Saint Softalk dot Mac

Softalk was one of the most highly regarded computer magazines focused on the Apple II series of computers, running from September 1980 until August 1984. They’ve been mentioned here before. In the later years, however, the publishers branched out to a couple of other platforms. There was a second magazine called Softalk for the IBM PC, which was—well—Softalk, for the IBM PC. But there was also a Softalk magazine devoted to the Mac, upon its release. This was ST.Mac, which is etymologically “Softalk” with a filetype/extension “.Mac”, although it also seems to have gone by “Saint Mac” as well.


ST.Mac launched just after the original Macintosh did, its first issue covered February 1984. Monthly issues followed, although unfortunately not for long—the whole Softalk enterprise pretty much stopped after August 1984, including both the original Apple II Softalk magazine and ST.Mac. So, all in all, there only were seven issues of ST.Mac, which might explain why even Mac enthusiasts often have never heard of it. I certainly hadn’t until pretty recently, despite having loved the Apple II Softalk for over 30 years.

The magazine is primarily focused on the Macintosh, but also considers Lisa within its scope, and it’s one of the best/only places to find magazine print ads relating to Lisa products. It’s also interesting to see some of the contemporaneous discussion, not all of it positive. I can say myself, having been fairly deep into the Apple II world at the time of the Mac’s introduction, that upon my first experience with a Mac (I think it may have been a “Fat Mac”, the second iteration that had 512K rather than 128K), I wasn’t actually swept away in the way people were supposed to have been. As a child (but one already pretty handy with the command line), it felt kind of slow and limited. True, there were a lot of dots per inch, but I still took it to be mostly a toy computer aimed at novices, and I pretty much ignored it for the next five years until I the Macs gained software and traction and speed (at which point I bought the SE/30, which I still consider to be basically the pinnacle of the compact Macs). And some of that kind of reaction can be seen in some the letters that got printed in ST.Mac, too, though of course the focus of the magazine was mostly the positive and new developments on the Mac platform, right as it was getting its start.

Anyway, I have now scanned the entire short run of this little magazine, and it is definitely interesting to read in retrospect. So, without further ado, here they are. The main links below are to the smaller 300dpi scans (around 70MB), and better, larger, 600dpi scans (around 260MB) are linked separately if that’s of interest.

Stmac feb1984 Stmac mar1984
Stmac apr 1984 Stmac 1984 may
Stmac 1984 jun St mac 1984 jul
St mac 1984 aug  

ProFiles encouraged

Apple’s ProFile drive, designed (clearly) for use with the Apple ///, came in a couple of variations, and quickly made its way to the Lisa and Apple II as well. They came in 5MB and 10MB varieties (the 10MB versions are quite rare now), as distinguished by their model numbers (A9M0005 vs. A9M0100).

Profile ready light on

Profile a9m0005

To use the ProFile, an interface card is required appropriate to the machine. The Apple /// and Apple II each require a dedicated interface card, while the Lisa (sort of) required a more general parallel interface card. I say “sort of” because the Lisa actually has a built-in parallel port that can be used for this out of the box, but the port in the Lisa 2 at least was internal, used to support an internal widget drive. In my Lisa 2, I have an X/ProFile connected to the internal port, so to connect an external (second) drive, I need the parallel interface card. I actually have a couple of 5MB ProFile drives and two parallel cards, but the first parallel card I tried didn’t work and I haven’t gotten around to trying the second one yet. My plan is to back up whatever is on the ProFiles now (which were almost certainly formatted for Lisa use), and then reformat them with the Apple ///.

Here is the Apple /// card alone, and then installed:

A3 profile io card

A3 profile io card installed

The Apple II card had a more generic name (“Apple II interface”), but was specifically for the ProFile. Moreover, the EPROM on the card determined whether it was for the 5MB or the 10MB ProFile. I am not at present sure whether a 10MB EPROM will work with the 5MB drive, but as I understand it the 5MB EPROM will only see 5MB of a 10MB drive if connected.

Profile apple ii interface

Here is the Lisa parallel card. I have two of them, and, oddly, they differ in that one has a 6-color logo on it and one does not. I have tested the white-logo one and it didn’t work, I haven’t tested the 6-color logo one yet.

Lisa parallel card Lisa parallel card 6color

Speaking of formatting the drives, another point about the ProFile: It is possible to erase a ProFile drive on any of the machines you can connect it to, but to do a low-level format requires an Apple ///, the ProFile interface card, and a special “low-level formatting kit.” I have the kit, but I haven’t used it yet (or even unwrapped it). First, I’ll back up the drives, then I’ll reformat them. My thinking is that they could use a good reformatting to extend their usable life. All of the ProFiles I have power on and make it to the “ready” state, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they’re on their penultimate legs.

