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Is it possible to make modern replica PowerPC Macs?

Angelgreat

Well-known member
PowerPC chips are still being made, even if manufacturing is now handled by Power.org. In fact, the Perseverance rover uses the same chip as the iMac G3: The G3. That got me thinking, wouldn't it be possible to make replica and working PowerPC Mac's?

Think about it, replica boards that are compatible with the software for the PowerPC Macs. As for casing, we can use replica cases made of modern plastics. We can also improve them (ie add SD cards, thunderbolt, WiFi, Bluetooth, more ram, replace the HDD with SSD's and replace the cat's with LCD's) to work better. Imagine that, plus still being able to install Mac OS 9 and 10.4. That would be cool.
 

CircuitBored

Well-known member
In fact, the Perseverance rover uses the same chip as the iMac G3

No, it doesn't. They are similar chips but not the same. The RAD750 is radiation hardened, far more energy efficient, and manufactured completely differently to the PPC750.

We can also improve them (ie add SD cards, thunderbolt, WiFi, Bluetooth, more ram, replace the HDD with SSD's and replace the cat's with LCD's)

Barring Thunderbolt you can add all of this to a PowerMac one way or another anyway. There's little need to produce brand new PowerPC Macs when they're so common and there are already so many upgrade options available. Why would anyone spend time and effort creating something that already exists? Along with that, classic Mac OS is still Apple's intellectual property and it would be illegal to produce Macs with the Apple ROMs needed to boot Mac OS.

All told: it's possible to make modern replica PowerMacs but it would be extremely expensive, mildly pointless, and probably illegal to do so. I don't mean to rain on your parade, I'm just giving you a realistic answer.

That said, if you want to figure out how make a PowerMac replica yourself then by all means go ahead and do it! You're unlikely to persuade anyone to do it for you.
 

Angelgreat

Well-known member
Classic Mac OS is still Apple's intellectual property and it would be illegal to produce Macs with the Apple ROMs needed to boot Mac OS.
Well, could we just make them without the roms? That's what some Mac clones did back in the day. The end user had to provide the roms to boot them, either original or third party.
 

kitsunesoba

Well-known member
No, it doesn't. They are similar chips but not the same. The RAD750 is radiation hardened, far more energy efficient, and manufactured completely differently to the PPC750.



Barring Thunderbolt you can add all of this to a PowerMac one way or another anyway. There's little need to produce brand new PowerPC Macs when they're so common and there are already so many upgrade options available. Why would anyone spend time and effort creating something that already exists? Along with that, classic Mac OS is still Apple's intellectual property and it would be illegal to produce Macs with the Apple ROMs needed to boot Mac OS.

All told: it's possible to make modern replica PowerMacs but it would be extremely expensive, mildly pointless, and probably illegal to do so. I don't mean to rain on your parade, I'm just giving you a realistic answer.

That said, if you want to figure out how make a PowerMac replica yourself then by all means go ahead and do it! You're unlikely to persuade anyone to do it for you.

In my mind the main benefit of building a "new" vintage mac would be the ability to design it to work with a standard form factor, e.g. ATX/micro-ATX/mini-ITX, which would enable the use of cases with vastly superior airflow and modern conveniences like dust filters and dedicated cable management space. Designs based on older systems won't make much use of the extra airflow, but later G3s and G4s certainly can, particularly with how bad PowerMac cases of that era are in that department. The ability to use standard CPU coolers and ATX PSUs without mods would be pretty huge too.

I agree that it's probably not going to happen though, short of someone raising some capital and starting a company that's somewhat adjacent to Analogue, which plucks ROMs and CPUs from old units to build new units, but such an individual would likely being making themselves an enemy of the community by doing so.
 
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Gorgonops

Moderator
Staff member
Look up the history of the various abortive PowerPC "Amiga" projects, like the X1000 and X5000. If you're willing to pile up a lot of money and set it on fire it is certainly possible to source "modern" PowerPC processors and package them on new motherboards. The end result will be a square of fiberglass that has a price/performance ratio around 1/20th that of a mainstream PC. Or to put it another way, you'll be trying to sell something that's in the CPU performance ballpark of the better-spec Raspberry Pi's for well over a thousand dollars, and its software base will be, well, best described as "eclectic".

If you have enough customers willing to line up for this package then these price-performance issues aren't necessarily going to be deal-breakers, but, yeah, as mentioned the big issue you're going to have that the Amiga people don't is there isn't a chance in *ell you're going to be able to net a license to package the system software with this thing. There are technical workarounds to this, it's actually fairly easy to "virtualize" MacOS so it'll run on almost any PowerPC system (see "Mac-On-Linux", QEMU, etc, with these sorts of things people have managed to run both OS 9 and OS X on all sorts of weird hardware), but if the box you're selling relies on "virtualizing" MacOS on top of a Linux kernel or something then you're just going to be further hurting your price/performance proposition compared to a (still relatively easy to find even today) original PowerPC Mac, and you'll also still technically be violating the terms of Apple's licensing agreements. (Although if you just supply the emulation layer and tell the end user to install the OS then strictly speaking you're dropping the violation into their court.)

