Apple IIgs Original Hardware Laptop

As many of you know I grew up during the 80’s and spent a lot of time with the fun 8-bit computers of those days. One of my favorites was the Apple IIgs, and when someone requested I build a portable version of it I jumped at the chance.

It's Arkanoid Time!
A custom-built Apple IIgs laptop. Click for larger version, suitable for framing.

Some quick specs:

  • Large 15″ color screen. Much bigger than the ones on my other 8-bit computer projects (thus far)
  • Uses an original Apple IIgs motherboard with RAM expansion.
  • Custom acrylic keyboard. It uses the original keyboard PCB, but the buttons were custom made for a cool modern look.
  • CompactFlash adapter inside unit functions as an original equipment hard drive.
  • Glowing backlit “][” logo. Blue for on, with a bit of yellow during disk access.
  • Built-in stereo speakers.
  • Side port access for floppy drive, joystick and mouse.
  • Can play Arkanoid II!

For more photos and details, see below. I’ll post a Making Of story in the near future… in the meantime you can also watch this amazing demo video I put together:

Small iPod Version
Larger MPG version

(Note: Music was the most “frolic-ey” that I could find)

Please note, as usual, this is a one-time custom project and thus I will not be making any more of these. It is a one-of-a-kind single project. But I am always open to new modding requests if you’d like to drop me an email. Variety is the spice of life!

Begin photo gallery now!

I would consider this a fair use of a sticker
Luckily I had a nice Apple logo sticker laying around from my recent iPod Touch purchase that I could slap on this baby when done. It really ties the room together, so to speak.

Glass tables FTW
Shot of the unit from below. This is a very good “emulation” of a sneak photo from CES, wouldn’t you agree?

 This unit is very monochromatic in design and I like it that way. Design is about shape, not color!
View from left. The basic idea with this unit was to make it look like an laptop that had been designed in the 80’s. The large amount of vertical air holes (basically pointless since this machine gets about as hot as your average pocket calculator) are meant to subconsciously remind the viewer of the fairly compact Apple IIc. You can see the speaker slits from this angle as well.

These keys - 50% of the work. Really.
A closer view of the custom keyboard, one of my best looking ones but also fairly complicated to do. These keys are .188″ thick acrylic with the letters laser-etched onto the fronts. This etching was then painted black. Each key was masking taped again (ug) and their backs were painted white. Finally each key was attached to a thin, sticky backing which holds them all in place for the PCB which contains the switches.

Note: Upon taking apart the original IIgs keyboard (also used on old Mac Classics) I must say that it is without a doubt the best built keyboard I have every come across in all my days.

HDR lighting shot
Unit opened shown from the back. Dimensions when closed are 14″ x 10.375″ x 2.25″ (not quite small enough to fit in an envelope, sorry) There is a slightly raised section on the screen lid to allow for the decoder circuit board on the LCD. In technical terminology that makes it a “design feature”.

Goes great with any office decor.
View of the closed unit. The small buttons on the screen lid (above the mouse port here) let you adjust color, brightness, etc. The screen once again comes from good old AEI Components.

It must be thiiiiiin!
Side view, with bright blue light. I choose blue because it’s the most monochromatic color in my opinion. (Which is suspect as I am slightly colorblind)

Note how similar this looks to my Wii laptop...
Unit closed, rear. You can see the external power supply jack in this view, as well as the cable connecting the halves. Note to self: I need to update my hinge design one of these years…

You need a big screen when 20% of it is 1980's overscan border
The IIgs, booting up. Fun fact – this computer has the same CPU as the Super Nintendo.

No right-angle USB adapters needed!
Close up of the floppy drive/joystick ports. These are in their original positions on the motherboard, and a hole in the case gives us access to them. As a fun fact, I am now using, on average, all size 2 or 3 screws in my projects. Started with 6’s, moved onto 4’s around 2003, been going smaller since. McMaster-Carr is a great place to order screws and stuff in bulk.

