Macintosh Powerbook 540c project?
March 17, 2007 9:59 AM   Subscribe

What should I do with an old Macintosh Powerbook 540c?

I was given an old Powerbook 540c that is in pretty good condition. I have an appletalk-ethernet adapter that fits into the back, too.
Does anyone have any ideas of what I could do (with minimal cost and complexity) with this thing?
It does NOT have a PowerPC upgrade, and I believe it is running OS 7.
posted by grieserm to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I always wanted one of these beautiful machines. Make it an e-mail kiosk or MP3 jukebox in your kitchen. Or give it to a child.
posted by thejoshu at 10:30 AM on March 17, 2007

MP3 jukebox

That's not going to be possible with a 68K processor (especially one without an FPU).
posted by oaf at 11:00 AM on March 17, 2007

I'd search out a Linux or BSD distro to put on it.
posted by davy at 12:29 PM on March 17, 2007

Such as MkLinux.
posted by davy at 12:31 PM on March 17, 2007

I second Low End Mac. They really help you take old Macs and make them useful again.

As a fan of old laptops myself, I heartily suggest the Linux route, or the Mac OS 8.1 route (depending on how much RAM is in it). BTW, I have Mac OS 8.1 on that Duo 280c in that picture running in 12MB of RAM. :) Yes, it works. Crazy, I know, but so much fun. (I even have a Dock for that 280c, and recently was given a SCSI Apple CD-ROM drive.)

I hesitate to offer (due to "piracy" handwaving) but I would be happy to send you a copy of Mac OS 7.6 CD or a Mac OS 8.1 installation CD. 7.5.5 is a known free download.

From Wikipedia:

Apple created and published an "Older Software Downloads" webpage on their AppleCare Support website on July 17, 2001. Since then diskette images to install System 7.0, System 7.0.1, and System 7.5.3 as well as the System 7.5.5 Update have been available as free downloads for legacy Macintosh users and those who want to emulate the older Mac OS. In addition to System 7 related downloads are also At Ease downloads and Mac OS 8 updates. All of the diskette image files are in MacBinary format and are accompanied by a descriptive .txt file.

Mac OS 7.5.3 and the 7.5.5 (US English) update can be downloaded for free:
posted by smallerdemon at 1:57 PM on March 17, 2007

I'd search out a Linux or BSD distro to put on it.

That's not going to be possible (at least in the case of Linux) without an FPU, which this computer lacks.
posted by oaf at 2:26 PM on March 17, 2007

That's not going to be possible (at least in the case of Linux) without an FPU, which this computer lacks.

Indeed, one reason I have the Duo 280c is that the guy wanted it for a BSD portable box years ago, but... *heh* Well, it has one... only while in the dock. ;) (No shit.) So, Mac OS 8.1 it is for me on that one.

So, 7.6 will be the fastest thing for that machine, and that will be decent. 8.1 will work too.
posted by smallerdemon at 2:29 PM on March 17, 2007

They should be fine without an FPU.

They still won't run on the PowerBook 540c (or any other Mac) without a full 68040.
posted by oaf at 9:58 PM on March 17, 2007

If you want to run some kind of *NIX on an old 68xxx mac, my guess is that A/UX is going to be your best experience. Maybe Tenon's MachTen. Both are pretty much abandonware, though, and so getting them may or may not be easy. I've heard you can download A/UX with enough searching, and have considered doing this with my SE/30.

If I had a 68040 laptop, I'd probably use it for undistracted writing and maybe some old MIDI sequencing work. I really appreciate how much can be done with modern hardware -- I'm on the road right now and love to use Google Maps with an EDGE connection, enjoy playing with signal processing using pd -- but really, for basic tasks like word processing and email, it's really a little mind-boggling how little progress has been made with vast leaps in hardware capacity. Witness the recent productivity tools that actually cut down on cues and capabilities and just get you back to the basics. And old laptop could be just the ticket.
posted by weston at 1:44 PM on March 18, 2007

The coolest thing about the 520/540, by far, is that they are the oldest Mac portable that can be made to work with modern wifi! If your 540 doesn't have a pcmcia cage, you will need one of those and they can be hard to find. But if you have the cage, you just need a 16-bit wireless pcmcia card (< $20 ebay), the instructions a href="">here (which include recommendations for which card to buy), and maybe a little time googling for settings.

I know this has been successfully done with a 520, but I haven't personally done it yet because I don't have a 520/540 with the cage. But it's a great thought -- imagine a 13- or 14-year-old laptop connecting to a current 802.11b network.
posted by allterrainbrain at 12:46 AM on March 19, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all of your input! I think I'll search out a floppy disk and put a web browser on it today. Maybe the email/word processing station is my best bet.
posted by grieserm at 4:51 AM on March 19, 2007

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