The 68000 dash 30fx

Posted on Sunday 13 November 2005

Here’s a photo of my latest acquisition; the dash 30fx! The dash is one of the first computers that was “mine” professionally. I moved into the Electronic Prepress area back in ’92 or ’93, and since I was low man on the totem pole, I got the dash.


When it was new, it was the hottest thing available anywhere for any price, and it had a heck of a pricetag; I’m told it cost $40,000. Back in those days it was used as a workstation and an image scanner station. But it soon was outgunned by newer/faster machines. It was sent home with a couple of different employees for use as a training unit, but it was too slow for even that. People get spoiled. It sat in a closet unused for a long time.

I think it was about 2000 when I pulled it out, dusted it off & put it to work as a domain name server for our department. It pulled duty there until early 2005 when I was prepping to leave CCL. It may have been a little selfish of me, but I wanted to take it home, so I made sure it wasn’t doing anything productive when I left. Predictably, it sat there unused until last week when my buddy Jerry stopped by Cimarron & dropped it off. No matter what anybody says, Jerry is OK!

So now I have the behemoth at home. Here’s a photo of it standing next to a Color Classic to give you an idea of its size; it is monstrous.


A funny thing happened with it when I got it home, and is a testament to it’s durability. I was carrying it in the house from the garage, holding it by the top lid at the back and the lip on the door above the drive bays on the front. The door must’ve shifted a little bit which allowed the top to shift a little bit which allowed the top to come loose. The top stayed in my hand but the rest of the machine came crashing down on the threshold of the garage doorway.


The result wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The doorway threshold took the worst of it; two creases where the case hit. The case only had a minor scuff line across the bottom where it impacted the metal threshold. Inside, one of the Nubus cards got knocked loose, as did some of the RAM cards. I’m glad it didn’t come down on my bare foot; I’m sure that would’ve put me in the hospital!

Once I put it back together (and snapped a few photos of it) I plugged it in & it booted right up. No damage done. Yup; built like a tank. Wonder if a new Mac Pro could handle a fall with that kind of aplomb.

13 Comments for 'The 68000 dash 30fx'

    2005/11/13 | 10:09 pm

    I did some digging around the ‘net & found a little more info. I’ll add more comments as I learn more.

    This one is from a really old Seybold Report.

    This material comes from the Seybold Report on Desktop Publishing, Volume 05, Number 01. It is offered mainly to aid historical researchers. It has not been edited since its original publication on Sep. 10, 1990 and much of the material has become thoroughly obsolete. There may be errata or reader comments in later issues, which may or may not be available now. You are allowed to quote small sections of the text, provided you attribute the material. Serious scholars are invited to contact our staff for hard copy of back issues or supplemental information.

    For die-hard Mac fans (or the curious), here are a few news shorts we gathered combing the aisles in Boston.

    Souped-up fx. If you want to push Macintosh software to the limit, you might want to talk to Sixty Eight Thousand, Inc. The firm makes an under-the-desk version of the Macintosh that holds up to ten disk drives and a hefty power supply. Like other Mac conversion artists, Sixty Eight Thousand must cannibalize a stock Mac II to get the main circuit board and the all-important ROMs. It then sells the workstation under the Dash 30 label.

    The company has just introduced a IIfx version of the Dash 30. For $11,500, you get a Mac IIfx (40-MHz 68030 CPU and 68882 math chip), 8 MB of high-bandwidth main memory and a 180-MB disk drive rated for 15-ms access time. You also get an uninterruptible power supply that can keep the computer running for 12 minutes. The firm plans to offer a 68040 processor upgrade.

    (If a 15-ms disk is too slow, you can talk to Newer Technologies about a silicon disk with 20-æsec. access time. This is a huge amount of RAM–limited mainly by your wallet–with a controller that emulates disk tracks and sectors, all packaged in half-high drive form factor.)

    Even more interesting, Sixty Eight Thousand plans to offer an option that will support multiple 68040 processors. This will be ready by the time Apple’s System 7 software (with its support for interprocess–and interprocessor–communication) is available. No price was announced.

    2005/11/13 | 10:11 pm

    This one comes from a personal homepage run by Marc Schrier on dot Mac:

    Clock Chipping the Mac IIfx

    The Mac IIfx’s can be clock chipped from 40MHz to typically around 50MHz. There are two basic routes to this end; Modification 1 and Modification 2 as outlined in the Mac Crystal Oscillator Speedup History File.

