When NeXT first contemplated making computers, Steve Jobs decided that machines should be in the shape of a cube, and that they should be built from cast magnesium. Although magnesium is a relatively expensive metal, it is remarkably strong and lightweight. No doubt, this let NeXT save on shipping expenses, although the added handling and manufacturing costs was one of the factors which led to the cube’s high cost.
Simson Garfinkel, former Senior Editor, NeXTWORLD Magazine had an idea in 1993 – how well does a magnesium case burn?
As a former chemist, I was attracted to the NeXT’s magnesium case for a different reason: magnesium burns with a brilliant white flame. When NeXT announced that the first NeXT Cube was made of cast magnesium, I am sure that I was not the only person who imagined what fun could be had by setting it ablaze. Of course, at more than seven thousand dollars each, I doubted that anybody would ever actually carry out the experiment.
Anyway, during the fall of 1991, I interviewed Rich Page, NeXT’s then vice-president for hardware, for an article which we later ran in NeXTWORLD Extra. At the time, I asked Mr. Page if he could get me an empty NeXT Cube case for the purpose of having such a burning. Page smiled and said that he thought something could be arranged. A few days later, he called me up and said that I could pick up an empty cube at NeXT’s Freemont factory.
Calling around, Garfinkel finally convinced Lawrence Livermore Laboratory to assist in a controlled burn of the cube.
You can read a detailed account on how the process went (and it wasn’t “light and watch the flames” easy) in the post here. Yes, it did burn with some help and they had to use two expensive cases to get the shots. There are a series of photos of the process on Flickr. Via news.ycombinator.com.
See Adafruit’s coverage of NeXT over the years in the blog posts here.
Use a NeXT keyboard on a modern computer – tutorial.
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Very cool! Had no idea anyone would even dare to make a magnesium case. Wow.
I’ve seen magnesium bike forks tossed into a roaring campfire.
The results were white-hot!