Give your modern Mac the refresh it needs with these retro makeover tips

Two years ago I bought my Macintosh Plus from a junk dealer. I found the device in the narrow streets of Delhi’s Jahangirpuri, complete with keyboard and mouse. The case had a grayish-yellow tint due to age, but the computer was in pristine condition. I booked a car, packed the computer in an oversized canvas bag, and rushed home. I didn’t even care if the Macintosh Plus was working or dead; All I knew was that I had gotten my hands on a gem—a classic computer that made its debut shortly after the original Macintosh was introduced in 1984—1986, to be exact. It was a miracle that the device was still in working condition, making it valuable even for collectors like me.

To me, the Macintosh Plus represents an interesting time at Apple from a design, marketing, and historical perspective. The Macintosh Plus was the third Mac model and the first to be released after Steve Jobs was forced to leave the company the previous year. It was identical in design to the original Macintosh and Macintosh 512K, but featured 1 MB of expandable memory and an 800K double-sided floppy disk drive. It was also the first Macintosh to feature a SCSI (Small Computer Systems Interface) connector, allowing for easy, high-speed connection to a hard drive and other similar data-intensive devices. In a word, it was the fastest Mac of its time. It cost $2,600 (about $7,000 in today’s value) and by March 1987 had sold one million units. Whenever I see these “icons” and “interface” I feel nostalgic.

In case you didn’t know, Apple asked a young artist named Susan Kare to design the Mac icons for the original Macintosh. With no prior experience with computers or the technology industry, her background in various art forms (Kare earned her PhD from NYU) helped her design user-friendly icons for the first Macintosh. Unlike “command line” interfaces that required knowledge of the code of previous machines, Kare designed icons that allowed non-technical users to operate a computer. Who can forget that Happy Mac greets users with a smile as they boot up their computer screens and that Chicago font?

Enough about the history of Macintosh Plus, I’ll leave you with some pictures of the device I clicked on the other day. Check it out, it’s one of the most beautiful computers ever built.

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The Macintosh Plus is a crown jewel in my vintage Mac collection. (Credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)
I found a Macintosh Plus in wonderful condition for an insanely low price. (Credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)
I occasionally use my Macintosh Plus for fun. (Credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

I’m a big Mac fan. But more than that, I love collecting vintage Macs and I’ll continue to collect them no matter how hard it is to find a model I’m looking for. Given my love for classic Mac skins and icons, I wanted to give the MacBook Air M1 a vintage makeover. So if you’ve always dreamed of giving your Mac a funky, old-school vibe, then a retro makeover might be just the ticket.

Here are four ways to up the nostalgia factor to create a retro aesthetic for your Mac that you’ll love — even if it means taking a trip down memory lane.

Custom Icons

If you’re anything like me, you probably want to personalize your Mac by adding custom icons that have that old-school feel of the original Macintosh. Ben Vessey’s Mac OS (Old School) icon pack is a good option to start with. Vessey, a British designer, has taken Susan Kare’s style and blended it with his own flavor without sacrificing authenticity. The OS project (Old School) consists of 166 retro icons and five dynamic background images. Both dark and light themes are available. Each icon in the set has been designed to retain the retro look of a classic Macintosh. Vassey’s custom 84-style Macintosh icons are impressive, but you’ll have to shell out £6.99 or Rs 685 for them. Not exactly cheap for retro Mac icons, but I encourage you to try the free sample pack of 10 icons before buying the whole pack. You can also search sites like theonproject to find classic Mac icons with a retro look.

The OS project (Old School) consists of 166 retro icons and five dynamic background images. (Image credit: Ben Vessey’s website)

wallpapers

A retro-inspired wallpaper is another way to give your Mac’s screen a vintage flair. If you are new to vintage wallpapers, I suggest you search on Unsplash. Personally, I liked classic wallpapers with a rainbow-colored Apple logo. Retro-inspired wallpapers make a world of difference in the way your Mac looks. Another recommendation is to look at 512px and look for wallpapers from one of the earlier versions of macOS.

Apple’s famous rainbow logo was designed by Rob Janoff. (Image credit: Etsy)

Retro Apple sticker

There’s no better way to dress up your Mac than with a retro style Apple logo sticker. Created by graphic designer Rob Janoff, the classic Apple logo was introduced with the Cupertino-based company’s first personal computer, the Apple II. It was designed to look user friendly and appeal to school children. In a way, the rainbow design was also chosen to emphasize the Apple II’s color display. This version of the Apple logo was the company’s symbol from 1997 to 1998. The famous Apple rainbow logo sticker for Mac is easy to find online. I recently started looking around Etsy and found retro Apple logo decals and cases for my MacBook Air.

Dark Castle is a 1986 game for the Macintosh published by Silicon Beach Software. (Image credit: The Internet Archive)

Play old school Mac games in your browser

Every weekend I sit and find classic games to enjoy and play on my old Macs. It’s become a ritual and despite the limited time I spend some time playing retro games that I couldn’t play growing up. I realize that not everyone has a vintage Mac in their home. So, the best option for playing classic Mac games on a modern Mac — without a local emulator or the necessary technical skills — is to try The Internet Archive’s in-browser emulator, which allows anyone to play games and access programs originally released for the original Macintosh, all in black and white, low resolution. The collection consists of early Mac classics, including Dark Castle, Frogger, Airborne, and Prince of Persia, alongside non-gaming programs like MacPaint and MS Office. This is a great initiative to keep the retro gaming culture alive and keep the older games available for new users. Right now, the industry is struggling to preserve its past as older games and software routinely become unavailable.

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