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lilliputian's picture
Joined: 2010 Jul 29
Fastback 1

In my mission to find and upload the various versions of Fastback I have been able to buy and upload copies from physical media for Fastback II (v2) and now Fastback Plus (v3). There is however a v1 (specifically 1.02) that I have found evidence for in old magazine scans called "Fastback For The Macintosh", or just simply "Fastback for Mac". I have not yet found boxart, but the adverts depict a full-body photo of a cheetah in profile.

If anybody has any leads, let me know!



pl212's picture
Joined: 2009 Sep 7

MacWeek printed the press release announcing it on August 8th, 1987:

Fifth Generation set to launch Fastback for the Mac
BATON ROUGE, La. — Fifth Generation Systems Inc. w ill introduce Fastback for the Macintosh at Mac Expo in Boston.
Fastback is a software program that provides a hard-disk backup and restores data from dam­ aged disks. It can back up a 10-Mbyte disk in less than 10 minutes. Fastback is priced at $99.95.

Fastback, which appears as an icon on a hard-disk menu, uses a proprietary-device driver that allows it direct access to the disk. It commands the disk to transfer documents that have been selected.

The same issue had a half-page ad with the cheetah you mention (subsequent months showed a variant of the ad in various sizes.)

1.02 was announced in the November 3rd 1987 issue of MacWeek:

Upgrade to Fastback released
BATON ROUGE, La. — Fifth Generation Systems, developer of Fastback for the Mac, has announced an upgrade to its recently released backup software described in MacWEEK’s review of the product (Page 51). In a shift from previous plans, the company will send Version 1.02 of Fastback automatically to registered users, free of charge. Shipping is set to begin this week. The new release will elimi­nate several minor problems in the original version. If the program encounters a defective floppy disk while copying files from a hard disk, it no longer will abort the entire opera­tion. Instead it will ask the user to insert a dif­ferent floppy, according to the company.

That same issue had a review which included the box art (on an odd purple background):

Fastback: Speedy, but some problems

Fastback 1.01
List price: $99.95 until Dec. 31.
Strengths: Remarkable speed; good interface and file-selection windows; error-correction for damaged backup disks; prints labels. Weaknesses: Poor handling of defective media; files not Finder-readable; floppies only; some customer support problems.


Although backup programs compete in many areas—file selection flexibility, friendly inter­ face, efficient use of disk space — none of these considerations is the real issue in the eyes of many users. Speed is. Because copying files to floppies is slow and tedious, a great many users simply can’t bring themselves to do what they know they should.
Fastback for the Macintosh, a new version of a popular MS-DOS program from Fifth Generation Systems, may prove to be part of the solution. The current version has some sig­nificant problems, but what makes it special is its raw speed—for backing up to floppies, Fastback is far and away the fastest program currently available for the Mac.
Fastback’s package prominently displays the words “ 10 megabytes/10 minutes,” and our tests substantiated this claim. Using a 4-Mbyte Macintosh Plus with a CMS SD-80 80-Mbyte external hard drive, Fastback backed up 476 files totaling 15.719 Mbytes in 17 minutes. This isjust over one-third the time that other popular Macintosh backup programs required to do the same backup using new disks. (See “Avoiding hard disk disasters,” Aug. 18.) Fastback’s extraordinary speed will encourage fre­ quent backups, perhaps the most important consideration with backup software.

Fifth Generation combines several tech­niques to give Fastback its extraordinary speed. Proprietary disk output routines allow the pro­ gram to write to floppy disks — it backs up to floppies only — while it is reading the hard disk. When it has filled one floppy and is wait­ ing for you to dig up the next, it won’t sit idle; it fills its internal buffers with data from your hard disk during disk swapping time. Finally, it uses a proprietary disk format that it creates as it copies, so you save even more time because there is no need for you to initialize new disks before writing to them. Because of the special format, the disks can be read only by Fastback. You can’t access backup files with the Finder as you can, for example, when you do your backing up with SuperMac Software’s DiskFit.

Incremental backups with Fastback are speedy as well. Twelve changed files totaling 1,136 Kbytes required only three minutes. In contrast to DiskFit, however, Fastback doesn’t recover space during an incremental backup; changed files are added to the end of the back­ up set, not written over the previous version. You end up with a more complete archive of your progress, but you also will go through a iot of disks: Your backup set will grow every time you use it until it becomes unmanageable and you take the extra time to do a new full backup.

