Meet Frank - Macenstein

Meet Frank

Above: “Frank” even has two giant bolts sticking out of his head, just like the real thing!

Faithful Macenstein reader Julian writes:

Hi Doc!
A few months ago, my brother came to me and asked for a computer which can run some games, runs Mac Os X, looks cool, and costs below 500€ (including monitor, keyboard and all), because he spends most of his money on amps and guitars.
So we had almost no options. A real Mac was way to expensive, and just buying a cheap computer and installing a hacked Os X didn’t fulfill the coolness-factor.

A friend of mine and I came up with the idea of the Frankenmac, in short “Frank”.

We took our old iMac (G3 / 333 Mhz / 192 MB Ram) and converted it.

I love stuff like this. It’s probably a good thing I never learned to solder or I would have a whole bunch of oddly configured electronics throughout my house posing a number of fire risks. Of course, as with all hackintosh jobs, you sort of wonder why they didn’t just get a Mac mini… but hey, in things like this, the journey is sometimes as important as the destination. (detailed pics after the jump for those of you into such things).


The original.


First, we butchered it’s insides.


Basically we had to start from scratch: add a DVD burner.


My desk while working.


Some “custom built silicon” for turning the machine on, and lighting the on/off button green/orange.


The thing from above built into Frank, using a lot of hot glue and some wood.


Add the power adapter and the hard drive, apply more hot glue (only 160GB to keep it cheap).


Building the basis for the mother board.


The motherboard, built in.


Add some external USB plugs (Mac users having a current model can only dream of that, huh?).


Drying the 11 year old original keyboard in the oven after washing in the dishwasher.


Frank, close to final assembly: front bezel spray painted in black. If you wonder what the huge… thing on the left is for, it’s a manual control for the fan speed. And yes, there’s an integrated iPod dock at the top. The left switch turns some cool LED lightning on and off, the right one switches from the internal (original and functional) speakers to whatever is attached externally.


We had to send a few components back, this was the package (designed by me)..


The insides of the final computer.


From the front. Sadly, I’ve got no images from when I built in the monitor. It’s from a standard LCD monitor bought from eBay with 1024×768 pixels resolution, like the original iMac; we used a full sized angle grinder to get rid of it’s stand; also I got two electric shocks when I tried to calibrate the monitor (it had to be turned on, and we had to move the button to the display’s back). I used rubber gloves after the second time. (We in Europe have 220 Volts in our Plugs, trust me: it’s a funny feeling).


Frank in use. The black thing at the upper right is a microphone we took from a “real” microphone (the thing that singers use).


See, it boots Os X 10.5.6, and has 2GB of Ram.

Finally I’d like to have a short comparison between the original iMac, Frank, and the current standard iMac model.

Original iMac / Frank / Current iMac
Price: roughly 1600€ / 450€ / 1099€
Processor: 333Mhz G3 Power PC / Intel Core 2 Duo 2,8Ghz / Intel Core 2 Duo 2,66 Ghz
Graphics: Something ancient with 2MB memory / NVidia GeForce 9400, easily to be upgraded once my brother has money / NVidia GeForce 9400
Ram: 196 MB (originally 64MB) / 2GB Ram, second 2GB module not installed due to some OS troubles / 2GB
Hard Drive: 40GB (originally 6GB) / 160 GB / 320 GB
Screen: 1024×768 / 1024×768 / 1680×1050
Wlan: No / Yes / Yes
Microphone: Yes / Yes, high quality professional membrane / Yes
CD/DVD Drive: CD Drive only, broken / Dvd burner / Dvd burner
USB ports: 2 / 4 at the back + 5 at the side / 4
Firewire: No / Yes / Yes
HDMI: No / Yes / No
iSight: No / No / No
Use of hot glue: No / ca. 2 kg / No

So I think we created an quite equal competitor for the real iMac; while Frank has a smaller screen and no iSight (yet), it manages to outperform it’s counterpart by roughly 10-15% (using XBench to compare), and even psystar will have a hard time beating that price.
– Bernhard (second modder and chief hacker), Julian (me – chief modder) and Lorenz (the guy who uses that thing)

8 Responses to “Meet Frank”
  1. Min says:

    Very cool!! I did the same thing. sort of. I built a window’s PC out of an apple G4 tower before several years ago. Now, it’s in my friend’s basement eating dust.

  2. Julian Asamer says:

    You ask why no Mac mini: poor (gaming) performance, and the additional costs of the monitor would very likely have made it too expensive.

    It’s of course still true that the path is as important as the destination: I’ll never forget the smell of molten and burning plastic form drilling through the macs interiors, or all the itching, small pieces of metal in my bed after removing that monitor’s stand.

  3. kuzya says:

    the main problem for me in such things it is to install mac os x .
    Now I just want to find something like this but to build mac mini.

  4. thisisjohnny says:

    i wish i wasn’t a complete electronics n00b because i’d really like to mod something out one day. these hack jobs are so damn cool..

  5. bash$ says:

    >Sight: No / No / No
    WTF? current iMacs do have an iSight.

    anyway, you guys are cool 🙂
    nicely done!

  6. Christopher says:

    Awesome! I have one of these sitting in my house, collecting dust. This post has inspired me to actually do something with it! Prepare for Hackenstein!

  7. Mark O says:

    Fantastic job Julian! Specially with the design the package of components, it looks gorgeous.

    Would you mind letting me know what MB you used?


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