Power Mac 6100 Peripherals

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This page describes various peripherals that I've attached to my Power Mac 6100. This list is not all-encompassing, because neither is my budget. But it covers most of the categories that people use and have asked me about. I've listed the makes/models that I've owned, since that's all that I have experience with. Obviously, lots of other models and types work as well, but I don't have any information on them.


Generally speaking, peripherals can be attached to the PowerMac 6100 by using the following ports:

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Since buying my 6100 back in 1995 I've successfully printed to the following printers: There are tons of other printers that will work just fine with a 6100. Just beware that modern applications and printer drivers require a lot more horsepower than earlier ones did. For example, Adobe Acrobat Reader 4.x can generate spool files up to 10-15 MB per page! These require a ton of free hard drive space and will bring a non-accelerated 6100 to its knees.

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Most, if not all, Performa 611x's shipped with a Global Village Teleport FaxModem of some flavor:
Mine came with a TelePort Gold IIP, where the "P" means Performa. This modem draws power from the GeoPort serial port, which means two things. On the plus side, there's no power brick/wall wart to deal with. On the downside, there's no power switch, so it can be inconvenient to reset the modem (you have to unplug it from the computer). This modem can be hacked to take an external power supply and work with earlier Macs (that did not supply power in their serial ports), but this is a fairly involved hack.

Later, I upgraded to a US Robotics Sportser Voice 28.8/33.6, and then later to a Global Village Platinum.

Modems can actually be plugged into either serial port, but the modem port has a higher interrupt priority, so if you're going to use your modem for incoming modem or fax calls, you probably should attach it to the modem port.

You can use just about any Mac-compatible, serial (i.e. not USB) modem with a 6100. You can even use some PC-compatible serial modems. Don't ask me how to do the latter, though. It has to be a "hardware handshaking" modem, and you'll need to make or buy a serial cable adapter. I know it can be done; I've just never done it.

Software-wise, you don't need much to use a modem as a modem. Apple's Remote Access or PPP software is pretty much it, although Rockstar's FreePPP works well, too. Modem scripts for all Global Village modems are included in both packages.

You can actually use two Macs' modems to connect them directly to each other, which is useful if you don't have any removable storage (i.e. you have an iMac), and you don't have Ethernet. This is documented in an Apple TIL article.

The Global Village ones come with a pretty decent fax application (GlobalFax), but some versions are intolerant of some system software versions. I originally got version 2.1.2 with my Teleport Gold IIP, which is updatable to version 2.1.5, but it was incompatible with OS 8.6. So I downloaded 2.6.8 from Global Village. But that was incompatible with my Gold, so I had to buy a Platinum off ebay to make it all work.

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My first PDA was a PalmPilot Personal edition, upgraded with a 2MB/Infrared card. It was a great little PDA, until I left it on the roof of my car and drove away :(

Now I have a Palm Vx (for my wife) and an IBM WorkPad 3c (which is the same thing) for myself.

Any model of Palm will work with a Mac--all you need is Palm's freely downloadable Palm Desktop software for the Mac and a serial cable adapter. The current version of the software is 2.6.1, which is functionally equivalent to 2.5, but has a bugfix to correct problems when syncing to a USB-equipped Mac running OS 9.

In fact, the Palm Desktop Software for the Mac is a pretty decent little PIM (personal information manager) all by itself, and you don't need a Palm device in order to use it. And it's free.

Other than the software, the only other thing you'll need for a 6100 is a serial adapter to convert the PC-style serial connector to a Mac-style serial connector. This is included in the $7 Mac Pac, or you can build or buy one yourself.

As described below in the port sharing section, many users will not be able to dedicate a serial port to their PDA, because their ports are tied up with their other peripherals. If your PDA is not always connected to an active serial port, you can leave the Hotsync Manager/Serial Port Monitor off, and then turn it on only when you need it by using a neat little freeware AppleScript called LaunchQuit Hotsync.

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I have a Connectix Color QuickCam (serial). These are really hard to find, not only because they've been discontinued, but also because the QuickCam product line got purchased by Logitech. Logitech still makes Mac-compatible QuickCams, but they're all USB these days, so you can't use one of the new ones with a 6100.

But the serial guys are still available on ebay. I bought mine from a seller named blankcdmedia, who proved to be a very good seller.

