Vintage Apple rig says ‘Hello, 1994’ from Romania [Setups]

Bacioiu Constantin Ciprian, known on the Internet as “Zapa”, was born in Buzau, Romania, in 1991, shortly after the revolution overthrew the communist government there. He loved technology as a child, but it was expensive and difficult to access. And he soon realized how much he loved Apple products – especially those around him in his youth.

Now a longtime resident of Bucharest, he designs and develops games for working on antique equipment. And fill that retro setting!

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“I’m a game designer and developer and I run my own business called Bearded Giant Games,” he said. Cult Maca after we spotted his retro photos of computer settings online. “I specialize in rapidly prototyping games for modern systems, porting to Linux, and, when the weather allows, developing indie games.”

The headline at the top of his homepage says, “Hello 1994 – it’s good to have you here.”

Cyprian’s ‘pre-vintage Apple era’

Cyprian’s parents traveled abroad when he was a kid. They would often bring catalogs of technological products and clothing.

“I was in love with the technology of the 80s and 90s that I could see in them, and one of my earliest technological memories was the Commodore 64 in a German magazine that offered a huge discount on it. So I grew up wanting those computers, ”he said.

But there was not enough money to get something like that. While his parents raised enough money, all they could get was a “standard beige box of Wintel machines with Windows 95 and a Pentium processor.” As Ciprian said, “It is safe to say that the Macs were [not] even remotely available in Romania, and if they were, we would be three or four mortgages away from being able to afford it. ”

Goodbye Windows, hello Linux – and game design

Around 2006, Ciprian met Linux and discarded Windows “there and there,” he said.

“As I grew up, I was interested in designing and making games, and I focused on that,” he said. Cult Maca. “I think I started playing game jams early, even before I finished high school, and I officially entered the industry in 2010 as a game designer at Gameloft in Bucharest.”

Over the years, he created his own commercial games and worked as a freelancer. In 2017, he started his own company to focus on the development of indie games. He continued to work as a freelancer to make ends meet.

Mac: first contact

It wasn’t until 2019 that Ciprian never had access to a Mac. He just read about them. But then he got a performance designing and developing games for iOS. So he borrowed a 2014 MacBook Pro and got it.

After about eight months of hard but lucrative work, he used his earnings to buy a professional iOS development workstation – a decently equipped iMac Pro, and after I bought it, I fell in love with Apple, he said.

Its production times for “hyper casual games” have been dramatically reduced. He kicked out a few a week, he said.

Cyprian’s first apple harvest

Satisfied with the earnings, Ciprian could buy some of the technology he had always wanted – like things his dad brought home in catalogs in the 1990s.

“One of my first purchases was the Commodore 64, I always wanted it. I bought it, made a hacky setup including an LCD and RCA-to-VGA-to-HDMI converter, ”he said. “I got an SD2IEC converter that allowed me to put games and software on an SD card. And I liked it for a while. I spent 8 to 10 hours a day writing games for my clients and 4 to 6 hours learning to code for retro platforms. But the itching hasn’t been scratched yet. “

What Ciprian really wanted was to mimic the development processes of the 1980s and early 90s.

“I grew up reading about John Carmack, [John] Romero and Rebecca Heineman, and I fell a little in love with designer Jeff Vogel, they were all great game developers talking about game development at the time, and I wanted to follow in their footsteps a little bit, ”he said.

Vintage machine with power for game development

Ciprian’s first antique Mac was the SE, but it was soon upgraded to the SE / 30. And he kept and used both, of course.
Photo: B. Ciprian

His C64 didn’t have the power to develop games, but he tried anyway. Realizing that he needed something with more oomf, he reviewed local markets and came across a Macintosh SE for about $ 300. He loved its compact design. Although it was released in 1987, it reminded him of his iMac, he said – so he got it.

“The first time system 6 was launched was a mixture of shock and wow,” he said. “It was so funny to see how the modern Mac OS (Catalina at the time) still has a lot of miracles that were introduced 30 years ago. You can take screenshots with CMD + Shift + 3, the Finder panel at the top had similar options as the modern Finder. A lot of principles still apply. ”

Ciprian had a problem though. He had no way to switch software to SE so he could work on development. Modern computers and floppy disks cannot write Macintosh-formatted disks to disks that read 800K disks. And so the tampering began.

“I took one of my Raspberry Pi, installed Linux on it, and set it up to emulate the DialUP ISP,” he said. “I bought an Asante Ethertalk box that would allow me to connect SE to the network (via localTalk) and a 30 meter long Cat5 cable (don’t ask me why I had 30 meters of Cat5 available) and Macgyver found a solution to introduce the software into it.”

Ciprian showed on YouTube a video showing a “janky setup” that allowed him to transfer files from his iMac Pro to SE.

Developing games on old Macs

He soon fully developed the setup and began developing games for antique Macs. He said his first project, a first-person 3D Dungeon Crawler, would “delight people back in 1987”.

