Jaromaz's MacintoshPi Turns a Raspberry Pi Into a Fast, Feature-Packed Classic Apple Mac Emulator

As well as a convincing, speedy, and Internet-connected classic Mac, this tool offers bare-metal Commodore emulation as a bonus.

Gareth Halfacree
2 years agoRetro Tech

Semi-pseudonymous maker "Jaromaz" has put together a tool designed to turn a Raspberry Pi into a classic Apple Macintosh running Mac OS 7, 8, or 9 — and hiding as much of the underlying Linux operating system as possible, for a more authentic experience.

"MacintoshPi is a small project that allows running full-screen versions of Apple's Mac OS 7, Mac OS 8, and Mac OS 9 with sound, active Internet connection, and modem emulation under [a] Raspberry Pi," Jaromaz explains of his creation. "All this without the X.org manager, only a multimedia SDL2 library and from the CLI [Command Line Interface]/Raspberry Pi OS Lite."

This handy tool turns a Raspberry Pi into a classic Apple Mac, or a Commodore PET/C64/C128. (📹: Jaromaz)

There are a couple of very good reasons why Jaromaz sought to build MacintoshPi without relying on a graphical environment. The first is aesthetics: The system boots rapidly and shows the Mac OS environment full-screen, making it convincing if installed inside original hardware to replace a faulty motherboard. The second reason is performance: By reducing background tasks to a bare minimum, the emulator can run on almost — but not quite — any Raspberry Pi from the Raspberry Pi 2 upwards.

Jaromaz didn't create the emulator alone: The MacintoshPi project builds atop the existing Basilisk II and SheepShaver emulator, for Mac OS 7-8 and Mac OS 9 respectively, and if Mac OS compatibility isn't enough Jaromaz has squeezed an emulator for Commodore 64, Commodore 128, and Commodore PET emulation into the bundle for good measure.

"My version of MacintoshPi is driven by Raspberry Pi 3B+," Jaromaz explains of his physical Mac recreation. "I bought my Macintosh Classic II case on eBay — it was completely yellow, but I restored it to the factory condition by means of 18 per cent hydrogen peroxide and appropriate light exposure. Its LCD IPS 10.1" 1024×600px HDMI Waveshare 11870 screen is turned 180°, so that the wiring does not interfere with the upper Macintosh frame."

"The keyboard and mouse are Logiteh MK295 Silent Wireless Combo," Jaromaz continues. "They [are] only slightly similar in style to peripheral devices supplied back in the day, but they are also wireless and use a single Bluetooth dongle. I added two speakers connected to a Raspberry Pi 3B+ analogue audio/jack input and to a splitter. I integrated all those elements inside the Apple Macintosh Classic II case."

MacintoshPi is available to download now, for installation atop Raspberry Pi OS Lite, from Jaromaz' GitHub repository — though its creator warns it currently lacks compatibility with the latest Raspberry Pi 4 Model B, requiring a Raspberry Pi 2, Raspberry Pi 3, or Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W instead.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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