Bell & Howell: Power test, and the outlines of a crazy plan

On the Bell & Howell front, I have now cleaned it all up, and reassembled it. In the process, I found this stamped under the keyboard, which pretty definitively indicates that I was right about this being an August, 1981, machine. (Further evidence that the “8138” really does mean “38th week of 1981,” corresponding to September 14–18, 1981. So, I guess they built the case on Monday, August 10th, and put it in a pile for five weeks, then built up the motherboard and assembled it.)

Bhiiplus keyboard date

When I plugged it in, frayed cord and all, and hit the power switch, I got nothing. No response. This means one of two things to me: either the power supply in the machine is dead, or I plugged in the leads from the backpack to the power supply wrong (which, I suppose, might also mean that the power supply is now dead as a result). I have not tested the power supply separately, but I did plug in the terrarium power supply to the Bell & Howell and got this:

Bhiiplus side powered

All keys working, power light on, everything at least initially appears A-OK. The video is running on my composite amber monitor, out of the backpack, courtesy of a BNC-RCA adapter I picked up today as well.

Bhiiplus keytest

This also rectifies the oversight from before, as I now have a picture of the game I/O port on my own machine. Here it is close up, for your viewing pleasure.

Bhiiplus gameio

Now I just need to decide what cards go in it, replace the feet with some authentic spares I have coming to me in the mail, replace the power supply (with something authentic I hope), and set up the backpack in some useful way.

My current semi-crazy but interesting plan is this, for the record: I will install a language card (to bring it up to 64K), a Super Serial card (to allow it to connect to other computers), and a Disk ][ card (with one or two drives connected). Here is an “artist’s” rendition of that, courtesy of Penultimate on my iPad:

Bhiiplus art slots

And here is my similarly skillful rendition of the AV connections I intend to make with the backpack.

Bhiiplus art av

The features of the diagrams above are as follows:

  • I will bring audio in from one or two nearby machines, to allow them to be mixed by the backpack (just to give the mixing knobs in the backpack something to do, I can’t think of any real practical use for this).
  • One video out goes to a monitor atop the machine.
  • The second video out goes to a capture card, probably the Wings personality card in the Power Mac G3. Caveat here: I need to put some kind of surge suppression mechanism in there, because otherwise the power surge over that cable when the Apple is turned on will likely kill the G3. I don’t know if I have to build this myself, or if there is something out there that can accomplish this for me.
  • The speaker out also goes to the capture card, right channel.
  • The cassette out goes to the capture card, left channel.
  • The cassette in comes from the G3, left channel.
  • The Power Mac G3 streams the video/audio to the internet for remote consumption.
  • A webcam is also placed facing the Apple so that it can be viewed that way, too, and not just through the straight video out.
  • The Super Serial Card in the Apple will be connected to some Mac capable of communicating with it and with the internet (maybe the Power Mac G3 again, maybe the Performa 6116CD).

What I will have accomplished here is, I think, the following. Presuming that I write the Super Serial Card modification to the modem driver that I discussed in an earlier post, and presuming that the Apple is set to start that up automatically upon power up, I will be able to control the Apple’s command line over the internet. I will be able to see what I’m doing both through the webcam stream and through the AV stream. I will be able to send programs not already on the machine through the cassette port, which I can get on the internet. If desired, I can also save data via the cassette port into one channel of the AV stream (though for both loading and saving, I could do this over the serial port if I made a slightly more sophisticated driver). Et voilà. Mostly controllable Apple ][ plus over the internet. Better still, using the backpack for what it adds to the machine, since the “speaker out” function wouldn’t have been available in a regular Apple ][ plus, and none of this requires additional line splitting.

Further, if I can get the Apple Cat ][ set up with X10 modules on a different Apple II that I can communicate with over the internet, I can use that to power the Bell & Howell off and on if it ever freezes or gets into a state where it needs local input that I can’t provide.

There are a lot of moving parts to this plan, but if it works, it would be very cool. And it seems like it should be technically feasible.

More thoughts on HDD replacements, with boring table

I’ve been exploring drive replacement options for the various machines that I have and which might need drive replacements, and I’m finding a surprisingly small amount of information about exactly what all of the drive options really are. This is a much more complex task than I’d originally given it credit for, there are a lot of different drive interfaces. It’s more than just 2.5″ vs. 3.5″, IDE, SCSI, SATA. Many of the spec sheets I’ve been coming across are not sufficiently verbose about the type of drives the machines take, just the sizes they shipped with. So, let me try to collect my thoughts on this in a way more organized than I undertook in my previous rambling. (This is particularly true of the Mac machines, the Apples II I think I basically grasp.) Warning, however: This is not likely to be very interesting to anyone but me.