No quick port
Fastback for the Macintosh is no quick port of its MS-DOS ancestor. It’s a friendly and intu­ itive program that makes good use of the Mac interface. One nice feature is an easy-to-use facility for selecting files or folders to be included in or excluded from a backup set. It displays an outline-style listing of folders in one window and in another displays the files in the last folder clicked on. Double-clicking on files or folders changes their selection status. You can start with no files selected, all files selected or all files modified after a certain date, then individually add or remove files from your backup list.

You cannot, however, automatically filter files by type; for instance, you cannot exclude system files or applications from your backup set. Nor is there any provision for saving file lists to disk. So if you have a certain set of files you like to archive regularly, you’ll have to pick them manually every time you back up.

Fastback also does not sufficiently indicate the progress of a backup. When the job is done, the program reports the total time spent back­ ing up and the time, if any, spent waiting for the user to insert floppies. But during the backup process itself, there is no indication of per­ centage complete or the number of files, kilo­ bytes or disks remaining, although the name of each file is displayed as it’s copied.

Fifth Generation touts Fastback's reliab­ility as well as its speed, but we had mixed results with the program. Like the MS-DOS version, the Macintosh release puts error-correction codes on the backup floppies. Mag­netic media can degrade with time, causing parts ofthe disk to become unreadable. According to the manual, Fastback can correct errors and recover files from backup disks even if as much as 10 percent of the sectors on the backup disk are damaged. This is particularly important to those who archive records on floppies that might have to be accessed years in the future.

We tested this feature - don't you try it! —by using a needle to put a small, tangential scratchon the surface of one of our backup disks. As Fastback read the damaged disk, the drive clicked and groaned, but eventually the programreported that seven tracks had been recovered by error correction. The restore was successful, even though the disk was so badly damaged the Mac later refused to initialize it.

A major problem...
Despite this impressive performance, Fastback doesn’t handle some other problems with such aplomb. The current version of the program does not deal properly with what it considers media errors on disks to which you are copying files. For example, you are 79 disks into a backup session on a large-capacity hard drive whenFastback detects an error on the next disk you insert. Instead of asking politely, in good Macintosh fashion, for a different disk, Fastback aborts the whole process. You’ll have to start your backup all over again!

This is serious. You don’t encounter bad media everyday, but it is statistically likely that you will sooner or later. The way Version 1.01 of Fastback handles the problem could easily cost you more time than the program’s fast copying ever saved you.

Fifth Generation is aware of the prob­lem and promises a fix early this month.

The upgraded release, to be labeled Version 1.02, will be distributed free to registered owners, but only if they complain to Fifth Gen­eration about technical problems with the pre­ vious version. This is a wrong-headed
approach to customer support. Most users won't know about the problem until they
have already wasted their time with an aborted backup.

Some smaller problems
The new version also will clear up a few other problems. The current release does not restore information about the size, location and organization of folder windows. Version 1.02 will, as long as you completely restore the disk. The updated version will prevent you from restoring an old Desktop file, the invisible file the Mac system uses to keep track of what is where. In the current release, if you disregard the manual’s instructions, you can wreak havoc by restoring a Desktop file containing information that is no longer valid.

Another limitation -- one that Fastback shares with most of the backup programs on the market, except for DiskFit -- is that when a disk is restored, you can't immediately double-click on a document icon and expect the appropriate application to be launched automatically. You must run the application itself once or else rebuild your Desktop - by holding down the Command and Option keys as you open the Finder -- before applications and documents will be properly linked.

Manual and customer support
Fastback’s manual is clear and informative, and there’s a useful on-line help facility. But customer support could use improvement. Nei­ther of the two phone numbers listed on the Fastback box reach technical support; for that you have to place a toll call to another number (listed inside the manual) in Baton Rouge, La.

That number proved to be busy for days on end. Persistence did pay off, however. When we reached technical support, we courteously received answers to all our questions. Fifth Generation said a new phone system will alle­ viate the difficulty of getting assistance.