Somehow I don't see this turning out well, but if you really want to take a crack at it it doesn't take much to do a kickstarter these days.
 

demik

Well-known member
PowerPC chips are still being made, even if manufacturing is now handled by Power.org. In fact, the Perseverance rover uses the same chip as the iMac G3: The G3. That got me thinking, wouldn't it be possible to make replica and working PowerPC Mac's?

There is two issues:

First, PowerPC being made doesn't mean that all of them are Mac compatible. Most of them are SoCs targeted at Automobile or Network products, and have very different IO and memory map capabilities.

Example the MPC5123 is a 603e PPC, but there is now way this SoC is going to work in a Mac.

Second, as @Gorgonops said, money. The only PowerPC that was used in a Mac still in production is the G4. But it costs between $600 and $1000 for a fast one.

Add a custom ASIC / FPGA for the "southbridge", which need to be reversed without any info, and you may have something that boot. But without Ethernet, IDE and stuff because the MacOS compatible chips are long gone. You can use other chips, but that means developing drivers for MacOS as well.

Add costs of assembly and you will get something at around $2000 for a raspberry 4 performance computer. Nobody is going to buy that. Thats why the PowerPC Amiga Clones didn't sell much…

What you can buy for under $100 today however, is a nice G3/G4 on eBay.

This is a nice idea, but too big/long/difficult. We don't even have 040 motherboard reproduced yet...
 

Trash80toHP_Mini

NIGHT STALKER
Boards for upgrading those two machines are readily available on the used market. Sourcing a correct size/aspect ratio panel has been done and implemented for both machines.

10.4/OS9/1GHZ G4 Upgrade Card

Some plumbing required. CC would the better choice as a new back panel can be printed with ports and Optical drive for complete reversibility if so inclined. Mounting most everything but LCD on a printed "drawer" might be perfect?
 
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Cory5412

Daring Pioneer of the Future
Staff member
As ever: "yes, but it would be a lot of hard work". If Apple wanted to, they could do it. I doubt it will be reasonable for the hobbyist community to do this. At least not without lots of existing experience, tools, and time.

I think new-build PPC Macs would be super neat and could avoid some of the physical problems existing PPC Macs have. A new G3 platform with a Rage128 or Radeon 7000 onboard, SATA, USB/FW, etc etc etc would be great, but I don't think it'll happen.

I also don't think it's practical to do and I don't think we have anybody with the skills/time/tools right now who really wants this.

Part of what makes "new" Amigas work is that the Amiga community rallies around the point of just... not actually caring too much about what really constitutes an Amiga.

There are, as noted, modern POWER and PowerPC computers you could buy. Most of them cost a lot and perform poorly, or cost a lot and perform well, but don't run "common" software. The modern "PowerPC" stuff is all going into either settop boxes or networking gear, which is why at least one of the Amigas has like... six SFP ports on it, even though that's not really a reasonable load-out for a desktop computer.


To be honest at this point my take is that emulation is basically fast enough that if you can't get vintage hardware or you have hardware with some kind of problems, using, say, QEMU-PPC is good enough for OS 9 and early OS X exploration. If you want to run OSX-PPC software (in particular) you can run 10.6 on Apple Intel hardware or hackintosh it, then install Rosetta. Even a middling mid-late Core2 era machine should run most PPC software under 10.4/5/6 very well.

W/re QEMU-PPC performance: I have run it on an i5-2300 and an i5-4570 and it's about as fast as a 300MHz G3, which is great for OS 9 but it falls over a little bit for 10.4 - it's fine for utility work but you wouldn't want to, like, make a

Gaming is a little bit out, it'd be bad on OS 9, sound doesn't work, so, it sort of depends on what you want to do. A QEMU OS9 instance would be great for compute, rendering, doing things that don't need sound, general productivity, touring the OS and old software, but maybe not great if your main goal is gaming or multimedia.


Refactoring an existing mac as jt suggests is also possible but whatever you refactor will still have the capabilities, limitations, and potential problems of the platform it came from.
 

Trash80toHP_Mini

NIGHT STALKER
OOPSIE! I thought I made that reply to the other thread.

I don't know what specific CPUs were then or would now be involved, but upgrading the Pismo from G3 to G4 by interstitial layer rework was commercially viable around the turn of the Century. So it might be an interesting design study to search out a NuBus PPC G3 upgrade card's CPU that might be possible to work the same blakmagical incantations upon?

Won't get you anywhere near X, but it would be an interesting NuBus PPC machine for sure. 😬
 
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