OK the headline is hyperbole… But sorry, not sorry! So this is how the story goes. At work we have a Crosfield drum scanner – possibly the last one in action for hundreds of miles (this is piece of kit that cost well over £150k maybe 30 or more years ago). Drum scanners were the essential “pro” element of print reprographics for many years – they were how we got transparencies and photos into colour separations (and a later digital form) before desktop scanning was a thing; and for decades after that it was still the “pro” version…
Anyway to the story – the Crosfield is powered by a very very old Mac – a PowerMac 8100/100 to be precise – because when the scanner was converted to digital that was the Mac that accepted the interface card that allowed it to talk to the Mac and the software needed to drive the scanner (I’ll come back to that in a bit). It used to do more, like colour correct scans, but modern Macs have overtaken the capabilities of its (admittedly specialist, but old) software.
Now back in the day that Mac drove the scanner and then sent the scans to other Macs to be used. Thing is that Mac is running System 7 and only does AppleTalk (over Ethernet thankfully) and modern kit doesn’t do that anymore, and hasn’t for years.
So we have an old Mirror Door G4 running OS 8 that is generationally “in the middle enough” that it can talk the talk to both the 8100 and some of the more modern networked servers and the like on the network.
So this G4 is literally a network bridge. The 8100 drives the Crosfield and then sends the scans to the Mirror Door G4 and that is used to manually place them on to the servers, so the Macs we actually work on can grab them for use in whatever software we want.
Today Dave our Crosfield operator came to me and uttered the chilling words “I can’t see the G4 on the network” – we went to its darkened corner and it was off… OK so that’s not unusual, but Dave said he’d turned it on earlier. Press power on – it hums, power light comes on but there is no start up “booming chime” (that Mac had a notoriously loud startup sound) and then the light goes out…
Rinse and repeat a few times until it’s a case of admitting it’s not going to happen. What the hell we going to do? Thankfully for just these reasons we have several G4 Macs of various vintages stashed about the place. In fact we had an original Graphite G4, which had recently been set up, and was running OS 9.2.
No one seemed to remember exactly why. Possibly in case of just such a scenario? But it was working and that was what mattered. Could OS 9.2 still exchange files with System 7 (not 7.2 or 7.5 btw – vanilla 7) None of us could remember. You think you recall Classic Mac? Go onto a System 7 Mac and realise how much has changed!!!
Anyway we turned on the sharing on the Graphite G4 and shared a folder for the scans to go to – and then we went to the Crosfield’s 8100 and dug back into the Chooser and looked for shares – the 9.2 Mac showed up.
We connect to the shared folder and transfer a scan from Crosfield to Graphite; run upstairs to the Graphite and shove said scan from there to the server so that the rest of the world can find it…
Success – and that is how the Graphite G4 saved our lives today.
So remember – that old kit isn’t always useless (I guess that’s why some of us hoard so much of it) – I admit however to disposing of my collection of pre Intel stuff several years back.
Oh, and I said I would come back to the 8100 later. Why are we stuck driving the Crosfield with that old old Mac? Look on line for photos of those scanners and you will see some of them proudly sporting G3 iMacs or G4 towers as their controllers.
Bad luck is why – at the time our scanner was converted to digital and set up to be controlled by the Mac the Power Mac range was the shiny new thing, and so a 8100 was the chosen Mac – only problem is that Mac was fitted with a “short” NuBus slot. So that is the interface card fitted to the Crosfield – problem is that was a pretty short lived Mac, and interface, and it was pretty swiftly superseded by the 8500 and NuBus was replaced by PCI. If our scanner had a PCI interface then we could drive it from a much much newer Mac – but it doesn’t, and that leaves us in a hole!
Final comment: If by any chance someone out there reading this has a working PowerMac with short NuBus slot that they don’t want any more, or even more weirdly a PCI interface card that might be compatible with a Crosfield MagnaDuet please get in touch… my boss might be very pleased to hear from you.
NB: Photos in this article are representative only – I can’t get at most of our stuff to get a decent photograph of most of it.