Preview of the insides, before the upcoming “Making Of” story. Note the re-wired right-angle memory expansion (right) and right-angle Compact Flash reader (center). I even had to rewire the DIP 40 controller IC on the keyboard for the best fit. Why? Because… that’s what I do!

That’s it for now but I’ll try and throw together a “Making Of” story within the next week. Hm, by my count this only leaves ONE classic 8-bit computer left for me to mod… (No, not the MSX)

164 thoughts on “Apple IIgs Original Hardware Laptop”

  1. Just like to say before i say what i want to say my blog is a hit check it out you guys should visit ok where do you get like the case for the laptop like the shell i see you make so many laptops where do you get the case to put the harddrive and motherboard and all that stuff im just asking where do you get the case

  2. Ben, I collect macs and i have to say i covet some of your mod’d equipment… wow… I need some of this stuff for my collection.

  3. Dude, this is one of the cleanest builds I have seen you do thus far. I am thoroughly impressed with your ability to capture the modern design of Apple and make it retro with one of my most favorite (and first) computer systems. Amazing work Ben!

  4. But…could it possibly be….no….

    you’re mad…. you’ve done Ataris and Amigas….

    Commodore64? Or have you already done that?

  5. Huh – somebody made a CF reader? Bet it has to use the C800-CFFF ROM for that.
    It just doesn’t seem like an Apple II without a 5.25″ drive, though…

  6. he MAKES the cases, designs them in adobe ilustrator or something and gets them cut on a CNC machine correct? by the way ben AWESOME job, you should do an amiga 600 or minimig in the future! (minimig board is only 120x120mm and only 200$ you know you want to, its a fully functional amiga 500!)

  7. A TRS-80 laptop… Where would you put the tape drive? The Sinclair Timex could be cool too!

  8. I don’t know about 8bit computers, but I would love to see an amiga done up with this treatment. Actually, I tell a slight lie -> I would love to OWN one. (esp. with lotsa ram and a hd..)

  9. Damn. I miss my ][GS. Overall, I think this is the most awesome laptopification you’ve done.
    So… do we get to see a nice red and blue logo on the next one? 🙂
    That could be done minus most of the original hardware, though. SoC’s abound for that machine.

  10. seriously, i hope he doesnt use any adobe project to design a parts for a CNC machine. Autodesk maybe. beautiful.

  11. This is a really cool looking IIGS laptop. You have done a wonderfully meticulous job Ben. Sandy

  12. Way cool, guess you rewired the slots to insert the Compact Flash card, stereo card, and RAM upgrade..

    Also, it looks like you are using low quality composite video? Why don’t you convert the RGB to VGA? One such solution is on my website,

  13. So, is there aZipGS, or a Transwarp GS, board in there with the 12MHz or the 20MHz cpu accelerator?

    How much ram in that AE Ramstack Plus board? 6MB, or the full 8MB? Man, can’t wait for your instructions so I can try that on my GS. 🙂

  14. Congratulations!
    Well done, fellow American. The details are fabulous.

    Regards from the German Empire,

  15. I’d be far more impressed if ben did an Amiga laptop using original hardware rather than the minimig.
    There have been many attempts at an Amiga laptop over the years, but I know Ben could do a far better job 🙂

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  17. Ben, I have some of the old school, rainbow apple stickers. Would you like me to send you one of the small ones for this? Might be a bit more classic than the modern white apple. I’m sure you will be able to find my email address from the comments post. Let me know. –Andy

  18. Wow… That’s awesome!

    I’d love to be able to play KEEF THE THIEF on the go.

    Well done, sir!

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  20. Dude, you so fraking ROCK! I miss my old ][e, ][gs and SE/30. I let my wife talk me into trashing them when we were first married 11 years ago. UGH! Grounds for divorce!

