Macintosh SE

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Macintosh SE
Macintosh SE b.jpg
A Macintosh SE with dual floppy drives.
Also known as Macintosh SE FDHD
Macintosh SE SuperDrive
Manufacturer Apple Computer, Inc.
Product family Compact Macintosh
Type All-in-one
Release date March 2, 1987; 31 years ago (1987-03-02)
Introductory price US$2900 (dual floppy)
US$3900 (with 20 MB hard drive)
Discontinued October 15, 1990 (1990-10-15)
Operating system System 4.0 - System 7.5.5
CPU Motorola 68000 @ 7.8 MHz
Memory 1-4 MB RAM
(4x 150ns 30-pin SIMM)
Display 9 inches (23 cm) monochrome, 512x342
Dimensions Height: 13.6 inches (35 cm)
Width: 9.69 inches (24.6 cm)
Depth: 10.9 inches (28 cm)
Weight 17 pounds (7.7 kg)
Predecessor Macintosh 512Ke
Macintosh Plus
Successor Macintosh SE/30
Macintosh Classic
Macintosh Portable

The Macintosh SE is a personal computer designed, manufactured and sold by Apple Computer, Inc. from March 1987[1] to October, 1990. It marked a significant improvement on the Macintosh Plus design and was introduced by Apple at the same time as the Macintosh II.

The SE retains the same Compact Macintosh form factor as the original Macintosh computer introduced three years earlier, but with slight differences in color and styling. An enhanced model, the SE/30 was introduced in January, 1989; sales of the original SE continued, with an update following in August of that year to include a SuperDrive. The Macintosh SE was replaced with the Macintosh Classic, a very similar model which retained the same central processing unit and form factor, but at a lower price point.


The Macintosh SE was introduced at the AppleWorld conference in Los Angeles on March 2, 1987. The "SE" is an acronym for "System Expansion".[2] Its notable new features, compared to its similar predecessor, the Macintosh Plus, were:

  • First compact Macintosh with an internal drive bay for a hard disk (originally 20 MB or 40 MB) or a second floppy drive.
  • First compact Macintosh that featured an expansion slot.
  • First Macintosh to support the Apple Desktop Bus (ADB), previously only available on the Apple IIGS, for keyboard and mouse connections.
  • Improved SCSI support with faster data throughput and a standard 50-pin internal SCSI connector.
  • Better reliability and longer life expectancy (15 years of continuous use)[3] due to the addition of a cooling fan.
  • Upgraded video circuitry that results in a lower percentage of CPU time being spent drawing the screen. In practice this results in a 10-20 percent performance improvement.[4]
  • Additional fonts and kerning routines in the Toolbox ROM[3]
  • Disk First Aid is included on the system disk

The SE and Macintosh II were the first Apple computers since the Apple I to be sold without a keyboard. Instead the customer was offered the choice of the new ADB Apple Keyboard or the Apple Extended Keyboard.

Apple produced ten SEs with transparent cases as prototypes for promotional shots and employees. They are extremely rare and command a premium price for collectors.[5]

Operating system[edit]

The Macintosh SE shipped with System 4.0 and Finder 5.4; this version is specific to this computer.[6] (The Macintosh II, which was announced at the same time but shipped a month later, includes System 4.1 and Finder 5.5.) The README file included with the installation disks for the SE and II is the first place Apple ever used the term "Macintosh System Software", and after 1998 these two versions were retroactively given the name "Macintosh System Software 2.0.1".[7]


Processor: Motorola 68000, 8 MHz, with an 8 MHz system bus and a 16-bit data path

RAM: The SE came with 1 MB of RAM as standard, and is expandable to 4 MB. The logic board has four 30-pin SIMM slots; memory must be installed in pairs and must be 150 ns or faster.

Video: There is 256 KB of onboard video memory, enabling 512x384 monochrome resolution. The built-in screen has a lower resolution.

