90s Apple Computer Finally Runs Unsigned Code

Back in the 90s, the console wars were in full swing. Nintendo vs Sega was an epic showdown at first, but when Nintendo seemed sure to clench the victory Sony came out of nowhere with the PlayStation. While these were the most popular consoles at the time, there were a few others around that are largely forgotten by history even if they were revolutionary in some ways. An example is the Pippin, a console made by Apple, which until now has been unable to run any software not signed by Apple.

The Pippin was Apple’s only foray into gaming consoles, but it did much more than that and included a primitive social networking system as well as the ability to run Apple’s Macintosh operating system. The idea was to be a full media center of sorts, and the software that it would run would be loaded from the CD-ROM at each boot. [Blitter] has finally cracked this computer, allowing it to run custom software, by creating an authentication file which is placed on the CD to tell the Pippin that it is “approved” by Apple.

The build log goes into incredible detail on the way these machines operated, and if you have a Pippin still sitting around it might be time to grab it out of the box and start customizing it in the way you probably always wanted to. For those interested in other obscure Apple products, take a look at this build which brings modern WiFi to the Apple Newton, their early PDA.

Continue reading “90s Apple Computer Finally Runs Unsigned Code”

A Macintosh-inspired desk ornament, next to a sceenshot of a classic Macintosh computer desktop

‘Desk Accessory’ Pays Homage To Macintosh

The retrocomputing community are experts at keeping vintage Apple iron running, but if you’re looking for a simpler way to pay homage to the original Mac, check out this Raspberry Pi powered ‘desk accessory’ by [John Calhoun], fittingly called ‘SystemSix’.

Housed inside a delightfully Mac-shaped piece of laser-cut acrylic, SystemSix is powered by as Raspberry Pi 3, with the graphics displayed on a sizeable 5.83″ e-ink panel. While it resembles a kind of retro-futuristic take on the ‘classic’ Macintosh, SystemSix is the illusion of a fully interactive computer. While non-interactive, the fake desktop is every bit as charming as a real Macintosh display, albeit scaled down. The desktop updates automatically with new information, and presently includes a calendar, dithered lunar phase graphic, and a local weather report.

Clearly calling it a ‘desk accessory’ is a neat play on words. The original Macintosh implemented simple desk accessory programs, such as the calculator and alarm clock, that could run alongside the main application in memory. This was the only way to run more than one application on the Macintosh, before MultiFinder added rudimentary cooperative multitasking in 1987. As such, SystemSix is a functional, stylish and quite literal ‘desk accessory’.

[John] has the full project write-up over on GitHub, and goes into great detail about maintaining the Macintosh aesthetic. For example, the lunar phase graphic uses ‘Atkinson’ dithering. This technique was pioneered by Apple programmer Bill Atkinson, the author of MacPaint and the QuickDraw toolbox on the original Macintosh (and later, Hypercard).

And in case you were wondering – yes, this is the [John Calhoun], who programmed Glider for Macintosh. Now recently retired from Apple, we’re really excited to see what other Macintosh-inspired creations he comes up with. Maybe he will come back around to his Mac-powered MAME cabinets that we covered all the way back in 2005. Or perhaps a sleeper battlestation, like the iMac G4 lampshade that was upgraded with an M1 processor.

 

 

A Macintosh Plus computer next to a modern laptop

Remote Desktop Fun For Your Old Macintosh

Remotely accessing your computer’s desktop, files and network from anywhere has enabled remote working (i.e. ‘work from home’) for the last several decades. Modern PCs have more than enough computational grunt for Virtual Network Computing (VNC), but where does that leave our retro computing community? [Marcio Teixeira] has it covered with MiniVNC, a brand-new remote desktop server for (very) vintage Macintosh computers.

Now before you say anything, it’s true that ChromiVNC has existed for some time, and is a pretty decent remote desktop server for old Macs. However MiniVNC has several significant advantages, most notably, MiniVNC is fully compatible with MacTCP. Apple’s very first TCP/IP networking stack landed on the Macintosh platform with System 6. As such, MiniVNC can serve up a remote desktop on some of the oldest Mac computers, including the Macintosh Plus.

It’s hard to overstate just how cool that is – the iconic Macintosh Plus was released in 1986, runs at a pedestrian 8MHz and supports a maximum of 4MB memory. While much of MiniVNC was written in C++, portions of the software (including TRLE encoding) had to be handwritten in 68K assembly language to ensure decent performance. The entire focus of MiniVNC was on performance and flexibility, with accuracy coming in second, which seems like the right decision. The odd screen artifact and missed update seems to be reasonable trade-off to get this running somewhat smoothly on a Motorola 68000 processor.

Continue reading “Remote Desktop Fun For Your Old Macintosh”

Bringing IMessage To The Mac

If you’ve invested in the Apple ecosystem, the joys of iMessage likely illuminate your life. Your phone and desktop and laptop all sync your messages. But what if your desktop is running Mac OS 9 or System 2? This is where [CamHenlin’s] MessagesForMacintosh comes in.

