Classic Macintosh Gets An IPad Infusion

We know the classic Mac fans in the audience won’t be happy about this one, but the final results are simply too clean to ignore. With a laser-cut adapter and a little custom wiring, [Travis DeRose] has come up with a repeatable way to modernize a Compact Macintosh (Plus, SE, etc) by swapping out all of its internals for an iPad mini.

He goes over the whole process in the video after the break, while being kind enough to spare our sensitive eyes from having to see the Mac’s enclosure stripped of its original electronics. We’ll just pretend hope that the computer was so damaged that repair simply wasn’t an option.

Anyway, with a hollow Mac in your possession, you can install the adapter that allows the iPad to get bolted in place of the original CRT monitor. You won’t be able to hit the Home button anymore, but otherwise it’s a very nice fit.

Those with some first hand iPad experience might be wondering how you wake the tablet up once the Mac is all buttoned back up. That’s an excellent question, and one that [Travis] wrestled with for awhile. In the end he came up with a very clever solution: he cuts into a charging cable and splices in a normally-closed momentary push button. Pushing the button essentially “unplugs” the iPad for a second, which just so happens to wake it up. It’s an elegant solution that keeps you from having to make any modifications to that expensive piece of Apple hardware.

If there’s one thing we’re not thrilled with, it’s the empty holes left behind where the ports, switches, and floppy drive were removed. As we’ve seen in the past, you can simply cut the ports off of a motherboard and glue them in place to make one of these conversions look a little more convincing. If you’re going to do it, might as well go all the way.

Continue reading “Classic Macintosh Gets An IPad Infusion”

Retro PowerBook Gets A Mac Mini Transplant

Around these parts, seeing a classic laptop or desktop computer get revived with the Raspberry Pi is fairly common. While we’re not ones to turn down a well-executed Pi infusion, we know they can be controversial at times. There’s an impression that such projects are low-effort, and that the combination of old and new tech gains little in the way of usability due to the usability quirks of the Pi itself.

But we think even the most critical in the audience will agree that this build by [Tylinol], which sees the internals of a circa 1993 PowerBook 165c get replaced with that of a 2014 Mac Mini, is something else entirely. For one thing, there’s no question that packing a modern (relatively) desktop computer motherboard into a laptop’s body takes a lot more planning and effort than hot gluing the comparatively tiny Pi into the same space. Plus as an added bonus, anyone who counts themselves among the Cult of Mac will be happy to see the vintage machine retain its Cupertino pedigree.

So how do you get a Mac Mini inside of a PowerBook? Very carefully. As explained by [Tylinol], the inside of the PowerBook’s case was coated in graphite and conductive enough to be a problem. So after the original hardware was removed, a layer of tape was added to insulate it; though we imagine a suitably thick spray-on coating could be used as well if you don’t have that kind of patience.

Once the case was gutted and insulated, [Tylinol] added new stand-offs to mount the Mac Mini motherboard and hard drive. For anyone wondering, the 2014 model was used because the shape of the board almost perfectly fits around the trackball PCB. A board from a newer Mac could be used, but it would likely mean using an external mouse.

Which would have been a problem for [Tylinol], because one of the main goals of this build was to get the original input working. That meant adapting the Apple Desktop Bus (ADB) devices to USB, which turns out to be something of a Dark Art. But with the help of some contemporary information about the long-forgotten protocol and a Teensy 3.5, both devices are now picked up as standard USB HID.

But of course, that’s just scratching the surface. [Tylinol] also had to figure out how to swap the original display out for a modern panel, and then get the whole thing running on internal battery power. Even if you’re not particularly interested in retro Apple hardware, this is really a phenomenal build that deserves a thorough read-through.

For those of you who don’t mind getting a Pi in a PowerBook, we recently saw a recreation of Lord Nikon’s laptop from Hackers that went that route.

Resurrecting A Recalcitrant SE/30

The Macintosh SE/30 is well regarded as the choice pick of the compact Mac line. Packing a powerful 68030 processor and with the capability to use up to 128 MB of RAM, it brought serious grunt to bear in a tight form factor. With these machines now over 30 years old, they’re often quite worse for wear. [This Does Not Compute] had his work cut out for him getting this particular example up and running. (Video embedded below.)

With the computer displaying the famous SimasiMac screen on startup, it was sadly non-functional when switched on. [This Does Not Compute] went through all the usual attempts to fix this – washing the board, recapping, checking potentially broken traces – all to no avail. After much consternation, the fix was not so hard – a fresh set of RAM helped cure what ailed the Mac.

With the Mac now showing some signs of life, there was more to do. The floppy drive refused to boot, ejecting disks and failing to read anything. A head cleaning proved helpful, but not enough. It was only when the head motor’s worm gear was relubricated, enabling it to seek properly, that the drive was successfully able to boot. The hard drive proved resistant of any attempts to get it to work, so was replaced with a SCSI2SD instead.

With the suite of repairs completed, the SE/30 was once again up and running. With a little elbow grease, the case and keyboard turned up a treat, too. [This Does Not Compute] now has one of the all-time classic Macs in excellent condition.

We’ve seen some great restorations over the past – this Commodore 64 full of dirt was a particularly compelling story. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Resurrecting A Recalcitrant SE/30”

Liquid Damaged MacBook Saved With A Keen Eye

Even among those of us with a penchant for repairing electronics, there are some failures which are generally considered too severe to come back from. A good example is liquid damage in a laptop; with so many components and complex circuits crammed into such a small area, making heads or tails of it once the corrosion sets in can be a real nightmare. Especially in the case of an older laptop, the conventional wisdom is to try and recover your files and then buy a new one.

