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Hey, all! I've been lurking around here for a while, enjoying all of the acquisition posts and knowledge from the different subgroups of this community. Reading about the stories posted here really got me excited about vintage hardware from one of my favorite tech companies. I wanted to make sure my first post would be on the "Apple" of my eye. 


I've been hunting for a PowerBook 550c for a few years, and lately, the time has been ripe. I recently acquired one on Yahoo! Auctions, which had the 100Mhz (or 99MHz?) PPC upgrade and 32MB module installed. I also found a PCMCIA Rev C module and a NUpowr 500 167MHz 8MB daughterboard/set. 


There were a couple issues: when I picked up the package, I was so excited that I had to open it right there in my car outside on the lot. I was worried about the long trip it had to take overseas that it could be damaged, and I did not insure the package. It was dark, but I had the Map light on, and looking at the unit took my breath away. It was a sight to behold. As I played with the "feet," I ended up snapping the left side foot trying to pop it out. Some JB Wield/superglue remedied that, and has held up very very well so far! 




Also, the right side battery had corrosion that ruined the battery contacts inside. I'm just glad the unit still functioned, but I wanted a permanent solution. I bought a 520 on eBay recently, and transplanted the right side battery contact module over to the 550c. The transplant was a success, and I successfully revived one of the batteries that the unit came with using the Intelligent Battery Recondition and EMM VST program after reading here on some of the past experiences of users that posted previously. This was merely just so I had some kind of verification that my soldering work was not crap (: 








Here is a picture of the current setup. I am truly ecstatic about this new addition to my Mac fam, and I truly appreciate the wealth of knowledge I've been reading here on the forums. 




I am still waiting for a IDE -> CF card adapter. The drive that was included in my 550c was a 1GB Apple-branded IBM drive connected to a SCSCI -> IDE attachment by ADTX. Enjoy the pics! I have quite a few more, but having trouble loading them up here. If I can load more later, I post an update!



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Finally figured out the problem; lowered the size of my pic files. (: 


Here are some pics of the battery connector swap and board comparison, 520 vs 550c: 








Here is a comparison of the 520 daughter card, the PPC daughter card from the 550c, and the NUpowr 167MHz daughter card (now currently inside of the 550c): 



Here is the installation of the card into the system, and after uploading the NUpowr extension (otherwise, the system seems to recognize the daughter card processor as a 133MHz PPC on Mac OS 8.6): 



I restored one of the batteries, just to verify that the right battery connector soldering job wasn't total crap. (it wasn't) (: 



Finally, here are pics of the HDD adapter inside the 550c, the PCMCIA module I acquired, and the NUpowr set I purchased recently: 





Okay, this is a lot of pictures! Sorry! :'-)

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12 minutes ago, CC_333 said:

Wow! That's like the holy grail of the PowerBook 500 series there! Great find!!


I think it actually looks nicer than the normal ones.


Now I want one too [:)]



Thanks! It's been my "Holy Grail" for ages. (: I seem to find them pop up on auction every now and then, but decided this was the right time...and I'm a lot more comfortable using proxy buyers now. And I learned about a service called "DHL Express" that gets packages to you like. Fast. Stupidly fast (36 hours, no lie). 


I agree, I wanted the 520/540 variants back in my younger days until I learned about the 550c when I started getting into vintage Macs. Pictures do it no justice. 

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1 minute ago, Bolle said:

Too bad it did not come with the original 040 processor board.

Nevertheless a great find. :)

Haha, that was the thing that bugged me at first! :-/ On the other hand, I was planning to upgrade the processor, but it definitely would have been nice to have the 040 to play with later. I was looking at getting another 550c just for it, but it went way over my budget ($550 if converted to US from Yen...haha, someone had a sense of humor..)

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I forgot to add that while I had the 550c taken completely apart (besides the screen assembly, which I've left intact), I had bought a brand new Global Village 19.2Kbps modem on eBay for the 500 series. I like fixing things to "completion," so I decided to upgrade the 550c and install the modem, even though I have no earthly idea what application I could use for it in this day and age: 



I would have been lost without the aid of my TAM that I've had to write installation disks on 3.5" practically on every application I've had to do, whether it was restoring the HDD or loading software. Once I acquired the 8x Panny external drive, things were a lot easier; I realized I could just drop the CD ext file into a boot up disk and use the CD drive even while restoring the HDD. 



