After a tweet from Paul Rickards about a product called MacCharlie, I just had to dive a bit deeper, and I found this short article on Low End Mac.
Although PC compatibility isn’t a big deal since Apple’s transition to Intel CPUs in 2006, there is a long history of PC emulation and DOS cards that let Macs run PC operating systems and software. Dayna’s MacCharlie was the first solution to the “problem” of PC compatibility.
Introduced on April 2, 1985, MacCharlie was taken by many to be an April Fools joke. MacCharlie was essentially a DOS PC that clipped to a Macintosh. The MacCharlie device had 256 KB of RAM, a double-sided 5-1/4″ floppy drive, and a “keyboard extender” that added all of the “missing” keys from a PC keyboard to the Mac’s keyboard. MacCharlie could be expanded to 640 KB of RAM (the most PCs of that era could handle) and by adding a second 5-1/4″ floppy drive, which is the configuration of MacCharlie Plus.
I’ve always been fascinated by products like this. I used to have a Sun Ultra V, and one of the products I most wanted to have was one of those x86 expansion cards that basically added an entire Intel PC to an UltraSPARC machine so you could run DOS and DOS programs on your SPARC machine. Similar products have been available for other kinds of non-x86 workstations, and it’s still something I want to experience at some point.
At a school i attended we had Acorn (risc) machines that had a switch you could flip to instantly flip over to windows. They had a similar pc-extension-card i assume, cant remember, but it I remember being very impressed by RiscOS and the hardware. Way ahead of its time!