Storage: The SE can accommodate either one or two floppy drives, or a floppy drive and a hard drive. After-market brackets were designed to allow the SE to accommodate two floppy drives as well as a hard drive, however it was not a configuration supported by Apple. In addition an external floppy disk drive may also be connected, making the SE the only Macintosh besides the Macintosh Portable and Macintosh II which could support three floppy drives, though its increased storage, RAM capacity and optional internal hard drive rendered the external drives less of a necessity than for its predecessors. Single-floppy SE models also featured a drive-access light in the spot where the second floppy drive would be. Hard-drive equipped models came with a 20 MB SCSI hard disk.

Battery: Located on the logic board is a 3.6 V lithium battery, which must be present in order for basic settings to persist between power cycles. Macintosh SE machines which have sat for a long time have experienced battery corrosion and leakage, resulting in a damaged case and logic board.

Expansion: A Processor Direct Slot on the logic board allows for expansion cards, such as accelerators, to be installed. The SE can be upgraded to 50 MHz and more than 5 MB with the MicroMac accelerators. In the past other accelerators were also available such as the Sonnet Allegro. Since installing a card required opening the computer's case and exposing the user to high voltages from the internal CRT, Apple recommended that only authorized Apple dealers install the cards; the case was sealed with then-uncommon Torx screws.

Upgrades: After Apple introduced the Macintosh SE/30 in January, 1989, a logic board upgrade was sold by Apple dealers as a high-cost upgrade for the SE, consisting of a new SE/30 motherboard, case front and internal chassis to accommodate the upgrade components.

An Easter Egg hidden in the ROMs had four images of the development team.

Easter egg: The Macintosh SE ROM size increased from 64 KB in the original Mac to 256 KB, which allowed the development team to include an Easter Egg hidden in the ROMs. By jumping to address 0x41D89A or reading from the ROM chips it is possible to display the four images of the engineering team.[8][9]

Inside the Macintosh SE
The main PCB from a 1988 Macintosh SE


Introduced March 2, 1987:

Introduced August 1, 1989:

  • Macintosh SE FDHD: Includes the new SuperDrive, a floppy disk drive that could handle 1.4 MB High Density (HD) floppy disks. FDHD is an acronym for "Floppy Disk High Density"; later some Macintosh SE FDHDs were labeled Macintosh SE Superdrive, to conform to Apple's marketing change with respect to their new drive. HD floppies would become the de-facto standard on both the Macintosh and PC computers from then on. An upgrade kit was sold for the original Macintosh SE which included new ROM chips and a new disk controller chip, to replace the originals.[11]
  • Macintosh SE 1/20: The name of the Macintosh SE FDHD with a 20 MB HDD when sold in Europe.
  • Macintosh SE 1/40: The name of the Macintosh SE FDHD with a 40 MB HDD when sold in Europe.

Timeline of compact Macintosh models

Power MacintoshMacintosh LC 520PowerBookMacintosh LCMacintosh PortableMacintosh II seriesApple IIeMacintosh Classic IIMacintosh Color ClassicMacintosh SE/30Macintosh ClassicMacintosh PlusMacintosh PlusMacintosh XLMacintosh SEMacintosh 512KeApple LisaMacintosh 128KMacintosh 512K

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Joel West (1987-03-02). "Macintosh II and Macintosh SE announced". Newsgroupcomp.sys.mac. Usenet: 2790@sdcsvax.UCSD.EDU. Retrieved 2014-01-26.
  2. ^ Goodin, Sue; Wilson, Dave (April 1987). "Programming the New Macs". Vol. 3 no. 5. MacTech.
  3. ^ a b "How the SE Really Differs". MacWorld Magazine. May 1987. p. 116.
  4. ^ "Vectronic's Macintosh SE".
  5. ^ "Transparent Macintosh SE". Low End Mac. Retrieved February 8, 2007.
  6. ^ "Macintosh hardware releases".
  7. ^ "Macintosh: System Software Version History".
  8. ^ "Macintosh Plus Easter Egg - Image of Designers in ROM". 1999-09-12. Retrieved 2014-01-26.
  9. ^ Trammell Hudson (2012-08-21). "Ghosts in the ROM". NYC Resistor. Archived from the original on February 17, 2015. Retrieved 2014-01-26.
  10. ^ "Macintosh SE: Technical Specifications". Apple.
  11. ^ "Macintosh SE FDHD: Technical Specifications". Apple.

External links[edit]