The MessagePad; a thoroughly hacked macbook turned tablet

hacked macbook

Remember the times before the iPad existed? When a tablet PC was actually a full computer in a tablet form factor? Yeah, those days we were all so very optimistic about the future of tablet computing. Don’t think we don’t appreciate the new amazing toys that we’ve got around with the plethora of tablets to choose from, but we still dream of fully functional tablet computers.

[Brian] wrote in to show us his build of a fully featured tablet macbook conversion dubbed the MessagePad. Though we’ve seen a wide selection of home spun tablets before, this one has an impressive list of added features. It boasts both front and rear facing cameras, an SSD drive, a built in Teensy, and a line-in. It doesn’t matter if you believe in the dream of a full blown pc in tablet format, or if your preference would have been a Windows or Linux machine. You’ll surely love the bevy of photos he took along the way as he was hacking and slashing on this thing.

Comments

  1. heatgap says:

    I think the main thing to look at here is this is something Brian wanted so he set out and hacked one up. Great job man pretty impressive cramming everything together.

  2. svofski says:

    What’s wrong with fully functional computer computers? Why do they have to be tablets?

    • Caleb Kraft says:

      portability… unless you’re referring to fully functional computer tablets. In which case, that’s what we want!

      • svofski says:

        But there are macbook airs, there are competing ultrabooks that are probably even thinner. They are not chopped down netbooks, they’re powerful, fully functional and have a cool bonus of having a real keyboard.

    • XOIIO says:

      They aren’t easily portable.

    • Jarel says:

      Don’t worry svofski. I agree with you.

      I think the category is more experimental and focused towards casual users than anything else. I can’t imagine anyone is getting real work done on those things. Even with MS Office-compatible document editors onscreen keyboards are terrible for that stuff, and if you buy hook up a physical keyboard you’ve lost the portability argument. VNC and RDP is out of the question. Even on a LAN, it’s awful.

      I also don’t think ultrabooks are going away any time soon. It’s a far more obvious niche and the Macbook Air is selling much better than anyone expected! If the competing ultrabooks can manage to get better battery life, I think we’ll have an enduring computer form factor. If anything else, the Macbook Air should be around for a while.

  3. I’m using a fully-functional Core i7 TabletPC with 6GB of RAM, an SSD, and 6 hours of battery life right now; not sure why you’re still dreaming of fully-functional tablet computers.

    • NewCommentor1283 says:

      i agree with this guy

      but i still think this guy did a good job of hardware hacking!

      PRE-PS: … the PC … is still in development :P will always have new softwares (dos 6 on a dos 4 box, winxp on a win98 box ect or even the newest ver/ openoffice on a computer that is 5 years older)

      PPS: and yes there ARE fast, super low power(watts) x86 processors, just cost more and such, cuz noone wants them!

      not very many, but a FEW tablets are actually being continually developed-for, unlike apple products (antiapple BS redacted)

      (redacted brand) promised a new os with juicy new features, and despite delays actually released it! :)

      usb HOST is already hardware present and will be released (software) in the third os release for the existing $$$ you paid and have in your possesion.

      oh, and (redacted brand) tablet runs win98, linux(older distro), and through win98 or linux can do almost anything, once the usb HOST support (software) is finally released in os3 :)

      bluetooth keyboard makes all the difference, but im able to type(program) just fine on the onscreen one, just no special keys,,,
      == MAKE A DOS/WIN98 TSR THAT ALLOWS _-CUSTOM-_ ONSCREEN KEYBOARD! … for all those extra keys…

      including avr development and maybe pic, without needing to externally compile or some silly shit. just local, no wifi or celltowers needed

      dont have to ask mommy(manufacturer) if it’s okay if i use MY device for what i want to, after all i purchased it, right??? the article of how to use an ipad to develop arduino using a SERVER to compile? why??? apple say no for local? its safer to buy an accessory then to make it? have to skirt the rules to sneak out(in) and party?(compile)?
      (antiapple insult redacted)

      lolZ

      apple users might want to do backupS thursday

      bye apple

  4. Happy Heyoka says:

    Weirdly enough, I saw an Apple produced hack like this in about 1992 (so a PowerBook).
    It was being handed around at a developer conference …
    The product never went anywhere but it worked.

  5. acomputerdog says:

    lol when i first saw the picture i thought the screen was cracked. But then i read the article. Seems like apple products are always better when they’ve been modified/hacked/turned into another apple product by a consumer…

  6. rallen71366 says:

    This is cool, and I wish I had something with the power/portability. I’m currently sporting 2 laptops and a Galaxy Tablet w/ Bluetooth keyboard. I’m using the tablet more and more, and the laptops are used for more CPU/storage intensive work. The capability/portability trade-off is becoming more and more usable.

  7. BadHaddy says:

    I’ve been using motion computing tablets since… like 2002. My current one has an intel Core2, 8GB of ram, a 120GB SSD, and a 12 inch screen with stylus. Not sure why people are acting like this is new, or wishing they had it. You can get things like this on ebay for a few hundred.

    Excellent hack though, they thought up what they wanted, found what they needed, and modified and formed it into existence. Proper builds like this (turning something into something it was not designed to be) are the entire idea of hacking!

    • Caleb Kraft says:

      Generally, I’m sad because there hasn’t been much improvement in design in terms of weight and battery, not to mention the clunky touch interfaces supported by most operating systems.

      • BadHaddy says:

        As am I, but Windows 7 at least understands tablets natively, popping up input boxes and keyboards when needed, and windows 8 actually has notable improvements.

        MacOS has no understanding of tablets without modification; which is understandable. Its a small market though, for people who want/need multi-ghz full desktop OS tablets. Perhaps Win8 will make that more of a reality for Windows users. Linux is making decent strides. For Mac users, you get the iPad, that’s about it.

  8. hli says:

    Apple had a MessagePad already in the 90’s – but it was more known as Newton. And as a tablet, it was more usable than anything you can buy today.

    • archpope says:

      More usable than anything you can buy today? I haven’t replied to anyone’s message on any thread in many years, but I have to now, just to say this:
      How about multi-tab browsing, or streaming video, or playing lossless audio?

      I know it’s possible that it can now read RSS feeds, eBooks, or create spreadsheets, and someone has messed with it to be able to somewhat use Facebook, but seriously I would not agree it is more usable than anything you can buy today.
      I wouldn’t even try to argue that point even if I truly believed it. If I did truly believe it, then it would probably be because of some head injury and/or extreme lack of knowledge of what’s on the market.

  9. archpope says:

    If I still had my white MacBook, I would try this hack. I thought about something like it, but I didn’t want to tear it up as it was my only computer at the time, and didn’t trust my own devotion to such a project at the time.

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