Macintosh 68×00 [Emulation on Windows series]

macintosh 68x00.jpg

Macintoshes were so expensive that you did not see them much in mid-eighties of Finland, but my friend’s parents happen to be rather well-paid researchers in the local university and they used Macs for work. We were lucky enough to use the Macintosh 512K and, a bit later, a Plus model to play games. I also loved painting pixel perfect images with the mouse. Macintosh and especially the UI / UX of the operating system was decades ahead anything else at the time. Atari ST GEM and Amiga Workbench stole many ideas, but oh boy they look ugly today – unlike the Mac OS which still is fully pleasing watch and use.


A list of Macintosh emulators is found at Wikipedia. The choices of emulating old macs on Windows are somewhat limited.

  • WinnerMini vMac
    • Emulates Macintosh Plus model by default
    • Macintosh II with color display can be emulated with a custom build
    • Keyboard based UI is a bit weird but still decent to use
  • Also installedBasilisk II
    • Even more classic Macintosh models  (up to 68040 processor) can be emulated
  • Honorable mention: SheepShaver
    • Emulates PowerPC-based macs
    • These PowerMacs are just too modern (and too ugly) for my taste 🙂

ROMs and Operating System

Macintosh emulators need a system ROM to boot, and you often need to boot with an operating system diskette (unless the game comes with a self-booting image). You can find some ROM suggestions on this blog post, or you could try the ROMs from this collection. The System version 1.0 – 6.0.8 can be downloaded from this resource and 7.0.1 is available here.

Mini vMac


Mini vMac, once compiled, cannot be configured. Therefore, if you download a stable release, it will be a Macintosh Plus model with fixed amount of memory. However, it’s possible to compile your preferred setup yourself, or use Mini vMac Variations Service to e.g. “build” a Mac with color display and huge amounts of memory. I used these setting to get Macintosh II with 256 colors launched in big fullscreen:

-t wx86 -m II -hres 512 -vres 343 -fullscreen 1 -magnify 1 -sound 1 -mem 4M

No matter how you build your Mini vMac, you will need a ROM to boot your emulator up. For the stable Mini vMac distribution, you need to copy vMac.ROM to the folder  also containing Mini vMac.exe. In case you built Macintosh II, the ROM name should be MacII.ROM.

There seems to be some kind of video driver problem in the color mode – Crystal Quest complains about “Color QuickDraw Erro (ID=0) whilst doing a Set Entries call. Thins are looking dodgy…” but if you just Continue a couple of times, the game seems to work just fine showing the nasty enemies in all their vibrant colors (Crystal Quest was the first Macintosh game ever using colors).

Crystal Quest Mini vMac color complaint.PNG

Keyboard shortcuts

  • CTRL – Access to help and any commands by holding CTRL-key
  • CTRL+O – Open disk
  • CTRL+Q – Exit (a preferred way to exit is to Shutdown from menubar)


Integration is pretty easy as you can simply pass a disk image to Mini vMac executable.

vMacMini on LaunchBox.PNG

Many Macintosh games do not come with a bootable disk, so you might want to mount an Operating System disk and the game disk at once. Point the ROM File to the game disk, and then under Emulation tab, choose Use Custom Command Line Parameters, and give the full path (starting with a drive letter, not with “../”) to the operating system disk.

Basilisk II

Installing Basilisk II requires quite many steps (including first installing an old version, then updating new version, installing SDL libraries etc.) but the process is pretty well covered in the guide by

I did get Macintosh II with colors working, but I did not hear any sounds. It’s also sometimes hard to exit the emulator, as you might need to kill the process (CRTL+ALT+DELProcesses) if the emulator was not shut down cleanly. Crystal Quest does not complain about color mode (like Mini vMac sadly does) but is missing all those 300K of sound effects the game box advertises.




Setting up 68k Macintosh emulator

UPDATE: I have now written a bit more detailed guide on how to set up Mini vMac and Basilink.

I’ve got the real thing in my retro collection, but it’s useful to have Macintosh Plus emulated, too. Here’re some notes.