    I recently received some anonymous information from a prior employee of Sixty-Eight Thousand, Inc., a Scotts Valley, California company that used to manufacture, among other things, the Dash 30fx. I was told:
    “They took IIfx motherboards, removed the 80MHz crystal oscillator and replaced it with a 100MHz crystal oscillator. The boards were then put in a tower case with a big fan (no heat sink) and configured with whatever memory, drives, or boards the customer (mostly Pre-press houses) wanted. I can tell you that it was surprisingly reliable. Other than the fact that the Processor Direct slot didn’t work, of course. 😉 We had a failure rate of about 1 in 25. i.e. the board wouldn’t run at 50MHz and we’d have to downgrade it. There weren’t many failures in the field either. I’d be curious to see how many of the machines are still running today.”

    There aren’t all that many data points for the Mac IIfx on the Clock Chipping Statistics page, but it’s worth checking out, and please fill out and submit the Clock Chipping Statistics Survey form if you have clock chipped your IIfx so we can build up a large set of statistics.

    I just heard from someone who replaced the 40MHz 68030 and 68882 with the 50MHz versions, and he is now running at 60MHz without any problems.

    Marc Schrier

    2005/11/13 | 10:31 pm

    This comes from what appears to be an annual report from The Cole Group:

    The other product line being sold out of Nashua, the ImagiTex monochrome scanner business, was purchased in August by Sixty Eight Thousand Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif. Now going by the name Arrisystems, the company hired longtime industry executive Gary Moore (formerly of Information International Inc. and Scitex) to run ImagiTex, which will remain in Nashua.

    I’ll have to see what I can find relating to ImagiTex.

    2005/11/13 | 10:35 pm

    This one is from Low End Mac. I provided LEM with the photos and some of the information they have a while back while still at CCL.


    Take Apple’s “wicked fast” 40 MHz Macintosh IIfx, overclock it to 50 MHz, put it in a massive metal case, and you have the Dash 30fx. In addition to a chipped IIfx motherboard, the Dash 30fx has accessible 5.25″ drive bays, which makes it possible to add an internal SyQuest drive, CD-ROM, etc. as well as internal full-height 5.25″ bays.

    According to Giles Littlefield (see article on Applefritter) the back of the computer has a removable dust filter and “neglecting to clean this out causes the PSU to overheat and blow!”

    According to an article by Marc Schrier, the only drawback of overclocking the IIfx motherboard was that the Processor Direct Slot didn’t work. (Or maybe it did, but with no 50 MHz cards, nothing could work in it.)

    David Thornton, who provided the above photo, comments that the Dash 30fx weighed nearly 70 pounds and thinks it may have cost $40,000 when new. All of the ports are beneath the top panel for easy access. We have a separate page showing the top, front, and insides of the Dash 30fx.

    More information as we acquire it….

    • requires System 6.0.5 to 7.6.1
    • CPU: 50 MHz 68030
    • FPU: 68882 FPU
    • bus: 50 MHz
    • performance: est. 8.5, relative to SE
    • ROM: 512 KB
    • RAM: 4 MB, expandable to 128 MB using both 4-SIMM banks of 80ns* 64-pin memory; can use 1 MB, 4 MB, 8 MB, and 16 MB SIMMs (the IIfx was the only Mac to use 64-pin SIMMs)
    * This is the IIfx specification. Due to overclocking, it’s possible that the Dash 30fx needs faster memory. If anyone can verify this one way or the other, please let us know.
    • video: requires video card — see our NuBus Video Card Guide for more information.
    • L2 cache: 32 KB
    • ADB ports for keyboard and mouse
    • DIN-8 serial ports on back of computer
    • DB-25 SCSI connector on back of computer
    • six NuBus slots; 1 PDS slot (inline with a NuBus slot, not usable)
    • size (HxWxD): 5.5″ x 18.7″ x 14.5″
    • weight: about 70 lb.
    • PRAM battery: 3.6V lithium
    • Gestalt ID: 13
    • addressing: 24-bit or 32-bit
    • upgrade path: none

    2005/11/13 | 10:40 pm

    This is a comment from an eBay forum by user zoramason, dated September 30, 2005.

