A Faux BBS Gets Software On To Your Vintage Machines

Back in the golden age of modems and phone lines, bulletin board systems, or BBSes, were a great way to find new software from the comfort of your own home. Most have shut down over the past few decades, as the Internet took over as a more flexible method of cat picture software distribution. [equant] was a fan of browsing for warez through a text interface however, so recreated the experience in a way that’s useful today. The result is RetroBridgeBBS.

The software runs on a modern PC, ideally a Linux one that runs Python 3 and has a serial port. Then, you can hook up your old retro computers via serial using a null modem cable. Fire up appropriate terminal software on the retro computer and you’re rewarded with a BBS-like interface. From here, you can search selected online repositories for software, and download what you like. The host PC parses requests from the retro PC over the serial link, and shuffles back the requested files downloaded from the Internet. Currently it’s set up primarily for Macintosh users, with some useful features to avoid downloading StuffIt archives of the wrong version – a perennial frustration in the 90s. Future plans involve expanding the system to suit more platforms.

It’s technically anachronistic, but it feels like a period-correct way to get software onto a vintage computer. It’s also a great way to do so when you’re lacking appropriate floppy hardware, hard disk emulators, or network cards – all of which can be expensive and in short supply. There’s other ways to go about it, too, of course – you can do some nifty things with an ESP8266, don’t you know! Video after the break.
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30-Year-Old Macintosh SE/30 Gets A Brand New Logic Board

Some time ago, [Bolle] got the idea to redraw the Macintosh SE/30 schematics in Eagle. Progress was initially slow, but over the past month (and with some prodding and assistance from fellow forum frequenter [GeekDot]), he’s taken things a step further by creating a fully functional replacement Macintosh SE/30 logic board PCB.

By using the available schematics, the project didn’t even require much reverse engineering. Though he plans for more modernization in later iterations, this design is largely faithful to the original components and layout, ensuring that it is at least basically functional. He did update the real time clock battery to a CR2032 and, as a benefit of redrawing all the traces, he was able to use a 4-layer PCB in place of the costly 6-layer from Apple’s design.

The board came back from fabrication looking beautiful in blue; and, once he had it soldered up and plugged in, the old Mac booted on the very first try! A copy-paste mistake with the SCSI footprints led to some jumper wire bodging in order to get the hard drive working, but that problem has already been fixed in the next revision. And, otherwise, he’s seen no differences from the original after a few hours of runtime.

Recreating old Macintosh logic boards almost seems like its own hobby these days. With the design and fabrication capabilities now accessible to hobbyists, even projects that were once considered professional work are in reach. If you’re interested in making your own PCB designs, there are many resources available to help you get started. Alternatively, we have seen other ways to modernize your classic Macs.

[Thanks to techknight for the tip!]

Recreating The Mac SE Logic Board

When [Kai Robinson] found himself faced with the difficult task of saving as many Mac SE’s as he possibly could, the logical but daunting answer was to recreate the Mac SE logic board for machines that would otherwise be scrapped. These machines are over 30 years old and the PRAM battery often leaks, destroying parts and traces. Given that the logic board is a simple through-hole two four-layer board, how hard could it be?

The first step was to get some reference photos so [Kai] set to desoldering everything on the board. The list of components and the age of solder made this an arduous task. Then a composite image was produced by merging images together using a scanner and some Inkscape magic. in graphics software.

Rather than simply putting the pins in the right place and re-routing all the netlists, [Kai] elected instead to do a copy, trace for trace of the original SE board. [Kai] and several others on the forum have been testing the boards and tracking down the last few bugs and kinks in the design. An unconnected pin here and an improperly impedance matched resistor there. Hopefully, soon they’ll have Gerbers and design files ready for anyone should they need a new logic board PCB.

It’s no secret that we love the Macintosh SE here at Hackaday. We’ve seen new custom cases for it and now new PCBs for it. It does cause the mind to ponder though and wonder, what’s next?

Thanks [Toru173] for sending this one in!

Changing System Architectures And The Complexities Of Apple’s Butterfly Approach To ISAs

Apple computers will be moving away from Intel chips to its own ARM-based design. An interesting thing about Apple as a company is that it has never felt the need to tie itself to a particular system architecture or ISA. Whereas a company like Microsoft mostly tied its fortunes to Intel’s x86 architecture, and IBM, Sun, HP and other giants preferred vertical integration, Apple is currently moving towards its fifth system architecture for its computers since the company was formed.

What makes this latest change possibly unique, however, is that instead of Apple relying on an external supplier for CPUs and peripheral ICs, they are now targeting a vertical integration approach. Although the ARM ISA is licensed to Apple by Arm Holdings, the ‘Apple Silicon’ design that is used in Apple’s ARM processors is their own, produced by Apple’s own engineers and produced by foundries at the behest of Apple.

In this article I would like to take a look back at Apple’s architectural decisions over the decades and how they made Apple’s move towards vertical integration practically a certainty.

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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.

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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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.