The options for emulator seem to be:

For both emulators, you will need a Macintosh system ROM. For Mini vMac, copy the vmac.rom to the same folder as Mini vMac application, and you are good to go. Unfortunately, the same ROM does not seem to work with Basilink II, and I could not get the Macintosh Plus ROMs inside this collection work either. You could also grab the ROM from a real Macintosh.

If you use Disk Copy images (usually .img extension) on Mini vMac, they are read only. To make such image writable, you need to convert to raw format using on of these tools.

The real reason I have installed Mini vMac is that I need in my process to create floppy disks I can use with real 68k Macintosh.

Creating 400k or 800k Macintosh floppy disks

If grasping the Macintosh file formats for emulations is challenging, creating diskettes for old Macintosh models is really tricky. The main reason is that old Macintosh models only read so-called 400k or 800k disks, and the sectors in these disks are organized differently from the most other systems (such as MS-DOS). Reading a 400k or 800k disk requires variable rotating speeds from floppy driver controller (and it hears if you listen to the vibrations your Macintosh floppy makes). My method utilizes the fantastic BMOW Floppy Emu that allows me to move files to my Macintosh Plus from SD memory card.

The first step is to create a floppy image that we can open in BMOW Floppy Emu. To make such image is not completely trivial, because HFS file system is no longer supported. It’s possible to create HFS files system with tools like HFSExplorer and HFS Disk Maker. The easiest way is probably to use blank disk images and a Macintosh emulator with a particular software for transferring files.

Assuming you have a .sit file containing a piece of software, the process is:

  • Boot Mini vMac with unarchiver tools you need. You could e.g. use this bootable hard disk containing StuffIt.
  • Import .sit file with ImportFI
  • Mount an empty disk image to Mini vMac (Download or create blank disks).
  • Extract the files and copy them to the empty disk image.
  • Rename appropriately (e.g. from 800K.dsk to My Cool Game.dsk)

Alternatively, you could skip the last three steps, and simply extract .sit to a hard disk image you use with an emulator or BMOW floppy emu (yes, it support hard disk images, too).

The next step is to move the My Cool Game.dsk to an SD card, pluck it into Floppy Emu and boot the real Macintosh. Then just copy the files from emulated floppy image to a real floppy disk.

It might be a good idea make the game disk bootable. If you boot from one disk and run the game from another, you might end up to a disk switching hell before the game is actually playable. So, if you are lucky, and there’s enough disk space for operating system files to live on the game disk, the loading experience will be much smoother. Some ideas:

  • What is the oldest OS version game works on? For instance, System 2.1 takes much less disk space than 5.0
  • Was the game originally distributed on non-bootable 400k disk? Use 800k disk image instead of 400k, and you are likely to fit in an OS.
  • Take a floppy with the operating system of your choice.
  • Try removing the unnecessary system files. You basically need to have System and Finder files, but the rest can usually go.
  • Copy the game files to the floppy.
  • Optionally, select the game executable, and choose Special + Set Startup from the drop-down menus.

(Vintage 68000) Macintosh Disk Images

You can find a great collection of Macintosh games and software is at Macintosh Garden. Downloads are often directly usable with your favourite emulator or BMOW floppy emu, but sometimes you need to create a disk image. A decent resource to extensively explain the disk image formats, and how to use them, is hard to find.

The downloads you get from Macintosh Garden, and other abandonware resources, are usually in one of these formats:

