Quadra 660AV


Released July 1993, October 1993
Original Price $2,300
Added to Collection  January 2012
Cost to me  $27

About the Machine

 

The Quadra 660AV (code named Tempest) was announced in July 1993 as the Centris 660AV, but was renamed Quadra only three months later when Apple decided to phase out the confusing Centris brand. Along with the Quadra 840 AV, it was one of the first and last AV Macintoshes that Apple released. The AV stood for “Audio / Video” which referred to the machine’s built-in Digital Signal Processor and its ability to input and output video and sound. The 660AV was a desktop style machine and used the same case as the Centris and Quadra 610 introduced earlier that year. It included  a 25 MHz 68040 CPU, 8 MB RAM, a 230 or 500 MB hard drive, a 1.4 MB floppy drive, and an optional 2x caddy-loading CD-ROM. ADB, Serial, SCSI, Mac-only and DB-15 monitor ports were standard, as well as AAUI Ethernet (which requires an adapter to connect to standard networks).  It’s AV capabilities were exposed through component in/out and S-Video ports which allowed the 660AV to record video from a TV, VCR, or Camcorder, and output video to those devices as well. In addition, it could accommodate a 7″ NuBus card, which is quite remarkable given the small size of its case.

The 660AV from the front

The Quadra 660AV was one of the first Macintoshes to include the brand new GeoPort serial port which had the ability to “multitask” – that is it could theoretically print and fax at the same time while remaining connected to an AppleTalk network. It included 16-bit video output and delivered performance boosts over previous Macintoshes by improving I/O and memory access. In addition to including video input,  output, and recording, the 660AV can also speak in several voices, record 16-bit sound (an upgrade over 8-bit), and recognize spoken commands. Later Macs can do all of these things, but the AV models were the first with enough power to do it. The machine set you back $2,300 – considerably affordable for a Macintosh at the time.

The Quadra 660’s case deserves special attention.  It is a larger version of the Macintosh LC’s case, about a half inch taller and four inches wider, that can accommodate both a floppy disk drive and a CD-ROM. The same case is also used for the Power Macintosh / Performa 6100 series and the Workgroup Server 60 and 6150. It’s made out of sturdy “platinum” plastic around a metal frame. Like the LC, the case opens easily by pulling up on two tabs on the back of the machine and lifting the top. Not a single screw needs to be removed. The inside of the machine follows Apple’s tradition of good design both inside and out. Everything is organized and well laid out. The floppy, CD, and hard drive are located in the front of the case, the power supply is in the back right and the logic board on the left. The data and power cables are all folded and routed cleanly; nothing looks messy. The chips and circuitry on the logic board are lined up and grouped nicely. The inside of the machine is an efficient use of space, using the bottom to vent the power supply and provide a place for the speaker while still providing room for a NuBus expansion card. They pack quite a bit of computer into a very small space and still make it easy to upgrade. Pretty amazing for 1993.

The 660 AV was one of the first Macs to offer a CD-ROM, and as such included a 2x caddy-loaded CD-ROM drive. Early CD-ROM drives required that CDs be placed into a caddy in order to be read. The caddy looked much like a CD jewel case and its purpose was to protect the disc from scratches. The problem was that if you lost the caddy, you couldn’t use your CD-ROM drive. Once a caddy is partially inserted the drive acts much like a tape drive and sucks the rest of it in. Otherwise it functions like a regular tray loading drive.

The 660AV was introduced with Apples first line of AudioVision monitors that included stereo speakers and microphones as part of the monitor. Interestingly, the 660 had issues with existing Mac monitors that were not from the AudioVision series. It also had initial incompatibilities with popular software of the day such as After Dark and Adobe Type Manager. It also had issues with fax and modem applications, possibly due to its new GeoPort.

In the Museum

My 660AV is an interesting beast. It is actually housed in the case of a Macintosh Workgroup Server 60 (which used the same case), but the internals are completely 660AV. It has 36 MB RAM and a 540 MB hard drive. I purchased my 660AV for $27 including shipping, which was a great deal. It included an AAUI Ethernet adapter so that I could connect it to my network. They are very hard to find and are often expensive. It is the first 68040 machine I’ve owned and it seems pretty fast. They originally shipped with System 7.1 and mine came with 7.5.3. I upgraded to Mac OS 8.1 and while it is definitely slower than 7.5 it is still usable.  It boots Mac OS 8 faster than my PowerBook 1400cs which has a PowerPC 603e running at almost five times the clock speed.

The coolest feature of the 660AV has to be its video input and output. The machine shipped with software called FusionRecorder, which takes advantage of the built-in DSP.  I connected my Canon point and shoot to the component in port to use it as a source for recording.  I set the software to record at “full quality”, that is 320 x 240 pixel resolution at 256 colors and 30 frames per second. The record window shows a live view of what you are recording and generally runs smoothly until the recording is over and compression begins. A five second movie took about 2 minutes to compress and the result was a 5.6 MB QuickTime movie. That’s about a meg a second in space. And as a testament to the single-tasking architecture of the classic Mac OS, the entire computer was unusable while all of this was going on…

It was amazing back then and surprisingly the video from the 660AV doesn’t look half bad. The resolution is low and the reduced color palate make details muddy, but it still does the job. It’s no comparison to the quality of HD video that you can get from a current generation smartphone, but it certainly isn’t bad for 18 years ago. Below is a sample video that I took. It’s 36 seconds and takes up 34 MB of space. It took 17.5 minutes to compress.

Images

This is the first entry in the Mac Museum that I have personally photographed. Instead of including images from the internet, all of the images were taken by me. There gallery below includes a lot of details shots so you can really get to know the machine.

References

Tech Specs
Processor 25 MHz Motorola 68040
Memory 8 MB 80ns SIMM
Hard Drive 230 or 500 MB SCSI
Other Drives 1.44 MB Floppy, Optional 2x Caddy-Loaded CD-ROM
Video Card NONE, 1 MB VRAM
Screen NONE
Speakers One Mono
Expansion One 7″ NuBus
Ports AAUI Ethernet, 1 ADB, 2 Serial (one GeoPort), DB-25 SCSI, DB-15 Display, Audio In/Out, Composite In, Composite Out, S-Video
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