Tag Archives: Macintosh Executive

Introducing the Macintosh Executive

While I’m waiting for Jessie to finish the motor/nichrome/thermistor controller for the filament extruder we’re working on, I’ve decided to start another project. To get the back story for this, I’m going to have to go off on a little bit of a tangent.

Deep in the recesses of Apple Computer, around 1990 or so, the suits were going crazy. The Macintosh Portable, the company’s first foray into the world of portable computing, was an unmitigated failure. This 16-pound luggable, while beloved by tech commentators of the time, was failing miserably in the market. Apparently, people didn’t want a portable mac that weighed as much as a desktop mac.

The engineers were tasked to miniaturize the Mac Portable, a project that would result in the PowerBook line of notebook computers. The PowerBook 140 and 170 were the first models, followed shortly thereafter by the Sony-designed PowerBook 100. These PowerBooks set a design standard still followed today; moving the keyboard towards the screen gave the user an awesome place to rest their wrists, and the trackball centered under the space bar came to be the de facto standard of pointer control for laptop computers for the next 20 years. Truly a masterwork of design and technology, these machines were.

In this slightly-altered-from-here-on-out history, a brilliant product designer from the Mac Desktop team decided to play off the work of the PowerBook team. The notebook department had a lot of cool toys – LCD screens, incredibly small logic boards, and low enough power requirements to make some very interesting design choices. This product designer decided to make an extraordinarily high-end Macintosh desktop, something that would grace the desks of stock traders, high-priced lawyers, and corporate executives. The Macintosh Executive was born.

The design borrowed heavily from the developments brought to bear by the PowerBook design team. A miniaturized logic board would be used along with an active-matrix TFT screen. Basically, it’s a desktop version of the PowerBook 100-series laptops.

When you think that a current iMac is basically just a bunch of laptop components and an integrated LCD screen, this doesn’t seem like such a ludicrous possibility. The technology was there, the high price of these components would guarantee a high-end market, and the amazing possibilities for industrial design would be written about for ages.

I’m building this alternate reality Macintosh.

Really, it’s an exercise in woodworking and fabrication. Something to keep myself occupied while I’m waiting for a few other projects to catch up to each other. I already have a PowerBook 170, so why not? It’s just a casemod after all.

I’ve put my initial design up on Thingiverse and I’ll be sending that file off to Ponoko this week (did I mention how much I’d like a laser cutter?). I need to do a little soldering and move the ports on the PowerBook to a breakout board of sorts, but there’s really not much in the way of anything necessarily hard about this build.

If you’re wondering, it’ll have Ethernet so we’re looking at a twitter machine here.

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