Looking at your desktop through a 9-inch monochrome screen may seem a little… quaint… in these days of 4K monitors(opens in new tab) and SSDs(opens in new tab) that seem to be capable of warp speed. This is true even though Steve Jobs supported the technology. In order to create a device that combines modern and historical technology, maker and all-around retro computer enthusiast Dave Luna(opens in new tab) took the exterior of the iconic Macintosh Classic II (the diminutive beige all-in-one from 1991, also marketed as the Performa 200) and replaced the interior with a Raspberry Pi.
But Luna found an elegant way to display the photographs without having to struggle with the Google Photos API. He used an HDMI splitter to connect a Google Chromecast to an HDMI capture card while removing HDCP from the feed. This card then appears as a camera when plugged into the CSI interface on the Raspberry Pi with an adapter. By using some Python code to resize, convert, and add a frame that resembles a System 7 window, it is possible to set the Chromecast to an ambient mode that displays photographs that are piped to the Pi and then displayed on the e-ink screen. It is very clever.
A Raspberry Pi 3(opens in new tab) serves as the device’s brains, while a 16-color grayscale e-ink screen from Waveshare replaces the original 512 x 342 pixel display. It is referred to as the Paper Mac and was dubbed a “abomination” by its maker. It uses specialised software to display a System-7-like environment (the cleverly named Psuedo7) on which it displays highlights from its owner’s Google Photos stream, as opposed to actually booting into Apple’s System 7 on the Pi, which would be news in and of itself without an emulator(opens in new tab).
“I really did not feel like dealing with Google Photos API authentication, querying, and caching. There wasn’t anything new or fun to that process for me,” writes Luna on his site. “Instead… the Chromecast would do all of the heavy lifting for photo management, and I’d learn more about the camera port which I’d never used before.”
Other efforts by Luna include creating a docking station out of a Commodore Pet and converting a Commodore 64 into a USB keyboard.
The Paper Mac generates authentic Macintosh sounds using a set of USB-powered speakers within the casing and a classic audio pack from Steven Jay Cohen while using old Apple accessories via an Arduino that translates the Apple Desktop Bus (ADB) to USB. The genuine Apple Adjustable Keyboard may be put into clock mode by pressing the C key, while other buttons can shut down the computer or take screenshots.
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