Unfortunately, it does require a more modern Mac to act as an access point into the wider iMessage network. The modern Mac sets up a GraphQL database that can be accessed. Then a serial cable connects your “retro daily driver” to a translation layer that converts the serial commands into GraphQL commands. This could be something simple and network-connected like an ESP32 or a program running on your iMessage Mac. [CamHenlin] has a second Mac mini in his demo, seen above.

[CamHenlin] leverages his library known as CoprocessorJS. It allows older machines to hand off complex workloads to more modern machines, allowing modern machines to act as a coprocessor. Getting a single binary to run across many different versions of Mac OS and System is tricky and there were a few tricks involved. Retro68 is a C++17 compiler that targets PowerPC and 68k architectures. Additionally, Nuklear Quickdraw is used to provide a GUI in a performant manner.

It is always a joy to see older hardware do new tricks, often with the help of a bit of modern hardware. Connecting your Mac to the internet can be as easy as Pi.

Custom Macintosh With A Real 486

Older Apple computers can often be something of a collector’s item, with the oldest fetching an enormously high price in auctions. The ones from the late ’80s and early ’90s don’t sell for quite as much yet, but it’s possible that museums and collectors of the future will one day be clamoring for those as well. For that reason, it’s generally frowned upon to hack or modify original hardware. Luckily, this replica of an Apple Macintosh didn’t harm any original hardware yet still manages to run software on bare metal.

The computer is built around a single-board computer, but this SBC isn’t like the modern ARM machines that have become so ubiquitous. It’s a 133MHz AMD 486 which means that it can run FreeDOS and all of the classic DOS PC games of that era without emulation. In order to run Apple’s legacy operating system, however, it does require the use of the vMac emulator, but the 486 is quite capable of handling the extra layer of abstraction. The computer also sports a real SoundBlaster ISA sound card, uses a microSD card for its hard drive, and uses an 800×600 LCD screen.

As a replica, this computer is remarkably faithful to the original and even though it doesn’t ship with a Motorola 68000 it’s still fun to find retro PC gamers that are able to run their games on original hardware rather than emulation. It reminds us of another retro 486 that is capable of running old games on new hardware without an emulator as well.

A Single SSD’s Journey From System 7 To High Sierra

With some time to kill and an array of old Apple computers on hand, [Pierre Dandumont] wondered if he could continuously upgrade a single OS drive from the oldest system he had, System 7.1 on a Performa 630, to the latest version of MacOS on a MacBook Air. He recalled watching an old video which demonstrated a continuous upgrade from DOS to Windows 10 (we think this video from 2016 may be the one), which gave him the inspiration for this journey. [Pierre] documents his efforts on his blog (in French; English translated link is here).

Along the way, he installed 24 different operating systems

  • System 7.1.2, 7.5
  • Mac OS 7.6
  • Mac OS 8.0, 8.1, 8.5, 8.6
  • Mac OS 9.0, 9.1, 9.2
  • Mac OS X 10.0 – 10.11
  • macOS 10.12, 10.13

on seven Mac computers

  • Performa 630 (ca. 1994, Motorola 68040)
  • Power Mac G3 Beige (ca. 1997, Motorola PowerPC 730)
  • Power Mac G3 Blue (ca. 1999, Motorola PowerPC 730)
  • Power Mac G4 Digital Audio (ca. 2001, Motorola PowerPC 7400)
  • Mac mini G4 (ca. 2005, Motorola PowerPC 7447)
  • Mac mini 2009 (Intel Core 2 Duo Penryn)
  • MacBook Air 2012 (Intel Core i5/i7)

across three of the four processor families spanned by the Macintosh line of computers since their introduction in 1984. You can see in the lead photo the success, where the Mac OS 8 search tool Sherlock is shown in the dock of a MacBook Air running High Sierra.

Continue reading “A Single SSD’s Journey From System 7 To High Sierra”

Upgrading The PowerBook 100 With A Fresh New Battery

The PowerBook 100 was one of the earliest Apple laptops released, coming not long after the breakout Macintosh Portable. Unlike modern hardware, it relied on sealed lead acid batteries. [360alaska] has such a laptop whose original battery is long dead, so they set about building a replacement battery with lithium cells instead.

The battery and its associated support circuitry is a mite unconventional in its design, but it gets the job done. The build uses two lithium polymer pouch cells in place of the original four cell sealed-lead acid battery, to replicate the roughly 7.2V nominal voltage. Because of this, unfortunately the stock PowerBook charger can’t provide enough voltage to fully charge the LiPo cells up to their full 8.4 volts.

The workaround selected is that when the batteries fall below 80% state of charge, relays disconnect the cells from their series configuration powering the laptop, and instead connect each cell to its own single-cell charger board. Once charging is complete, the relays switch back out of charging mode so the batteries power the laptop once more. The only major drawback is that withdrawing the power adapter while the batteries are on charge will cut all power to the laptop.

It may not be perfect, but [360alaska] has succeeded in building a drop-in battery solution for the PowerBook 100 that can be used with the stock charger. Laptop batteries can be a fraught thing to deal with; often there are safeguards or DRM-type issues to navigate to get them to work around. Sometimes open-source designs are the best solution out there.