Vectronic's Macintosh Color Classic
Originally Published: May 28, 2005
The Color Classic originally shipped with Mac OS 7.1, but officially it supports up to Mac OS 7.6.1. My Color Classic is running Mac OS 8.1. This is possible because of the Sonnet Presto Plus upgrade. As shown in the desktop capture below, Mac OS 8.1 takes up 9.2 MB of RAM. The Color Classic has a max RAM of 10 MB, but the Presto Plus increases system RAM by 32 MB making total system RAM equal to around 42 MB. Furthermore, the Presto Plus features a 66/33 MHz 68040 processor. Mac OS 8.1 requires at least an 040 processor.
Although it is possible to install Mac OS 8.1 using the Presto Plus, I am generally unsatisfied with the resulting decrease in overall system performance. In my opinion, you should never install more than the latest version of System 7 on any 68K machine. The 68040 may be up to the task of running Mac OS 8.1, but the resulting system degradation is frustrating. I put Mac OS 8.1 on my Color Classic to see how it would handle it. It works, but it is considerably slower than System 7 and does occasionally suffer from bus errors.
Click to View Screen Capture 2
Apple originally shipped the Color Classic with either an 80 MB or 160 MB internal SCSI hard drive. My Color Classic has a 1 GB internal hard drive. Like the Classic II, the Color Classic has a single built in 1.4 MB floppy disk drive. Apple shipped the Color Classic with 256K built-in VRAM, upgradeable to 512K VRAM with the addition of a 256K VRAM chip. My Color Classic has 512K VRAM. The Color Classic has 2 ADB ports, one DB-25 SCSI port, one serial modem port, one serial printer port, a sound in port, and a sound out port. My Color Classic has an Ethernet port, which is included on the Sonnet Presto Plus card.
Unlike the black and white compact Macs, the Color Classic has a built in microphone residing over the monitor in the front of the computer. Speaker volume and screen brightness are controlled using buttons on the front of the computer next to the floppy disk drive. Screen position can also be adjusted from the back of the computer. Finer adjustments can only be made by taking the Color Classic's back case off.
The Color Classic is the easiest compact Mac to open. Opening the case does not require a case cracker. The Color Classic has a modular design and its internal make up reflects Apple's change in direction towards compartmentalized all-in-one Macs in the early to mid 1990s. The Color Classic's motherboard is extremely easy to remove. The port cover door is removed by pressing down on two tabs. The motherboard pulls out with a slight tug. The motherboard actually plugs into the chassis.
Most Apple fans would agree that the Color Classic is a beautiful design. Unfortunately, all this outward beauty bellies the role Apple intended the Color Classic to play in its computer lineup. The Color Classic was relegated to the unenviable position of an "entry level" desktop. As such, the Color Classic was not the computer it could have been. Many consider it a poor design because of its max RAM ceiling of a mere 10 MB, its slow 16-bit data bus, and its sole monitor resolution of 512 x 384.
Most software developers were not willing to develop software optimized for a color computer with a 512 x 384 monitor resolution. Older black and white software designed for the compact Macs was available, but that software doesn't take advantage of the Color Classic's stunning color display. If Apple would have given the Color Classic the ability to switch to an industry standard resolution of 640 x 480 or 800 x 600, this problem would not have been an issue. Images on the screen at higher resolutions would have been tiny, but the user should have at least been given the opportunity to use a higher resolution if the software required it.
There is no debate about the sheer beauty of the Color Classic. It is a stunning computer. Unfortunately, Apple in effect crippled the Color Classic in order to keep it as its entry-level computer. I like the Color Classic's design, but when you get past that, the Color Classic is a frustratingly slow computer with a beautiful color monitor that cannot be fully enjoyed because of the computer's low resolution. Perhaps Apple took the concept of the compact Maintosh too far. Maybe the tiny monitor just wasn't suited for the modern age. Apple took the concept of the compact Macintosh a step further with the Color Classic, but not far enough to make it an insanely great computer.