The picture below is “of” my LLF kit, but it may well not be in its authentic packaging. It’s just in a standard “accessories” box, probably shrink-wrapped and labelled by the guy I bought it from (VintageMicros).

Llf format kit wrapped

Anyway, on to the manuals, disk images, and paper stuff. This is ProFile stuff specifically for the Apple ///, originally contained within a box, here’s a (particularly beat-up) instance of it:

Profile accessories box

Apple iii profile accessories packing list Apple iii profile accessories packing list 2 Profile driver diskette
Profile owners manual errata iii Apple iii profile owners manual Profile helpful hints with iii
Apple backup iii disk Apple backup iii users manual Apple iii user input report 2
Apple iii user input report 1 Profile warranty form

I don’t have any materials for the Apple II version, and I posted the ones I have from ProFiles intended for the Lisa a couple of entries ago about stuff packed with Lisa. So, there it is. When I actually go through the process of doing the backup and low-level formatting, I’ll document the process and results here, but for now, just clearing up the backlog of scans I’ve got.

Packing Lisa

Some packing lists and other stuff from Lisa 2/XL. I have some manuals as well, but this is all the little miscellany.

Lisa 2 packing list Lisa 2 accessories packing list Lisa software license agreement
Lisa hardware registraton card Lisa add on memory board packing list Lisa add on memory card installation instructions
Imagewriter packing list lisa Imagewriter printer evaluation report Imagewriter unpacking instructions
Profile packing list us Profile accessories packing list lisa Profile how to unpack lisa
Profile owners manual errata Thanks for choosing macintosh

Virtual ProFiling

The last thing I needed to embark on the mission to put my X/ProFile into the Lisa 2/10 arrived today, a bunch of blank CF cards. I mail ordered them because it turns out nobody local seems to sell them this small anymore.


The reason I was waiting for those is that I didn’t want to do anything on the original CF cards that came with the X/ProFile without having a pristine backup first. With these in hand, I was set. Here’s the X/ProFile by itself, prior to attaching the mounting hardware.


The default place to mount the X/ProFile in a Lisa 2/10 is to the side of the drive cage, above the disk drive. It fits there, though only just barely.



I then attached my separate IDE-to-CF adapter, which I had lying around anyway, to the primary IDE connector on the X/ProFile. The X/ProFile allows two devices to be connected at once. One device is the CF card on the board, and the second (actually, primary) device is the IDE drive connected to the standard IDE connector. Once two CF cards are plugged in this way, the X/ProFile can be set to copy them. It’s a pretty straightforward process, it didn’t take me long to make backups of all of them and one more of the Lisa Office CF card as well, to use as a working drive.


While I had the Lisa open, I took another go at trying to make the disk drive work as well. I’m not sure what the problem with the drive was/is, but it wasn’t reading disks. It (surprisingly?) did seem to accept and eject disks ok, but it wasn’t doing anything with them. I did have a spare 400K external Mac drive, however, and the internals of the two drives are almost identical. They aren’t, as I understand it, exactly identical, having to do with how ejecting is handled, but I thought I might be able to do some kind of substitutions anyway.

I took my usual approach, which is to just completely disassemble, observe, and clean, to see if I got any ideas. So, out came the Lisa drive, and off came the eject mechanism.


I flipped it over and took off the controller board, and cleaned up a bit inside, though it wasn’t particularly dirty.


I looked on the underside of the controller board, and it seemed to be mostly in order.


There was, however, a certain amount of goop on the board. Although I’m still not an expert at looking for this, it seemed like it was at least possible that C120 and C119 had leaked. It’s not too clear on the picture. But on the back of the board, the area around IC101 did look pretty dodgy.


I thought, ok, maybe something has gotten corroded or shorted out here. So, I opened up the Mac 400K drive to compare it. The area around IC101 was much cleaner on that one.


However, inside, the Mac 400K drive was much goopier around IC102. Really, very goopy. It didn’t look so much like a leak as something intentional.


I decided there wasn’t much to lose, so I cleaned off the area on the Mac 400K drive board around IC102 to get rid of whatever that was, and then reassembled the Lisa drive with the Mac board in it. I know that if the drive worked but didn’t eject properly, then it would probably be due to whatever it is that differentiates Mac and Lisa 400K drives. The Lisa board did have a number of things wired together after the fact, and the Mac board (which was a revision or two more recent) didn’t. And maybe some of that wiring had to do with how the eject works. But, first things first.

