Seeking System 0.97

Lately, I have been dabbling with retro-computing (actually as part of co-adivsing a student group).  One of the old machines in my collection is an original Macintosh from 1984. For the sake of authenticity, I have been looking for the version of system software that shipped on release day – Jan 24, 1984.

That early in the Macintosh era, there were no official version numbers on the system disks, but the System and Finder files each had their own version number.  Various accounts indicate that I’m looking for System 0.97/Finder 1.0.  After a lot of searching I’ve turned up several candidate disk images, but each seems to have been modified over time.  Here’s one very common version:

sys097There are several problems with this version.  Most obviously, the version of the System font (Chicago-12) used here is quite different from the version seen in other system versions.  This includes the versions seen in pre-release publicity photos.  All of those other versions  used a more familiar looking variant.  Furthermore, the version of Chicago-10 included does match the more traditional version.  Other, more obvious problems exist. The SysVersion program is actually from 1986, and contemporary accounts indicate that Font Mover was included on the second disk, not the main system disk.  I believe this disk was created at a later date and does not represent what shipped with the first Macs.

The obvious thing to do it to go to the source.  Unfortunately, Apple no longer makes those early versions of the System software available on their website.  But various developer CDs have included System Software over the years.  One of the earliest was, Phil and Dave’s Excellent CD.

P&D filesJackpot! This developer disk lists versions of the System Software all the way back to v0.1.  Sadly, booting up the 0.1 System Tools image reveals that it’s really System 1.1/Finder 1.1g.

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 11.33.15 AMIn fact, looking at each version in turn, we get:

File Actual Version
0.1 System Tools System 1.1/Finder 1.1g
0.3 System Tools System 2.0/Finder 4.1
0.5 System Disk System 2.0/Finder 4.1
0.7 System Tools System 3.0/Finder 5.1 (800k image)
1.0 System Tools 512 & 128 System 3.2/Finder 5.3

I didn’t bother checking the rest of the disk images, since they were clearly >400K disks.  For the record, I’ve also checked the Apple Legacy Software CD and the September 1994 Service Software Restoration CD with similar results.

The hunt for a valid copy of System 0.97 continues…