SystemSix, the “love letter to my first Macintosh”


Before the Macs we know today, Apple’s flagship computers were called Macintosh. A range that reigned for almost a decade, until 1997. Among the operating systems of these machines, System 6. The program quickly became a benchmark, but will soon be replaced by new versions.

However, there are still some who are nostalgic for this era, such as the artist John Calhoun. On his blog, this last detail meticulously how he revived this software as “a love letter to [s]the first Macintosh” by installing it on a prototype halfway between a calendar, the iPad Max and a photo frame.

100% original creation

This concept, whose appearance is close to Macintoshes with a floppy disk drive, uses a non-touch e-ink screen, connected to Raspberry Pi 3, a kind of mini-computer on a printed circuit board costing around forty euros. The diagonal of 5.83 inches broadcasts a preview of automated System 6 where the developer notably opened the calendar on the desktop. The list of its events scheduled for the day accompanies it.


© John Calhoun

It is not unable to interact with the interface directly, but the open windows can be changed according to the user’s needs. Note also that the latency of the installation and the order of a few seconds; we are far from a real tablet or an Amazon Echo Show. To discover the complete source code of this invention, go to GitHub: everything has been published there.

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Engineers Need Art

In fact, Calhoun was inspired by other quite unique works like that of a life-size newspaper with the same type of display. The advantage of technology e-ink, also called “electronic paper” or “e-paper”, is to be extremely energy efficient and yet easily readable in direct sunlight. Some consumer products, such as Kindle e-readers, are equipped with it.

To find out how SystemSix was imagined – that’s the name of this homage to the Macintoshes of the last century – its inventor has described the procedure illustrated with several screenshots on his site. The content is accessible here and written in English. We learn in particular that the frame is made of a laser-cut Plexiglas panel with a thickness of three millimeters, making it possible to achieve a final cost price under 100 euros.

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