Vintage computers are true collectors’ items, so we don’t condone hacking them apart. But sometimes the original electronics are beyond repair or missing altogether. In such a case, we support modification to bring new life to these retro beauties. Such was the case for Dave Luna, who added a huge ePaper display to a Macintosh Classic II shell.
The Classic II was the last Macintosh (and Apple computer in general) to release with a black-and-white screen. So this 16-color grayscale ePaper display looks right at home in place of the original cathode-ray tube. The screen comes from Waveshare and is a large 9.7” model with a resolution of 1200×825, making it just a tad wider than a traditional 4:3 aspect ratio monitor. Waveshare provides a HAT for Raspberry Pi computers to make video output easy and that’s what Luna chose to use for this project.
With all of the original electronic components missing, there was tons of space available inside of the Classic II shell for a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B single-board computer, the Waveshare HAT, and even a pair of powered Acer USB speakers. An Arduino Micro board acts as an adapter between the Raspberry Pi’s USB port and the original keyboard and mouse. Those originally connected to the Apple Desktop Bus, but a TMK Arduino library handles the translation so they can connect to any modern computer as USB HID peripherals.
Luna’s primary purpose for this converted Classic II is displaying family photos. He wrote a custom Python script with a GUI that mimics the Macintosh desktop and shows each photo in a window. But Luna chose a unique method to get the photos to the computer. Those photos reside in a family Google Photos album and Luna didn’t want to mess around with the Google Photos API. Instead, he connected a Chromecast to the Raspberry Pi’s camera port through a special Waveshare adapter. An HDMI splitter strips the standard copy protection from the video signal and the Python script captures stills from the feed as the Chromecast runs in ambient mode.
That’s a pretty convoluted way to display a photo album, but it works. The Classic II can also act as a simple digital clock if Luna gets tired of looking at photos of his family.
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