While this is the AmigaLove site, I've previously admitted that I also love classic Macintoshes, too, including a bit of my personal history with them.
I recently got back into that scene and was stunned to see how challenging some simple tasks like moving files from the internet over to a classic Mac is in 2020. In the C64 and Amiga world, I think a lot of us take those basic tasks for granted. So I’ve made this video and article in an attempt to try and make the process easier for others to understand and follow in the future, just in case there are any other folks out there like myself who might want to dabble in the sins of tasty fruit.
My setup includes the following:
- 2015 Apple MacBook Pro laptop (with SD Card Slot, natch)
- Basilisk II, running on OS X Big Sur
- 1991 Apple Quadra 700 Desktop Computer
- Floppy Emu, by Big Mess of Wires (BMOW)
First, let’s briefly take a look at what Basilisk II is and why it’s so cool in the first place.
It’s an Open Source 68K Macintosh Emulator and it has been ported to run in Unix, Mac OS X, Windows, BeOS R4 and AmigaOS 3.x. It’s been around for over 20 years.
You can emulate either a “Mac Classic” machine running MacOS 0 through 7.5, or a Mac II series machine, which runs MacOS 7.x, 8.0 and 8.1.
In my case, I decided to go the Mac II route with color since it most closely matches my Quadra 700’s environment.
Some features of Basilisk II worth mentioning:
- It looks and feels and even sounds exactly like a classic Macintosh, except for the fact that on my modern hardware it is shockingly fast - so from an emulation standpoint it’s not cycle accurate, it’s just software accurate if that makes sense. For example, you can “boot the Mac” emulator in less than a second. It’s instant
- It has drivers for, and emulates, floppy disks, HFS hard drives, CD-ROMs, Ethernet, Serial devices and much more.
- Most importantly (for me) it provides a pathway for file exchange between my MacBook Pro and my old classic Quadra 700, the painfully gorgeous Jurassic Park Computer.
To install Basilisk, you need to follow some very specific steps and I highly recommend you check out emaculation.com’s excellent guide (Mac, Windows, Linux). If I can figure it out, I’m sure you can, too. Just go through the fantastic guide and you should be ready to go in about 30 minutes or so.
Once Basilisk II is installed you’ll have created a folder on your modern Mac’s desktop called “Shared”. Inside Basilisk, there will be folder on its desktop called Unix. Any file you drop into Shared, will be accessible within the Unix folder in Basilisk, and vice versa. This is how you can easily move files back and forth between the two environments.
There’s a bit more to it that that, but we’ll come back to Basilisk in a moment.
Next, let’s take a look at the Classic Mac, and talk about the hardware you’ll want to use on that side.
Steve Chamberlin, a computer engineer and software developer who goes by the moniker BMOW, or Big Mess O’ Wires, is an expert in the Apple II and Macintosh. Four years ago he produced and now sells what he calls the Floppy Emu.
This fantastic plug-and-play hardware device emulates a floppy disk with built-in compatibility with all classic Apple II, Macintosh and Lisa computers. It uses a removable SD memory card for storing various disk images, and mimics an Apple floppy disk and drive, or even an Apple hard drive.“Floppy Emu is perfect for booting your favorite games, transferring files from vintage to modern machines, and troubleshooting a computer without a working OS. Just plug in the Emu board, and you’ll be up and running in seconds.”
I got the BMOW Floppy Emu Deluxe Bundle which comes with the assembled floppy emu model c device, a frosted acrylic case which I needed to assemble, an SD card with pre-installed handy vintage Apple and Mac software, and a DB-19 disk extension cable.Macintosh Floppy – Supports 400K, 800K, and 1.4MB floppy disk images, in raw .dsk or Disk Copy 4.2 format. Disk image files are the same format as those used with popular software-based Mac emulators like Mini vMac. Compatible with the original Mac 128K through the Mac II series and Power Mac.
Macintosh Hard Disk – HD20 hard disk emulation is compatible with the Macintosh 512K, 512Ke, Plus, SE (not SE/30), Classic, Classic II, Portable, IIci, IIsi, or LC I. Supports bootable hard disk images up to 2GB. Disk image file is compatible with popular software-based Mac emulators.
If you have an all-in-one classic Mac, you can simply plug it into the back of their external floppy drive port.
For the Lisa, or Macs like my Quadra 700 which only have 1 internal port on the motherboard for the original internal floppy drive, Steve created an additional little doo-dad A/B switch that lets you use both the Floppy Emu and the internal drive, and switch between the two (you can’t use both simultaneously, however.
So I got that as well, and now can have everything sit outside the Q700’s case and flip between the original SuperDrive or the Floppy Emu depending on my needs.
Once you have the Floppy Emu all set up and ready to go, you can now load disk images onto your Classic Mac that you downloaded online! And from that standpoint, the software options are vast.
Oftentimes, however, you can’t just drag any file you find online and stick it on the sd Card. No, you oftentimes need to actually use Basilisk to assist with the transfer.
Basilisk II, part 2
One of the things I needed to wrap my head around was that the Macintosh needs actual floppy disk images in order to mount data to its desktop. In the Amiga world, the comparison would be ADF images. But there’s no moving files across null modem cables or PCMCIA cards or any of that business here.
Now, you can indeed install SCSI2SD cards to replace your internal hard drives (which I’ve done, and highly recommend as the speed increases are amazing). But for just moving files or disks over, you need to create or use floppy disk images. And this is where Basilisk II is sometimes extremely helpful.
If you go to MacintoshGarden.org or MacintoshRepository.com, sometimes you’ll download a file with a .img extension. Or, sometimes you might see a .dsk extension.
A .dsk file is a DiskDup image, an exact copy (sector by sector) of a floppy disk. DSK images were a popular format for cloning or duplicating 1980's and 1990's Macintosh floppy disks.
Sometimes a .dsk file can be copied onto the Floppy Emu and simply mounted with no hassle.
.img images and loose files, however, need an additional step to move over to the classic environment.
It's at this stage I'd recommend you watch the video on this subject, starting at 5:36.
Launch Basilisk II. On the first setup screen, you’ll see you have the ability to mount Volumes. Your hard disk volume is already set and ready to go. What you’ll want to do next is either mount the .img file you found online, or you’ll want to download a blank floppy disk image you can move files onto.
What you don’t want to do, and this took me a little while to figure out - longer than it probably should have - is drag a .img file over to a blank floppy disk image in Basilisk onto the hard drive, or the desktop, or even just drag it onto the floppy emu straight up as-is. That’ll just copy the file over, but that file won’t mount. It’ll just be dumb data. IMG files should be loaded as volumes first, then their contents copied over to a blank disk.
Then you move that disk image over to your Floppy Emu, and copy the files to your hard drive or launch the from the Floppy Emu directly. Your machine will see them as real floppy disks at that point. You can even copy them to a temp directory then back onto a physical floppy disk if you need an actual disk copy - which I did for my Word 5.1 collection as my Disk 1 was missing from the set.
And that’s it! I hope this demonstration helps some of you out there pull your old Macs out of your basement and get back to business. Or, if nothing else, this might allow some of you to try out Basilisk on your current computers and give the old mac software a spin. There’s a ton of really great stuff out there just waiting to be used and enjoyed again.
- AL -