement. She has since been setup with a DSL account, and should be back on her way. I asked my dad if I could get the old Mac, mostly out of nostalgia for it, and to see if I could get it running again.

I got it all pieced back together and turned it on. It fired up on the first try to the smiley Mac. The first thing I noticed was the smell of smoke and air fresheners. My dad told me that the Mac had been connected to an outlet that was controlled by a light switch. At first, I thought it was a simple matter of the light switch being off that caused the beast not to boot. I was playing around a bit, and noticed that it was set in Black & White mode. I knew from the years of using it that it supported color, so I opened the control panel, and switched it to color mode. Bad move. The IIsi immediately shut down. I hit the power key on the keyboard, and the power light blinked for a second, but it was right back out. This must be what my grandmother had been talking about. As the PC was very old, I wasn't sure if this could be a dust issue (dust in a PC can create shorts), a blown motherboard, or something else. It had always been connected to a very nice surge suppressor, but that didn't totally count out a massive surge causing problems. Also, smoke and spray air fresheners can eventually coat the electronics and cause a short.

I opened the case and started poking around. The first thing I noticed was how cleanly the old Mac was assembled. If you open a new Dell, you'll find that everything is neatly wire tied away, but you still end up with cables criss-crossing the case and a general look of confusion inside the case. The Mac was very clean and tidy. The connectors on the motherboard for the floppy and hard drives were located right next to the mounting position of the drives within the case. This made for a very short cable run (a couple of inches, if that). No tools were needed to dismantle it, everything had locking tabs that made it easy to remove and reinstall the parts. The power supply even snapped into position. In fact, the only power cable run in the entire case was from the motherboard to the hard drive. Kudos to Apple for a great design. After some looking around, I noticed a Lithium battery in the center of the board. This set off a flag in my mind. Most PCs have a battery that supplies power to a segment of memory on the mainboard. This can be used to store settings, keep the system clock running, or any of several other options. In the Macs case, the battery supplies power to the segment of memory that retain settings. I realized that it was when I changed settings (black and white to color) that the Mac powered down. I grabbed an LED and checked for any voltage on the battery. It was totally dead. So I'm suspecting that this is the root cause for the Mac not to boot. I can order a new batter online for $6, or pick one up at Radio Shack for $15. Of course, I could just go on eBay and buy a complete Mac IIsi for $25, but that wouldn't be nearly as fun as reviving this old dog.

My mission now is to locate a 3.6V 1/2AA size Lithium battery and attempt to revive the Mac. Once I do, I'll be happily playing Warlords again!


Jade Mason