How to use classic Mac, Lisa, NeXT, Apple II software on your Mac


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While old Apple hardware is mostly long-gone, there are ways to run some of your antique software on your current Mac. Here’s how to get started emulating old Apple computers on your new machine.

At the dawn of the personal computer era in the late 1970’s and 1980’s, there were dozens of companies that made small PCs for home use.

As a new interest in these classic machines grows today, more and more emulators have appeared which allow you to run older operating systems on your Mac or PC. Hundreds of classic emulators now exist, far too many to cover here.

We’ll highlight the major ones and the most interesting ones.

The 1970s: Apple begins

The Apple II, released in 1978, was Apple’s first killer product created by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, and it rocketed the company from a garage startup to billion-dollar corporation. There were several models of the Apple II: the original Apple II, the Apple II+, IIe, IIc, and IIgs. There were several other minor variants of each as well.

Most of the Apple II computers had a mere 4K-64K of RAM, although a wide range of third-party RAM expansion cards appeared, including one from Microsoft. The Z-80 Softcard also from Microsoft turned the Apple II into a Z80-based computer capable of running the CP/M OS.

Hard drives at the time were still a thing only for large mainframes and minicomputers, and were commercially rare for PCs, although they did exist. Instead, ’70s and ’80s computers used floppy disks – usually 5.25-inch and later 3.5-inch ones. Very early business minicomputers used 8″ variants.

The Apple II was no exception and Apple sold the Disk II Shugart-based drive along with the Apple II. Later several other 5.25-inch variants appeared, and when the Mac was released in 1984, Apple also released 3.5″ drives for later Apple II models such as the IIgs.

The first killer app for the Apple II was VisiCalc — the world’s first spreadsheet, sold on…