Monday, January 12, 2015

New (Old) PowerBook Teardown & Resurrection

So as noted in an earlier blog post, I recently purchased both a PowerBook 1400CS and a PowerBook 190CS.  I plan on using the PowerBook 1400CS extensively in as many creative and useful ways as possible at both home and at my network administrator position.  Unfortunately, neither PB came with a power adapter, so for the first couple of weeks, I could not even determine whether they worked or not.  One thing I did not want to do was jump the gun and purchase some no good, rotten, dangerous, self-detonating piece of junk replacement adapter, but instead took my time to find a genuine Apple replacement for each.  Luckily, I scored on the 1400CS first although I'm not sure it's the official adapter originally shipped with a brand new unit.  It is a 45W adapter with a model number of M4402. In either case, it's compatible, works, as well a genuine Apple product/replacement.

Forgive my terrible photography skills.  My wife is a professional photographer and would be ashamed of these, but rightfully so!

Before powering on the near 7 pound beast (6.7 lbs according to, I decided to tear the PB apart first just to take a quick look at its innards and see what it had for specs as well as make sure that from a quick glance everything seemed clean and in good overall condition. Never having owned a 1400CS before, I knew very little on how to tear it down appropriately, but my gut said it would be much easier than what it takes in this day and age to take a part a newer MacBook Pro or an iDevice. Wanting to be careful but curious,I decided to search the web for walk-throughs, but promising results were scarce.  Luckily, iFixIt, had a few walk-throughs for various parts of the PowerBook, but nothing too difficult like the motherboard or trackpad.  Eventually, I came across a 1400CS repair manual available here. This guide has an immeasurable amount of useful information, although the hardware replacement guides are a bit difficult to understand, but I attribute that to my lack of ability to properly read and follow instructions very well.  Your results may vary. :)

I removed, the Nickel metal hydride (NiMh) battery (which of course is shot), floppy drive module, speaker grille, cover plate, and keyboard to discover the system came with an upgraded 216 MHz NewerTech NuPowr G3 CPU, two memory modules, a video-out card (HDI45 slot), and an original 750 MB Apple Iomega HD.  Safe to say, I was quite pleased with these findings, although worried I might have a model with only 12 MB of onboard RAM.  Not sure yet whether my particular model supports 64 MB of RAM or only 56 or 60 MB as again, I do not yet know how much onboard RAM it holds and I did not look closely enough at either of the two memory modules to determine their capacity. The fact that the drive is 750 MB, makes me believe it was originally a 1G 117 MHz 1400CS. Sadly, the current 56 MB is not enough recommend memory for running Classila, although there are workarounds.

Here is a picture of the partial teardown:

Now that the system was partially torn down, I thought it might not be a bad idea to wipe it as clean as I possibly could, including the external shell, keyboard keys, speaker grills, and adapter, etc.  I will admit that the thorough cleaning has helped restored a look of being close to brand new. From there, I completed reassembly, plugged it in and waited.  Instantly, I heard the well known Apple startup sound, although it sounded terrible (not too worried about this though).  And as expected, the hard drive made a terribly loud grinding sound, so I'm a little concerned about the remaining life it holds but the PowerBook eventually booted into Mac OS 8.1!  Success!

However, my joy would be short lived as I soon discovered that the trackpad did not work.  Not only that, but I did not have an ADB mouse on hand to still peruse the system and its goods.  After double checking to make sure the trackpad ribbon cable was firmly inserted into its slot on the motherboard, I decided it was probably shot and started the hunt for a replacement as well as an ADB mouse.  I didn't necessarily need the mouse, but I thought it might be handy in the future for the other older Macs I acquire, tinker with, and restore.  While I was out shopping for replacement parts, I thought I would go ahead and purchase a HDI45 to DB15 adapter (Part # 590-0831-A) which will also eventually require a DB15 to VGA adapter (likely with dip switches) in order for me to have the ability to plug the PowerBook into any VGA display, albeit it at a maximum low resolution of 800 x 600.

I must admit that replacing the trackpad was simple, but yet at the same time incredibly tedious and difficult.  There were two screws I did not see as they were covered by circular stickers of the same color as the PB itself.  As a result I ended up busting the old trackpad while trying to remove it. Those two screws can be found on the left and right rear of the device, right at the seams whether the bottom and top halves of the PB's base meet.  You'll want to carefully remove these two circular coverings and keep them safe for the replacement trackpad. Of course, remove those two screws as well. As for the old trackpad... oh well. It was shot anyways and I was still able to salvage the screws and use them to properly attach the new trackpad. Re-inserting the trackpad ribbon cable was incredibly frustrating as my large hands proved to be a nuisance.  Luckily, the replacement trackpad works perfectly, (as does the used Apple ADB mouse).

It doesn't stop there. The uphill battle continued.  Come to find out certain keys on the keyboard were not working either including, j, u, m, p (funny I know).  A working replacement keyboard did not do any justice either, so it has to be something with the connector slot on the motherboard.  Perhaps there is a piece of debris blocking access to some of the contacts.  I'm still working on this one, but hopefully I have it resolved soon without having to go as far as replacing the entire motherboard.  That would be incredibly sad, but call me crazy, because I'd do it jump, I mean just because I want this thing in perfect working condition.  On the bright side (pun coming), I also found out the brightness and contrast controls to the right of the display work great.  Please let me know of any possible ideas or fixes for the keyboard/key issues.

At this point in time, the only other vital missing piece is a working CD-ROM drive module I could insert in place of the existing floppy drive module.  I have yet to locate one that a) was not incredibly expensive b) not for sale from some sketchy website or c)included with the purchase of an entire 1400CS laptop.  I've been keeping an eye on the LEM swap group as well, but if you know of anywhere that has them for sale at a more reasonable price, let me know!  Other than that, I'd like to find a working Ethernet card so I can cable it into my existing network.  I would do a wireless PC card, but from what I have read, no existing PC card offers support for any wireless protocols after 802.11b.  I wouldn't have minded if it supported 802.11g, but I can also understand why no such card is not available.  The machine simply wouldn't have enough processing power to adequately support it.

Once I do have a working CD Drive, I plan to install the latest version of FreeBSD.  I've already downloaded the latest copy of FreeBSD via the torrent networks and burned to a disc using my G4 PowerMac (Apollo11). From there, I may use it as a machine to handle most of my SSH connections to various machines as well as a tool for running various command line utilities. Even though the PB 1400CS is approaching 20 years in age, I strongly believe in the fact that this old laptop can still prove incredibly useful and at times even nostalgic. I'm so eager to put this machine into everyday production!

That's it for this post.  There are a few interesting pieces of software installed I would like to discuss briefly in the coming weeks that are in my opinion kind of cool.  Otherwise, I'm just tidying up the last few pieces of the introduction to Clang post, so look for that in the next week or two.

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