  21. OMFG. It is so weird to have tech lust over such an obsolete device. It must be the nostalgia, I would actually consider buying one, but the price would inherently be absurd. Still, I could see myself typing up blog posts or something on it and then transferring them via a 9600 baud modem to a custom wordpress bbs system to post.

  22. I have a great idea… Why don’t you see if Steve Wozniak will sign the case, like he did with the original Apple ][GS? And wasn’t the video quality slightly better in the original? Or is that just how conversions go?

    Too bad there’s no accelerator card to take it to 7MHz+!! 🙂

  23. Thank you so much for doing this. The Apple //gs is the computer that changed my life, and is the reason I now do what I do for a living. Your mod is the coolest thing I have seen since I regretfully boxed up my GS for good in 1994.

    You are my new god. I will build many temples in your honour and smite all your enemies.

    Now let’s see that bad boy running some FTA demos, or some Rastan, or a little NoiseTracker, eh? Got the Transwarp version done yet?

  24. This is just a BEATIFUL finished casing. Not a lot of people manage to create perfect looking things these days. Congrats to this excellent work.

    Any chance that you mention the tools (cnc mill, laser edge, …) in detail. I would love to have some ideas where to start to be able to do similiar things (in a lot of years 😉 )

  25. Too bad your laptop still cant play “Captain Comic” a public domain of IBM PC AT!! It is the best game I ever played way back during 1995!!

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  27. You never cease to amaze me, Ben. Wow.

    So does this version turn yellow in 10 years like the originals?

  28. Realmente estas cosas son las que revolucionan al mundo, sin personas tan ingeniosas como tu no sabría que seria de el universo, gracias por tus grandes ideas, realmente tu eres como el comercial de apple Think different,

  29. Fantastic. I rarely (never) give comments on things like this, but I have to say this is an amazing labor of love, and the end result is stupendously cool. I rarely have seen such effort and skill put into something more useless, but “useless” is not a derogatory term. Bravo! A suggestion for a follow-up: a flat-panel (4-bit) NeXT to show .eps animations as wall art.

  30. I think the computer looks totally awesome but I would have used a newer computer like a iBook G4 or something rather than that old old old Mac but once again it does look totally sweet I must say.

  31. Ben, did you consider adding a trackball of some sort so the mouse wouldn’t be absolutely necessary, or was it too dificult to fit in with the motherboard, etc?

  32. very nice work it looks lalomost likea factory job though I would have tried to use the RGB for vid on the flat panel.

    Another computer I haven’t seen modded yet is the Tandy COCO3 which should be very easy since it’s already a fairly small system.

  33. You managed to make another laptop in less than a month. I would be damned if I didnt know how much energy that took! WOW!

  34. The Apple ][ GS… brings back the memories here…
    I wonder, hows a Game Boy Advance could be mod under Ben’s manic skillz?

  35. This laptop is slammin sexy. The Apple IIgs was my last purchase from Apple computer. Your creation gives me chills. A shame the 6502 architecture did not bloom – in an alternate reality, Apple didn’t abandon it for the 68ousand. I would be proud to carry that as an official laptop as I still use IIs in my daily life.

  36. Ben: You’d make a million bucks from old IIgs hacks like myself if you ever decide to have someone start fabricating a IIgs laptop! Outstanding, and an inspiration to see what you’ve done!

  37. Masterpiece. I’m speechless. Look at that keyboard. The lighting, the screen.
    This is a fitting tribute to one of the last great 8 bit computers.

    I like the addition of the flash drive emulation. Genius!

    I wish I could do that with a Commodore. Maybe with one of those C-64 joysticks?

  38. Wish I had one of these. When do they go up for sale? I would most likely need a few upgrades that could not fit into the case.

    I still use my II GS for running my business and most everything else except for getting online (it wont hook up to the wireless ethernet) and some graphics work. Do occaionally use my Powerbook to run Appleworks in emulation mode when I am on the road but that is real slow.

