Apple Macintosh LC Ⅲ

68882 FPU

Floating Point Units weren’t a standard part of computers back in 1993. The LC Ⅲ's 68030 processor never included one and even the cheaper 68040 models released in the coming years didn’t have a built-in FPU.

The odd thing was that I did by no means need an FPU. Yet it was put to good use by using DirectTeX which had special binaries which were sped up by an FPU (a fact which puzzles me to this day as I think that TeX and its companion programs are designed to work with integer based arithmetic only as they are supposed to give reproducible results across platforms).

The other – and much more exciting – use of the FPU was given by the Tristan pinball game which we loved. It did seem odd that a simple game should require precise floating point arithmetic and can't simply pre-compute and cache the needed sine values at startup, but that’s how things worked. A year later or so when Tristan's successor Crystal Caliburn was released the need for an FPU didn’t exist anymore, btw.

The LC III was my first Mac. My Atari ST was growing old at the time and I thought MS DOS looked a bit crappy, so I wanted a Mac afterwards. After having flipped through countless Mac magazines, having read the Macintosh Bible and without doubt wrecked my parents’ nerves about wanting a Mac, I got one. And not just one of the LC II models they had at school but the better LC III. Guess who was happy then!

I used the machine for about three years with its nice 14″ Macintosh Color Display, the rather good Trinitron screen, the small Apple Standard Keyboard Ⅱ and nice rounded version of Apple’s mouse.

While I used it, the LC III saw a number of upgrades: I upgraded the RAM from 4 MB to 12 MB at the tremendous cost of 800 DM or so, the hard drive was upgraded to a 500 MB model for around 500 DM at some stage and my parents sponsored the 68882 floating point chip which could be added to the machine. Not only because it did give a speedup when running TeX but also because it was required by the wonderful Tristan pinball game. At some stage I also got an external zip drive for backups and moving data around.

Design-wise I consider the LC III to be a highlight. Not only was it a rather small computer for its day and it could be easily put in a bag and taken along, it also had a wonderfully simple design that at the same time made the computer a perfect stand for the screen. It was also one of the last Macs to come with Apple’s great floppy drives that didn't require you to push the disk in all the way and because of that it just had a thin opening for the disk rather than the larger hole seen in later models.

After I finished using this machine and upgraded to a PowerMac, it became my brother’s first Mac, after which it became my Mum’s first Mac, after which I bought an Ethernet card for the machine on eBay for £5 or so and set the machine up be a LocalTalk to AppleTalk over Ethernet bridge that let my dad print on his old LocalTalk-only LaserWriter from his new serial-port-less PowerBook. With the fan unplugged and the hard drive being spun down automatically the machine ran for years without problems or making noise. And it is still working today.

Summary: Definitely one of the most reliable machines I ever had. And a design gem as well.