Looking for higher performance and higher speeds, Ciprian read about the accelerator plates used to accelerate old Macs. He joined the 68Kmla forum for vintage Mac fans and met a German enthusiast who became a great help to him.

“[He] makes new versions of old Mac equipment, from accelerators to cache cards, to adapters and network interfaces, ”said Ciprian. “Wozniak of modern times [who] uses modern soldering iron as a renaissance painter. Within days of meeting him, he sent me a 68030 accelerator for my SE which not only gave me a better CPU but also helped me break through the 4 MB RAM barrier on it. ”

The forum also taught Cyprian much more about caring for and feeding old Macs. To his girlfriend’s horror, he said, an avalanche of new-old hardware began to appear on the doorstep.

“I soon upgraded the SE to the maximum,” he said. “I couldn’t fit more upgrades into it. I kept hearing that SE / 30 (his successor) was everything SE was, just better. Like the M1 Macbook compared to its Intel equivalent. I had to get it so I could simplify development even more. After all, they called him the ‘king of the compact’. “

He caught SE / 30 from a Romanian collector. It had an elusive graphics card that enabled another monitor. And it provided much higher speed than its SE, with 32 times more RAM.

He then returned to his German friend, who sent him upgrades by airmail. And that’s not all. With more purchases and some hacking, it got SE / 30, released in 1989, which uses macOS 8.1. He discovered that he could run Photoshop 3, along with many other programs.

But he couldn’t do everything. Old systems have a hard time seeing the modern world online.

Coming to the internet

SE / 30 was on the local network and the Internet via the Raspberry Pi. But on the Internet, 90% of websites would not work because of modern HTTPS and SSL standards, Ciprian said. But then he found an aggregator,, that allows old search engines to see Google News. And a search engine called FrogFind! formats search results that work in Netscape and other old browsers.

Ciprian wrote his own HTTPS stripper and hosted it on his Raspberry Pi. It worked well for online text, but not for most images. But an HTTPS proxy called WebOne served as a useful internet relay in that regard. He got to the point where he could even watch YouTube clips on his SE / 30.

“The fact that so much of the web was usable on a 40 MHz computer was both amazing and sad,” he said. “Unbelievable because he could run things that didn’t exist when he was created and sad because much of the web is closed to old hardware because of advertising and ‘modern standards.'”

Always more to do

In this night mode view, you get more vintage vibes with PacMan characters on the left.
In this night mode view, you get more vintage vibes with PacMan characters on the left.
Photo: B. Ciprian

Roughly now it seems that Ciprian’s setting had to be done. But he did much more. He was close to getting what he wanted to make small games for vintage platforms. He added Color Classic II from Japan, planning to take advantage of its 33Mhz 030 processor and color screen at game downtime after the pandemic.

Upgrades followed. Then came the itch of playing more complex games, and thus more upgrades. His reliance on the German antique Mac tinkerer continued as he made his machines worth playing more modern games. He wrote a hack that tricked them into thinking that his screens had a high enough resolution to carry them, which they didn’t. He showed it on a YouTube video.

Even then, work on SE / 30 continued. He soon had two CPUs between which Ciprian could switch, a graphics card and Ethernet. But the SE / 30 LCD screen was killing him, Cirprian said, so he set out to get a “beautiful” Macintosh Portrait Monitor. Months later, he had it.

And so SE / P04rtrait was born – Ciprian’s nickname for the system. And has it been done? Probably not. It has a list of possible upgrades.

Post-vintage era

Ciprian hopes to announce the game Ebony Spire: The Search for Compact Macs sometimes in early 2022. He teamed up with BitMap Soft to produce a physical edition of the game with a box, manual, and floppy disk.

Then, he wants to make an exhibition using his various compact Macs, one that “shows how bad modern technology has become and how inflated the modern web is. From websites that take up hundreds of megabytes of RAM and display only three to four sentences, to an insane amount of client-side Javascript code, to applications that have less functionality and eat 2,000 times more memory and offer fewer features than their old counterparts. ” he said.

Ciprian also has plans for another new game for vintage Macs.

“It takes at least three compact Macs (or any Mac with a modem port) to play, with each Mac having a specific Starship Computer feature. One controls the navigation, one the weapon, and one has a view and can accommodate up to four players, ”he said. “Liberation Cowboy Beebop The live series on Netflix has made a deal for me to do so, as they display vintage Macs everywhere. Vintage Macs look good in a sci-fi environment. ”

Buy these items now:

With vintage equipment, it is not always easy to find the right items. Some links are given. And maybe you can find others using Ciprian’s descriptions below.

Vintage and custom computer equipment:

  • Macintosh SE / 30 with macOS 7.5.3
  • SCSI2SD for storage with 128 GB SD card
  • Custom 68040 Carrera clone at 40MHz
  • 68030 PowerCache 50Mhz CPU socket for motherboard cloning
  • Custom clone of TwinSpark adapter with Ethernet
  • 64 -> 128 MB Purple RAM from Silicon Insider

Vintage display, audio and storage:

Networking and web hosting:


Other Apple business equipment:

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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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