The 88110 CPU and the RISC workstations that never were

At the beginning of the Nineties both Apple and NeXT were planning to unveil new RISC machines, powered by the Motorola 88110 CPU. At that point the Motorola 68000 family, also known as 68k or m68k, was clearly a dead end and it was time to move on.

The MC88110 was part of a new RISC architecture from Motorola, the 88000, dubbed m88k, and looked like the right solution for both businesses, though it arrived a bit late on the market.

Originally called the 78000, to stress its kinship with the 68000, the new architecture promised to outclass the performance of the processors used in top of the line Macintoshes and NeXT workstations. (more…)

Friday 28 July 2017, 11:56 am
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Tempest & Cyclone: the first Audio Video Macs

Filed under: Hardware

In July 1993 Apple introduced two very special Macintosh models, the Centris 660AV and the Quadra 840AV. Although seemingly belonging to different product lines and featuring radically different cases and expandibility options, they shared most of their technology, and even more importantly, their raison d’etre.

The two Macs sported an unseen integration of audio, video and voice, setting a new market standard. The “AV” monicker after the model numbers meant that professional audio and video input and output capabilities were already included by Apple and there was no need for third-party expansions.

Both the Centris 660AV (code-named Tempest) and the 840AV (code-named Cyclone) were the first Macintoshes to support 16-bit 48 KHz stereo audio, and could record and play back sound at CD-quality. They also had S-Video and Composite video ins and outs so one could use them to digitize video from a camcorder or other source and route their video signals to a TV set or video recorder. They were also the first Macs that supported Apple’s speech recognition (PlainTalk) out of the box.

Centris 660AV and Quadra 840AV ad detail

All of these amazing capabilities were possible thanks to new and more powerful hardware which had custom circuitry to handle the AV features. (more…)

Monday 29 July 2013, 7:25 am
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The 68k->PPC transition and Snow Leopard: comparing apples to oranges

In “Snow Leopard: Party like it’s 1998” there’s an attempt to quell the outcry of Mac users for Apple dropping PowerPC support in Snow Leopard by recalling the late Nineties transition from the Motorola 68×00 to the PPC machines.

It is a good and praiseworthy idea but unfortunately, in the description there are a couple of major inaccuracies which undermine the effort.

In the post it is stated that

On October 17, 1998 Apple released Mac OS 8.5, the first operating system that ran solely on Macintoshes with PowerPC processors. As far as system software upgrades go, this was the end of the line for any Mac built before the Power Macintosh 6100, introduced in March 1994. Earlier Macs ran on some variation of 680×0 processors and were supported mostly via emulation in a PowerPC environment. Emulation works, but it also slows things down. By 1998, Apple decided it just couldn’t support 680X0 emulation for a number of reasons, but chiefly among them was speed.

The Mac OS 8.5 was surely the end of Mac based on the 68k family of processors, but Apple kept on making and selling machines based on this hardware platform long after the release of the Power Mac 6100 in March 1994.

PM 6100 with monitorMacs such as the PowerBook 280 and the Quadra/LC 630 were launched during 1994 and even the following year, in the April and August of 1995 Cupertino introduced non-PowerPC models such as The Performa 580 and the PowerBook 190cs.

And those Macs were not “supported mostly via emulation in a PowerPC environment”. It was the way around: Macintoshes based on the PowerPC chips had to use emulation to be compatible with the (operating) System (which was later called Mac OS), which was still full of 68×000 code.

During the late Nineties Apple kept on slowly cleaning up the Mac OS code by “a PowerPC native, multi-threaded Finder” (does this ring a bell?) in Mac OS 8.0 and transitioning away from the old CISC CPUs by first limiting support to 68040 Macs with release 8.1.

Image taken from

Tuesday 16 June 2009, 12:29 pm
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Slackintosh reborn – An Interview with Adrian Ulrich

Filed under: Hardware,People,Software

Slackintosh was a little-known PPC port of Slackware Linux which after some years of development was put on indefinite hiatus.

MacinTuxAdrian Ulrich has recently restarted the project and is again providing (together with Marco Bonetti) a Slackware distribution for Apple (and non-Apple) RISC-powered hardware. We contacted him for a short interview to ask him what happened, what is his role and what is the distribution’s status.

Stories of Apple: A couple of years ago Slackintosh seemed to have been shelved. What happened? How and when did you picked up the project? And is there any contact or relationship with the previous maintainer?
Adrian Ulrich: I’ve been using Slackintosh 8.1 (after ditching Yellow Dog Linux and Debian) and soon upgraded it to the unfinished 9.1 and started to build my own Packages for 9.1. Later i’ve realized that Russel had stopped working on the project so i contacted him via e-mail and offered my help. While waiting for a response i’ve started to rebuild everything from scratch using Slackware 10.1. After a few weeks, i still didn’t hear anything from Russel so i uploaded my stuff to a server i own and announced my 10.1 version in a newsgroup and a few slackware-related forums. (Well: I did get a response from Russel after 10.1 has been released ;-) )

SoA: What kind of user is Slackintosh for and how many are using it? And what are its perspectives and chances after Apple has switched from PPC to Intel CPUs?
AU: Slackintosh is made for experienced Linux-users and Slackware users who own PowerPC hardware.
It is still useful even after the switch to x86 CPUs: Apples PowerPC support for OSX is not infinite, but with a free Operating System (such as Slackintosh) support will be thereas long as people use the hardware.

SoA: What’s the best (i.e. most easy/supported) Apple hardware to try and use Slackintosh?
AU: Even without Apple there is still a lot of interesting PowerPC based
hardware. I’ve been using Slackware 10.2 on the Nintendo Gamecube a few months ago. A Wii port would be interesting…

SoA: How would you sum up these years as maintainer of the Slackintosh project?
AU: I’ve learned a lot about the ‘inner workings’ of a Linux/Unix system.
Building stuff like glibc, compilers and is not much fun but educating :-)

Wednesday 19 September 2007, 1:06 pm
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