IMac G4 Reborn With Intel NUC Transplant

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.

Somewhere, an early 2000s Apple engineer is screaming.

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.

If you like the idea of reviving old Apple hardware but don’t want to anger the goose, you could start on something a little easier. Like putting an iPad inside of a Macintosh Classic shell.

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.

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Just In Time For Christmas: Apple Macintosh Prototype For Sale

We do love a bit of retrotechnology around our workspace. But we have to admit, we really want to find this prototype Apple Mac under the tree this year. There’s only one problem. There’s only one for sale and only two like it known to exist, for that matter. The auction house thinks it will fetch up to $180,000. We will guess that number is low, but we will find out on December 4th.

The 1983 computer has a pre-production plastic housing and a 5.25 inch “twiggy” drive. Apple provided this machine, apparently, to Encore Systems so they could develop MacWrite ahead of the machine’s release date.

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Cheese Grater Now Grates Cheese

If you’ve been using Apple products since before they were cool, you might remember the Power Mac G5. This was a time before Apple was using Intel processors, so compatibility issues were high and Apple’s number of users was pretty low. They were still popular in some areas but didn’t have the wide appeal they have now. The high quality of the drilled aluminum design lived on into the Intel era and gained more popularity, but the case was still colloquially known as the “Cheese Grater”. Despite not originally being able to grate cheese though, this Power Mac actually does grate cheese.

Ungrated cheese is placed in the CD drive slot where it passes through a series of 3D printed gears which grate the cheese into small chunks. The cheese grating drive is automatically started when it detects cheese via a Raspberry Pi. The Pi 4 also functions as a working desktop computer within the old G5 case, complete with custom-built I/O ports for HDMI that integrate with the case to make it look like original hardware.

Funnily enough, the Pi 4 has more computing power and memory than Apple’s flagship Mac at the time, and consumes about 100 times less power. It’s a functional build that elaborates on an in-joke in the hardware community, which we can all appreciate. Perhaps the next build should be something that uses the blue smoke for a productive purpose. Meanwhile, regular readers will remember that this isn’t the first Apple related cheese grating episode we’ve shown you.

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Hackaday Links: June 30, 2019

In our continuing series of, ‘point and laugh at this guy’, I present a Kickstarter for the, “World’s First Patented Unhackable Computer Ever”.  It’s also a real web site and there’s even a patent (US 10,061,923, not showing up on Google Patents for some reason), and a real product: you can get an unhackable laptop, and you can get it in either space gray or gold finish. This gets fun when you actually dig into the patent; it appears this guy invented protected memory, with one section of memory dedicated to the OS, and another dedicated to the browser. This is a valid, live patent, by the way.

The 2019 New York Maker Faire is off. Yeah, it says it’s still going to happen on the website, but trust me, it’s off, and you can call the New York Hall of Science to confirm that for yourself. Maker Media died recently, and there will be no more ‘Flagship’ Maker Faires. That doesn’t mean the ‘mini’ and ‘featured’ Maker Faires are dead, though: the ‘Maker Faire’ trademark is simply licensed out to those organizers. In the next few weeks, there is going to be a (mini) Maker Faire in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Gilroy, California, Edmonton, Alberta, Kingsport Tennessee, and a big ‘ol one in Detroit. This raises an interesting question: where is the money for the licensing going? I’m sure some Mini Maker Faire organizers are reading this; have your checks been cashed? What is the communication with Maker Media like?

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. It’s valuable words of wisdom like that and can apply to many things. Commenting on blog posts, for example. Yes, you can throw sticks at a wasp’s nest, that doesn’t mean you should. Yes, you can 3D print Heely adapters for your shoes, but it doesn’t mean you should. It does look dope, though and you’re automatically a thousand times cooler than everyone else.

The C64 Mini is a pocket-sized Linux device with an HDMI port meant to play C64 games.   There were high hopes when the C64 Mini was announced, but it turned out the keyboard isn’t actually a mini keyboard. Now someone had the good sense to combine one of these ‘smartphone chips running an emulator in a retro case’ products with a full-sized keyboard. The C64 will be around by Christmas, and yeah, it has a full working keyboard.