    I’m going to try that tactic… have one or two .99 cent listings.

    I remember a couple years ago, a friend who isn’t one now but thats another story anyway I was just getting into the idea of TA and building up my FB back then.

    Anyway, he had this really old apple Dash 30FX super computer with keyboard. A friend of mine who is an excellent inspiration to my TA business watched the whole listing the entire time I had it listed she thought I was crazy.

    Whats interesting is it went from .99 to $130 almost; I’ll never forget that transaction I wished I had more like that. It was indeed an not so common item and what even made it more interesting was shipping cross country from coast to coast on UPS Ground. All the people at the store thought I was even crazier lol… I shoulda went in the paper then!

    Next time that happens I will! LOL

    I’ve sent a message to that guy, and will post more info as I get it.

    This must’ve been a memorable item for zoramason, as I just bumped into another reference from him.

    July 23, 2005

    last summer I sold an old antique Apple Dash 30FX super computer with a keyboard, completely useless BIG and BULKY and HEAVY.

    Well ya know, I didn’t think it had any value (it was from the 1980s) and the computer used to be used in a printing company so I was like who cares if it didn’t sell it wouldn’t hurt me to show it off.

    I listed it for .99 and got $130.00, I was happy, cuz I was selling it for someone and got half the sale price. And it went to a private museum all the way to the east coast on UPS Ground….. took them awhile to get it there too.

    I sent a note to zoramason, and he took the time to write back. A decent chap by the name of Shannon Mason, from somewhere in Oregon.

    2005/11/18 | 10:50 am

    Found the original product announcement, from Computing Canada, May 23, 1991. That doesn’t really seem all that long ago. Boy do I feel old some days.

    68000 intros the Dash 30fx workstation – Sixty Eight Thousand Inc – product announcement

    SCOTTS VALLEY, Calif. — Sixty Eight Thousand Inc. has introduced the Dash 30fx workstation, the latest in the company’s family of accelerated Macintosh workstations.

    Based on the same mother-board used in Apple Computer’s Macintosh IIfx, the new machine features Motorola 68030 microprocessor and 68882 math coprocessor, both running at 50MHz. A proprietary highbandwidth memory scheme called Express Memory supports the processors, allowing the Dash 30fx to achieve 30 per cent to 90 per cent greater throughput than other MHz machines.

    Like previous models of the Dash 30 line, the Dash 30fx runs all Mac-compatible software, and is packaged in a tower case with room for up to 10 GB of disk storage. In its base configuration, the machine comes with eight MB of sub 70 nanosecond Express Memory (expandable to 128 MB), 209 MB of disk storage, a 1.4 MB SuperFloppy drive, six NuBus slots (expandable to 15 slots), a 250-watt power supply and Apple’s latest Macintosh operating system.

    Combined with modern high-end Macintosh software, the new machine is in demand in the prepress market and also with engineering and CAD users.

    Room for “up to 10GB of disk storage.” That’s good. I get worried when I have only 10GB available on my laptop hard drive.

    2005/11/18 | 9:14 am

    Just an update to the doorway drop story; I was snapping some photos of it last night & noticed that the hard drive was slightly askew in its mounting brackets.

    The brackets are a set of modular rails that mount on either side of the drive mechanism, adding sufficient width to get the drive to fit between the mounting rails built into the case. I pulled the drive out to see if it had just shifted or what the problem was, and discovered that the aluminum frame that is attached to the drive actually broke in two places. Holy cow! That was quite a shock.

    The night of the incident I noticed that the floppy drive was a little crooked, but that had just shifted a little in the rails; easy fix. The hard drive though; that’s gonna be a little tougher.

    2006/04/01 | 11:56 pm

    I finally got around to scanning the User Manual and RAM Installation Guide for this machine. The searchable PDF’s can be found here and here.

    I had been complaining about not having a scanner set up to do this job — the only scanner I have has a SCSI interface, and I don’t have any older Macs with SCSI set up — but yesterday it dawned on me that I was walking by the solution to that problem a number of times every day. We got a new Kyocera Mita network scanner/copier/printer at work a while back that will scan documents to a file. It took about 5 minutes to scan both sides of the pages from these manuals, and the image quality is excellent. It actually took longer for Acrobat to OCR the files to make them searchable.

