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About a week ago, I acquired a used PowerBook 1400c/117. It had a good load of software: ClarisWorks 4.0, MS Office 98, Adobe Illustrator 6 and 7, and Photoshop 4.0 running under OS 7.5.3 (12/27: now running 7.6.1 1/18: and 8.6). As far as hardware goes, it is adequate, with a 117 MHz 603e, 32 MB of RAM, a 1 GB hard drive (about 350 MB free; with this software, there is no way I am wiping it clean), an active matrix display, a floppy bay and an 8x CD-ROM bay, missing the front door. It is still usable if not painfully slow (1/6: a new TEAC CD-48e definitely helps, same as original drive), but doesn't look very pretty. I am intending to buy a 4 GB CF card and PCMCIA reader (1/18: done, 8 GB), an Orinoco/WaveLAN gold wireless card (12/27: done) and a 133 MHz processor upgrade to help modernize this thing. The battery unfortunately only lasts about 12 seconds and is still not cheap to replace (around 5 mins as of 1/18/10). $80 is the cheapest I have seen one. I'll likely buy a set of 4/3A batteries to "recell" the 1996-dated battery it came with instead. All in all, I'm satisfied with it.

The owner even included the box and agreed to mail the manuals and install discs if they ever found them again. They said they were pretty sure that they still had them around somewhere. It took six baby wipes to clean the top of the computer itself off, but looks much better now. It must have been in storage for years, though. When cleaning out the insides, I found a long-abandoned spiderweb in the PC card slots. I haven't gone deeper than the plating covering the processor yet, though, so I don't know that there aren't more of them. (2/7: Been all clean for a few months now.)

Do you have any suggestions on other upgrades or where to get parts relatively cheaply? Any CF cards/readers to look into/avoid? Most of the cheaper readers appear to be unbelievably slow. Of course, the 1400 doesn't support 32-bit CardBus cards, so the search is a bit difficult. (1/18: no longer needed)

Thanks for the suggestions.

Shameless plug: my IIvx and G3 still need help....

Update 11/14: First, I spend an hour wondering why it won't turn on, resetting the PMU at least a dozen times. After taking it halfway apart and putting it back together again, it turned itself on after plugging it into my power strip. Then when I went to turn it off, it turned itself back on again. After resetting the PRAM, it seems OK. Very, very strange. (2/7: turns out it's just the wiring in my house.)

Update 12/27: I have managed to get a WaveLAN Gold with driver version 6.00.4 to work in the 'Book. Speed with Netscape 4.8 is acceptable with CSS off, Wannabe 1.0b14 PPC is insanely fast, but so incomplete that I am forced to use both. I can cram both into the 32 MB RAM capacity with zero KB left over, but no memory error with OS 7.6.1. 32 MB is just a little bit cozy for my preferences. I'll look into a RAM upgrade as soon as the above CF HDD is sorted out. The batteries did arrive, but I'm putting that off, as the insides are a bit more complicated than I had anticipated. I'll post a full writeup when I am done with that. As for the joystick, I can recommend a Gravis Firebird with confidence. It has a very unobtrusive driver and emulates an ADB mouse and a 13-key keyboard with throttle, trim controls and a 8-way hat switch, working with almost all (if not all) non-OS X flight sims in existence. It works excellently with F/A-18 Hornet 2.0 and very well for X-wing, though I think my 8x CD-ROM is on the way out. The disc seems to get stuck often and gives occasional -36 disk errors, which leaves X-wing in an unstable state (it has to cache movies to the hard disk, even after installation; is it possible to drop in a 24x TEAC CD-224e over an old 8x TEAC CD-48e?). It is getting to the point where it can replace OS X for basic things, however.

Update 1/6/10: I have refurbished the original CD drive with a TEAC CD-48e for $25 shipped. It is much more reliable and very fast compared to the old drive. It was a drop in replacement, only needing to remove four screws. I can play X-wing now! If your 8x PB1400 CD drive is getting stuck frequently and is apparently unreliable, a TEAC CD-48e is a good, driverless drop in replacement. The bezel is currently somewhere in Georgia, according to FedEx. If there isn't an update on that within a week, I had no trouble with installation.

Update 1/18/10: I have acquired an 8 GB 133x Kingston Elite Pro CF card and a PPA PCMCIA reader. Installation of the card itself was incredibly easy, just plug and play. I have partitioned the card into two 4 GB partitions, one for 7.6.1 and one for 8.6. 8.6 is stable enough, though I'm having trouble with 7.6. It says something along the lines of "the system software only functions when on the original media" at boot. Even after I copied a working system folder from my HDD. 8.6 is too much of a RAM hog to be practical with 32 MB of RAM, though the Wannabe text-only browser works fine, and the Orinoco 7.2 drivers are infinitely better than the WaveLAN 6.00.4 drivers (no reboot on a network change!). Back on the topic of the CF itself: using my slow PCMCIA reader, I can get a sustained 1.00 MB/s, according to the Hard Disk Speed Tools. The internal HDD is rated at something around 3.2 MB/s top speed. I intend to buy one of these to help accelerate it. Next upgrade after IDE adapter: a 32 MB RAM card for the 1400. (If somebody has one that they are willing to sell/trade, please contact me. A PM is fine.) Lastly, it has been given the nickname Epic. Epic was Apple's internal codename for the 1400 and seems to fit it well when using a liberal amount of software acceleration. However, it changes to Fail when it crashes. Epic Failed. :) Bad pun, I know. The flipside of that is when it does something amazing, it becomes Epic Win.

