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.
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The Pippin was Apple’s first and last foray into gaming consoles. At its heart, the Pippin was a strange ‘multimedia device’ with a CD-ROM, the potential for Internet access, a few neat controllers, and the guts of a very bare-bones PowerPC Macintosh. Think of a cross between a 3DO and WebTV, and you’ll get an idea of what Apple was trying to build here.
The Pippin is rare, and that means the related accessories, ranging from magneto-optical drives to floppy drives, are incredibly hard to come by. Now, one of those peripherals isn’t rare anymore; [Pierre] has cloned the (passive) PCB that allows a Macintosh floppy drive to plug directly into the Pippin.
The expansion capabilities for the Pippin are locked away inside a PCI connector strategically located on the bottom of this set-top box. The official floppy drive accessory injection molded case, a standard Mac floppy drive, and a PCB. After finding one of these rare floppy drive accessories, [Pierre] simply took a meter to all the pins, traced out the circuit, and created a PCB with a PCI connector on one end, and 20-pin connector on the other. The PCB is shared on OSH Park if you want to check this out.
Although recreating this hardware was relatively easy, testing it was not. The first test used the Floppy Emu, a neat device that allows old Macs to read disk images off an SD card. This worked beautifully, but testing it out with a real floppy drive did not. Some disks simply didn’t work, although [Pierre] is chalking that one up to a problem with the USB floppy drive and a Mac running Sierra.