Tablet iBook Mod

The problem with the Tablet PowerBook Mod was that the sensor area was much smaller than the PowerBook’s 15″ screen thereby allowing only a small portion of the screen to have pen input. This posed a problem to accessing menus, the dock, and the left and rights edges of the screen. The solution was obvious: get a larger sensor board or use a smaller screen.


Fixing the Backlight

I was given this old 600 mhz iBook G3 with a broken backlight a while back but it never dawned on me to use as my next tablet mod. I mean, how hard is it to fix a backlight right?

As a poor college student, I scavenged for parts in the junk I’ve been accumulating (of which my roommate has surprisingly not complained about) instead of buying a replacement backlight. I found some high intensity white LEDs leftover from trying to build a desk lamp. A few hours of calculating, measuring, cutting, and soldering, I had myself a new backlight. Granted, it’s much dimmer than a CCFL, but at least I can now see what’s going on!

Death and Rebirth of the PowerBook Tablet Mod

As for the actual sensor, I reused the sensor board from the Wacom Graphire I used in the Tablet PowerBook Mod. The PowerBook Tablet had long been inoperable after trying to fly home with it. Security checked my bag, and since then, the monitor would never turn on. RIP PowerBook Tablet.

I highly recommend you check out the gallery pictures for more info. I didn’t want to get deep into the details here but if you have questions, check out the gallery pictures and you can always email me: fmaurer at usc dot edu. A FAQ is soon to follow.


I did improve some aspects of this tablet mod compared to the PowerBook. First of all, the sensor board is sandwiched much closer to the LCD panel. I completely took apart the panel, all the way down to the diffusing sheets. The sensor board is stuck in between the defuser and the controller board, making sure to insulate it well. Finally, I put some electrical tape to reinforce it all. Moreover, I reused the monitor mounts to mount the LCD panel. The monitor just sits in reverse and feels much more solid.

What is really cool about using a 12″ iBook for this mod is that the sensor board is nearly the same size as the screen. So instead of doing a point to point relation, the screen is mapped to the entire surface of the tablet. Near the center, the cursor is directly under the pen but the closer you get to the edges, it begins to offset. It takes a little getting used to, but this time around you can access all the menus, icons, scroll bars, etc. It’s just a matter of looking at the cursor instead of the pen tip.

Unfortunately, the iBook is a 600 mhz G3, without airport card, and 256 mb of ram. It is sluggish in loading web pages (especially ones with flash) as you can see in the video and must be wired to the internet. But, I’m getting more and more confident in building tablets and soon I’ll be building a full fledged one running OS X. I have many ideas on how to build it and I have over a hundred hours of CNC experience from my previous internship…you can see where I’m going with this.

Still to finish up is the final lcd case frame. I’m not quite sure how I want to accomplish this or even how. I don’t have access to any sort of machining tools nor money to buy materials. So I guess it’ll just have to wait for another iBook to join my junk pile.

I’m graduating in May 2009 with a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. I’m looking forward to modding with a paycheck.

I’ve got a few offers for full time employment starting in May of ‘09, but I haven’t made up my mind yet. If you think I’d be a good fit in your company, I’d be glad to send you my resume. 

Email: fmaurer at usc dot edu


Comment from im@m
Time March 6, 2009 at 1:09 am

hi, it s me im@m from surabaya-indonesia.
i got ibook G4, and its look like your mod is cool. do you think it can be build also on mine? and how much does it cost? and will it looks more prettier? :) I mean, the sensor can be placed beneath the topcase, etc.
thx, im@m

Pingback from Mac 630 - Apple Ibooks and Ibook accessories for sale » Blog Archive » Cool Ibook Hacks from around the Web
Time April 13, 2009 at 7:51 pm

[...] Tablet ibook mod [...]

Comment from linuxjuicer
Time June 30, 2009 at 9:22 pm

Great stuff dude! I am also looking into a tablet solution for my iBook G4 14″ PPC and would love some input. Maybe we can team up and start something big? I need a CNC machinist or metalworker to help me out with the new casing, interested? Anyone can view my thread here:

I am also linking this page to it :)

Comment from Ramon
Time November 6, 2010 at 12:51 pm

I thought of finding a dead Powerbook G4 and cannibalize the bottom case to serve as an expanded top to make room for the sensor board and LCD. I plan on leaving the attached hinge so I can open the tablet and have access to the keyboard which I will mod to have a longer ribbon or replacement cable so I can take it outside the tablet to type if I want. I won’t need a USB/bluetooth keyboard, and I can stow it inside in tablet mode.
Great work.

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