The other thing I did, while I was dealing with the Lisa, is get out the RAM board that was giving me trouble and try to fix (temporarily) the bad RAM chip. As you might recall, I believe that I’d isolated the chip that was at fault on one of the RAM boards (which I’d removed altogether), and I in the meantime got a few replacement chips. I thought I’d at least try “piggybacking” the believed-to-be-good RAM chip over the believed-to-be-bad RAM chip, in case that would work and show that it was indeed that chip at fault and that replacing it would help.


And: test time. As for the RAM, no, the piggybacked good RAM didn’t help.


Faulty RAM card back out, restart. And:




Desktop! Ok, now the disk:

IMG 3145




Nope! Ok, the problem with the disk hasn’t really been solved.


The rest will need to wait for another day, but it looks like: the X/ProFile works and the Lisa now boots ok, the RAM failure is not solved, and the disk failure is not solved. Still, progress!

[Added notes: The next step with the 400K drive will be to put the Lisa board back in the Lisa drive and see if adjusting the read/write-head distance helps any. Also, I’m wondering if maybe the goop that was floating around on these boards was some kind of thermal dissipator. Do these chips get hot? Pondering whether there is something I should replace it with once I’ve cleaned it off.]

Diagnosis: 1E1

Since the keyboard I had was missing some keys and was acting very non-keyboard-like, I procured a replacement on eBay, which happened to come up at an opportune moment and not cost very much. It was untested, apparently the seller still had the keyboard but no longer had a computer to test it on. But it looked nice, both in the auction, and once it arrived. And, moreover, it seems to mostly work.

Lisa new keyboard

It was certainly able to take me into service mode, which was what I was hoping for, so that I could look at where the RAM problem was. I tried all the alphabetic keys and they all seem to work, with the exception of “A” and “J”. I’m going to probably need to address this keyboard by replacing the foam backings on the keys, but now I at least have two keyboards to work with, in case spare parts are needed.

Lisa new keyboard qwertyuiop

Having taken the Lisa into service mode, I was able to see what chip it thinks is bad, thanks to this extremely helpful post on LisaList by James MacPhail.

Lisa service ram flags shown

According to the diagnostics, the chip on memory card 1, row E, column 1, is faulty.

Lisa ram 1e1

Looks fine to me, but, nevertheless, I downgraded the Lisa from being a 1MB machine to being a 512KB machine. I have no way to fix that RAM chip right now, but I do have a way of taking it out of the machine.

And: success! Sort of. No errors, this time. Just no boot disk. I tried again putting the Mac 512K boot disk in, but again the drive whirred a bit and then just spat it out.

Lisa still no disk

So, the next thing I’ll try is using my Duo 2300c and accompanying 3.5″ drive to see if I can make a disk the Lisa can boot from. I set up the machines, but the trial itself will need to wait for another time.

Lisa 2300c

On to error 70

It turned out that finding a replacement for the COPS chip in the Lisa was not as difficult as I’d anticipated, although I also think I was just startlingly lucky in my timing. The person I bought the Lisa from originally actually volunteered one to me, and I bought a replacement for the uncovered EPROM from him at the same time. The COPS chip arrived today and I wasted no time putting it into place. Here we go, much better.

Lisa cop421 in place

Here’s the whole I/O board, with the new disk EPROM and new COPS chip.

Lisa ioboard new chips

Eager with anticipation, I plugged the Lisa in. Before, as soon as I plugged it in, the Lisa powered up and gave me the COPS error 52. This time, when I plugged it in, I got this:

Lisa powerless

FanTASTic! This is actually exactly what I wanted to see. The COPS chip controls the keyboard, the mouse, and the software for the power circuit. The fact that that Lisa was powering on unprompted before was a direct symptom of having a faulty (or, in this case, missing) COPS chip. So, I hit the power button, and…no more error 52.

Lisa error70

Now I have a memory error in memory board 1, but I’m past the COPS error. Not only that, but the mouse works.

Lisa error70 continue

I moved it over and clicked on “Continue”, which, despite the error, was an allowable option.

Lisa error70 startupfrom

I put the boot disk I have into the drive, which it appeared to accept with the usual noises. The Lisa gave reading the disk a go for a little while.

Lisa error70 startup wait

And then just spat the disk back out. I’m not sure it is expected to work, who knows what condition the disk is in or whether it is even a suitable boot disk. It claims to be a Mac 512 boot disk, after all.

