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Looking to build a Raspberry Pi inside of an old PowerBook...


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I have an old PowerBook 170 that I'd like to convert into a fully functional, modern laptop computer/emulator using Raspberry Pi.


My goal is to keep the aesthetics of the PowerBook the same (for the most part), but naturally I want to use a modern, color 10" LCD.


Right now I'm just trying to make sure I can continue to use the keyboard and trackball before I jump into this project.


I took apart the PowerBook already and discovered that trackball is a single unit that plugs into the bottom of the keyboard via ribbon strip. The top of the keyboard also has two ribbon strips that plugged into what I assume was a control board or something.


Has anyone here done any old computer hacks that involve a laptop keyboard conversion to USB? If so, what can you share with me that could help me out with this project?

Thanks in advance.




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Pull the trackball & keyboard, figure out who manufactured them, then see if you can't track down any info on what sort of interface they had to the Powerbook. That should give you some idea of what you'll need to do in terms of building an adapter to get them recognised by the RasPi.


At a guess, the trackball is probably either PS/2 or serial. If it is, you may be able to just hack a connector onto its cable, feed that to the appropriate USB adapter, and plug that into the RasPi.


As for the keyboard... There're a lot of possibilities, AT or PS/2 being the most likely. Start with figuring out the manufacturer and go from there.

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Wouldn't ADB be more likely? It's Apple, after all.


I wouldn't rule it out. However, given that both the keyboard and trackball went into a laptop, I could see where Apple might not have bothered with ADB internally since, well, customers would never see it and it would shave a few bucks off the cost. Then again, the Powerbook 170 did expose an ADB port, so tying to that bus may have made more sense.


That said, if it is ADB, good luck finding ADB to USB adapters at reasonable prices. The last time I had to buy one was probably close to a decade ago and even then it was around $50 if memory serves.

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Got curious about what the trackball and keyboard use internally to connect to the motherboard, and did a little light digging. While I didn't find a direct answer to that question, I did run across something interesting:




(That link was taken from this thread in which someone else was looking to hack a modern MacBook into a Powerbook case.)


That might be your best interfacing bet. Note that I have zero experience with these, so any questions would be best directed to someone who does.

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there's some imate's on ebay for ~50 bucks, I think I paid 30 for mine a couple years ago


Yep, spotted those as well. No idea what support for them is like under Linux, though.


I'd be willing to bet that they probably are supported, but without knowing the internal connectivity of the devices in question it's probably better to not drop $50 apiece on them until that's verified.

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