DuoDesk 280c

by Ian at www.Fantasticthings.co.uk


The Powerbook Duo 280c. Small, quiet, crisp screen, crap keyboard.

Yes, as lovely as the Duo range is, the keyboard's are hard work. You can fit a later revision of keyboard, you can give it a good clean but even then you have to hit the keyboard too firmly for comfort.

Batteries. They're expensive. A new or refurbished battery costs more than the Duo itself, so unless you really have to use a Duo on the move it's a bit of a waste of money.

And so most Duo's these days no doubt spend their time fully docked, used as a desktop system, or remain in a cupboard, because you can't be bothered to unpack it, get the mains adapter out and plug it in. And the thought of that keyboard puts you right off.

And so we come to my Duo, which has indeed spent most of it's time in the cupboard.

It has 32 meg of RAM, a 328mb hard drive and a built in modem, so it makes an excellent backup email machine, or a nice quiet Irc terminal.

I'd been thinking of doing something with the Duo for a while. The only thing that came to mind was turning it into a super slim desktop machine, with a proper keyboard and mouse. This has already been done with other Powerbook's of course, all of which can be seen on Applefritter.

Destruction Time Again:

I didn't take any photo's while I was building it unfortunately, but here's a general description of what I did.

First, I made myself a really hot cup of tea, and then made my way to the shed.

I took out the keyboard, and dismantled the case, disconnected the screen and removed the hinges completely.

With the case reassembled but the screen not fixed I basically slid the screen down over the base of the Duo, and fixed it in place. But this involved doing two things:

i. I took the lid off the screen and cut a big hole in it for the display cable to pass through.

ii. The display cable was too short, so I *carefully* sliced the covering on the back of the screen to free up more cable.

Easy peasy. I then glued the back of the screen to the top of the base, and then clipped the rest of the screen in on top.

I used a hot melt glue gun to hold everything together. These a great things to have, and cheap too. You put a rod of glue in the back, the gun heats up the end and out comes melted gluey plastic. It's kind of like plastic welding. It dries quickly, and although it holds firmly, it can be peeled off once dry if you make a mess of things.

I went round the edges of the Duo with the glue gun, using much more where it couldn't be seen. You can only really see it down each side, and a strip of grey tape will cover that nicely.


Next I had to stop the Duo falling over once upright. I fixed the screen a bit lower down than I originally planned, as this in itself allows the Duo to stand upright, but it is unsafe, and can easily fall over.

So spying a spare shelf taken from the fridge (don't tell The Wife!) I cut a piece off and pushed it through the hinge holes at the bottom. It was then just a case of bending the ends round and up slightly. I then added a couple of spongy bits which were inside the Duo's lid to the underside front to steady it.


Putting it to Work:

Of course, the Duo has no ADB port, but thankfully I have a floppy dock, which includes one, so once plugged in we have a lovely little TFT desktop.

One power button is covered now, but you can use the one on the back to switch it on, or even better, the power button on the keyboard works too!

Networking is through the printer port for now using LocalTalk, but I can add a minidock, or preferably an etherdock at a later date. Once the Duo has ethernet, it will be able to connect to the Internet through my LAN, making it great for email or Irc. But in the meantime I can connect to the Internet through the built in modem.

Although the screen is small, it's easy to read across the desk.

This was a quick and easy hack to do, only taking a couple of hours, and I'm very pleased with the result. It's a silent desktop once the hard drive spins down that takes up very little space. You could even hang it on the wall!

I did toy with the idea of fitting everything inside a Mac Plus case, but decided against it for space reasons.


The back of the Duo. I just need some little feet to cover the ends of the stand.


For size comparison, here is the Duo next to my 7600.

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westieg3's picture

now did u simply cut out the case to extend the ribbon cable? i need to know because my brother wants me to do something much like this to his dell inspiration. funny thing is the things half as old as my wallstreet and its hinge snaps. just proves the unreliability of pcs.

moosemanmoo's picture

I have loved this mod for so long.. it's just so elegant.

The cover on the back of the screen I think I meant. Say the ribbon cable is attached to the top of the tft screen, then runs along the back under a thin cover. Cut the cover and extend the cable.

Thanks for the praise, but I'm sure someone with more time and patience could do a much tidier looking job Smile