The Greatest Computer Ever Now Gets A New, Injection Molded Clear Case

The Macintosh SE/30 is the greatest computer ever made. It was a powerhouse when it was launched almost exactly thirty years ago today. You could stuff 128 Megabytes of RAM into it, an absolutely ludicrous amount of RAM for 1989. You could put Ethernet in it. You could turn the 1-bit black or white internal display into an 8-bit grayscale display. I think there was a Lisp card for it. These were just the contemporaneous hacks for the SE/30. Now, people are actively developing for this machine and putting Spotify on it. There’s a toolbar extension for Macs of this era that will let you connect to a WiFi network. You’ll be hard pressed to find a computer that still has a fanbase this big thirty years after release.

Now, there’s a project to create new injection molded cases for the Mac SE/30 (and the plain ‘ol SE). These cases will be clear, just like Apple prototypes of the era. It’s also one of the most difficult injection molding projects retrocomputer enthusiasts have ever taken up.

Over the years, we’ve seen some interesting projects in the way of creating new plastic cases for old computers. The most famous is perhaps the remanufacturing of Commodore 64C cases. Instead of a purely community-driven project, this was an accident of history. The story goes that one guy, [Dallas Moore], went to an auction at an injection molding factory. The owner mentioned something about an old computer, and wheels started turning in someone’s head. A Kickstarter later, and everyone who wanted a new C64 case got one. You could get one in translucent plastic to go with the retro aesthetic.

New cases for the Amiga A1200 have also been made thanks to one fan’s Solidworks skills and a Kickstarter campaign. There is, apparently, a market for remanufactured cases for retrocomputers, and it’s just barely large enough to support making new injection molding tooling.

So, about that SE/30. The folks on the 68k Macintosh Liberation Army forums are discussing the possibility of making a new case for the greatest computer Apple will ever make. The hero of this story is [maceffects] who has already modeled the back ‘bucket’ of the SE/30 and printed one out on a filament printer (check out the videos below). This was then printed in clear SLA, and the next step is crowdfunding.

While this isn’t a complete case — a front bezel would be needed to complete the case — it is an amazing example of what the retrocomputing community can do. The total cost to bring this project to fruition would be about $15,000 USD, which is well within what a crowdfunding campaign could take in. Secondary runs could include a translucent Bondi Blue polycarbonate enclosure, but that’s pure speculation from someone who knows what would be the coolest project ever.

55 thoughts on “The Greatest Computer Ever Now Gets A New, Injection Molded Clear Case

  1. Some Atari Jaguar fans got white cases because the molds were sold then modified a bit to make fancy cases for intra-oral cameras for dental work. The company making those offered to run off a few more cases for the game consoles. It wasn’t too difficult to work around the alterations that had been made.

    1. As a rabid Jaguar fan and owner of one of the custom run dental cases I thought I would share some additional info. The cases sold to collectors do exist and required a back plate to be added if you want to keep dust out and I think the posts are slightly different inside. I never tried putting a jag board in mine. The dental cases also had the dome area the CD drive would cover polished smooth instead of continuing the orange peel texture all around the case like the originals.

      The dental equipment does exist: and they are two tone blue or beige on white cases. There are some of these being sold on sold on ebay now as the cameras come out of use. There are also fake painted original Jags being sold as dental cases as well unfortunately: (note the orange peel dome).

      But that wasn’t the end of the line for the Jag molds. The then Retro VGS managed to get their hands on them for their console. They produced a small batch of clear cases for collectors, it was a much smaller batch than the dental cases and they are more difficult to get. These were the same modified dental molds though. The top dome was smoothed on the clear cases and the rear is missing.

      There weren’t any Retro VGS or finally, Coleco Chameleon formally produced. There were “prototypes” shown though had a black case that matched the dental case molds. I haven’t seen an image of the rear, but the dome is smooth so I imagine there is no back.

      So in total there are six difference cases created from the original molds:
      Original – All orange peel dark grey
      Custom run dental case – Smoothed white
      Real dental case – Smoothed white + blue
      Real dental case – Smoothed white + beige
      Retro VGS custom – Smoothed clear
      Retro VGS prototype – Smoothed black

  2. “The Macintosh SE/30 is the greatest computer ever made. It was a powerhouse when bla bla bla…”

    Don’t forget to mention the nice handle it had to throw it away as far as possible.

    1. ^this! The number of times that verkakte computer would bomb out while compiling Pascal in college….let’s just say it’s lucky the computer lab was in the basement with no windows.

      1. Nearly every way computers are used was perfected on the Mac. Or developed by the Mac team. This bizarro world anti-apple stuff must be part of the call-out culture and I don’t get it. Did any of you use CP/M or IBM PC machines at the time? They were incredibly awful.

          1. No. I said the way they are actually used. At PARC the researchers goofed around. Raskin and the team used his earlier ideas and had a theory and basic principles for low error HMI. One of Raskin’s students was at PARC.

    1. Pretty sure this author has a hoard of SE-30s he’s selling on ebay and he’s trying to drive up demand lol

      He does an article about the “greatest computer ever made” about once a month or so.

      I kid, he’s probably just an earnest fan–and that’s fine, it’s a pretty rad old box. But I’ve heard through the grapevine he might have a few spare ones lying around…

      1. > But I’ve heard through the grapevine he might have a few spare ones lying around…

        I literally said, in a hackaday post, that I have a cache of SE/30s and I am manipulating public sentiment to drive the price up on the secondary market.

        Now let me tell you about my Lego collection…

  3. “You’ll be hard pressed to find a computer that still has a fanbase this big thirty years after release.”