    I had to replace my SCSI hard drive with a compact flash unit that is slower. My HD wore out and I discovered you could no longer buy SCSI hard drives in a size that would work. Although still use the SCSI for a zip drive- useful for transfering date to and from powerbook. Mine is also running at a blazing13.75 Mhz and has the infmaous Second Sight card. The only real use I have foudn it to have was to let me use a cheap SVGA monitir when my original Apple one died. Although it can display some nice JPEGs.

  39. I’m glad you all enjoy this IIgs project so much. It is also one of my favorites now, personally because a) I loved the computer b) it wasn’t too terribly hard too build (compared to a PS3/Xbox for instance) and c) I am proud of the nice clean design I came up with.

    This is the only one, though, there won’t be any more. But yes, if anyone wants an Amiga, ST, etc, something new, I’ll probably be ramping up projects again in May.

    Much more interesting (to me) than endless Xbox 360 laptops. 😉

  40. Whow – absolutely cool 🙂
    I had several IIgs years ago and pushed my best one up to 8Mhz (ZipGSX), RamFast SCSI card with external 540MB drive, 8MB RAM (CV-Tech-card 4MB with a second piggypacked 4MB card) … don`t ask me how much money I spend during these years and what I`ve got for it years later when I sold it to have some money for my first brandnew Mac (not used like the ones`s I had before), a Powerbook 145B.
    Now, 13 years after I´ve seen had the last IIgs under my fingers I see the thing that I really wanted at that time :-)))
    Congratulation – really good work. And if you ever want to sell it in a few years – just give me a note *grin*

  41. Great work this modification. I used and still use the apple ][GS. A great machine that is easy to use and easy to teach someone how to use a computer. I have taugh many young students how to compute using the apple ][GS. Now this is a great recreation.

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  43. Ben, you have outdone yourself, The GS was a computer of so many firsts ( for apple ) , first color monitor, first with advanced sound etc etc.

    You have just build the equivalent of the messiah of Apple II computing.

    Hail you.

  44. I want it! I want it! Arkanoid II was my all time favorite games & I regret that there has never been a decent articulation of it on a Mac. I’ve tried emulators, but they wouldn’t accept the version that I hacked from my floppy to the hard drive. I finally, reluctantly put away (and subsequently gave away) all my GSes about five years or so ago (most everything else I migrated to a Mac because I knew that Apple had determined to choke the IIGS to death).
    Also sad in that the company’s determination to end-of-life the IIGS rather than give a smooth upgrade path of a Mac machine with backward compatability was what cost Apple its dominance in the world of elementary and secondary education.

  45. Covet covet covet…

    But then there’s the opposite approach, turning a Mac into a retro-futuristic “ElectriClerk”, with old-fashioned (early-1900s) typewriter keys, and a Fresnel lens to magnify the teensy screen:

    No doubt the device used by Dr. Frankenstein to design the Monster and chart the construction project.

  46. Great job. Reminds me of those days when I had an Apple //e and admired, but could not afford, such a shiny new //gs. Hey Ben, you may be too young to remember but the most impressive computer at that time, besides the Apple and the Amiga, was the Exidy Sourceror. Wouldn’t THAT be a challenge .. a sourcerer modding a sourceror … grin .. keep up the outstanding work!

  47. incredible. Useless, I imagine, but… wow. Your building of it is nothing short of perfect

  48. Sigh.. god you bring back memories…
    I really miss having a GS… one of these days if i see a NIB GS mebby ill bite…

    –past moderator of comp.binaries.apple2

  49. It is amazing that it uses LCD. Please let me know how to connect the monitor signal to LCD.


  50. This is fantastic. I won’t say I’m not disappointed that you won’t be making more, though. Looking forward to your “Making of” article for this, I’ve got an Apple II GS collecting dust in the attic that needs sexifying…

  51. Very nice. Looks like you used a composite LCD though, judging from the artifacting on the screen? The IIgs does (iirc) have an RGB output as well. I guess the trick would be to find a panel with RGB inputs that can scan at NTSC/PAL frequencies.

