Jump to content
Iesca

Powerbook 540c Resurrection

Recommended Posts

Hello!

At some point around high school (somewhere around '99 or '00), my parents got my nephew and I "new" Powerbook 540c's which at the time gave us intermittent problems, but which I got some use out of nevertheless. After years of neglect, I turned mine on briefly back in 2011 to see what was on it and to retrieve a few things, but otherwise it has basically been sitting around unused for quite awhile.

I decided recently to try pulling it out once again but was disappointed to find that, other than a meek squeal, followed by the boot chime, it wasn't loading the system, not even a blinking question mark. Thinking the hard drive was dead, I tried booting from a CD using an external CD Rom Drive (the AppleCD 600e!) and an OS 8.1 install disk. While this caused the blinking question mark to appear, it did not get me any farther. However, I noticed that the squealing had subsided, so I disconnected everything and, voila! It booted to the Finder. (It has squealed off and on since then, but it still boots right up.)
 

I've since installed OS 8.1 and have had no issues whatsoever. It seems my problems back in the day were likely caused by trying to run OS 8.5, which is too new for the machine. My mission was then to get the thing onto the internet. While I could burn CDs on a newer machine and load them with the AppleCD Drive, this was not very efficient, so I tracked down what I needed for ethernet, and ordered the adapter cable. On arrival I tried it out and like magic, I was able to connect! Though browsing was not really in the cards (though I certainly tried), I managed to load Fetch 3 onto the system, making it much easier to transfer files to (and from!) the machine.

The next step was trying get it working with an external VGA monitor. I ordered the external monitor cable for the Powerbook 500 (my machine, being secondhand, never had one that I'm aware of). However, to my dismay I realized that it outputs to the old Macintosh Monitor cable, which is no use to me. But after some research I was able to track down a Mac to VGA adapter on Amazon that works perfectly! (And no dipswitches!)

I just ordered an iFixit Torx 8 screwdriver to open it up, as well as a new Clock PRAM battery from AppleMacParts. However, in the meantime I can sync the clock as needed while connected to the internet using Vremya and the time.apple.com server.

After that, the next project is to order and install the 2.5" SCSI2SD Powerbook module and replace the hard drive. While it continues to work so far, at around 20 years old (if not older), it's really only a matter of time before it bids this world a fond farewell..

Attached are some photos of my progress so far. :)

20180405_145037.jpg

20180405_181607.jpg

20180406_020747.jpg

20180406_021129.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Other future projects include:

Battery: Refurbishing the main battery, either myself, or sending it off to BatteryRefill.

PCMCIA: There was a PCMCIA card cage on eBay recently, but the final price was $360! A nicety, but not that nice. :O


RAM: Currently the powerbook has the 24MB ram card installed, but of course there is the 32MB out there as well. WeLoveMacs appears to carry it, but it's $170! Maybe someday...

Tune up the floppy drive: Amazingly, seems to still work great, but it has trouble ejecting certain disks sometimes (though that was always an issue as I recall), and I bet it's a bit gummed up, which probably affects read/write speeds

Monitor display, possibly: The monitor is pretty dim, and there are a few dead pixels, though this is low priority.

External ADB Mouse/Keyboard: Easy to find, but they don't seem to be too cheap (or maybe I can just get a Wombat...)

And of course there's the vaunted PPC upgrade for the Powerbook 500. Truth be told, while I would have liked this back in the day, I actually prefer the 68k system for now, and the chances of finding one that isn't already installed in a machine seems pretty low anyway.

Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 7.52.20 PM.png

Edited by Iesca

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Iesca said:

Other future projects include:

Battery: Refurbishing the main battery, either myself, or sending it off to BatteryRefill.

PCMCIA: There was a PCMCIA card cage on eBay recently, but the final price was $360! A nicety, but not that nice. :O


RAM: Currently the powerbook has the 24MB ram card installed, but of course there is the 32MB out there as well. WeLoveMacs appears to carry it, but it's $170! Maybe someday...

Tune up the floppy drive: Amazingly, seems to still work great, but it has trouble ejecting certain disks sometimes (though that was always an issue as I recall), and I bet it's a bit gummed up, which probably affects read/write speeds

Monitor display, possibly: The monitor is pretty dim, and there are a few dead pixels, though this is low priority.