Hackaday Links: May 26, 2019

Thinkpads are great, especially the old ones. You find a T420, and you can have a battery hanging off the back, a battery in the optical drive bay, and for some old Thinkpads, there’s a gigantic ‘slice’ battery that doubles the thickness of your laptop. Here’s the most batteries in a Thinkpad ever, with the requisite reddit post. It’s 27 cells, with an all-up capacity of 212 Watt-hours. There are two interesting takeaways from the discussion here. First, this may, technically, be allowed on a commercial flight. The FAA limit is 100 Watt-hours per battery, and the Ultrabay is a second battery. You’re allowed two additional, removable batteries on a carry on, and this is removable and reconfigurable into some form that the TSA should allow it on a plane. Of course no TSA agent is going to allow this on a plane so that really doesn’t matter. Secondly, the creator of this Frankenpad had an argument if Hatsune Miku is anime or not. Because, yeah, of course the guy with a Thinkpad covered in Monster energy drink stickers and two dozen batteries glued on is going to have an opinion of Miku being anime or not. That’s just the way the world works.

Prices for vintage computers are now absurd. The best example I can call upon is expansion cards for the Macintosh SE/30, and for this computer you have a few choice cards that have historically commanded a few hundred dollars on eBay. The Micron XCEED Color 30 Video Card, particularly, is a special bit of computer paraphernalia that allows for grayscale on the internal monitor. One of these just sold for two grand. That’s not all, either: a CPU accelerator just sold for $1200. These prices are double what they were just a few years ago. We’re getting to the point where a project to reverse engineer and produce clones of these special cards may make financial sense.

The biggest news in consumer electronics this week is the Playdate. It’s a pocket game console that has a crank. Does the crank do anything? No, except that it has a rotary encoder, so this can nominally be used for games. It will cost $150, and there are zero details on the hardware other than the industrial design was done by Teenage Engineering. There’s WiFi, and games will be delivered wireless on a weekly basis. A hundred thousand people are on the wait list to buy this.

If you want a pick and place in your garage workshop, there aren’t many options. There’s a Neoden for about ten grand, but nothing cheaper or smaller. The Boarditto is a two thousand dollar pick and place machine that fits comfortably on your desk. It has automatic tape feeders, a vision system, and for the most part it looks like what you’d expect a small, desktop pick and place machine to be. That’s all the information for now, with the pre-order units shipping in December 2019.

Unobtanium Bezels Finally Modeled For 3D Printing

In 1991, Apple released the Quadra line of computers, named after their utilization of the new Motorola 68040 CPU. The Quadra line initially consisted of two models, the Quadra 700 and the Quadra 900. These two models, and the Quadra 950, released as a slight upgrade to the 900, were the peak of performance. You could conceivably load these machines up with 256 Megabytes of RAM, in an era where hard drives hovered around 80 Megabytes. This much RAM would cost as much as a house. These were powerhouses, the first ProTools workstations, and they ran Jurassic Park. If you wanted peak performance in the early 90s, you got a Quadra.

The Quadra 900 and 950 were tower computers, and there were options for floppy, Zip drives, Bernoulli drives, and a CD-ROM drive. They were introduced a little before the ‘multimedia’ hubub, and right now, the plastic bezel for the CD-ROM option is an absurdly expensive piece of plastic. People have paid $150 for an original CD-ROM bezel. Seems like the perfect application of 3D printing, doesn’t it? That’s exactly what [360alaska] over on the 68k Macintosh Liberation Army forms did. The unobtanium bezel can now be sent off to Shapeways.

This project is a continuation of a thread where various forum members shared their .STLs for random bits of Apple plastic, ranging from rubber feet for PowerBooks to the clip-on ‘programmer’s switch’ for the Macintosh SE. The crowning achievement of this community endeavour is the Quadra 950 CD-ROM bezel. There are a few varieties, ranging from one that fits a standard 5 1/4″ drive, to a nearly exact replica of the official Apple offering for their official drive. All the files are there for the downloadin’.

Printing these bezels will be a bit of a challenge for a filament-based printer, but resin printers are getting cheap and Shapeways is always there for you. Painting to match the brominated patina of old plastic is also a challenge, but the forum members have had some success with off-the-shelf spray paints.