There’s a sleek form factor for desktop computers known as an “all-in-one” that enrobes a computer in a monitor. While the convenience of having all your computing in a neat package has some nice benefits, it comes with an unfortunate downside. Someday the computer inside is going to be old and outdated in comparison to newer machines. While a new OS goes a long way towards breathing life into an old machine, [Thomas] has decided to take the path less travelled and converted an old iMac all-in-one into a discrete monitor.
The iMac in question is the 20″ iMac G5 iSight (A1145) with an LG-Philips LM201W01-STB2 LCD panel. Looking back, [Thomas] would recommend just ordering an LCD driver controller kit from your favourite auction house. But for this particular modification, he decided to do things a little bit more manually and we’re quite glad he did.
Luckily for [Thomas], the panel supports TMDS (which both DVI and HDMI are compatible with). So the next step was to figure out the signalling wires and proper voltages. After some trouble caused by a mislabeled power line on the iMac PCB silk-screen (12v instead of 3.3v), he had all the wires identified and a plan starting to form. The first step was a circuit to trick the inverter into turning on with the help of a relay. The female HDMI plug with a breakout board was added and sticks out through the old firewire port. The minuscule wires in the display ribbon cable to the monitor were separated and soldered onto with the help of [Thomas’] daughter’s microscope. Resistances were checked as HDMI relies on impedance matched pairs. To finish it off, an old tactile toggle switch offers a way to turn the monitor on and off with a solid thunk.
We love seeing old hardware being repurposed for new things. This project nicely complements the iMac G4 Reborn With Intel NUC Transplant we saw earlier this year, as they both try to preserve the form factor while allowing a new computer to drive the display.
Apple’s computers have been well regarded over the years for their sharp design features. Of course, something that’s great can only be cuter and cooler if it’s made even smaller. In just that vein, [Gary Olson] whipped up a 54% scale iMac G4.
The iMac G4 was the futuristic-looking flatscreen model, and the direct successor to the original CRT-based iMac. Unlike other projects that run Raspberry Pis or simply fit iPads inside, [Gary] elected to go for a Hackintosh-based build. The system runs Mac OS X on a Intel NUC kitted out with a Core i3 CPU. While it’s not a genuine PowerPC, using OS X fits the proper G4 aesthetic. The build relies on 3D printed components, with the scale size largely chosen to suit the size of [Gary’s] printer and the Intel NUC motherboard. [Gary] goes into detail explaining what was required to get the paint finish right and how to make the hinges stiff but movable.
We know that some in the audience will take issue with calling a Raspberry Pi in a 3D-printed case the “World’s Smallest iMac”, but you’ve got to admit, [Michael Pick] has certainly done a good job recreating the sleek look of the real hardware. While there might not be any Cupertino wizardry under all that PLA, it does have a properly themed user interface and the general aversion to external ports and wires that you’d expect to see on an Apple desktop machine.
The clean lines of this build are made possible in large part by the LCD itself. Designed specifically for the Raspberry Pi, it offers mounting stand-offs on the rear, integrated speakers, a dedicated 5 V power connection, and a FFC in place of the traditional HDMI cable. All that allows the Pi to sit neatly on the back of the panel without the normal assortment of awkward cables and adapters going in every direction. Even if you’re not in the market for a miniature Macintosh, you may want to keep this display in mind for your future Pi hacking needs.
Despite this clean installation, the diminutive Raspberry Pi was still a bit too thick to fit inside the 3D-printed shell [Michael] designed. So he slimmed it down in a somewhat unconventional, but admittedly expedient, way. With a rotary tool and a steady hand, he simply cut the double stacked USB ports in half. With no need for Ethernet in this build, he bisected the RJ-45 connector as well. We expect some groans in the comments about this one, but it’s hard to argue that this isn’t a hack in both the literal and figurative sense.
We really appreciate the small details on this build, from the relocated USB connectors to the vent holes that double as access to the LCDs controls. [Michael] went all out, even going so far as to print a little insert for the iconic Macintosh logo on the front of the machine. Though given the impressive work he put into his miniature “gaming PC” a couple months back, it should come as no surprise; clearly this is a man who takes his tiny computers very seriously.
Released in 2002, Apple’s iMac G4 was certainly a unique machine. Even today, its hemispherical case and integrated “gooseneck” display is unlike anything else on the market. Whether or not that’s a good thing is rather subjective of course, but there’s no denying it’s still an attention grabber nearly 20 years after its release. Unfortunately, it’s got less processing power than a modern burner phone.
