90s PowerBook Runs MacOS Monterey

Even though Apple isn’t known for making the most pro-consumer devices ever (at least not since the Apple II), the trope that Apples aren’t upgradable, customizable, or otherwise hackable doesn’t really hold much weight. It does take more work to modify them or change how Apple wants them to behave, but it’s not completely impossible. Take this example of a ’94 Apple PowerBook which runs macOS Moneterey thanks largely to new internals from a 2015 MacBook Pro.

[Billy] originally intended for a Raspberry Pi to go inside this old PowerBook, but at the time, prices for ARM single-board computer (SBC) were astronomical. For around the same price as the Pi was at the time, he was able to pick up a retina display from an iPad and the internals from a broken MacBook Pro to outfit this retro case. There’s also a Teensy installed to get the trackpad working and a driver board for the display from Adafruit, and a number of case mods were needed to get everything to fit including the screen which was slightly larger than the original 9.5″ display the laptop would have shipped with.

This project took both inspiration and some of the actual code needed to get everything working from another project we featured a while ago where a Mac Mini was installed inside of a PowerBook case from 1993. Unlike projects that use smaller SBCs for retrocomputing, these builds are notable because the hardware on the inside makes them usable as daily driver computers even today, and might even be an upgrade if you’re using the internals from a MacBook Pro that would have originally had a butterfly keyboard.

12 thoughts on “90s PowerBook Runs MacOS Monterey

  1. “Upgradeable and customizable” does not in good faith cover “ripping out the entirety of the electronics from 1993 and dremel-tooling the case to accept mostly unmodified parts from today.”

    1. True, but I was using a 2015 mbp as my main machine until last year when I upgraded to Apple silicon; one of my team still has a 2015 – it’s had a ram and HD upgrade and a new battery, and is entirely serviceable.

  2. In the same way that the Texas kid who took apart a digital clock and put the parts in a box “built a clock”, THIS↑. I’ve heard that some RCA Victor radios can be modified to run OS X.

    Let’s say you have a van, with interior paneling and shag carpeting, a dorm fridge and lava lamp. Riding around with your laptp doesn’t mean your van runs OS X.

    1. While it’s not an actual 520c running Monterey, It’s hardly a pencil box with a clock, nor a van with shag carpet with someone riding around in it using a Monterey capable laptop. It utilizes the cases , keyboard and trackpad, of the 520, and the internals of a 2015 MacBook Pro. So using your logic, no one should attempt this, just because they find it fun? Yes, I am the person who did the modification.

      1. Billy,
        I am not the original poster of the above comments nor any others but the sentiment coming from most of the comments stems from the fact that the author of this article states that’s Mac are in fact a good platform to do hacking on only to give the example of literally replacing hardware with modern hardware. That isn’t exactly what a hacking friendly platform means to many people. I would venture to guess most people think this project on its own is pretty sweet. I hope you can see how any malfeasance isn’t directed at you, but the article’s author.

        Have a good day.

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