The Sad Macintosh Gallery!

Computers are like humans, they no longer are spring chickens.

Today’s subject is on the Mac, and it’s bootup process when it fails. The most ideal failure should result in a black screen, showing Susan Kare’s infamous “Sad Macintosh” icon, (known for it’s frown on it’s right hand side, an extra pixel or two), and an accommodating “Chimes of Death”, if all failure goes as planned per to the startup process on the vintage Macintoshes.  All Macs made before 1998 had the Sad Mac Icon, but any Mac made after 1987 (beginning with the SE and Macintosh II) had the “Chimes” to go along. (The original Macintosh, the Fat Mac, the XL, 512Ke, and the Plus did not have such ability.)

Any modern electronic equipment is vulnerable for failures as they age. While the subject is on the “Sad Macintosh” icon appearing at startup sequence in vintage (“Classic” Macs), failures shall not be limited to Macs, but PCs and even other computers like minis, etc. A PS/2 from the early 1990s could not boot properly only because it’s capacitors are failing as well.

The recommended directions by Apple was to bring your Mac to your Authorized Service Provider. Other than that the documentation wouldn’t say too much. Because I do not have access to historical Apple technical documents (since knowledge bases of this type predates the Web) it’s unsure if capacitors, etc was common. I think it’s safe to say because it’s more of an age than anything else.

(As a sidebar: In the early 1990s, Apple also produced a small number of Macintosh service handheld devices for the use of Authorized Service Providers. In models after 1990, the SCSI port would open up after the Sad Macintosh screen, and send additional information to this device, which would then backup on some flash device, which then was downloaded onto another Mac to figure out additional problems. There was also ROM cards that a serviceman would plug in depending on the type of Macintosh, one flash card was for LC line, one for the II line and another for like the Classic.)

Most of the electronics that are failing are due to blown up capacitors, and sometimes when it blows up, it’s like taking a bottle of Coke and throwing it into the circuit board. This doesn’t mean its totaled, you may need to replace them, (by the use of a soldering iron.)

Sometimes all attempts may not work and you may need to surrender reviving your Mac.

Classic Macs, the hardware sense, the ones with the all in ones like the 128K to Color Classics are most vulnerable because of the capacitors that hold power for the monitor. This part will need some expertise as dealing with display capacitors can be lethal.

The following YouTube videos feature Macs failing the usual failures of the startup process. (and yes I have vetted to ensure that they aren’t manipulated, etc.)


The Macintosh Portable wants to Jam! Now these models had no “Power On Key” so the user would strike a key. But it goes right to the Sad Mac, so therefore something failed immediately.

Typically a Sad Mac should cut right in. Now I can’t tell if there’s an arm on the left of the picture trying to do an Interrupt, but it’s not normal for a screen to wipe down, stay black, then the Sad Mac to appear.

Yeah, things are peachy for this Classic II. Analog board must had been busted.


While this may or may not show the Sad Mac, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility you may run into any Vintage Macintosh that may have a grey screen and just hear the Chimes of Death and nothing coming on screen, not even the disk icons, Happy or Sad Macintoshes. This was never documented in any of the end user Macintosh guides, and any of the technical docs I own does not discuss just the singular Chimes of Death situation. Typically this is where you can rule out capacitor issues. This became a subject on the vintage boards on Apple Discussions  a few years ago, starting the awareness of the vulernabilities of aging PCs.

Here’s a better example

Another example of the Chimes without a Sad Mac

Fast or Slow and/or High or Low Pitched Chimes of Death?

Yup I’ve witnessed it!

That’s all!