Which is why [Tom Hightower] figured it was the perfect candidate for a retrofit. Rather than being little more than a display piece, this Intel NUC powered iMac is now able to run the latest version of Mac OS. He even went as far as replacing the display with a higher resolution panel, though it sounds like it was dead to begin with so he didn’t have much choice in the matter.
The retrofit starts off with a brief teardown, which is quite interesting in itself. [Tom] notes a number of unique design elements, chief among them the circular motherboard. The two banks of memory also use different form factors, and only one of them is easily accessible to the end user. Something to think about the next time somebody tells you that Apple’s “brave” hardware choices are only a modern phenomena.
There was plenty of room inside the iMac’s dome to fit the NUC motherboard, and some extension cables and hot glue got the computer’s rear panel suitably updated with the latest-and-greatest ports and connectors. But the conversion wasn’t a total cakewalk. That iconic “gooseneck” put up quite a fight when it was time to run the new wires up to the display. Between the proprietary screws that had to be coerced out with a Dremel to the massive spring that was determined to escape captivity, [Tom] recommends anyone else looking to perform a similar modification just leave the wires on the outside of the thing. That’s what he ended up doing with the power wires for the display inverter.
There’s not much economic sense in fixing a decade-old desktop computer, especially when it’s the fancy type with the screen integrated into the body of the computer, and the screen is the thing that’s broken. Luckily for [JnsBn] aka [BEAN] the computer in question was still functional with a second monitor, so he decided to implement a cheap repair to get the screen working again by making it see-through.
The only part of the screen that was broken was the backlight, which is separate from the display unit itself. In order to view at least something on the screen without an expensive replacement part, he decided to remove the backlight altogether but leave the display unit installed. With a strip of LEDs around the edge, the screen was visible again in addition to the inner depths of the computer. After a coat of white Plasti Dip on the inside of the computer, it made for an interesting effect and made the computer’s display useful again.
[atomicthomas] is a dedicated teacher. One only has to look at the work he’s been putting into book readers for for the past sixteen years. With hardware like the Pi Zero threatening cheap computers just over the supply chain horizon, he’s begun to set his sights higher.
It all started with headphones and audio tapes. For all of us who got to use tapes and school headphones, we know the flaws with this plan. Nothing lasted the sticky and violent hands of children for long. When video recordings of book became available, DVD players suffered similar fates.
So, he began to rip his tapes and DVDs to his computer. However, the mouse has a warning about small parts on it for a reason, and didn’t last long either. So, he built a computer with arcade buttons and a Raspberry Pi. This one ran a heavily simplified version of a media manager and worked well. Even the special needs children had no problem navigating. A second exploration with an iMac and a Nintendo controller worked even better. Apparently all five year olds instinctively understand how to use a Nintendo controller.
Using the user test data, in his most recent iteration he’s working on a sub-twenty-dollar reading computer in a Nintendo controller. It’s not the most technically in depth hack we’ve ever covered, but it certainly ranks up there for harsh environments.
While sorely lacking in pictures of the innards of this digital canvas, we were extremely impressed with the work that went into making such a convincing object. [Clay Bavor] wanted a digital picture frame, but couldn’t find one on the market that did what he wanted. They all had similar problems, the LCDs were the lowest quality, they were in cheap bezels, they had weird features, they had no viewing angle, and they either glowed like the sun or were invisible in dark environments.
[Clay] started with the LCD quality, he looked at LCD specs for the absolute best display, and then, presumably, realized he lived in a world where money is no object and bought a 27″ iMac. The iMac has a very high pixel density, no viewing angle, and Apple goes through the trouble of color balancing every display. Next he got a real frame for the iMac, cut a hole in the wall to accommodate it, and also had a mat installed to crop the display to a more convincing aspect ratio for art. One of the most interesting part of the build is the addition of a Phidgets light sensor. Using this, he has some software running that constantly adjusts the Mac to run at a brightness that’s nearly imperceptible in the room’s lighting.
Once he had it built he started to play around with the software he wrote for the frame. Since he wanted the frame to look like a real art print he couldn’t have the image change while people were looking, so he used the camera on the Mac and face detection to make sure the image only changed when no one was looking for a few minutes. He also has a mode that trolls the user by changing the image as soon as they look away.
We admit that a hackier version of this would be tearing the panel out of a broken iMac and using a lighter weight computer to run all the display stuff. [Clay] reached the same conclusion and plans to do something similar for his version 2.0.