External ADB Mouse/Keyboard: Easy to find, but they don't seem to be too cheap (or maybe I can just get a Wombat...)

And of course there's the vaunted PPC upgrade for the Powerbook 500. Truth be told, while I would have liked this back in the day, I actually prefer the 68k system for now, and the chances of finding one that isn't already installed in a machine seems pretty low anyway.

 

Yeesh! I didn't know how expensive this series was until I dove into it. The PCMCIA card cage does not show up often, but so far this year, I have seen it pop up 3 times (one of which I purchased, close to the price of the one you posted after overseas shipping). 

 

For the RAM, you might have better luck. Have you checked out this place, yet? 

http://www.memoryx.com/pb52032.html

79.98 is a better price, but I would check to make sure they truly have in stock, if you're fine shelling out that much monies. I've seen one sell recently for less than 20 US, converted to USD from yen. But I already have one in my PB, and forgot to check the listing before it ended. They don't show up very often, that's for sure. 

 

If you're feeling adventurous, you might try out what this dude attempted (and succeeded): 

https://www.thinkclassic.org/viewtopic.php?id=703

 

He converted a 16MB RAM module into a 32MB module using RAM chips from a period-correct RAM stick that was for Sun system. There are 16MB modules up right now on the Bay: 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Powerbook-500-series-16MB-RAM-KTA-PB500-16/232737524798?hash=item36303ccc3e:g:EJoAAOSwjIta1i~M

 

I can't guarantee it would work, but you never know. Attempt at your own RISC! :) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the link! That's definitely a better deal (if they indeed carry it..)

That memory mod is crazy. While I do want to get into soldering at some point, that's probably not an ideal first project! ;) But thanks for sharing, definitely a wow!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wonder if that 32MB card you saw was from a 550c since those were only released in Japan! :O

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 minutes ago, Iesca said:

Thanks for the link! That's definitely a better deal (if they indeed carry it..)

That memory mod is crazy. While I do want to get into soldering at some point, that's probably not an ideal first project! ;) But thanks for sharing, definitely a wow!

Sure, hope it all pans out! The only reason I'd attempt to do that mod is if I can double the RAM. I read in a Japanese BLOG that the writer found a rare 64MB RAM. Maybe the translation was off, but I'm pretty sure that is what I read. He saw it one time, but couldn't afford it. He found it again for sale, but couldn't afford it once more, so he passed it up again. Maybe it was real, maybe it was a mod, but whatever it was, would have been nice to have. And I'd like to try modifying a RAM board with higher cap chips if I can find. 

8 minutes ago, Iesca said:

I wonder if that 32MB card you saw was from a 550c since those were only released in Japan! :O

Haha, maybe. It was probably a working pull, ADTEC brand. Here is the original auction: 

http://buyee.jp/item/yahoo/auction/x532349550?lang=en

 

Actually ended at 23 US, my memory was a bit off! 

Edited by Charadis
Thanks to my memory still being off, had to correct ADATA to ADTEC. Pun intended, obviously

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Update: Clock battery success! The new battery arrived from the UK today as well as the Torx screwdriver I needed. The installation was interesting, given that it needs to be almost completely taken apart to get at the clock battery compartment, which is on the underside of the palm rest next to the trackpad (the Powerbook 500 is a built like a tank!). But after screwing around with it (and some fumbling putting it all back together) it all works!

Amusingly, the baggy that the battery came in states "FOR SALE TO APPLE AUTHORIZED SERVICE PROVIDERS ONLY". Sure thing, Apple!