The iMac Service Source manual for the iMac G3s indicates shipping hard disks of the EIDE type from 7–30GB. My impression, given the casualness with which information is supplied, is that anything with a PATA physically compatible interface is pretty much backwards compatible, so that I can use a newer, fancier PATA drive even if the machine that’s talking to it doesn’t know how to use its features. Also, I learned from the PATA article that the Compact Flash interface is really just yet another PATA type (with a different physical connector), so that explains why IDE-CF adapters are so cheap.

For drive sizes under, or possibly at, 32GB, an IDE-CF solution as replacement makes some economic sense, but for larger drive sizes, the cost of the CF cards starts getting pretty steep. Although I could in principle hit or near the 128GB maximum addressable size for G3 iMacs, graphite PowerMac G4s, and the G4 Cube by getting a 128GB CF card (currently $898 at or an OWC Mercury Pro Legacy SSD (currently $220), I am not composed of cash. The SSD option is fast enough that it might merit some consideration, but it’s still a lot. A spinning IDE drive is over three times cheaper, e.g. OWC’s 120GB drive (currently $68).

There’s a kind of a conundrum in deciding what to put in the vintage Macs, because although they often shipped with smallish drives, when has that ever been enough? Granted, there is a big usage difference between the times when each of these was serving as my primary computing platform, and now, when they’re likely to be fairly specialized in what they’re being asked to do. But do I focus on replacing the hard drive at its shipping size, or max them out?

The SCSI interface of the still-older Macs is more problematic. Since I still think getting actual vintage drives as a replacement is not a smart move, a SCSI-IDE or SCSI-SATA adapter is probably a better option. Also, the size limits on these drives is smaller; in many cases (where I’m running pre-System 7.5), I can’t get beyond 2GB anyway, which makes a CF solution attractive. Something like PCD-50B with a CF-to-PCMCIA adapter (required because booting is constrained to the PCMCIA slot) looks like a pretty good option, even if it’s kind of overkill, since it’s (at $67 currently) about the cheapest way to get from SCSI to CF. Though it is not universally trouble-free. The PCD-50B setup is about half the price of the CF AztecMonster (page in Japanese, though he sells them via artmix on ebay as well). I bought one of the CF AztecMonsters, but shipping estimates suggest it will be a while before I see it. But SCSI-IDE for an actual drive seems like a dead-end road, since nobody is going to be making new 2GB drives.

[update: I came across some notes on Rob Brauns’s page that might be useful: Experiments in IDE-CF adapters, Experiments with R-IDSC-E SCSI to IDE converter (Oct 2009), and SE/30 Storage Benchmarks (Jan 2010). A few other interesting things there, including a writeup of Remote Booting a IIgs (Oct 2009) which can be seen in action on Brian Picchi’s video demo.]

For my own reference, here is a list of the machines, shipping size, and interface, that I have a chance of trying to replace the hard drives in.

shipped size
OS shipped
OS max
Max under shipped OS
(Max under max OS)



SCSI-CF? System 6, A/UX, NetBSD?




IIe card,
System 7.5.5
Performa 6116CD



AppleTalk/Ethernet bridge?
Mac OS 7.5.5?
Agonizingly slow
Duo 2300c

2.5″ IDE

4GB[2] 2.5″ CF-IDE 2GB replace.
Mac OS 8.6
PowerMac 7500/100



Mac OS 8.6?
Use unclear
PowerMac 8600/200


2TB Mac OS 8.6?
PC Compatibility card. Upgrade HDD? Mac OS 8.6?
PowerMac G3 Beige


PM G3/233.
Mac OS 8.6 or 9.2.2.
IDE-CF seems to be an option.
Replace the personality card with a Wings card? (Then what? Use the PMG3 as an external monitor for an Apple II?)
Use unclear.
Bondi iMac

8.1, 8.5

128GB Not sure whether rev A or B.
IDE-CF realistic.
iBook SE

2.5 EIDE

128GB Airport capable. IDE-CF realistic. Mac OS 9.2.2?
iMac DV, DV/SE

8.6 or 9.1

128GB Not sure on models. IDE-CF realistic. Airport with adapter.
Ruby iMac

128GB IDE-CF realistic. Airport with adapter.
G4 Cube

9.0.4 or 9.1

128GB Unsure of model. Airport capable. Mac OS 9.2.2. IDE-CF realistic.
PowerMac G4 Graphite

8.6 or 9.0.4

128GB unsure of models. Maybe Airport capable.
iMac G4

9.2.2 and 10.1.2, 10.2.3

128GB Airport capable. IDE-SATA maybe.
PowerMac G4 MDD



Not completely sure of model. Airport capable. IDE-SATA maybe. 10.5.8 if DP.