I call them webcams because their most popular use is internet-based video-conferencing or webcam sites. The image and video quality from these cameras is decent, considering the affordability of these cameras ($20-$150).

For videoconferencing, I use iVisit. It's freely available while in beta, and it's cross-platform. It's also got a peer-to-peer connection model, so you're not so dependent on servers or reflectors to make connections (although you are highly reliant on a directory server to find people in the first place).

Other videoconferencing software:

The Connectix serial driver has a conflict with Mac OS 9. In short, it doesn't work at all. There is a third-party patch freely available, but its effect on other stuff is unknown. I wasn't thrilled with the stability of OS 9, especially with legacy stuff like this, so I downgraded back to 8.6.

I'm assuming that Connectix's USB driver works fine with Mac OS 9, but I'll have to wait until I get my new G4 before I can see for myself!

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External Speakers:

I have a three-piece Atlantic Multimedia speaker system which I like a lot, especially given the $99 price when I bought it three years ago. Since then, prices have dropped dramatically, so I bought another pair of these guys for my office for $50.

Most recently I bought a pair of Monsoon MM700's. This is a three-piece system with flat-panel satellites! The satellites look way cool, take up very little space, and sound awesome. They're point-focused, so they won't really fill a room with sound, but they are divine when you're sitting in front of them. CDs, MP3s and Quake all sound phenomenal. $114 plus shipping!

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The microphone jack on most modern Macs is a bit of an oddity. Although it looks like a regular stereo minijack, it's not. It requires a line-level input, which means that all those PC microphones you see on the shelves are incompatible.

The only mic I know to be compatible out of the box is Apple's PlainTalk microphone. The PlainTalk mic has an extra long plug, and the tip of that plug draws power from the Mac to drive a little inline pre-amp.

Unfortunately, the PlainTalk mic is not the best mic for all purposes. It's omni-directional, and it's not very useful for speech recognition or dictation.

If you do want to use other microphones, you may be able to use them in conjunction with Griffin Technology's NE Mic adapter, a $29 inline pre-amp that brings a standard mic input up to line level.

You can also use RCA-stereo minijack adapters to connect the output of an audio device (e.g. stereo equipment like a tape player or turntable) to your Mac.

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Zip Drives:

Had a Zip. Got it stolen. Got a Zip Plus. Zip Plus had technical flaws with SCSI chains. Went back to the regular ol' Zip. Been happy ever since.

Although the Zip drive's unique value has dropped a lot since CD writers and media became so cheap, they still have their place. They're cross-platform, reasonably fast, they're re-writable, and you can make 'em bootable without a lot of hassle.

Iomega has the latest version of its drivers and utilities freely avaiable for download. It's important to geta recent version, since it corrects a serious omission from previous versions--the ability to create a DOS-formatted Zip disk from a Mac.

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I have a Umax Astra 600S, although I also have some "SCSI voodoo" issues. I can't seem to have my scanner and my CD-RW plugged in at the same time. I've tried all the various ID numbering, termination, logical and physical re-ordering of the devices, and nothing seems to help. So I have to use one at a time.

But the scanner by itself works just fine. With the bundled software I can make (slow) copies in B&W or color, and I can even fax things.

Umax has removed their nifty little "Copier" app in favor of something far more complicated, but I've posted it here and maintained the hope that no one will sue me.

Future scanners from Umax had one-button scanning, which is cool for copy/fax applications.

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Serial Port Expanders:

If you count up the devices, you'll see that I've run out of serial ports! I have my fax/modem plugged into the modem port, which leaves me with one port for three devices--my Epson printer, my QuickCam and my Palm V cradle.

MacAlly's PortXpander was my solution to the problem. It's not perfect, but it works. I have the PortXpander plugged into my printer port, and the three devices plugged into the PortXpander. I can only use one device at a time, but at least I don't have to manually plug/unplug the devices.

Some issues/bugs with PortXpander:

If I were to do this all over, I'd probably just get a cheap manual switchbox. Manual switchboxes require no software, so they will always be compatible. They're somewhat less elegant than automagic switchboxes, but then again the automagic ones are less functional when they don't work.

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Last updated: 7/20/00

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Document change history

7/20/00--First version of page