I was also able to deal with an issue with the monitor where it would occasionally flicker and/or the colors would be out of whack. I had discovered previously that squeezing the lower left side of the monitor frame would resolve this, but I was worried it was loose solder. Fortunately, as I discovered on disassembly, it was just a loose connector. And it seems to be a bit brighter, too! That may just be my imagination though. ;)

Edited by Iesca

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1.5.2018 at 8:10 AM, Charadis said:

If you're feeling adventurous, you might try out what this dude attempted (and succeeded): 

https://www.thinkclassic.org/viewtopic.php?id=703

 

He converted a 16MB RAM module into a 32MB module using RAM chips from a period-correct RAM stick that was for Sun system. There are 16MB modules up right now on the Bay: 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Powerbook-500-series-16MB-RAM-KTA-PB500-16/232737524798?hash=item36303ccc3e:g:EJoAAOSwjIta1i~M

I just did this successfully as well just a few days ago. I also figured out most of the pinout of the RAM connector. It's all just straight through so making a RAM module on your own should not be too hard.

I did not yet do the math if it is even possible to address more than 32MB with the available address- and RAS/CAS-lines.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/3/2018 at 10:45 PM, Iesca said:

Update: Clock battery success! The new battery arrived from the UK today as well as the Torx screwdriver I needed. The installation was interesting, given that it needs to be almost completely taken apart to get at the clock battery compartment, which is on the underside of the palm rest next to the trackpad (the Powerbook 500 is a built like a tank!). But after screwing around with it (and some fumbling putting it all back together) it all works!

Amusingly, the baggy that the battery came in states "FOR SALE TO APPLE AUTHORIZED SERVICE PROVIDERS ONLY". Sure thing, Apple!

I was also able to deal with an issue with the monitor where it would occasionally flicker and/or the colors would be out of whack. I had discovered previously that squeezing the lower left side of the monitor frame would resolve this, but I was worried it was loose solder. Fortunately, as I discovered on disassembly, it was just a loose connector. And it seems to be a bit brighter, too! That may just be my imagination though. ;)

Nice! I haven't replaced the PRAM batts from my 500s, yet, I didn't know where to find them...I searched AppleMacParts, but it looks like I'm yielding the wrong sources still! I've decided my PBs will probably be anchored to my desk anyways, so it might not be worth the trouble looking for these myself? Sounds like yours could be NOS OEM? I'm wondering how old and how long they could last 

 

 

On 5/4/2018 at 4:30 AM, Bolle said:

I just did this successfully as well just a few days ago. I also figured out most of the pinout of the RAM connector. It's all just straight through so making a RAM module on your own should not be too hard.

I did not yet do the math if it is even possible to address more than 32MB with the available address- and RAS/CAS-lines.

You really attempted this? I was reading through his steps, and wanted to try it out myself, but never got around to picking up the RAM. I've been trying to find higher capacity RAM chips to try this out; I assume the chips on the RAM board are 2MB a piece, so if I could find 4MB chips, one could have 32MB each side for a total of 64MB. 

 

Edit: congrats on the modification! Good to hear it worked out! I'll need to give it a go myself when I get a chance. 

 

 

So that's the other thing, if it's even possible to detect higher capacity. I believe someone has tried adding more RAM through the PPC daughterboard, which NewerTech has done before with the NUPowr 183c, but finding one of those, much less with on-board RAM, feels next to impossible these days...my new Holy Grail. Anyways, if you're up for a read, this guy hacked a 183c to incorporate a total of 64MB (including RAM module...I think this daughterboard didn't have RAM? I don't understand from the translation though) and overclocked the 603 to 200MHz (had to build a custom cooling fan on the stiffener though): 

 

http://itoi.jp/pb550-5.html

 

Translated version: 

https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=ja&u=http://itoi.jp/pb550-5.html&prev=search

 

Hacked NUpowr 183c from the website above: 

pb-08.jpg.a9cc2c48f99dfe97fe51b7f87fc478f7.jpg

pb-09.gif.ec7287afee91adc8227dc006c33b33bf.gif

Edited by Charadis
Touching up my post with congratulatory...stuff. And correcting brand names...Sonnet for NewerTech.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Charadis said:

Nice! I haven't replaced the PRAM batts from my 500s, yet, I didn't know where to find them...I searched AppleMacParts, but it looks like I'm yielding the wrong sources still! I've decided my PBs will probably be anchored to my desk anyways, so it might not be worth the trouble looking for these myself? Sounds like yours could be NOS OEM? I'm wondering how old and how long they could last 

Here is the listing for VIS/AppleMacParts, however it appears that they are now out of stock. (I must have gotten the last one!)