    Seriously?! Commodore 64…

    37 years after its release people are still developing games, demos, tools, hardware extensions (it has countless Ethernet and WiFi adapters) for it. Its SID sound is so culture-defining and distinctive that it’s being used in modern tunes. Even people printing cases for it, as mentioned in the article.

    Probably even Amiga community is still larger…

  4. That’s just a wee bit larger than the injection molding machines at our *kerspace, but I tellya what, someone could prototype it awfully cheap! If there’s ever a nostalgia market for raspberry pi cases, we’ll be in the right place… ;)

  5. “The Macintosh SE/30 is the greatest computer ever made” how many times has Brian mentioned this, it’s beginning to get a little annoying. Although it might be the case that he meant it to be sarcastic.

    Though, that would not be fair to this old machine, because just like all those other great machines they do deserve some respect. There simply isn’t a home computer that is greater then another, how do you judge them? By their pricetag / exclusivity / sales numbers / available software / logo or brand / fanbase.

    So please Brian, stop this running gag, it’s getting annoying.

    PS: regarding people “putting Spotify on it”, if I remember the article to be a little less spectacular:

    As one of the commenters clearly stated:
    The UI is quite nice, but if remote-controlling Spotify Connect is the new definition of “Give Spotify to something”, you can give it to literally everything. People have even built WiFi adapters for the Commodore 64, Atari 2600 etc. using an ESP8266.

      1. No. I never had Apple II, but I read enough about it to determine it was a great computer with fairly open architecture.

        Even now I am using a DOS machine with QBasic sometimes, which is similar feel to what Apple II offered in late 70’s with it’s BASIC. Total control of the machine. Speed. No OS to tell me I can’t do stuff.

  6. It was a great computer, at the time. And in the nineties I kept hoping to find one at a good price. I think when I finally found one, I decided it was too late.

    Character wise, maybe it’s still the greatest. I did like my Mac Plus, which I eventually replaced with a Mac Classic. But I got of it, realizing the Mac laptops I had were just as suitable for use as a terminal as the Mac Classic.

    But gee, two years ago I bought a refurbished computer, a second generation i7, with 8gigs of ram, a 500gig hard drive, running at 3.4GHz, needless to say quad core. Nice and small, came with Ethernet, but also 2 serial ports and one parallel port. This can’t be the “greatest”, but it’s way better than the SE-30 specs. I may never need another computer.

    No, it has no identity, it’s like so many other computers, but it’s way better than the SE-30.


  7. I had piles of old macs. I still have one at one of my houses with a spring loaded door where the screen used to be and still use it as a mailbox. I had a couple I filled with cement and put a plank across the top and they made a good bench seat out in the back yard. Mac’s definitely had their uses.

  8. Sure hope the FCC hasn’t found this site, anything generating RF/EMI has to be encased in a metal or pseudo metal container. Well it will be okay as long as operator doesn’t power it on

    1. Probably nothing to worry about nowadays. I’m sure Trump has put someone in charge of the FCC who has no idea what RF and EMI terminology even remotely is and that maybe they should just shut down the FCC altogether to save money.

    2. I don’t remember whether the SE/30 had full metal shielding within the case, but when I was designing computer boards, the objective was to pass FCC certification with the naked board, because if that could be achieved, it had a big impact on the production cost. So it may be that putting the SE/30 in a clear case wouldn’t violate FCC limits.

    3. What? No it doesn’t. Point a tone probe at any extension cord or light switch. BZZZZZZZ.

      Generally stuff you build in your garage isn’t held up to FCC scrutiny, unless it’s an intentional radiator of significant power. Taking a consumer product and putting it in a new case has literally never been persecuted by the FCC. And what is “pseudo metal?”

      Most of the electronics projects made by hobbyists around the world are not in a proper Faraday cage of any kind and it’s all good.

      1. Yeah, $75K if made in Korea in 1985. China put an end to that with really affordable injection tooling. If the ruling ChiComs ever let the Yuan rise to it’s real value, we will be sorely vexed!

    1. Your mention there of the system disks makes me think of something better. Clear floooy disks. Probably not now, but I wonder why nobody made them when people used floppies. Or maybe I somehow missed that someone had.


      1. The challenge with transparent floppies, is that floppy disks had cleaning pads built into them, which weren’t real pretty; you wouldn’t just see a brown disc.

        BUT, having said that,

  9. I love how fans of some machine start “it was greatest computer back in the day because…” I mean i love Speccy or 386-486 era IBMclones, but come on there was so many computers in 8bit and 16bit era each had its some selling point nowadays its just nostalgia trip for us that started their journey on those machines.

  10. Was the SE/30 the greatest computer ever?

    Maybe not in hindsight, but I thought so at the time.

    I saw the advantage of computerising my businesses, and looked at what was available. I spent considerable time evaluating them.

    It wasn’t raw performance that I was looking for but usability. Back then the average worker had never touched a computer so I also had to factor in the cost of training. I installed SE/30s in one location and Windows at another.

    The SE/30 was way ahead of the competition. The extra unit cost was quickly recovered by the savings in support. Windows was a nightmare with staff who were not computer literate and the support costs per unit soon exceeded the price.

    The SE/30s were up and running with minimal training, required little support, and paid for themselves very quickly with reduced labour costs. Any accessory you bought for it just worked.

    I had to replace the Windows computers after 6 months with SE/30s because of the constant problems. Those problems may not have occurred if I put them in a computer literate environment, but I wanted computers for my existing staff to do work with, not computers for them to work on.

    1. I second this. When I tried to introduce computers into my business in the 1980s, it wasn’t the cost of the equipment that was the problem, it was peripheral issues such as reliability and staff training costs.
      The SE/30 was a godsend. More expensive, but easy to use for non-computer literate staff (ie almost everyone back then).

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