Lisa error70 startup reject

The RAM error I’m getting indicates that the most likely problem is that one (or more) of these chips is bad.

Lisa memboard1

Ouch. Worse, these chips are not socketed, they are soldered right to the board. Not so easy to replace.

Lisa solderedram

There is, it appears, a trick to determining which RAM chip is bad, as reported on Tezza’s Classic Computers blog, which involves taking the Lisa into service mode and looking at one of the memory locations. Getting the Lisa into service mode involves pressing Apple-S at an appropriate moment. However, this leads to the next problem I have: the keyboard doesn’t work. It’s not that it entirely doesn’t work, it’s just that, as far as I can tell, only one key does anything. This is the “key” that does something: the stem where W was supposed to be.

Lisa missing w

And what it does is this: it teleports the mouse cursor about a quarter of the way down the screen. But there’s no way to enter service mode with the keyboard in the state that it is in. It could be that replacing the pads will help, or it could be that this keyboard just needs to be replaced in its entirety. That’s not a cheap proposition, but it is, at least at the time I’m writing this, a possible one. They do exist for sale, they just cost a lot.

Here’s a movie of the Lisa starting up, and demonstrating the weird cursor teleport behavior. It’s a bit hard to see anything on the screen because it is overexposed, but you can see the mouse cursor jumping down as I hit the “W” key.

So… not there yet, and it’s probably going to cost me a bit to get there, but progress is being made.

Error 52 and mystery of the missing COPS chip

So, the Lisa starts up with an I/O board error, number 52. According to my list of errors, this is an “I/O COPS error” which might have as its solution a replacement of the COPS chip.

Lisa error52 list

There are a couple of other possible problems that could cause this I think. It could be due to a problem with the keyboard or the mouse. I just recently got an appropriate mouse and plugged it in, but that didn’t change anything. Still got error 52. I’m hoping that if the keyboard were at fault I’d get error 53 instead, but the keyboard for this Lisa is in relatively bad shape.

So, I decided I’d take out the I/O board again and see what I could see. Here is the COPS chip, nothing looked particularly wrong, except maybe that it was kind of out of focus. But I figured just for the heck of it, I’d pull it out and reseat it.

Lisa cop421 initially

So, out it came, and—well, that’s not right. One of its pins had not been in the socket, but had been bent up underneath. This problem wasn’t really visible when the chip was seated, but it was pretty obvious when the chip came out.

Lisa cops bent pin

I carefully bent the pin back to straight and put it back in its socket, this time with all pins reporting for duty. The pin I bent back is still bowed out a little bit but is in the socket.

Lisa cops reseated

Lisa then reassembled, I plugged it in again to try it out.

Lisa post cops still 52

Well, ok, that didn’t help. Though I’m not sure that I trust that COP421 chip anymore, it’s possible that it needs to be replaced. One other thing I observe is that the upper right corner of the screen says “H”—this is strange, it is supposed to say “H/88” (or possibly “H/A8”) where the second number reports the floppy drive ROM version. But there’s nothing. Which suggests to me that this chip might also be a problem.

Lisa uncovered u2a eprom

This is an EPROM, and so should have its window covered. There should have been a sticker over it. Here’s a picture of Mike Maginnis’ chip (cropped and hosted here), from his lovely album of the innards of one of his Mac XLs. Mine should have looked like that, and there is a risk that UV light might have gotten through the window and erased or partially erased that EPROM.

Lisa maginnis u2a

This is the ROM for the 400k disk drive, and is the ROM that should be reporting the “88” after the “H”, but as seen above, I’m getting just “H”. So, it isn’t crazy to think that this might be the source of a problem as well. One thing I’ve been advised to do but haven’t done yet is to clean the gold fingers on the I/O board, but I’ve taken it out and put it in several times now, so I kind of doubt that this would solve the problem by itself. I think what I’ll need to do is start by replacing both the COP421 chip and the Drive ROM. I’m not sure how easy it will be to get a COP421 chip, but the drive ROM is pretty easy and cheap to buy. So, that’s I guess where I’ll go next.

Followup, shortly after the initial posting: you know, there’s another problem. I’m pretty sure that’s quite simply not the right chip in the COPS socket. It’s the right size, but I do not think it is even a COPS chip. There’s a frighteningly detailed analysis of the Lisa COP421 on, where they refer to the chip as being “a difficult chip to replace” and being “a National Semiconductor COP421 from the ‘COPS’ family, customized for Apple.” The correct chip should be Apple 341-0064A, but this one says MM58167AN on it, which appears to be a clock chip. I’ve concluded that what I in fact have here is an Apple /// clock chip. Here is a picture from one of vintagemicro’s auctions [hosted here] for an official Apple /// clock upgrade, and it’s that very same chip that is included in the upgrade kit.

