Apple developed the Interactive Television Box in a partnership with British Telecom. In 1994, the companies launched a trial in Britain with a limited number of units. Depending on what site you check, some say 1000 units, some say 2500. In 1995 Apple followed up with a six-state trial in the US. Who knows exactly how many units were issued in the US, but the product was never mass produced or marketed by Apple. It never took off and the project was canceled later that year.
Users viewed content by subscribing to a service. The machine is useless without it. That service no longer exists, so all remaining Interactive Television Boxes are no longer functional. The Interactive Television Box does not have an internal hard drive, so you can’t turn it on and expect to boot into an OS. Most of the code required to function was actually on the server side. The machine’s ROM contains a slimmed down version of OS 7.1 and is just enough to allow it to connect to the service and continue booting by loading the rest into memory.
Assembled in Ireland, 1995.
There’s no shortage of ports on the back. This is a European edition, as evident by the SCART connectors on the back.
The user’s guide shows them to be unique to the European version. However, my unit has US style RF connectors. I wonder if this is some sort of hybrid machine. It’s common for these types of changes to be made throughout the design phase. It looks pretty close to a production equivalent unit, but maybe it’s just one of many iterations that Apple made.
It looks like this unit saw a lot of action. The SCART TV connector is pretty beat up.
Apple intended to include a matching black ADB mouse with the Interactive Television Box. It would connect to the Apple Desktop Bus port on the right side.
It’s unclear if a remote, printer, or CD-ROM was also to be included, or if they were just supported peripherals that could be purchased separately. In any case, the manual makes mention of their connectivity.
The status light above the front power button can be either red, yellow or green.
Red (steady): main power is switched on; the Apple Interactive TV Box is undergoing self-test checks
Yellow: main power is switched on, but the Apple Interactive TV Box is not currently in use
Green: the Apple Interactive TV Box is on and in use
Red (flashing): the Apple Interactive TV Box is not working correctly
I plugged it in and turned it on. I expected the LED to start out red and then turn yellow. It never did. The LED stayed a solid red until I unplugged it. I wouldn’t think that the box was defective unless the light flashed red. Maybe it’s something else. Des it still need the paid service to complete the self tests? Unlikely.
In terms of hardware, I opened it up to make sure that it appeared to have all that it needed. The top cover came free by removing two screws from the back.
For a box that basically just streamed content, there seems to be a lot more going on in there than there needs to be. Then again, the year was 1995. Maybe that’s what it took.
The brown connector on the left along with the tray appears to be some sort of internal storage option. There is also a panel on the back of the unit that can be removed to access said tray. I wonder if I’m missing something, or if it was just a future enhancement/optional upgrade. I searched the internet, but couldn’t find an image of another unit with something in that space.
Between the processor and the power supply sits4 MB of RAM and a 2 MB ROM. It looks like everything is where it needs to be.
The SL-150 seemed to be Apple’s PRAM battery of choice in the 90s. I think every model of Mac from the time had one. I know a Mac will sometimes refuse to boot if the PRAM battery is dead. I can’t believe for a second this battery still holds a charge.
The battery is dated March 1995. I measured it with my DMM and sure enough... he’s dead, Jim.
I replaced it with a new one, hoping that it’ll lead to a yellow light on the front.
Now I know it’s not going to do a thing without that paid service that no longer exists. I know it’s not going to boot since there’s no local OS, but I hooked it up to my TV anyway just for fun. Maybe it’ll “dong” or something. Maybe it’ll show an OS 7 splash screen. I never found any images of it in action from the past or the present. So it’s a complete mystery.
Unfortunately, the LED on the front is still a solid red. It wasn’t the PRAM battery.
The Apple Interactive Television Box is a very rare item indeed and a cherished addition to any Apple collection.