View Full Version : Vintage Macintosh of the Week (1/4 March '13) - Macintosh Quadra 840av

2nd March 2013, 10:58 PM
The Greatest Macintosh Of All Time


Yes, that's one hell of a title for Apple's July 1993 release, but the Macintosh Quadra 840AV was indeed the most powerful Macintosh ever produced; because after it, came the shift to the PowerPC processor, and Power Macintosh.

The Q840av marked a number of milestones for Apple - The fastest Motorola CPU @ 40MHz, 16bit 48kHz stereo sound card, and a standard optical (CD ROM) drive. But more excitingly, new PlainTalk software allowed the computer to recognise specified spoken commands - just like Star Trek! Well, in theory. The reality of Apple's first foray into this form of user control was rather less impressive, though if you could master the specific accent requirements, it was a fun diversion. Of much more use however was the reason for the "AV" addition to the naming convention - the computer came out of the box with video in and out capability via composite and S-video ports on the back. Not only could you capture video from an external source, but you could also output video, for viewing on a tv, and capturing back to tape.

To my knowledge, the Q840av was never used for editing in a professional broadcast capacity (please feel free to prove me wrong with anecdotal evidence!), and I doubt it would have been capable of achieving such a result, however it certainly brought video to the digital world. With a price tag of US$4100 - $5100 depending on RAM/HDD/CDROM, and apparently costing around $10,000 to max out the RAM to 128MB, this was certainly aimed at the high end business market.


I've said it before... I'll say it again here. This was a real milestone Mac for me. I'd just recently purchased Apple's lowliest Mac - the LCIII from Apple Centre Darwin, and somehow ended up invited to their product launch for Apple's greatest, the Q840av. Watching the presenter awkwardly getting PlainTalk to work was funny, yet when he finally got the right accent, it was amazing to see the computer respond. The video features however were what stole the show for me. I'd been working on my Doctor Who Databank (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZERu0vgPl4k) for about a year at that time, and dearly wanted to have videos embedded, and here was the answer. The reality of course, was that I would "never" be able to afford such extravagance...

Actually, never turned out to be December 1997, when I purchased a second hand Q840av for about $700, rather than a more modern and more expensive PM8500av. By then, the Databank had been permanently parked, but I still had a marvellous time capturing some Doctor Who videos, and trying to learn Southern Californian. Perhaps most annoying for me was the lack of an Apple software title to make use of the Quadra's video capture abilities. VideoFusion to my knowledge was probably the best out there, but at a cost of around $1000, it was not an option for me. Instead I found a free/shareware title, titled something like "My Video Capture Software"... It was rough, but did the job. Eventually Quicktime offered a basic capture feature, but I don't think that arrived til much later.

My Quadra died a month later by lightning strike, leaving me back on my LCIII, until I stumbled across the amazing news that the TAM had been slashed to US$1999... Now all that's left of my Macintosh Quadra 840av is its face panel...

3rd March 2013, 09:13 AM
Thanks for doing this!
I've been so lazy- I'll do next weeks.

3rd March 2013, 09:26 AM
I'm nothing if not stuck in the past. Happy to help.

3rd March 2013, 10:00 PM
I had one of these that only worked for a little while, alas. One night after trying to get it working again, I went to bed - and somewhere around 1am it's PSU exploded with a loud bang that woke us up.

I never got enough time with it.

3rd March 2013, 10:02 PM
Here it is in better days.

287/365 Oct 14 - Macintosh Quadra 840AV | Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/microraptor/5106119204/lightbox/)

3rd March 2013, 10:55 PM
That reminds me... I don't just have the front face panel - I also have the heat sink! :)

4th March 2013, 11:31 AM
I found one in Wagga, but it's case was very badly rusted, as was most of the metalwork on the drives and PSU. The motherboard, however was okay. One of my projects is to transplant it into an 8500 case, and attach the front and back panels from the 840av - anyone know if that's possible?

5th March 2013, 12:36 PM
I also picked up a Quadra 840AV from Howard in Wagga, complete and similar (rusty) condition. Also brought home with me an 8500 in excellent condition with the exact same intention (transplant).

Looked like a very straight forward swap of parts to me. An afternoon with the pot of spare screws, some warm soapy water, isopropyl alcohol, couple of clean cloths, air compressor at hand and a handful of tools + cold beverage it could be done.

Sounds like a good afternoon to me! LOL

5th March 2013, 01:24 PM
I applaud people like you who can even consider something like that.

You can see how sh!t scared I am opening my TAM! :) Let alone basically redesign the interior of a computer. Too many variables. Too many unknowns. Unknowns!

Hang on... just had a kid... can't be that hard, now... Err...

5th March 2013, 02:22 PM
The 840AV is a great collectable Mac, let down by its cheaper construction over a Quadra 950. I think pretty much all of them have issues with brittle plastics, broken CD bezels and rust/patina on the internal casing. The internal hardware though is pretty reliable sans capacitor leaking.

I've always had a soft spot for them as I used to use one during uni days (even then it was old though), it handled things quite well. I bought one online some years ago and it arrived in a rattling box with no padding. Surprisingly it rebuilt well and some parts from cosmichobo's dead 840AV made it over to mine!

5th March 2013, 10:31 PM
Glad to have helped. (:

Also "glad" to hear that internal rust was common. Thought I'd just been a delinquent Quadra owner!

6th March 2013, 09:50 AM
My Quadra 950 remains in excellent condition internally, so there must have been some real costs cut when the 840AV came out a couple of years later. Real shame, as it deserves to be the best! :)

7th March 2013, 02:17 PM
Makes me wonder now if any of them have survived in good condition??