25 Years Ago in TidBITS: RAM Doubler Debuts

Originally published at: https://tidbits.com/2019/01/24/25-years-ago-in-tidbits-ram-doubler-debuts/

Were you at Macworld Expo San Francisco in 1994, when Connectix unveiled the magical utility RAM Doubler, which did exactly as its name promised? Read on for a trip down memory lane, and be sure to share your stories of that time in the comments.

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Lots of comments about RAM Doubler over on Facebook:

Yes, hubby and I were there at that MacExpo (went every year), and we stood in line and bought RAM Doubler. We were super pleased with the results. Now I’m feeling a bit old. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: RAM Doubler would be 25, and yesterday the Mac turned 35.

@mjtsai posted a nice bit over on his site:


I managed the rental Macs at a local Kinko’s at the time and RAM Doubler was like magic from the heavens. The rentals were all 4 MB SE’s with 20 MB HDDs. They all had Photoshop, Freehand, and PageMaker on them, so while System 7’s VM and full-time multifinder were usable w/a HDD, every little bit of extra free RAM was still significantly felt in how the machines operated.

Oh man, the days when you had to go somewhere to use a Mac. :slight_smile:

Those SEs were $3900 new, or about $8600 in today’s dollars. The brand new Quadra 800 I used at the time was $4700, or about $8K today. These kids nowadays complaining about how expensive current Macs are don’t even realize…

I got my first Mac 1 week after the 1984 Super Bowl ad.

But when talking prices then vs today, I remember buying my first external Hard Drive. It was SCSI, 10 MB (yes, MB not GB) and I paid $1200. It was awesome at the time.

Ram Doubler was a necessity for running Photoshop. On an SE/30, black and white tiny screen, designing catalogues in an arts centre with Quark. Learned the difference between RGB black and CYMK black the hard way… We had to book our time on it. I used to stay late just to have uninterrupted access.

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Back in the mid to late 90s, I was one of the Mac techs at my university. We had a lot of Macs on campus – despite the efforts of IBM (nice hardware, terrible prices) and Gateway (terrible hardware, nice prices).

Because Macs were pretty expensive, a lot of faculty and staff had decided to buy RAM Doubler. But a project that I worked on guaranteed that all staff PowerMac users on campus would buy a copy. We had a fairly unfriendly mainframe environment that did 99% of the admin work on campus. It was augmented by a slightly more friendly set of desktop apps. But, of course, the Mac versions of the apps (Crystal Reports and EDAQuery, if memory serves) didn’t work on PowerMacs.

Unless they had RAM Doubler! The folks who wrote the Mac apps for the project obviously had hard-coded some memory use (we speculated at the time that it was something specific to 68K that RAM Doubler also implemented, but who knows?).

We reported the problem back to the software vendor. They didn’t fix it – they just informed all their customers of the work around, and RAM Doubler sold a couple of thousand more licenses as a result – and probably never knew why.

And I became the Apple Campus Rep. Those were good times.


John Gruber has contributed his thoughts about RAM Doubler on Daring Fireball:


RAM Doubler was great but remember we also needed to have Conflict Catcher when things got wonky with all our cool system extensions.

True, but at least we had Conflict Catcher. There are fewer problems now, but tracking them down can be a lot harder.


I remember RAM Doubler – it was like a miracle. Never crashed or caused problems for me.

Did Connectix also make Disk Doubler? I invested in each at different times, and they actually worked.

No, Disk Doubler came from Salient Software. Also great guys:

That said, there were a bunch of other “doublers”: AutoDoubler (also from Salient), CopyDoubler (also from Salient), and Speed Doubler (from Connectix). Salient focused on disk compression with their utilities; Connectix was more about processor and chip level stuff.

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John’s comment about how RAM Doubler effectively forked the OS is interesting. I’m sure Apple knew what was going on but weren’t that concerned. Unfortunately today, if someone tried that, Tim Cook would go out of his way to crush them via legal action as a minimum.

I was at the very first Macworld Expo at the Moscone Center, in the basement :). In 1988 when I was working at Aldus, we were beta testing FreeHand 2.0, and I was in charge of the remote beta testing program as well as testing the Mac System compatibility (fonts and all that). So I remember that the final release was going to require almost a megabyte more than was standard on the Mac at the time. That additional meg was going to cost our users $1000.00!! That’s insane. And yes, even when prices came down, relative to $1k/mg, when RAM Doubler was released it was indeed an essential Mac utility!

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RamDoubler was amazing. Having bought it for the office and seen the results, I put it on my Christmas list and my wife opened a Small Dog account and made sure it was under the tree.

And yes RAM prices were insane then. I am totally guilty of kyping SIMMs from corporate supplied HP Laserjets that would fit into the Macs we used in sales!

I look forward to more blast from the past. As an on site Mac engineer back in the day there was nothing worst than hearing the Mac boot and hear a whoosh. It had a Radius Rocket in it!! :grinning:

I loved Freehand. It was by far the better drawing tool.