9.2.2, 10.1.4 or 10.2.5 or 10.3.3 or 10.4

10.4.11 or 10.5.8
big One is 1.25GHz/512MB, unsure of other model. Airport capable (1.25GHz requires Extreme). IDE-SATA maybe. 10.4.11 probably.
iMac G5


big 75% sure of the model. Modern HDD.

[1] I will use the LC II at no higher than system 7.5.5 so that the Apple IIe card will function.

[2] LowEndMac passes on warnings that ATA-6 drives are not compatible with the 2300c, which may need to be a consideration in replacing the hard drive in the 2300c with a CF contraption.

That took a while to work up, and I’m not completely sure I got the max capacities right or what the precise relationship I need to worry about is between IDE and EIDE and the different ATA levels. But it is interesting to see this list spelled out this way, it suggests to me that I have too many machines to realistically update them all. It reinforces the idea that I should mainly be concentrating on replacing hard drives that have already failed, and stick with the hard drives that are installed if they still work. Also, I am really leaning toward flogging some of the non-unique (or just uninteresting) ones off on ebay or something once I get them to start. And, sorry to say, those I may well consider putting cheap vintage drives in.

A longer list than I’d realized

There are still a couple of things that I’ve gotten that haven’t been documented here yet. They’ll get more discussion later on. This is really mostly a list with pictures. I now have a Macintosh LC II, which has the notable property that it can host the Apple IIe emulator card, which might make moving software between Mac and Apple II platforms easier (plus, it’s just cool). I don’t have the emulator card yet, but I intend to.

Lcii label

There’s an Apple //e machine that I got some time ago, which contains a number of cards, most notably a Novation Apple-Cat ][. That one starts, but the disk drive that was in it doesn’t work, so I need to do something with it and just haven’t had a chance. But here’s a picture at least.

Iie zthe boredom

Also, on my recent trip to the recycler, I got a ruby iMac G3 (for basically nothing). I’m going to need to put in a hard drive, but it turned out to have an AirPort card already inside. I’ve got a iMac DV/SE on its way (the best looking of all the translucent iMacs, in my opinion, and also the one that I used to have as my main machine). The photo of the graphite DV/SE below is from the auction, but I should have it soon. Both are relatively usable and modern, but I think I really have them for their looks. I also have an original Bondi Blue iMac that I salvaged, but the last time I tried to turn it on, nothing happened, so that one may require some work.

Ruby imac

Imac dvse auction

Bondi imac

A third machine that was acquired at the recycler was a “MacLamp” iMac G4, though I didn’t take a picture of mine. Here’s a stock photo.

Imac flat up

I also have an iBook SE that I’ve had since it was new, and it still starts up but I think the hard drive is getting close to failing, so I’ll probably need to replace it. However, replacing it is quite a procedure (you don’t even see the hard drive until step 34 of the ifixit guide, step 50 of this other guide), so that may not happen soon.

Ibook se open

Also, the battery is dead, which can probably only be solved by finding another one to buy.

Ibook se closed battery

What else? There’s also a couple of eMacs that I want to set up and make AirPort-capable, and a bunch of PowerMac G4s (one MDD, something like five of the earlier kind) that probably need hard drives and power supplies. I have a PowerMac G3 and a couple of PowerMac 7500/100s and a PowerMac 6116CD and a PowerMac 8600/200, all of which were salvaged from the trash and may not be in very good shape, but which I may at some point want to make start. And my Duo 2300c, from graduate school, which still seems to be working fine (though it too may not have very good batteries at this point).

Tower of powermacs

Pm8600 200

Duo mdd pmg4

G4s over lcii

I think that’s about it. Unless I can manage to get an Apple /// or a Lisa. I’m still toying with the idea of getting a platinum //e as well, and I’d probably take a Bell & Howell Apple ][+ or an original Apple ][ if one were within reach. Hard to believe that all fits in this little office I’ve got, but so far it does. It’s conceivable that I might eventually (once they’re clean and working) unload some of the duplicates, since I don’t really particularly need/want more than a representative sample. (Though, then again, having parts machines in the event of failure doesn’t seem unwise either. But, whatever, everything mentioned here is really kind of a long way off I expect. There’s a lot of real work to do in the meantime.)