Update 2/6/10: I recently installed the CF reader, though it is not the one previously mentioned. I bought this instead, because the others were out of stock. Aside from the irritation of cutting off a pin, it works just fine. It says it supports DMA, though I only get about 1.7 MB/s at max speed, and it makes a faint buzzing noise when doing disk-intensive activity. If it's annoying enough, I can use the control strip to turn it off. On most PowerBooks, you need to wait a good 3-5 seconds for the drive to spin up or down. This CF just blinks on in a fraction of a second. Plus random times are better. The good news is I don't need to constantly defrag the hard drive. I'm happy with it. Now, to find some comparatively cheap RAM. (Again, if you have some to sell or trade, let me know.)

Update 2/7/10: I've found an acquaintance of mine who can probably help me solder these together. Details on the batteries: they are eight 4/3A batteries in four cardboard tubes linked in a series, running from right to left (computer facing you, battery in bay). They are taped inside with one little circuit board running lengthwise down the second row from the back (again, battery in bay, 1400 facing you). This is presumably the thermistor, which I have read at other sources is rated for cutoff at 93°C. I will attempt an ASCII drawing of the batteries below. It is in Monaco (included with Mac OS X) and requires about a 700 pixel wide window to display properly.

||| + |||||||||||||||||||batteries one and two|||||||||||||||||||||||| - |||
||------------------------------------------------------------------------|| <--circuit board location
||| - ||||||||||||||||||batteries three and four|||||||||||||||||||||| + |||
||| + |||||||||||||||||||batteries five and six||||||||||||||||||||||| - |||
||| - |||||||||||||||||batteries seven and eight|||||||||||||||||||||| + |||

Ah, well. Line spacing is too big. I tried an HTML (font style="line-height:50%"), but it didn't work. If you copy it into TextEdit and choose Format->Make Plain Text, it will display right with a 640 pixel wide window. On Windows, you might try Notepad if it can display Monaco. Otherwise some other word processor, hopefully not Office 2007 (hate the UI). Linux users might try emacs if their terminal font is set correctly. Otherwise I would use OpenOffice. Back on topic: terminals one and five on the top left are the positive and negative charge sockets, two and three go to the thermistor, and three and four go to the battery's onboard computer and ID chip. Source. Expect a full blog post on batteries (with real pics, I hope) within a week. Oh, and one thing I forgot: the mediocre battery life in these models was because Apple bought 3500 mAh cells. I bought 3800 mAh batteries for 2.37/piece with solder tabs from simply because they were cheapest. I've seen 4500 mAh batteries in the past. My above source has a part number for those. With them, you get a small bulk discount past five if I recall correctly. Good source so far for rebuilding batteries. We'll see if they hold up.

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Comment by Lars (WhyOSX) on November 8, 2009 at 12:31pm
There is an address for cheap and very expensive 1400 upgrades with the photo.
You'll better watch the eBay.
And I've been overbid on a 4GB card just a few minutes ago !
And watch this:
Comment by Gavin on November 8, 2009 at 3:44pm
I did see the video, and I know that I can get a 133 MHz processor for $10 from here:

Didn't think about eBay for CF cards, though. Thanks for the tip.
Comment by Lars (WhyOSX) on November 28, 2009 at 3:17pm
It's useless to search for 300MHz G3 cards, which do exist
(very rare they are; I've seen only one 1400G3 in the last two years !).
Since the original processor is useless after the G3 is in, your 117MHz model may profit.
Full RAM (64MB) is recommended, virtual RAM enabled is necessary, too.
The 1GB is even larger than the one found in my 117, there'd been a 750MB in there.
The /166 in my collection runs a 9.1, 6GB, 64MB physical RAM.
Any 1400 is a milestone, because they were the first portable computers with built-in CD drives.
Comment by Gavin on November 28, 2009 at 11:50pm
Thanks for the tips. I had some poor luck searching for a G3 upgrade myself, though Sonnet will still sell their 466 MHz model new for $300. That's way more than I am willing to spend on a ten year old processor. I'm hoping to dual boot 7.6 and 8.6 (and maybe 9.1) when I finally get a CF card, and am hoping for a RAM upgrade, though they seem rather expensive last I checked, and I've managed to get away with 32 MB, VM off so far without running out under 7.5.3.

Status so far: I've ordered a Gravis Firebird joystick for a few flight sims I had and eight 3800 mAh 4/3A batteries to refurbish my battery for $2.37/piece, solder tabs included. The rest has remained so far untouched, excepting a few games I've installed.


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