The Macintosh Color Classic
Many Mac models have interesting histories, fan bases, or just notoriety in general… and that’s no exception for the Color Classic.
Simply put, the Color Classic was generally the last “compact Mac” before larger screens, CD drives, and redesigned cases came along. It’s closely related to the Classic II and LC series, and it’s real defining feature was bringing a color screen to the previously black & white classic line.
The CC wasn’t by any means a power house and was generally considered under-powered, even when it was initially released. A faster and more powerful Color Classic II was released in some markets outside of the US. A third Color Classic was planned but ultimately scrapped by Apple in favor of the larger 500-series all-in-ones.
What makes the Color Classic special?
So then, why does this model stand out? Well, for one, it’s fairly unique. It was the end of an era in terms of the compact macs, and it has a updated version of the old case design that begin with the very first Macintosh. Due to it’s small form factor (and handle) it’s fairly portable and popular for use in small apartments or classrooms. In particular, the Color Classic was a very popular model in Japan where users began to mod, customize, and upgrade their systems.
The Color Classic is also becoming quite rare. LCs, Quadras, and classic black & whites are still out there, but coming across a CC – especially one in good shape – is a bit harder. In good, working condition – they fetch a good price on eBay.
I’ve heard it mentioned some place that some people feel the Color Classic represents “peak Macintosh” – and it certainly stands out as a prime example of the 68k era of Macintosh. As a hobbyist, it’s small size and large following make it a great addition to any collection.
What is the “Mystic” upgrade
Given that the Color Classic is nifty, albeit under-powered – owners and fans looked for ways to get the most out of this unique Mac.
As I mentioned earlier, Apple was originally planning a Color Classic III, under the code name of “Mystic”. Apple scrapped the project and instead moved on to the 500-series. The logic board that would have most likely been used in the Color Classic III was instead used in the 500 series, in particular machines like the LC 575 or Performa 575. These logic boards are pin-compatible, meaning you can literally swap out a Color Classic logic board for one from a 575 – the logic board designed for project “Mystic” – thus the name.
Generally that’s it, but there are some extra steps needed to start up. The internal display on the Color Classic doesn’t have native support for 640 x 480 like the LC/Performa 575 – so we need to either modify the hardware to produce 640 x 480, or alter the system file for the OS to boot correctly. If you don’t do this, you will get a “bus error” starting up.
I have not personally tried modifying my Mac to run 640 x 480, so I went with the “hack my system” route.
Hacking your System Folder
Depending on the System Software version, there are a few different ways to go. If you are running System 7.5-8.1 you will need to alter your system suitcase in ResEdit. If you are running an older version of System 7, you just need a specific System Enabler file.
In order to make these changes you will either need to find a System Utilities boot disk with the correct enablers that will boot (Apple’s Utilities disk with System 7 should work) – or remove the drive and set it up with another computer.
In terms of System Enablers – the one you want is “System Enabler 065” You can download a copy here.
If you’re running 7.5-8.1, open the System suitcase in ResEdit and look for the GUSD resource. Inside, scroll through the list and find Gestalt ID 99, and set the Boot Process value to 21.
Lastly, to swap resolutions on your internal display, you’ll need the Quadra Monitors extension. You won’t be able to do 640 x 480 without hardware modification, unfortunatly.
Here are some other interesting mods I’ve come across online:
- Increasing the internal display to 640×480 – a fairly common hack for Mystic-upgraded Color Classics.
- The “Takky” upgrade which introduces a Power PC board into the Classic (with a ton of modification!)
- Some users have even created a G3 Color Classic!
- Or, modifying the case and chassis to house a CD drive
- Gutting the entire thing and building something else inside it!
Here’s my Mystic-upgraded Color Classic, “Misty”…
Besides the 575 logic board, I’ve maxed out the RAM and swapped the hard disk with a SCSI2SD which makes it lightening fast. I also have an Ethernet card and a custom back plate to account for the 575 board’s port layout…