While I'm in the topic of the TAM, it has been an even larger project for me. I acquired it on auction through a Buy It Now of $600 shipped (I think shipped? I don't remember, but I think so). The seller failed to include the touchpad filler square, which might have slipped off the keyboard during packing, and had to ship afterwards. It wouldn't power on at first; I found a post somewhere here that talked about pressing the reset button on the back of the unit, which, to my amazement, did the trick! However, the CD Drive failed to read disks. Soooooooooooo....


This was the first, but definitely NOT the last time I had to open it up. It was caked with dust inside. This was a bare-bones unit, no upgrades. I assume original RAM stick, which I upgraded later. And I pulled the PRAM battery as soon as I received the TAM. I found a CD drive around the same era built as the TAM, after researching CD drive repair options, and took a chance; it was made for IBM-compatible PCs: 


The logic board was very similar, with only small differences. I was hopeful that it was just the laser module that was the problem, as it seemed like everyone with the issue had noted. So I just replaced the laser module: 


And maybe one or both of the motors, I think... I also reinforced the ribbon flex cable with electrical tape. The flex on the original had torn at the angle, and I'm not sure if that was due to usage or if I had inflicted that damage on my own. But I definitely wanted to make sure it would not happen to this one:


There was also damage to the CD drive door at the hinges. When I received, it was just the left side hinge. Then, after the laser repair, the right side clutch/whatever had snapped off from inside. I repair with JB Wield, but it snapped again. So I used the toughest JB Wield I could find, requiring a 6hr set time and 24hour curing period. I might have layered twice. This was the last repair, and hopefully will not have to revisit ever. Ever ever ever ever EVER again! 


Had to use a Dremel to "thin" it from the laser side a bit so it could pass the casing: 


And, as you'd know it, the left side broke again. So I used a JB Wield super glue this time to bond it without reopening the unit. Twice, since the first time, glue had seeped into the edge and caused the door to be "stuck" from opening, causing me to chip it off and break it once again: 



Then, the elusive "speaker buzz" started occurring. Well, I thought it might have happened due to the subwoofer unit, as I've read online. The commenters suggest tinning the connector because it can oxide over time. Soooooooooo....



I'm going to be honest here. I've soldered quite a few things in my lifetime, and I'm 33 now. But I still don't think my soldering skills are the greatest. So here is my somewhat okay job that I took much much longer than I should have: 



When I put the subwoofer unit back together and fired the TAM up, the buzz was still there!! So I disassembled the main unit, at a later time, cleaned the connectors pretty well...with a cloth....and reattached everything back together, praying the buzz would go away. That was it, the buzz was gone. And I wasted a lot of time opening/tinning the subwoofer! But, oh well, at least I future proofed it, maybe? (I don't know...I just need some reasoning to justify it...anyways...)


Well, by this time, I'm just hoping nothing else comes up! I did get a Sonnet Tango for a pretty good deal on Amazon. 




And I upgraded the HDD to a CF with adapter: 



Finally, here is the end result.




I repurposed an old Linksys wireless router into a wireless bridge, which I have the 550c and TAM connected to. 



Overall, I'm very happy with the outcome of these projects. I've wanted these two machines for a very long time, and I've even gone a bit further with the TAM than I wholly expected. I can't imagine myself buying another one after all I've been through!! However, I love the machine and, someday, I hope to find a Sonnet Crescendo L2 to boost the usability. I use it almost very often, and since I've discovered Classilla, it feels very "modern" and useful/practical. Especially having to download software for the 550c and create discs, it has been an extremely vital machine to that project.


My PowerBook G3 Wallstreet, which started my vintage Mac interest, is in a briefcase here, and I may need the TAM once more to help with furthering that project. For now, I'm just going to enjoy using the 550c and TAM.

Edited by Charadis
Added that the tinning of the Bose subwoofer/power unit connector did not fix the buzz
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1 hour ago, Charadis said:

I wish more of my friends thought the same! :-) I absolutely love using them

Thanks for posting up all the pics, Charidis - you've certainly kept yourself busy restoring your Macs :)


The 550c: looks great; I can confirm you can add a 16GB CF drive to the SCSI to IDE adapter (stacked with a 2.5" IDE to CF adapter); don't believe old information which states the HD has to be less than < 2GB.  I consider it to be faster and more elegant option over booting from a PCMCIA to CF adapter in the card cage.


