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Thread: Converting Mac SE/30 into a modern mini pc

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Georgia, USA

    Default Converting Mac SE/30 into a modern mini pc

    I've decided to take a (very) deceased Mac SE/30 and turn it into a modern mini computer. This has been done a few times, but I aim to make this one the best so far.

    Step 1 was to find a suitable CRT replacement. Amazon and Ebay are simply overrun with cheap 8" 4:3 1024x768 monitors, which fit well in the display. I'll need to paint over or otherwise cover the white logo and button labels, but it fits fairly well.

    IMG_20180506_134045952 (1).jpg

    It's currently being held in place with a stiff piece of wire wrapped around the old CRT retention screws. It seems to be a very secure setup.


    The LCD panel has two stereo speakers, which I will attach to the inside of the front case, beside the existing Mac speaker. I MAY use the Mac speaker if it's compatible and sounds better, which it probably does.


    It works fairly well at this point, ignore the screen ratio issue, I couldn't figure out how to switch Retropie from 16:9 to 4:3.


    At this point, I could run two power cables, two USB cables, and an ethernet cable into the back and call it finished, but I want to do better than that. I decided to gut the existing power supply and use it to hide the AC/DC adapters INSIDE the unit!


    That looks good, doesn't it? I'm using the existing power connector and switch. The total load for Raspberry Pi and the LCD monitor will be no more than 4 amps, which I believe the switch can handle just fine. I MAY pull a little more to run the SE/30 exhaust fan. I've included a 6 amp in-line fuse on the hot side just for safety. Some more photos of the setup:

    outlet 1.jpgoutlet 2.jpgoutlet 3.jpgoutlet 5.jpg

    Outlet passes tests!

    outlet 4.jpg

    And the fuse holder lights up if the fuse blows. FANCY!

    outlet 5.jpg

    So, I'm debating my next steps. What I WANT to do will involve starting to modify the back of the case itself in a way that will render it undesirable as a Mac case. I hesitate because I'm not sure if the SE/30 case is rare enough to consider tracking down a compatible back, like an SE or Classic or whatever else might work. If someone wants to swap the SE/30 case for something else compatible and/or not so rare I would definitely entertain the possibility before I start cutting. It'll be a few weeks before all my parts come in, so no hurry.

    The original motherboard will remain in-place; I am going to leverage the programmer and reset keys on the side as power/reset keys for the internal system. I am planning on relocating the monitor's buttons under the chin of the unit. I am HOPING I can use the display brightness knob as a volume control for the internal speakers, but I'm not sure how yet; I can possibly replace the rheostat with a simple left/right switch of some sort and just use the same plastic piece to control it.

    I also have BIG plans for the display. I was advised to attempt to cut the old glass CRT apart and hide the LCD behind the original front glass, but I've got a plan that goes a step farther and should look top-notch when all is said and done, without cutting into leaded glass...

  2. #2


    Lookin' good! I'd resist cutting the CRT face off myself, besides the tube itself might still be useful to someone. Don't think they're made any longer.

    You have my permission to hack up the back as well. 20 years ago, some presumed eventual collectible status never stopped me from hacking into mine to add a second HD with two floppies plus whatever. If you need a replacement back, I have one with a dead MB I blew by static, the only Mac I ever kilt until dead.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Georgia, USA


    Got a lot accomplished last weekend, and had a lot of luck with my component selection.

    I decided to ditch the internal monitor speakers, they sounded absolutely terrible. I decided to pick up a set of speakers with 3.5mm audio input, and randomly picked these:

    They fit perfectly inside the gap at the front of the Mac case, held securely left/right and fitting snugly between the power supply enclosure and front of the mac. I couldn't have designed a better fit.

    Of course now the built-in volume control on the LCD panel would be nonfunctional, and I really wanted an external volume control. I found an in-line volume control here:

    I had initially intended to replace the brightness control knob in the lower left side of the front case with this, but there just wasn't enough room, sadly. I decided to drill a small hole in the back of the SE/30 case and mount it there.

    I was able to mount the frame and power supply and estimate where the knob would need to be located, and was able to get it fitted right the first time.

    Works like a charm, and is another perfect fit between the fan bracket and the power supply. I got lucky with my choice of volume control and speakers!

    I decided to do SOMETHING with the floppy slot. I really won't be needing a floppy drive obviously, so after contemplating my options for a bit I dug out another set of LCD panel control switches:

    And then the third miracle occurred; they fit PERFECTLY in the floppy slot! I swapped the short buttons with some slight longer ones and soldered it directly onto the original LCD control panel, and temporarily mounted it in place. Needs a little cleanup and I have some ghost button presses, but it looks pretty good to be honest. Once I get the button issue worked out I'll trim some black foam filler and mount in place more-or-less permanently.

    I wanted easy access to the Pi's USB/ethernet/etc. ports. I have a long-term plan that I'm waiting to arrive from overseas, but for now I used what's called a "tie plate" to fashion a mount. It lets me access the USB and network connectors on the Pi via the expansion slot hole in the raspberry pi's case. The Pi is held in place initally with some double-sided foam tape, and later zip-tied for additional strength.

    I forgot to take pictures for this next bit of work, but I also HATED the white labels for the LCD display and the gaps around the monitor. I hit the local arts and crafts store and picked up a sheet of thin black foam, I think it's maybe 1/16" thick. I carefully cut four pieces and glued them ONLY to the edge closest to the front of the monitor. I re-mounted the LCD display into the front case, and I was able to trim and place long, thin strips of foam behind the longer pieces to puff them up and cover the gaps between the LCD panel and front case:

    It was only a temporary fix, I have a much nicer long-term goal but I'm experiencing some pretty serious technical complications .

    All in all it looks pretty good. It's nice and loud, volume control works well. Buttons are a little flaky, but at least I don't have god-awful gaps and ugly logo around the LCD panel. I need to build a custom mini vMac executable that has the 512x342 resolution of the actual SE/30 also, but that's pretty trivial. I also picked up a 60mm USB cooling fan to mount in place of the old SE cooling fan, but I don't honestly think I need it; I left LCD on and a PSX game on loop all night last night and no heat issues at all this morning.
    Last edited by keenerb; May 21st, 2018 at 06:34 AM.

  4. #4


    Great Build! So much better than I did 10 years ago - see my reply on the other thread about screen size.

    I wanted to just mention also, I had a NextCube and eventually i put this board in it with a 150watt PSU, so i can even handle a 70w GPU!
    I got this one and threw 8 Gigs of DDR3 Kingston Fury Rams into it, NICE Lil system, very low wattage on its own, and built in GPU isnt terrible either
    MOBO - These were going for 50 dollars once -

    GPU -

    Im all about the silent...

  5. #5


    Have you considered attempting to run Shoebill on it in order to run A/UX? I've never tried it on an rpi but the power should be there to do it, set the screen to b&w and it's a full vintage Mac OS emulator plus a full Unix with emulated ethernet, all perfectly appropriate for an SE/30. I don't think there's a compiled rpi binary though, so I've given it a quick whack on my rpi running ubuntu, latest packages. Seems to have some configuration issue with libtool (libtool: error: unrecognised option: '-static') but the code seems to compile on ARM without issue, I don't have the time to bang away at it these days but it appears to be possible.

    There are binaries available for Windows and OSX. It hasn't been updated in years but having used it before, all the necessary functionality is there.


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