Mac SE reborn as a server and Mac emulator

[Sprite_TM] cooked up an amazing hack by resurrecting a Mac SE using a Dockstar and ARM processor. The retro hardware had a bad mainboard thanks to the corrosive properties of a failed backup-battery. He had been wanting to do something with the Seagate Dockstar and decided it would find a nice home in the Mac. But what fun is a dead machine housing a headless server? To add to the fun he included an ARM processor running a Mac emulator, along with all the bits to make the screen, keyboard, and peripherals work. When the Mac is off the Dockstar still runs as a server.

But one of the best parts is the floppy drive. It still takes floppies, but there’s no magnetic media inside of them anymore. Instead, he’s added an SD card slot and some protoboard in the space for the read head. The drive itself has had the read head transplanted for some pogo pins (hey, we saw those earlier today). When you insert the floppy, the pogo-pins raise up and contact the protoboard, connecting the SD card to a Teensy microcontroller.

There’s so much going on with this project we just can’t cover it all here. Things like a chemical cleaning to return the original color of the classic case, and building a converter so that the peripherals are USB compatible are just some of the pleasures awaiting you in [Sprite_TM's] post. He’s also filmed a demo video that we’ve embedded after the break.


  1. wouter says:

    now that kicks ass big time xD
    it’s cool he’s reusing it as a computer to, but I doubt he’s going to use the emulator for anything else then getting the dockstar back online..

    BTW: is the emulator running from the dockstar or from an other ARM processor?

  2. Gdogg says:

    emulator is on the dockstar

  3. Anonymous says:

    I would have used a Mac Mini (run Basilisk II or Mini vMac) and widened the floppy drive to acommodate the slot loading DVD drive.

  4. Ian Tester says:

    The Dockstar contains the main CPU and runs the emulator. The *second* ARM is used as a “GPU” to drive the video signal, connected to the Dockstar via USB.

  5. zool says:

    watch cursor = nostalgic rage

  6. DanAdamKOF says:

    I really admire sprite, he is a very clever hacker and always has really great writeups. This is no exception.

  7. Pilotgeek says:

    @Anonymous: The point was not to find a purpose for an old Mac, the point was to find a home for the Dockstar.

  8. Daniel says:

    That’s really impressive! I love the integration of the two systems.

    But you didn’t.

  9. Johceti says:

    I love the detail in his write-up! Awesome idea!

  10. jones says:

    I especially liked that you could access the Dockstar through a terminal running on the mac emulator.

  11. BLuRry says:

    Having a hacked dockstar and having done many unnatural things to old Apple computers as well, I can say this in a rather qualified way: HOLY SHIT this hack is so full of epic win I feel totally unworthy to have even been treated to the video of this. Thank you Sprite! It’s an inspiration!

  12. cantido says:

    So.. if you put a real floppy in by mistake the pogo pins damage the surface of the disk. nice.

  13. Gdogg says:

    @DamAdomKOF I agree. One of my favourites. I wish he put in more details, instead of making ridiculous jumps, or at least explained how he thought of certain things. He needs to realize he’s smarter than we are ^_^

  14. cde says:

    @Cantido and what exactly would one still be doing with a real floppy? Saving that oh so important text file?

  15. Ian says:

    @cantido, I think that’s a feature. :)

  16. Ian says:

    @anonymous that’s too much power for emulating such an old machine, and the hack there would quite literally be a hack – hacking a bigger hole into the case.

    This hack, however, is amazingly detailed, with a lot of great effort put into it.

  17. Kaijuu says:

    The purpose of this hack is to have something that serves Sprite’s files, and that something needs to be on a strict diet.
    Power doesn’t come cheap, especially when you are living in a regular house and are expected to pay for your own utilities bill.

    A Mac mini or what have you does not fit that bill; this rig does and it looks lovely to boot.

  18. MG says:

    *aehm* not a Teensy microcontroller, but a “teensy” SD-USB card reader, so teensy as in small not as the name!

  19. cmholm says:

    [Pendantic] That’s no SE, that’s an SE/30! [/Pendantic] An SE/30 was my first home PC, and when it lost the place of honor to a Quadra 405, it became my NetBSD testbed until the video went south. Kudos to Sprite_TM for an incredible piece of work.

  20. strider_mt2k says:

    Pardon the expression, but holy crap!
    That thing is clever AND IT DOES SHIT!

    Seriously cool.

  21. sp00nix says:

    Wow that battery tore sht up. I’m gonna go pull the ones out of my compact macs now.

  22. andres says:

    holy shit. this is just so much epic win. I’m a fan of sprite but jesus christ he just just beat the shit out of every hack right here.

  23. svofski says:


  24. jim says:

    Do want.

    Every time I see an old all-in-one computer, I want to swap its guts for something modern.

  25. Mr Hacker says:

    in a way , macs are simlar to hummer
    hummer – over-priced over-famed over-hyped slab of metal and plastic
    macs= overpriced , over-hyped slab of silcon gorilla-glued together

  26. cde says:

    @cmholm, Sprite got it right, hackaday had it wrong. It is indeed a SE/30. Or atleast it was. It is now a SE/Arm

  27. Joe says:

    ZTerm, Mosaic, Mac PPP … FTW!!

    Must go dig out my Mac IIvx…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 96,614 other followers