On Monday I did a hack of a NES that I will be posting an article about soon, but I'm already hungry for my next project. I've caught the hacking bug, I tell ya — since I finished my last project I've been compulsively and obsessively looking at every object in my house in a new way, asking myself "How can I chop that device into pieces and turn it into something more interesting?" Lurking in the bottom of a closet I found an ideal candidate for a hack: an old Apple PowerBook 190 (Apple's last 680×0 machine, circa 1995) that I bought at a local hamfest for $10 a few years ago. It works fine except for a broken screen hinge. Since it's "broken" I thought it would be a good choice to play with.
A lot of people are making their own digital picture frames out of old laptops these days (mounting a laptop screen in a picture frame with the computer behind it to hang on the wall and display a random picture slide show), but my 190 only has a 4-bit greyscale passive matrix display, so pictures won't look too impressive on it. It would be cool to make a semi-permanent, wall-mountable installation out of it, but what would it display? Well, if I could get a reliable network connection to it, it could be a window on all kinds of things on the net, displaying activity from my MUSH, weather info, VC&G traffic statistics, news, or any number of things, as long as there is an application that runs in Mac OS System 7.5.2 to display it. My fiance suggested a permanent digital ant farm, which is a great idea, but I still haven't found a program or screen saver for the classic Mac OS that simulates one in an aesthetically pleasing way. A friend of mine suggested that I put some form of Linux on it and then I could do all sorts of network-related things that are not as easily achieved in Mac OS 7. But putting Linux on a Mac this old and getting it to work — especially with some ethernet adapter — is a challenging project unto itself. So I've been tinkering and I've got some new ideas, but I'll wait until I'm done to share them with you (I'll give you a hint — well, kinda — just look at the picture above). Until then, I ask you: what should I hack my PowerBook 190 into? Ideas? Suggestions? Leave me a comment and we'll talk!