last updated May 2020

Upgrading a classic computer - the legendary ColourClassic by Apple

Back in the mid 1990s I was convinced that I would never be wanting a computer in my home - until I came across that awesome Apple Macintosh ColourClassic (CC). Looking at it now in 2020 its appearance is still striking - reduced to the max, clear shapes and proportions, appealing, a must have. That's what Apple's approach to design is all about.

I fell in love with it and bought one. Okay, it was a Roadapple, a machine with a crippled data bus (16 Bits instead of 32), slowly computing and limited with regard to upgrade possibilities. But with an awesome case design. And that’s the point. Then I sold it to a friend. He fell in love too and still keeps it today.

ColourClassic in Apple's sales brochure in 1993:

The Apple sales brochure from February 1993.

Performa 5200, awesome design but awful performance

Limited in my funding unfortunately I got another Roadapple then, a Performa 5200, sporting a PPC603 running @ 75 MHz but with poor logic board design. Got fed up with it and gave it to a kindergarden for the kids to play with it. Now I own a vaio notebook (WinXP). Although it’s not a Mac it does its job well.

article from German magazine MacUp 1994

Finding the right secondhand Mac: The ColourClassic was rated lower than a Performa 450. The author admits than design lovers occasionally pay more than the last known Apple price (MacUp 05-1994).

The times have changed in that parts of vintage Apple computers become reasonable priced on ebay. So I’ll get me another ColourClassic and start to make a cool customized and number-crunching PC out of it. Here’s what can be done and what I plan to do:

Step one - the Mystic way:

  • Get me a ColorClassic, of course :), installing a clean System7, prove of operation
  • exchange of logicboard with one of the Performa 575 (68LC040 @ 33 MHz), same form factor as CC board, requires system hack to run with CC screen resolution of 512x384
  • replacement of the processor with a full 68040 @ 33 MHz, making the CC run like a Quadra 800
  • put some RAM in it, probably 36 or even 64 MByte
  • replacing original 80 MByte SCSI-harddrive with one of 1 GByte
  • VGA (sense-line) hack to the analogboard in order to display 640x480 on the CC screen (Lets the CC think the built-in 12” is a 13” monitor), adjusting the monitor controls to use all screen estate (minimizing black boarders)cranking up the processor clock to 40 MHz (equals 21 % speed gain), applying heat sinks to processor and video chip

Heavy Mac needs proper support The ColourClassic as seen
by German magazine MacWelt in April 1993.

Step two - Mystic to Takky:

  • exchange of logicboard with one of the Performa 630 (68LC040 @ 33 MHz), having the Performa slots for video, TV, network, PPC-upgrade card (requires a case hack and internal re-cabeling because the 630 board is longer than the CC board)
  • trying to get a 68040/40 from a Quadra 840AV or similar
  • replacing the noisy standard fan with a better one (Papst?)
  • placing a Performa TV tuner and an infrared sensor in the case and turning the CC into a TV set (remote control available)
  • adding the second audio channel to the analogboard in order to get stereo sound

Step three:

  • finding a solution for the logicboard back-cover
  • considering replacing the floppy drive by something different, ZIP, MO or similar
  • some case mods, maybe painting
  • harddisk activity light > completed (replaced microphone with a LED, microphone used to be sensitive to body-borne noise)
  • installing Linux?
  • installing the video-kit to use the CC as a TV-set > idea abandonned as analog terrestial TV was shut down in favor of digital DVB-T.

My original ColourClassic, sporting:
a 33 MHz upgrade card with CoPro,
10 MB of RAM, 32k screen colors,
1 GByte harddisk,
temperature controlled fan,
cool stickers :)

Available space in a ColourClassic

For those who wonder how all these electronics fit into such a small case here’s the answer: Klick on the previews to get an enlarged view.

semi-transparent side view

semi-transparent rear view

semi-transparent top view

Project Status

The DeepClassic currently has a 5500/225 MoBo in it, plenty of RAM, a 10 GB HD. From time to time it’s missing one color of the video signal and the screen gets tinted greenish. Looks like some poking around and soldering is required. Also required is some time to do it. Conclusion: My beloved DeepClassic sits in its bag and wait for me to invest some spare time in it. Bag? Yes, it was advertised as a portable computer and comes with a dedicated soft black carrying case.

Useful links:

  • product specs on LEM (low-end Macs)
  • the ColourClassic FAQ
  • the Applefritter forum
  • the Takky upgrade
  • The server of the Club for Creating the Strongest ColourClassic CCSCC seems to be down.

In order to find the original service manual in pdf format ask your favorite search engine for “color_classic.pdf” but do not ask me!.