  • .ZIP – A zip-compressed file you should know about 🙂 Just uncompress it and see what’s inside.
  • .DSK – A “raw” format simply containing disk data without checksums or other metadata.
  • .IMG – This extension is the mother of all confusions. Most likely it is a Disk Copy 4.2 format. It might be read only on your emulator, but BMOW floppy emu can also write back to the image. Confusingly .img extension is generally used for raw disk images (whereas raw Macintosh images usually have .dsk extension). And even more confusingly .img is used for newer disk image formats on Macintosh (Disk Copy 6 and later, and “New Disk Image Format” or NDIF).
  • .IMAGE – Possibly a Disk Copy 4.2 image, but could be a raw HFS file system, too. If you are interested to know, BMOW floppy emu will show the format on LCD screen when accessing the image.
  • .HFV – A “virtual hard disk image”. Basically just a raw file using HFS file system, but bigger in size than floppies are. A hard disk image could also have .dsk extension.
  • .SIT – An old-school compressed file you could extract e.g. with StuffIt Expander for OSX. But you may not want to do it, as the .sit file often contains the game executable and support files, and you better extract them inside an emulator (or a real Macintosh). StuffIt 1.5.1 should work with System 6 and 7. If you have problems extracting .sit, try a newer version.
  • .SEA – Self-extracting archive. Double click inside an emulator or real Macintosh to extract files to the folder.
  • .SMI – Self-mounting image. Double click inside an emulator or real Macintosh to “mount” a virtual drive.
  • .BIN – MacBinary format that can be extracted with binUnpk or StuffIt. Sometimes old Macintosh software is distributed with formats like .sea.bin or .smi.bin. Funnily enough, you need first to extract these self-extracting archives with an unarchiever first.

As you can see, the way old Macintosh software is being archived is a big mess. But there is always a way to get the software running.

If the extension is .dsk, .img or .image, you are probably good to go and just use the file with your emulator or BMOW floppy emu. If you are interested in to know the format, or perhaps want to understand why your image is not being loaded, you can…

  • …put the file to BMOW floppy emu. You will see the format when the disk is accessed. And you won’t see the image listed at all if it is not raw image or Disk Copy 4.2 format.
  • …check out the file size (e.g. CMD+I). Raw images should be exactly 409 600 bytes for 400k disks and 819200 bytes for 800k disks. If it is a little bit more, then there’s a good change being Disk Copy 4.2 as it contains some metadata along with the raw file system. If the size is something totally else, it could be one of the newer (compressed) formats that are not supported by Mini vMac or BMOW floppy emu.
  • …open the file in HEX editor, and check if there seems to be a header that looks like one defined in Disk Copy 4.2 format specification.

In the unfortunate case a game or utility was not preserved from an original floppy as a ready to use disk image (shame on you Macintosh retro community!), we need to take some further steps. This applies to all those .sit, .sea, .smi and .bin formats. One approach is to transform the downloaded package to a disk image (e.g. game.dsk) that floppy emu can read. Or you could even copy the files to a real Macintosh floppy. Either way, read about my way to do it .

Printing game manuals

Sometimes retro game boxes are missing stuff, such as game manuals. A Lazy Retroist solution is to print rather than trying to buy the game again just for a manual. I am not going to go through the whole process in detail, but in short it goes something like this:

  1. Find a scan of the manual (using Google search, or or similar service).
  2. If the manual looks fine and is scanned “one page at the time”, skip to step 5 (double pages need to be separated).
  3. Rip images out of PDF e.g. using PDF Image Extract.
  4. Use (awesome!) ScanTailor to split pages, straighten pages, remove “dirt”, improve text readability etc.
  5. Construct print layout with BookMaker.
  6. Print (be careful to get the print order right on double sided “booklet” pages).
  7. Print cover page on a stronger sheet (light cardboard or matte photo paper).
  8. Cut.
  9. Staple (hint! use a rubber eraser as a helper, watch this).
  10. Read the manual and enjoy the game.

As an example, here we have Laser Squad (PC version) manual as…

Couple of photos about the cutting phase and the final “product”:


Intro to Media preservation series

We all hate DRM and especially we hate copy protection of our retro games, don’t we? We also hate the fact the software piracy did it’s part to kill 8-bit and 16-bit computing, don’t we?

This disc is copy protected!

Actually, I don’t really hate copy protection. In fact, I find some copy protections to be part of the experience and even fun, e.g. when you have to wear “special glasses” to see secret codes the game asks as a part of the game intro. The less fun versions of copy protection schemes are trying to stop you making one-to-one copies of diskettes/CD-ROMs, thus making it much harder to preserve these games.

In this series, I will mostly talk about preserving the media (making backups)

write down short notes on how to make playable copies of:

All the posts in this series are tagged with series-media-preservation in this blog.