The TAM: also looks great considering it sounded fairly rough around the edges!  How do you find the IDE to CF adapter in it; does it run any faster using the CF card?



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3 hours ago, Byrd said:

Thanks for posting up all the pics, Charidis - you've certainly kept yourself busy restoring your Macs :)


The 550c: looks great; I can confirm you can add a 16GB CF drive to the SCSI to IDE adapter (stacked with a 2.5" IDE to CF adapter); don't believe old information which states the HD has to be less than < 2GB.  I consider it to be faster and more elegant option over booting from a PCMCIA to CF adapter in the card cage.


The TAM: also looks great considering it sounded fairly rough around the edges!  How do you find the IDE to CF adapter in it; does it run any faster using the CF card?



I'm glad you enjoy the pictures, Byrd! These have probably taken up a bit longer than I intended, but it has been worth the fun and time referencing from others' past experiences. 


I appreciate the information on the SCSI to IDE adapter; I had read about people having trouble getting beyond 8GB CF cards to work, so I had already purchased a 4GB card from eBay. Since 16GB should be fine, I'll try giving that a go when that adapter gets here! I haven't really had much use of the PCMCIA adapter, yet, but I definitely prefer to have the drive internal. I tried a 20MB linear flash PCMCIA card from my 2100, and it freezes the machine instantly. The Sony PCWA-C150 that I have is recognized, however, but tells me that the drivers required are not installed. However, the card icon shows up on the desktop. 


Thanks on the TAM; it has definitely needed a bit of work! But it's in much better condition than I had expected it when it arrived. Besides the CD-ROM door breaking every time I look at it!! :p The IDE -> CF adapter makes a big difference in my experience. Besides web surfing, everything just loads more fluidly. One big curiosity, however, is that the system will attempt to index the drive when it is not in use for a while, and the index duration shows something like 4-5 hours to finish on Mac OS 9.1...I'm not sure on the exact duration est. The bar hardly moves for a while, but after around 30mins-1hr, it jumps up, and the duration time dramatically drops. I don't know why it has that little hiccup. If the system falls into sleep, however, the Indexing seems to freeze at whatever time it showed. At that point, I just cancel. 


The system is still loud without the HDD because of the fan, but I actually enjoy that nice hum. Reminds me that I'm still using a piece of history despite all the changes. :)


I have a CF in my PowerBook G3 Wallstreet, as well, and in my limited time playing with it, I notice a big difference in loading times. At this point, I'm going to use a CF wherever I can! It is strange, however, that the PB is so quiet without a HDD. 



Edited by Charadis
Added on duration time of indexing
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So I happened to dig out my 3400c "parts machine" tonight, and...that keyboard looks kinda nice. ;) Wouldn't it be a shame..




..if I took a few keys...



...maybe a few more...



..and do a little swap...






...a small...



...project? ;););) 



Hmph. Those look like a couple of regular FrankenBooks :p




Well. Sure is nice to have a full-size Delete key! I'm just saying


Edited by Charadis
More grammar correction. Because I'm terrible
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3 hours ago, KnobsNSwitches said:

Terrific thread, and great pics. Thanks for sharing!

Thanks a lot, I’m glad you enjoyed! I didn’t expect to post as much as I have already. I must credit the iPhone X for being a great camera ;) 


1 hour ago, EvilCapitalist said:

Those are some fine machines you've got there!  Always nice to see someone putting in the work to get a really nice machine in the end.

I always love a good project more than just buying something that has had all the work done to it already. And it is always enlightening hearing feedback, like yours, after all the work :) 

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On 4/1/2018 at 10:55 PM, Byrd said:

Thanks for posting up all the pics, Charidis - you've certainly kept yourself busy restoring your Macs :)


The 550c: looks great; I can confirm you can add a 16GB CF drive to the SCSI to IDE adapter (stacked with a 2.5" IDE to CF adapter); don't believe old information which states the HD has to be less than < 2GB.  I consider it to be faster and more elegant option over booting from a PCMCIA to CF adapter in the card cage.


