Experiments running old Mac software on a new Mac

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Compressed ramdisk; partitioned HDD; ram limitations

Mac adventures. Nothing fun. Take my advice: Don’t bother trying to get MS Office 4.2.1b running under MacOS 9. Not that most people would try to run software that’s two versions back on a new system, but… I guess these guys didn’t have money left in their budget to upgrade their old software after paying too much for an iMac.

Now, on a PC, the answer’s simple. Multiboot an older copy of Windows. (But Office 4.21 runs just fine under newer Windows, but humor me.) I can run DOS 1.0 on a Pentium IV if I want to for some insane reason, to get the ultimate in backward compatibility. If there’s some CP/M-86 app I want to run for some odd reason, I can run CP/M-86 on a P4 too–it’ new machines is software that tries to access the IBM PC’s ROM Basic. Very few programs did. The compatibility problem you’re most likely to run into is due to programs not handling very high CPU speeds well, but that’s curable with slowdown.

Older Mac software is very hit and miss with newer versions of the OS, and you can’t do backlevel OSs on new Macs. Whatever the current OS was at the time of a model’s introduction is generally the oldest OS you can run. There’s no booting into System 7.5.5 on your G4 for optimum compatibility with a legacy app you need that hasn’t been updated.

I almost resorted to trying to run it in the vMac Mac Plus emulator , but I found the hard disk files too cumbersome to deal with–getting files into them is really a chore, and besides, vMac didn’t seem too interested in mounting a hard disk image–only floppies. It’s a real shame the excellent Basilisk Mac II emulator hasn’t been ported to the PowerMac.  I’ve used it to run 68040- software on Windows PCs in a pinch numerous times, and fast PCs emulate the 040 much faster than the real thing. A Mac Basilisk port would be a very workable solution for running finicky older software on newer machines.

Later, I spent a couple of hours trying to get an Epson Stylus 850 printer working on another iMac with a USB-to-parallel adapter. Usually it works flawlessly. This one doesn’t want to play. I got rid of the “port is in use” error I had been getting by uninstalling and reinstalling the driver (my last resort, after trashing the printer preferences, AppleTalk preferences, and everything else I could think of in the Preferences folder, then zapping the PRAM by holding down Cmd-Option-P-R at boot time and letting it chime seven times), but then Chooser asked whether the printer was connected to the printer or modem port. Answer: neither. It’s an iMac. It’s connected to USB. I humored it by trying both phantom ports, but neither setting worked. Then I downloaded a patch from Epson’s Web site and installed it. The port-in-use errors came back. Lovely. I gave up for the day. Macs are supposed to be easier? Hardly. Maybe they’re a little easier to use (I doubt it) but they sure are a lot harder to fix.

Along the way I found this useful list of extensions and control panels though . So something good came of all this.

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Compressed ramdisk; partitioned HDD; ram limitations

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