Reviving an Apple IIe with a new power supply
Retro Computing: None of my Apple II series of computers would boot up. Now one does, here’s what it took.
When I set out to get my collection of retro computers running, I first took a pass through the inventory to see the state of everything, note what was salvageable, and make sure any batteries were pulled out. It was then that I noticed that not one of the Apple II series of computers turned on (actually the IIgs turned on and ran for about 10 minutes before the power supply gave out and released the magic smoke).
It makes sense, all were of the age where the capacitors in the power supplies would have stopped doing their jobs. Generally speaking I knew I wanted to learn how to replace the capacitors across the retro fleet, but the Apple II series of power supplies looked to me to be a daunting place to start since they each have about 15 capacitors. Since then I’ve obtained the soldering equipment and re-capping experience that I wouldn’t find this to be a very daunting job, but before all that I bought some replacement universal power supplies from ReActiveMicro. This week I finally got around to trying them out.
One of the things that originally attracted me to ReActive Micro’s “Universal PSU” as a solution was that the kit works across many different computers in the Apple II line up — including the IIgs and III — leaving my options open for how to use the kits. Also, I liked that the Universal PSU are constructed with a more modern, efficient, and cooler-running design than the original power supplies.
I started with the Apple IIe, not least of which because those computers are so easy to open up and troubleshoot. While I had it apart, I realized that this IIe is actually one of the last series made — often referred to as the “Platinum IIe,” which entered production in 1987 and ran all the way until 1993.
As a piece of trivia, the first Apple II was made all the way back in 1977 which means the Apple II series had an impressive 16-year production run. I find that fascinating! While, as of 2022, the iMac has existed as a product line for 23 years, and the iPod line for 20 years — those are marketing names for products that have evolved dramatically. By comparison, the Apple II series was the same CPU and the same basic architecture across the entire run.
And honestly, if I knew my Apple II history better I would have known at a glance. This computer has a number pad — which seems so common based on modern computer keyboards that I didn’t give it a second thought. But it wasn’t until the 1987 Plantinum revision that the Apple II series gained a built-in number pad. For most of the Apple IIe run there was just a standard QWERTY keyboard. Other, less noticeable enhancements to the Platinum revision include a standard 80-column card, stock 128Kb of RAM, and a reduced chip-count on the streamlined motherboard.
This particular one was made in 1992 according to the markings on the mother board, which I personally think is interesting because it means most of the classic Macintoshes I’ve been working on are actually older based on their date of manufacture.
The installation of the Universal PSU was super easy. Time spent from first opening up the computer to being done was under an hour, and could have taken less time. I spent some time stripping wires and testing with a multimeter that weren’t strictly necessary. (If anyone from ReActive Micro ever reads this, I think the Wiki instructions could be made a tad more clear for this newest revision PSU board because while clear in a photo, the written instructions say to place the neutral wire in the center, which is not correct.)
This IIe does not have any sort of upgraded video card, so I had to find an appropriate composite monitor in the collection. Luckily, I have an Apple Color Composite Monitor (dated 1985) which worked like a charm. I also don’t have any IIe 5.25” floppy drives in my collection— which seems like a shame given how great they sound. I do appear to have an Apple 5.25” drive that is daisy chained to an Apple 3.5” drive made for the Apple IIgs. With some tinkering, likely via the exciting new Yellowstone card, that route might work.
In any case, I already have the trusty Floppy Emu from Big Mess ‘O Wires which lets me run any floppy from an SD card and I am now definitely lusting after their Noisy Disk Mechanical Sounder. For that mater, while I’m dreaming about next steps it would be fun to also get an AppleSauce kit and make some real, physical Apple II floppies! Next though, I think I’ll get some other computers up and running.
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