But as we’ve come to learn, [Jason Gin] is not a man who often finds himself concerned with conventional wisdom. After finding an older MacBook with suspected liquid damage, he decided to see what it would take to restore it to working order. According to a note on the device, the screen was dead, the USB ports were fried, the battery didn’t take a charge, and it wouldn’t boot. No problem then, should be easy.

Upon opening up the circa-2012 laptop, [Jason] found the machine to be riddled with corrosion. We’re not just talking surface gunk either. After giving everything a good cleaning with isopropyl alcohol, the true extent of the damage became clear. Not only had traces on the PCB rotted away, but there were many components that were either damaged or missing altogether. Whatever spilled inside this poor Mac was clearly some nasty stuff.

[Jason] used OpenBoardView to pull up schematics and diagrams of the motherboard, and started the arduous task of visually comparing them to his damaged unit. In some areas, the corrosion was so bad he still had trouble locating the correct traces and pads. But with time and effort, he was able to start probing around and seeing what components had actually given up the ghost.

For the USB ports it ended up being a bad 10-microfarad ceramic capacitor, but for the LCD, he ended up having to replace the entire backlight driver IC. The prospect of working on this tiny BGA-25 device might have been enough for some to throw in the towel, but compared to the hand-soldered magnet wire repairs required elsewhere on the board, [Jason] says the installation of the new LP8550 chip was one of the easier aspects of the whole operation.

The write-up is a great read if you like a good repair success story, and we especially like the way he documented his diagnosis and resulting work on a per-system basis. It makes it much easier to understand just how many individual fires [Jason] had to put out. But if you’re more interested in feats of steady-handed soldering, check out his recent project to add a PCI-E slot to the Atomic Pi.

Mac Plus Becomes A Vector Display

The vintage Macintosh all-in-one computers were a design icon, as well as being highly useful machines in the 80s and 90s. In the decades since, they’ve been used for everything from web servers to aquariums, but that’s not all. [Arcade Jason] decided to grab an old Macintosh Plus and turn it into a vector display.

The hack starts with the opening of a Macintosh, which naturally requires a long screwdriver with the right tip. Setting the stage for things to come, this is achieved by soldering together a couple of existing tools to get the reach he needs. [Jason] then proceeds to install a brightness control for the main electron gun, as well as deflection drivers and a spot killing circuit. Everything is done with the intention of the hack being reversible, as [Jason] didn’t wish to sacrifice a good Macintosh Plus just for the sake of having some fun.

For those unfamiliar with vector cathode-ray displays and the manner in which they are driven, [Arcade Jason] does a great job explaining the basics. A set of magnetic coils is used to alter the trajectory of an electron fired at the screen. If you aim those electrons in ordered lines from left-to-right, top-to-bottom you’ve created a raster display. If you instead guide the electrons to follow the shapes you want to appear on the screen you’ve created a vector display.

We can’t help but feel this would be a hilarious way to troll at a demoscene meetup. We’ve seen [Jason]’s vector work before, too — like this impressive color Asteroids hack.

Apple Just Killed The VESA Mount And We Couldn’t Be Happier

After the immense failure of the 2013-era Apple Pro trash can Mac, Apple has been hard at work at the next generation of workstation desktops. This week, the new Mac Pro has been announced, and the specs are amazing: We finally can buy a professional, desktop Mac with half the storage of an iPhone. The big story isn’t the next generation of cheese-grater Macs, though: the new display, the Pro Display XDR, has killed the venerable VESA mount and we couldn’t be happier.

The VESA mount, or more correctly, the VESA Mounting Interface Standard, was created in 1997 as a mounting standard for flat panel monitors and televisions. Look on the back of your monitor, and you’ll probably find a pattern of M4 threaded inserts laid out on a 75mm or 100mm square. Larger sizes, with respectively larger thread sizes, are used for gigantic wall-mounted televisions. For the last two decades, this has been the standard for mounting monitors to stands. Now this standard faces a challenger thanks to the brave designers at Apple. Continue reading “Apple Just Killed The VESA Mount And We Couldn’t Be Happier”

Macintosh API Comes To Linux, Android

Unlike DOS, early versions of Windows, and most *nixes, the classic Mac operating system is weird. Contained in the ROM are subroutines to draw windows, pop up dialog boxes, and other various tasks purely related to the UI. On other systems, this would be separate from the BIOS, but in your Mac from the 80s, everything is baked into the ROM and hidden deep in the operating system. This has caused many problems for emulation; you can’t emulate an old Mac without a ROM or without a real installation of the operating system. Where BeOS — a cool but entirely forgettable operating system — has an Open Source reimplementation of the programming API, there’s nothing like that for a computer that at one point had a ten percent market share. This is weird, and we’ve all been waiting for someone to come up with an Open Source reimplementation of the Macintosh Toolbox, the API that’s responsible for everything from LoadRunner to Shufflepuck.

Now that day has finally come. The Advanced Mac Substitute is an API-level reimplementation of the classic Mac OS. You can now run classic Mac apps on Linux and Android without using an Apple ROM or Apple system software.

The Advanced Mac Substitute (AMS) is a project from [Josh Juran] to run old (pre-OS 7) Mac software without an Apple ROM. For the last twenty years, Macintosh emulators have required Apple ROMs and/or installation media because the API calls will redirect to the ROM. Unlike other emulation projects, the AMS does not attempt to emulate the hardware, except for the 68k processor. It simply launches directly into an application with the frontend being a generic bitmap terminal. This means there is no OS to speak of, but that also means we finally get flatpak for the classic Mac OS.

AMS is still in the very early phases of development; keyboards don’t work on some systems, and it doesn’t work on the latest versions of MacOS at all. Additionally, there’s no support for System 7 applications. That said, this is an excellent advance in the state of Macintosh emulation. If you’d like an example of how cool this could be, go play some Oregon Trail and tell me how awesome playing Shufflepuck or Glider on a webpage would be.