    Dang! Ain’t technology great?

    giles littlefield
    2006/05/04 | 8:56 pm

    Good site Dave, just surfing around as I was wondering if it was such a great idea to trash my dash 30fx (did it a couple of years a go)

    I remember fondly running one of the first ProTools TDM systems on my dash, and it worked real well. I guess the bigest problem with the machine was it’s expensive RAM I had 20MB in mine and could never stomach paying out £500 odd for a meaningful upgrade!!

    I worked at Syco in the early 90’s (one of the only 6800 supliers in our country) and there was also a machine called the 40Q, which was an overclocked quadra 950 in a very very large case. We used to sell them as an upgrade for the quadra 950, and our last one sat in the stock room unsold for a good few years, eventually when it was sold it was my job to build it, the crystal on the motherboard was over clocked with a pretty crappy clip on … all looked pretty impresive when it was running however.

    There were a few upgrades for the 30fx as i remember I had a PDS slot scsi card called the ‘bolt’ when you booted up with a drive on it, you had a cool shark type icon as the firmware loaded in…ahhh happy days 😉

    2007/05/17 | 1:09 pm

    On the subject of the dash case durability, I used to do tech support for 68ooo/ARRISystems and I remember one of the guys in production taking a dash 30fx case to the rifle range for target practice. He hit the front door near the logos as I recall and the bullet didn’t even go through!, just a big dent…so these things were actually bullet-proof!

    The 32MB SIMMs for dash 30fx custom manufactured by a supplier off of Colemen Ave. in San Jose. I can’t remember the name, but the sales rep left to work for this company:

    They generated a lot of heat, so there was this contraption we called “the doghouse” that enclosed the RAM had a fan dedicated to cooling it off.

    As I recall, the 68ooo products were:
    The dash 30fx (the above mentioned, overclocked IIfx in a serious case with a beefy power supply)
    The SCSI Bolt (SCSI Card – I believe this also had a differential SCSI connector that allowed linking two machines for high speed data transfers)
    The dash 40Q (based on the Quadra 950, had a faster ‘040 on a daughter card with a switch to enable the faster clock)
    The RAID Warrior (‘040 PDS RAID card)
    The Imagician (Photoshop acceleration card) – I don’t know if this ever shipped. They laid us all off for Christmas that year.
    The Hurricane (this might have been the same as the Imagician, I can’t remember…)

    The threat of Radius’ Skylab project and Apple’s switch to the PowerPC processor was the death of the company.

    Here’s more 68ooo company info:

    Macintosh Corporation changes name to Sixty Eight Thousand
    Newsbytes News Network, August 27, 1992 by Ian Stokell

    (this is a long article, so I won’t quote it here…)

    From “The Cole Papers” June 1992 Vol. 3, No. 6

    49. Sixty Eight Thousand Inc.: Speedy Macintoshes are this company’s forte, taking its name from the Motorola 68000 processor that drives the Mac. But the company’s newest product, the Hurricane, uses an Intel Risc chip, the i860xp, to achieve a 10- to 20-fold speed increase in such applications as applying PhotoShop filters. Sharing the booth will be Advanced Gateway Solutions, showing its ScanMate Plus desktop scanner, which uses PMT technology and will go for $30,000. (408) 438-1777.

    In June 1994, Sixty-Eight Thousand, Inc., a company which made Macintosh compatible workstations, filed for bankruptcy protection in San Jose, California (Case No.: 94-54123).

    2008/04/16 | 7:23 am

    Hey Guys,

    I don´t know, if it is interesting for you.
    I´ve some nice pictures on my website (favorites)
    from two dash-towers. I´ve modded them aktually wih 2 G% Mac´s and one PC. The third one is dark green.


    2012/02/02 | 12:19 pm

    Just a quick update; since this machine has been sitting in my basement unused, I’m thinking of selling it and all the paperwork that came with it. Will likely start an eBay auction on it soon. We’ll see where it goes!

    2016/07/05 | 8:45 am

    […] 68000 dash 30fx Photo Album, Dave Thornton. The most expensive Mac ever was also the fastest of its era – the 55 MHz overclocked Mac IIfx sold by Dash for US$40,000! […]

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