How Apple’s developers reflashed Mac ROMs in the ’90s

After I wrote about the possibility of programmable Mac ROM SIMMs in Quadras a couple of months ago, I suspected that there had been a way for developers at Apple in the 68k Mac era to reflash the ROM in their Macs during development, just like BIOS updates on PCs. The reason I believed this is because the ROM SIMM socket in the Quadras brought out pins for 12V (VPP) and write enable (/WE). I had verified that the write enable pin was going into the memory controller chip in several Mac models, so I was pretty confident that in-system programming was possible.

As luck would have it, multiple people pointed out to me that an Apple internal utility used for ROM flashing had been uploaded to the Macintosh Garden. It was recovered from a prototype PowerBook 520 purchased in 2020. Of course, I had to download this utility and figure out how it works.

I honestly cannot believe it’s taken this long for such a tool to become available one way or the other. Classic Macs are incredibly popular in the retro community, and being able to reflash the ROMs like this is incredibly useful. It took some work and disassembly, but Doug Brown got it working.