Custom Macintosh With A Real 486

Older Apple computers can often be something of a collector’s item, with the oldest fetching an enormously high price in auctions. The ones from the late ’80s and early ’90s don’t sell for quite as much yet, but it’s possible that museums and collectors of the future will one day be clamoring for those as well. For that reason, it’s generally frowned upon to hack or modify original hardware. Luckily, this replica of an Apple Macintosh didn’t harm any original hardware yet still manages to run software on bare metal.

The computer is built around a single-board computer, but this SBC isn’t like the modern ARM machines that have become so ubiquitous. It’s a 133MHz AMD 486 which means that it can run FreeDOS and all of the classic DOS PC games of that era without emulation. In order to run Apple’s legacy operating system, however, it does require the use of the vMac emulator, but the 486 is quite capable of handling the extra layer of abstraction. The computer also sports a real SoundBlaster ISA sound card, uses a microSD card for its hard drive, and uses an 800×600 LCD screen.

As a replica, this computer is remarkably faithful to the original and even though it doesn’t ship with a Motorola 68000 it’s still fun to find retro PC gamers that are able to run their games on original hardware rather than emulation. It reminds us of another retro 486 that is capable of running old games on new hardware without an emulator as well.

12 thoughts on “Custom Macintosh With A Real 486

  1. I have a Macintosh Quadra 650 that’s all original with a 486 add on card. The 486DX2 with sound blaster option was originally from a Power Mac 6100, I fashioned an extension PCB so I could properly plug the funky cable for video and game controller cable. The original Reply card is rare as hen’s teeth but it’s also dang simple design. Info: Works with Quadra 650, 700 (lid may need to be trimmed), Quadra 800, 900, and 950. Also Centris 650. Will not work in Quadra 840 AV (no PDS slot), 605 or 630 or other similar model (uses LC style slot), need PDS adapter instead of extension card for Centris and Quadra 610 and 600 AV. 660 AV will lose AV support if something is plugged into its PDS slot

    1. One of those things that I think’d be cool to do, but don’t really have the time/money for: take an SE/30 and install netbsd and an ethernet upgrade on it, use it as a modern terminal computer.

      I dunno if netbsd would work with a 68040 upgrade card, but if it does then a clear case might be a good excuse to make one of these for real:

      The image is fake, but it’s a real chip (MC68040). You could make one of these by adding a thin layer of leds+microcontroller under a thin black plastic shell, and tapping into one of the CPU’s voltage rails.

      1. I did install NetBSD and an Ethernet card on my SE/30 back in ’98. With a full featured install, the 20MB drive didn’t leave a whole lot of space for any but the smallest s/w builds.

  2. I really appreciate how this mod was performed relatively non-destructively. The results look good, and a cool vintage computer wasn’t needlessly destroyed. It seems like the Macintosh could probably be reverted to its original state without too much hassle (as long as the missing internal components were kept safe somewhere).

    I don’t like it when people take a Dremel and seriously chop up the internals (and especially the outside) of the Macintosh, because the results often look sloppy to me, and I don’t think that this technique is strictly necessary to do a good job.

    This project looks neat, and the Macintosh could probably be returned to its original state if they ever changed their mind about it.

    I’ve been meaning to build a similar (albeit Raspberry Pi) version of this kind of project for a few years, but I’ve had trouble finding a truly broken Macintosh to use (I ended up fixing all of the potential candidates). I will have to try with some of the techniques shown here however, because I wouldn’t need to damage a computer that I could otherwise fix. (My main concern is that someday, I’ll decide having an actual Macintosh would be much cooler than the Raspberry Pi, but it would be too late to revert my permanent modifications. This (nondestructive) way, I can stick the original parts in a box somewhere and plop them back into the Macintosh if/when I change my mind.)

  3. Some years ago there was the IBMac, a Macintosh board put into an IBM PS/2 Model 25. The Mac board was from one of the all in one models and was the perfect width to slide into where the Model 25’s original board had been.

  4. This reminds me of an MP3 player project by someone who goes by “EvilTim”. He modified an ISA VGA card to drive the 22kHz Mac SE monitor, added a 2nd bit of greyscale to said monitor (with a new video amp), and attached it to a 486 running DOS, which he installed in the SE case, along with an ISA SB card, ethernet card, and the slot-loading CD-ROM drive from an iMac. I don’t have a link handy, but the writeup is still online and worth a read.

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