I would say that your assumption about NOS OEM is almost certainly correct. I did a test and found that the time did slip behind about 45 minutes while unplugged, but otherwise retained the date and other battery sensitive preferences. We'll see if it was worth it in the long run. Ultimately, it is probably possible to fabricate a new one using watch batteries and the connector, though you would have to carefully pry the connectors from the batteries themselves.

As for RAM, I realized that my 540c actually has the 16MB RAM card, not the 24MB as I had previously thought. Still not sure about customizing the RAM any time soon, but as for upgrades a 24MB card is probably easier to find than the 32MB!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/5/2018 at 5:37 PM, Iesca said:

Here is the listing for VIS/AppleMacParts, however it appears that they are now out of stock. (I must have gotten the last one!)

I would say that your assumption about NOS OEM is almost certainly correct. I did a test and found that the time did slip behind about 45 minutes while unplugged, but otherwise retained the date and other battery sensitive preferences. We'll see if it was worth it in the long run. Ultimately, it is probably possible to fabricate a new one using watch batteries and the connector, though you would have to carefully pry the connectors from the batteries themselves.

As for RAM, I realized that my 540c actually has the 16MB RAM card, not the 24MB as I had previously thought. Still not sure about customizing the RAM any time soon, but as for upgrades a 24MB card is probably easier to find than the 32MB!

 

Oh cool! I see they’re oos, but thanks for the link. Looks like you got lucky there. I wonder why there is some slippage in the time, 

 

Yeah, I’m sure a 32mb will pop up again if you keep looking. Was surprised to see all the 16mb cards up on eBay recently. There were 24mb cards not too long ago. I’ve only been checking as of this year tho, so I don’t know the frequency that they come up! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have to take pictures of the 16MB RAM card I upped to 32MB.

Basically if your 16MB one has empty solder pads on one side you will be able to modify it to take another 16MB.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/8/2018 at 12:37 PM, Bolle said:

I have to take pictures of the 16MB RAM card I upped to 32MB.

Basically if your 16MB one has empty solder pads on one side you will be able to modify it to take another 16MB.

Please do! I’m interested in doing this myself! And it’s cool you got a full 32MB Card just from doing this :) 

 

I think there are some 16MB cards on sale on eBay right now, I was thinking I’d buy two and (hopefully all the chips are on one side) remove the chips from one of them to transplant on one card. Then I’d save the empty card for if I can find higher cap chips to see if a 64MB Card is feasible :) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As promised...

This is the card I started with:

IMG_4421.thumb.JPG.5baf0bc7ef5f2b0ef19be0d54b0dc009.JPG

 

It has eight KM48C2100 chips installed for a total of 16MB. On the back there are solder pads for another eight of those chips.

The resistors are all 0 Ohms and act as jumpers to accommodate ICs with different pinouts. Some chips that will fit have CAS/RAS and a few address lines in different places and you can set those using the resistors... easy to figure out.

 

I cannibalized two 8MB 72pin SIMMs which I found in the big box o'SIMMs. Took over the decoupling caps from there as well.

 

IMG_4422.thumb.JPG.a29240b337b0b46bf8600e1b16ecd3ef.JPG

 

While I had all the guts of the 540c on the table I did install a 20MHz oscillator as well to get the CPU up to 40MHz.

 

Pinout of the connector as far as I could tell should be the following just in case someone wants to attempt to build some RAM cards:

 

1	GND
2	A0
3	A1
4	A2
5	A3
6	GND
7	A5
8	A4
9	A6
10	A7
11	VCC
12	A8
13	A9
14	A10
15	A11
16	GND
17	RAS 2
18	RAS 1
19	RAS 4
20	RAS 3
21	GND
22	CAS 4
23	CAS 3
24	CAS 2
25	CAS 1
26	VCC
27	WE
28	NC?
29	NC?
30	?
31	GND
32	D0_0
33	D1_0
34	D2_0
35	D3_0
36	GND
37	D5_0
38	D4_0
39	D6_0
40	D7_0
41	VCC
42	D0_1
43	D1_1
44	D2_1
45	D3_1
46	GND
47	D4_1
48	D5_1
49	D6_1
50	D7_1
51	GND
52	D0_2
53	D1_2
54	D2_2
55	D3_2
56	VCC
57	D4_2
58	D5_2
59	D6_2
60	D7_2
61	GND
62	D0_3
63	D1_3
64	D2_3
65	D3_3
66	GND
67	D4_3
68	D5_3
69	D6_3
70	D7_3

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/4/2018 at 5:30 AM, Bolle said:

I did not yet do the math if it is even possible to address more than 32MB with the available address- and RAS/CAS-lines.

