[ Retro Scan of the Week ] MacCharlie’s FrankenMac

January 14th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Dayna Communications MacCharlie IBM PC accessory for Macintosh ad - 1985I’d like to have heard Steve Jobs’ reaction when he first saw this.

Long before Boot Camp and Parallels, if you wanted to run IBM PC compatible software on your Mac, you had to strap on this unholy contraption — the Dayna Communications MacCharlie.

If I recall correctly, the MacCharlie was essentially an IBM PC clone in a beige box that hooked to the Mac’s serial port. As a result, the Mac merely served as a serial terminal for the MacCharlie via custom terminal software running on the Mac. That’s not a particularly efficient setup, but the lack of expansion ports on the original Macintosh meant that there was no other reasonable point of entry.

Since it worked through the serial port, the MacCharlie could only run text-based MS-DOS applications. Conveniently, the MacCharlie shipped with a keyboard extender that added the IBM PC’s special function keys and a numeric keypad to the Macintosh keyboard.

[ From Byte Magazine, April 1985, p.71-73 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever used a hardware system adapter (something that lets you use software from one platform on another through hardware, not software emulation) for any computer system?

11 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] MacCharlie’s FrankenMac”

  1. Yves Bolognini Says:

    I had the XT Bridgeboard adapter on my Amiga 2000. Highly useless. Used it only to play Pirates!.

  2. Steve Longhurst Says:

    That date… April 1985… This looks a bit too good to be true IMHO, I wonder if it’s an April fool.

    If it’s real, I bet it would fetch a fortune on the retro market today.

  3. Benj Edwards Says:

    Nope, it’s not an April fool, Steve. It’s a fairly well-documented Mac accessory — just Google it for some more info.

  4. Anon Says:

    Boot Camp, the early years!

  5. Asterisk Says:

    These type of products seemed to be available for many platforms in the mid-80s. I had a TI-99/4A growing up, and remember seeing ads for this thing in catalogs: http://www.mainbyte.com/ti99/hardware/triton_turbo/turbo.html

    It attached to the TI and turned it into a hybrid XT clone. I wonder how long these kinds of devices were used for, on average before the typical user just went out and bought a standard PC.

  6. Rob T Firefly Says:

    The Super Game Boy used the same concept; hardware-wise, the “adapter” was actually a near-complete Game Boy in itself. It just used the SNES’ controller and A/V hardware.

    While the unit was generally thought of as a Game Boy game adapter for the SNES, in practice the SNES ended up serving as the I/O adapter for a disguised Game Boy.

  7. Gorka L Martinez Mezo Says:

    I just bought an Acron RISC PC 600 with a 486 daughter card so it can run RISC OS vía the ARM processor and DOS/Windows on the 486 card. This has its own RAM and a Cyrix 486 compatible CPU. Not the fastest around 8way below a “real” 486) but reasonably priced at the time. There was also a “586” card with had a Pentium “more or less” compatible CPU, usually Cyrix.

    And, of course, we have the PC cards for Mac, also usually using low end x86 compatible CPUs (Cyrix anyone?)

  8. tristan Says:

    My father had an Acorn RiscPC with a PC card which had a 586 processor and allowed running of Windows 95. Cyrix I believe.

    I remember running Windows in a RISC OS window, which was quite fun.

    Better than the dire, slow, 8088 emulator which shipped with RISC OS on the A5000 we had.

    Would have loved to play with a BBC with one of the co-processors, but I’ve never come across one.

  9. Jim Says:

    Anybody else remember the 3DO Blaster that allowed you to play 3DO games on your computer?


  10. Benj Edwards Says:

    Retro Scan of the Week remembers it, Jim. 🙂


    Good call.

  11. Mike Roach Says:

    I used to work for Alpha Microsystems. A number of their 680×0 SBCs had a serial port expansion board with a Z80. You could use it to run serial ports or CPM.

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