The TAM: also looks great considering it sounded fairly rough around the edges!  How do you find the IDE to CF adapter in it; does it run any faster using the CF card?




I finally got the CF adapter, after nearly a month of waiting for it from overseas. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to get the 4GB Transcend cf to be recognized! I tried a 16GB and 64GB Sandisk cards as well, no dice. I even installed the 4GB into my G3 and initialized it there, but the 550c still doesn’t recognize it :/ 




The only card I had any luck with was a Seagate ST1 microdrive I happened to have lying around. It recognizes it, and I initialized it. But it feels pretty slow; spent about 3-4 hours installing Mac OS 8.0 at 8x cd drive speed. 


Are there specific cf specs, or brand, I should be trying out?? I ordered a 2GB Transcend cf this morning to test out, but if it still doesn’t work, I’m at a bit of a loss. :/ 

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There seems to be some voodoo with CF cards. I'd suggest to go smaller in size, 1 GB like your (glacial) microdrive, or even less (just to try).


I ran into something similar with my 2400 and a PCMCIA-CF adapter. No matter what I did, I could not get any variant of Mac OS higher than 8.1 to install on an 8 gig card or a 1 GB card. And on that card, even once the OS was installed,  couldn't copy files back to the CF card without a system freeze. Switching to a 512 meg card avoided all such problems, and I can boot off the CF card in 8.5 and copy files and so on. All were name brand cards, same PCMCIA adapter, I couldn't figure it out, but hey, it's working now. 

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Strange, I was thinking the SCSI IDE adapter is suspect to being picky itself. Maybe it’s your PCMCIA adapter that is also picky? :wacko:


I also thought about card size being issue, but as Byrd reported above, it sounds like maybe he got a 16GB to work in his? If I have to drop down to 1GB CF, then I will! But I’m hoping to figure out a way around this voodoo 

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On 4/11/2018 at 6:58 PM, Byrd said:

No issues here with a Sandisk Extreme 16GB CF card and a single slot generic 2.5" to CF adapter.  Board I have could be a later revision ... possible, it's an Apple branded ACARD model.

That might be the issue with mine, if it is an earlier version. Or probably some variation between my ADTX adapter from your ACARD. 


On 4/14/2018 at 12:51 PM, techknight said:

I think it all depends on how much of the ATA standard, and what parts of it that each CF card cares to emulate. 


I bet that has alot to do with it. 


I was thinking this might have something to do with it. I got the 2GB Transcend 133x CF card on Friday, but installing it yielded no change; it does not even show up. I even partitioned it on my WallStreet into two partitions, and it is still not recognized. Instead, a green light flashes on the CF->IDE adapter while it is connected to the 550c. 


Since it seems that size is not the issue (up to 8GB at least, from reports on other forums on the ADTX adapter), I've ordered a SiliconDrive 4GB CF made for  industrial embedded applications and will see what happens. I may order a few more CF-form-factor drives cards/drives, probably another Seagate ST1 as the 2.5GB I have is recognized, but I really want something faster. Less latency. 


At this point, I'm just shot-gunning it now <_<

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  • 2 weeks later...

Finally. Found an SSD that couples with the ADTX perfectly! So the CF scene did not pan out well; the 4GB PATA Silicon Drive CF that I picked up had the same result as using the Transcend 4GB and 2GB CFs. No go. 


What did work was this SwissBit P120 4GB commercial PATA SSD. Installed on the ADTX IDE to SCSI adapter, put it all together, and boom! The system picked it up as soon as it scanned the BUS while on boot disk. The seller has plenty of these drives available, apparently, so I may pick another up! 



The major appeal for me in choose this was not only that it is less than 8GB and SSD, but that it also has older-style mounting holes that pair with the ADTX adapter perfectly. 



Here is the drive mounted on the ADTX adapter rails: 



And the fully initialized drive, appropriately named ;) 



I have 8.6 running on it now. iTunes responds sooooo much better. I upped virtual memory to 100MB when using Classilla, routing virtual memory to CF mounted in the PCMCIA slot via an adapter (to save the hard drive), and it works pretty well.... not G3 speeds, but for this, I'm not going to complain too much :) 

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