Apple IIgs Original Hardware Laptop

As many of you know I grew up during the 80′s and spent a lot of time with the fun 8-bit computers of those days. One of my favorites was the Apple IIgs, and when someone requested I build a portable version of it I jumped at the chance.

It's Arkanoid Time!
A custom-built Apple IIgs laptop. Click for larger version, suitable for framing.

Some quick specs:

  • Large 15″ color screen. Much bigger than the ones on my other 8-bit computer projects (thus far)
  • Uses an original Apple IIgs motherboard with RAM expansion.
  • Custom acrylic keyboard. It uses the original keyboard PCB, but the buttons were custom made for a cool modern look.
  • CompactFlash adapter inside unit functions as an original equipment hard drive.
  • Glowing backlit “][” logo. Blue for on, with a bit of yellow during disk access.
  • Built-in stereo speakers.
  • Side port access for floppy drive, joystick and mouse.
  • Can play Arkanoid II!

For more photos and details, see below. I’ll post a Making Of story in the near future… in the meantime you can also watch this amazing demo video I put together:

Small iPod Version
Larger MPG version

(Note: Music was the most “frolic-ey” that I could find)

Please note, as usual, this is a one-time custom project and thus I will not be making any more of these. It is a one-of-a-kind single project. But I am always open to new modding requests if you’d like to drop me an email. Variety is the spice of life!

Begin photo gallery now!

I would consider this a fair use of a sticker
Luckily I had a nice Apple logo sticker laying around from my recent iPod Touch purchase that I could slap on this baby when done. It really ties the room together, so to speak.

Glass tables FTW
Shot of the unit from below. This is a very good “emulation” of a sneak photo from CES, wouldn’t you agree?

 This unit is very monochromatic in design and I like it that way. Design is about shape, not color!
View from left. The basic idea with this unit was to make it look like an laptop that had been designed in the 80′s. The large amount of vertical air holes (basically pointless since this machine gets about as hot as your average pocket calculator) are meant to subconsciously remind the viewer of the fairly compact Apple IIc. You can see the speaker slits from this angle as well.

These keys - 50% of the work. Really.

A closer view of the custom keyboard, one of my best looking ones but also fairly complicated to do. These keys are .188″ thick acrylic with the letters laser-etched onto the fronts. This etching was then painted black. Each key was masking taped again (ug) and their backs were painted white. Finally each key was attached to a thin, sticky backing which holds them all in place for the PCB which contains the switches.

Note: Upon taking apart the original IIgs keyboard (also used on old Mac Classics) I must say that it is without a doubt the best built keyboard I have every come across in all my days.

HDR lighting shot
Unit opened shown from the back. Dimensions when closed are 14″ x 10.375″ x 2.25″ (not quite small enough to fit in an envelope, sorry) There is a slightly raised section on the screen lid to allow for the decoder circuit board on the LCD. In technical terminology that makes it a “design feature”.

Goes great with any office decor.
View of the closed unit. The small buttons on the screen lid (above the mouse port here) let you adjust color, brightness, etc. The screen once again comes from good old AEI Components.

It must be thiiiiiin!
Side view, with bright blue light. I choose blue because it’s the most monochromatic color in my opinion. (Which is suspect as I am slightly colorblind)

Note how similar this looks to my Wii laptop...
Unit closed, rear. You can see the external power supply jack in this view, as well as the cable connecting the halves. Note to self: I need to update my hinge design one of these years…

You need a big screen when 20% of it is 1980's overscan border
The IIgs, booting up. Fun fact – this computer has the same CPU as the Super Nintendo.

No right-angle USB adapters needed!
Close up of the floppy drive/joystick ports. These are in their original positions on the motherboard, and a hole in the case gives us access to them. As a fun fact, I am now using, on average, all size 2 or 3 screws in my projects. Started with 6′s, moved onto 4′s around 2003, been going smaller since. McMaster-Carr is a great place to order screws and stuff in bulk.

Preview of the insides, before the upcoming “Making Of” story. Note the re-wired right-angle memory expansion (right) and right-angle Compact Flash reader (center). I even had to rewire the DIP 40 controller IC on the keyboard for the best fit. Why? Because… that’s what I do!

That’s it for now but I’ll try and throw together a “Making Of” story within the next week. Hm, by my count this only leaves ONE classic 8-bit computer left for me to mod… (No, not the MSX)

164 thoughts on “Apple IIgs Original Hardware Laptop”

  1. Work of art! Beautiful! But what a tease, only one of its kind…

    Corroded with jealousy. :^)

  2. Hi, I’m from France and continue to use my AppleIIGS. I would be more than interested to have a portable one !

    Please contact me, I would be more than happy to make some exchange with you about this incredible customization !

    Best regards,


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