Fastback is the new speed champ in the Mac backup field. If you need no-frills backups to floppies, Fastback will do the job in a hurry — and print your labels to boot. Just watch out for bad disks and be prepared to spend some time on the phone to get the updated version.


Unfortunately the review doesn't include any screenshots.

The December 1st 1987 issue included a press release on the 1.02 update:

Fifth Generation upgrades Fastback
BATON ROUGE, La. — Fifth Generation Systems has recently upgraded Fastback for the Mac with release of Version 1.02.
The new version of Fastback, a hard disk backup and restore software utility, features improved error handling and the ability to insert a new disk if an unrecoverable write error occurs during a backup. When the new disk is inserted, the backup will continue.
A text file named Read Me, which contains information about the new release and Apple’s TeachText application are also on the Fastback 1.02 update disk.
Each registered user of Fastback will receive a free upgrade disk. New users can purchase the new version for $99.95.


A later issue in December noted Rodime would start bundling the utility with their hard drives.

A MacConnection ad in February 1988 showed off the side of the box, indicating the Cheetah motif continued there:

A new (black-and-white) ad appears in March 1988 in MacWeek, showcasing positive reviews and the same Cheetah-design box:

On March 22 1988 the Mac the Knife rumor column claimed:

Back in Cupertino, where the real Apples grow, the word is that the 1.44-Mbyte SuperDrive will send the FastBack backup utility folks back to the drawing board for a new generation of their product.

This would make sense if they were relying on custom, low-level access to the 800k floppy drive to speed up data transfer.

Interestingly the April 5th '88 issue of MacWeek notes:

"Fifth Generation Systems is well-known for Fastback, a swift backup program originally written for the IBM PC and compatibles. The Mac version appeared in September [1987]."

The April 12th issue reviews the 1.02 update, saying:

Upgraded Fastback corrects most but not all deficiencies

In a previous review of Fifth Generation Systems’ Fastback backup software (see MacWEEK, Nov. 3), we reported on some of the program’s problems with error recovery. As noted in the review, Fifth Generation promised a Version 1.02 upgrade that would address the problems cited in our review.

The new version does, in fact, correct most of the deficiencies in the earlier version. When disk errors are detected during a backup, Fastback now gracefully allows you to try a different disk instead of aborting the entire backup session. The program now keeps track of window locations and handles the Finder’s desktop file better.

Despite these improvements, Fastback still has one major flaw. It will not detect media problems during a backup unless you turn the Verify option on. The program defaults to Verify off, the setting recommended in the manual, each time it is run. With Verify off Fastback will always report a successful back­ up, no matter how defective the media may be. If given a defective disk or a disk that has been damaged through wear, mishandling or con­tamination, Fastback won’t report any prob­ lems until you actually try to restore a file. Then and only then will it report errors. The program’s built-in error-correction routines can handle some problems, but if more than a few tracks are unreadable, you won’t be able to recover your data.

Since major media problems can be caused by relatively simple mishandling of disks (for example, using a double-sided disk in a single-sided drive), we believe that unless you back up to brand-new, certified, double-sided disks, Fastback should only be used with Verify on. It works fine that way but significantly more slowly than without verification. In fact, with Verify on, Fastback loses its one great advantage over competing programs: its much- touted speed. Redux, which works with more media, offers more selection options and includes a sophisticated scripting language (see review, this page), which can actually back up our standard 11,526-Kbyte backup set to formatted disks 90 seconds faster than Fastback with its Verify option on.

lilliputian's picture
Joined: 2010 Jul 29

Wow, thank you so much! At least now I know what I'm looking for. Interesting that it was shipped in the old clamshell packaging of the DOS version! Also interesting to read about the point update from 1.01 to 1.02.

tanaquil's picture
Joined: 2016 Feb 22

I did a bit of digging in my archives and found a handmade backup of Fastback 1.02 (not mine, it came to me from some previous user), so I just uploaded it. The page is very barebones, feel free to pretty it up.

I will replace the existing sit (a "Legacy" image made on my MacBook Pro) with a more compatible Stuffit 3.5 file as soon as I get a chance.

Thanks for the links to the magazine reviews! I find that stuff fascinating.

lilliputian's picture
Joined: 2010 Jul 29

Fabulous! Thank you so much. And I agree, looking at old magazine reviews and articles is very interesting.