A3cc2 001

I can’t say what happened here, but I suspect that the COP421 chip failed and somebody attempted to replace it at some point with another chip that fits. I think the likelihood that the COP421 chip and this clock chip are functionally identical is about zero. So, there really is a serious problem with the COPS chip, and it might well be a serious problem for me, since I don’t know that I’m going to be able to replace this thing except by finding another Lisa I/O board. The hunt begins.


The Apple Lisa was a big deal, you can read all about it on the internet, I won’t go into a lot of depth here. It was Apple’s first foray into GUI, before there was a Macintosh. The original (“Lisa 1”) actually says “Lisa” on the front, and had two 5.25″ disk drives that used “Twiggy” disks. The Twiggy disks were unreliable, and so when the Lisa 2 came out, with a 3.5″ drive instead, Apple upgraded people’s Lisa 1s to Lisa 2s for free. As a result, very few Lisa 1s are left. The Lisa 2 later got a hardware revision (the “2/10”) and then a software revision which basically turned it into a Mac (at which point the machine itself was then called “Macintosh XL” instead of “Lisa 2/10”). Lisa 1s originally sold for $10,000, Lisa 2s for $4,000. They didn’t fly off the shelves, particularly once the much cheaper Macintosh was released. But in a move that’s just painful to think about, Apple took its remaining Lisa stock in 1989 and destroyed it (in order to get a tax write-off), crushing them and burying them in a landfill in Utah. So by now, Lisas are thin on the ground. They do appear on eBay, but very often in non-working condition or missing the keyboard, etc., and regardless of condition their auctions rarely end below $700. Plus, they are relatively heavy (and of course fragile) and so they are expensive to ship.

Not long ago, one of the people on eBay who pretty reliably has Lisa and Apple III equipment decided to clear his inventory of a bunch of non-working Lisa 2/10 (Mac XL) machines that he didn’t want to repair. They went up with a “buy it now” price, which meant that there was no auction frenzy to drive the price up, and there were 10 of them. He was careful to point out in the listing that they did not power up, and he did no further troubleshooting on them. They were complete inside, and they look good, they came with keyboards that were missing some keys and without a mouse. They weren’t cheap exactly, but they were fixed at a level I felt I could reach and well below what recent machines (even non-working ones) had gone for. So, after some internal debate, I decided that this was probably about the best I was going to do, if I were ever to be able to own one. And the fact that it was complete gave me hope that someday I might be able to restore it to working condition.

Fast forward about a week and a half:

Lisa box

Fast forward about 20 minutes:

Lisa unpacked

As promised, it looks nice and is missing some keys. One of the oddities about the Lisa is that it is unbelievably easy to disassemble. The front panel pops off by pressing a couple of tabs, and so I opened it up to investigate. One lonely 400k 3.5″ drive, but with a bonus disk inside (labeled “Mac 512 boot disk 400k”).

Lisa front open drive

Taking the guts out in the back is also very easy. The back panel folds down and pops off after just turning a couple of thumbscrews, and then the power supply and board “cage” slide out. I took it all out.

Lisa back open

I took out the power supply, and then plugged it in all by itself, just to reassure myself that it wouldn’t explode or catch fire or anything when plugged into the wall. It didn’t. It didn’t do anything.

Lisa power supply

The board cage just slides out. It contains four printed circuit boards arranged vertically, one being the main brain, one being devoted to I/O function, and two being RAM. They have nice little release levers to help get them in and out. I took them all out and then put them all back, thinking that maybe this would help ensure the contacts were being made properly. And because I could.

Lisa board cage out

Here is the only Lisa logo I’m aware of anywhere near this machine.

Lisa board lisa logo

Then I put it all back together, and then thought, well, I might as try it. I plugged it in.

Lisa back reassembled

A little series of chimes and then this:

Lisa powered on

It’s showing me that there’s an error on the I/O board. But it’s also showing me that this machine powers on, and the screen and speakers work. This was sold as a unit that would not power on, but now that it is on, I’ve leapt way ahead in the race to get this to work. When I let the seller know it had arrived and that it powered on, he was very surprised. It didn’t power on for him before he sent it.

Lisa power light

It may well not be trivial to get this the rest of the way. But the troubleshooting process can now begin.