You need A1-A11 and RAS0-RAS3 to address 64MB. CAS should be adequate, RAS lines would be your limiting factor based on my read of the IIsi Schematic and both SE/30 schematics. Haven't checked the Blackbird DevNote, but the patch wire locations to the memory controller in the pics above say MDU or pin compatible son of MDU to me on cursory inspection. What 's the memory controller spec on that card?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, Bolle said:

As promised...

This is the card I started with:

 

 

It has eight KM48C2100 chips installed for a total of 16MB. On the back there are solder pads for another eight of those chips.

The resistors are all 0 Ohms and act as jumpers to accommodate ICs with different pinouts. Some chips that will fit have CAS/RAS and a few address lines in different places and you can set those using the resistors... easy to figure out.

 

I cannibalized two 8MB 72pin SIMMs which I found in the big box o'SIMMs. Took over the decoupling caps from there as well.

 

 

 

While I had all the guts of the 540c on the table I did install a 20MHz oscillator as well to get the CPU up to 40MHz.

 

Pinout of the connector as far as I could tell should be the following just in case someone wants to attempt to build some RAM cards:

 

 

Nice work, Bolle! Great pics, thanks for posting the thorough process of your work. The module looks like you never even worked on it. The second RAM module, are you making another 32MB? 

 

I read a little about "clock chipping" the daughterboard, I think that's what you did here? Do you notice any speed difference? 

Edited by Charadis
Condensing this message...by condensing another message ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The second one has no empty space on the other side, I had it out only for reference and cross checking the connections to the socket. I will see if I can squeeze out a design onto a two layer board for cheap production. 64MB and even 128MB should be possible with address/RAS/CAS on there. If the memory controller can handle it that would be pretty nice.

 

I can not really tell a difference with the 40MHz speedup. Then again there is also no noticeable difference between 25MHz and 33MHz for me... but stuff has to be maxed out before I can sleep well at night, so that’s why ;)

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, Bolle said:

The second one has no empty space on the other side, I had it out only for reference and cross checking the connections to the socket. I will see if I can squeeze out a design onto a two layer board for cheap production. 64MB and even 128MB should be possible with address/RAS/CAS on there. If the memory controller can handle it that would be pretty nice.

 

I can not really tell a difference with the 40MHz speedup. Then again there is also no noticeable difference between 25MHz and 33MHz for me... but stuff has to be maxed out before I can sleep well at night, so that’s why ;)

 

If you can get even 64MB recognized, that would be impressive. And I’d be interested in the max RAM you could produce if you decided on production. You’d have at least 2 potential sales ready...!

 

I see, that is a small bump in clock speed though. You’re not alone on that, but I thought maxing out one project just means you can lose sleep over maxing out a new project ;)  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm curious about the oscillator replacement - do you have before/after photos of that also? or is that in a separate post?

 

Back to topic, I would easily buy a 128M, 64M, or hell even a 32M 5x0 card from you if the 128M/64M cards don't work out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bolle, I have 2 extra 16MB cards (already have a 16MB card inside my 520c) with empty connector pads on the back. Could I send these to you to convert to a 32MB and play with getting 64MB or 128MB recognized?

20180622_234134.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems that my 540c's memory card is of a different make than the ones on display here, but I assume the principal would be the same?

 

The chips are labeled as:

 

MCM517400BT60

Motorola VQQDU9614

They also appear to use tiny SMD caps instead of resistors like Bolle's.

20180909_162615.jpg

20180909_162704.jpg

 

EDIT: Found a data sheet on the chips in question, for the curious: https://www.datasheets360.com/part/detail/mcm517400bt60/-8453506530169633316/

Edited by Iesca

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×