    I love the look; it’s very Apple – it doesn’t seem very 80s though. I think it would look at home sitting next to a modern iBook. Which is not a bad thing – if there’s one thing Apple knows, it’s cosmetics.

  52. Wow! This superb mod reminds me of something…..

    Ever see the movie ‘2010: The Year We make Contact’? It was the belated (1984) and somewhat lacklustre sequel to the superb ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, (1968), based on (recently deceased) SF writer Arthur C. Clarke’s novel of the same name. The central character Heywood Floyd (played by Roy Scheider- also recently deceased, alas) is seen at one point (before he goes off to space) sitting on a beach working on a laptop. Of course, no such things as laptop computers existed then, but this film went to great lengths to try to portray how America might look a generation later (the Ford concept car seen in the film is actually similar to many production models today, for instance). So the viewer only sees the ‘laptop’ from behind: the screen (I’ve read) was just a blank piece of metal (it was impossible to manufacture flat-displays back then, beyond calculator size anyway) but the keyboard was a (necessarily unpowered) Apple ][! I haven’t seen this film for a while, but from memory I think it looked quite similar to this mod! What a pity Scheider and Clarke won’t be around to use it in two year’s time….

  53. Denis Collins, the computer you saw in ‘2010: The Year We make Contact’ was an Apple IIc computer with the optional (but rare and expensive) LCD Flat Panel Display. It was a real computer with a real display not a mockup prop for the movie.

    Contrary to what you’ve said, flat LCD displays were available back then. Even Radio Shack sold a computer with a flat panel display. They just weren’t high definition multi-colored displays like we have today.

  54. Wooow, I am a big ! apple ][ fan and this is GREAT, you are good in what you do 🙂

  55. Still, all these months after I first saw this, this IIGS is lustworthy.

    Are you sure you don’t want to mass produces a batch?

  56. So so awsome…. But… Composite video? All that awsomeness and then you used composite video instead of the Analog RGB? You’re not supposed to use the Composite Video for color! That output was only really intended for use with the monochrome monitor. It looks terreble compared to the Analog RGB output. If nothing else you should really have the RGB port and headphone jack avalable so it could be used with an external monitor like a modern laptop can… such as my 25″ Sony KV25-XBR Trinitron TV/Monitor with Analog/Digital RGB input.

  57. Статья очень понравилась! Этакий короткий микс полезных знаний. Хоть и “зажгли лампу среди белого дня”:)

  58. OMG!!!! I still own my //gs and a portable laptop IS the ultimate for this device. Do you realize that if Apple Computer would sell this kind of a thing for little kids that they would make billions. There really is still a niche for this type of computer. Espeically the gaming industry. But students the world over are looking for a cheap computer. With the Apple //gs OS you get the best of all worlds. A cheap system to run on, an OS that is flexible enough to do anything, and people who care about the computer. All that really is left is to make the machine portable. Which you have done.

    But you have done more than that. You have taken an ugly box and made it beautiful. If I wasn’t unemployed I’d beg you to take my old //gs and convert it to this laptop mode. Even if it cost upwards of $5,000.00 in order to get you to do it. I love my //gs and I have over 1,000 disks for it (and the older //e, //c, and ][+). Although I now use a Dell laptop the most; I am slowly but surely converting all of my game disks over to AppleWin so I can still play them. What I’d really like to do though, is to convert the //gs into a laptop. I’d even bring it to my D&D games to show it off to everyone else. And believe me – they would be jealous. 🙂

    If nothing else – you really should type up a step-by-step methodology to do this. I’m sure there are lots of people out there who would download that info in a flash. 🙂

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  61. Work of art! Beautiful! But what a tease, only one of its kind…

    Corroded with jealousy. :^)

  62. Hi, I’m from France and continue to use my AppleIIGS. I would be more than interested to have a portable one !

    Please contact me, I would be more than happy to make some exchange with you about this incredible customization !

    Best regards,


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