Tiny LEGO Macintosh Classic with Pi inside

While he and his son played with LEGO, Berlin-based programmer Jannis Hermanns had the urge to build a replica of one of the first computers he remembers using: the Macintosh Classic. Cut to the addition of a Raspberry Pi Zero running Docker, and an e-paper display, and you have yourself the cutest tech build to blow up my inbox in a while.

Jannis Hermanns Raspberry Pi LEGO Macintosh Classic

SO SO CUTE, OMG
Image credit Jannis Hermanns

LEGO: for ages four to 99

“I am not 100% sure if it was this exact model or perhaps the Macintosh 128K from 1988, but I guess it doesn’t really matter. All I did with that computer was play Shufflepuck Café,” Jannis reminisces on his website. “But anyway, this isn’t about Shufflepuck nostalgia. It’s about taking things too far while playing LEGO with your kid.”

Building a LEGO Macintosh Classic

To start the project, Jannis ordered a 2.7″ e-paper display from Embedded Artists. He then built a prototype using various colours of LEGO bricks and, well…

Jannis Hermanns Raspberry Pi LEGO Macintosh Classic

“Let me tell you one thing: it didn’t look good,” admits Jannis
Image credit: Jannis Hermanns

LEGO Digital Designer

Deciding that the ‘use random bricks and see what happens’ approach wasn’t the way to go, Jannis turned to the free LEGO Digital Designer (LDD) application and, using the rainbow prototype for reference, he created a 3D representation of the classic grey case he wanted.

LEGO Digital Designer

Uploaded by Jannis Hermanns on 2017-03-28.

At this point, he discovered a new issue. The screen’s board was too big to fit into the ideal size of the casing. So with a few tweaks, and some work with a Dremel, he was ready to order the necessary bricks for the build.

Ordering enough bricks to make two units, and having to compromise on colour due to time restrictions, Jannis took to building – and Dremel-ing – the case until it was complete.

Building a makeshift Zero W

As he was using a Zero, and therefore had no ribbon cable connector to make life easier, Jannis had to rely on his smarts, and figure out which GPIO pins he needed to solder to connect the screen. He also cannibalised a Raspberry Pi USB WiFi dongle to make a homebrew Zero W (the W was yet to be released at the time of building…just) and got to soldering.

Using Docker and resin.io

With one of the two builds being a gift for a friend, Jannis wanted to be able to access the Pi remotely to update the code and display image. We’re sure his intentions for what displayed on the screen were pure.

While playing with Docker on the Raspberry Pi, I came across the great ARM Docker base images from the folks over at resin.io. After checking out their service, I realized they do just what I was looking for: they’re like a Docker Cloud for the IoT.

Jannis goes into more detail on how to use Docker and resin.io to build your own LEGO Macintosh Classic, along with the necessary links and code, on his blog.