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SystemSix Puts a Classic Mac Desktop on Your Actual Desk, Displays Weather, Calendar, and More

SystemSix Puts a Classic Mac Desktop on Your Actual Desk, Displays Weather, Calendar, and More


Semi-pseudonymous maker "j_calhoun" has built a Raspberry Pi-powered desktop calendar and weather accessory with a difference: it's designed to mimic Apple's classic Mac OS System 6.

Launched in 1988 for the Apple Macintosh, System Software 6 boasts many of the features of a modern graphical desktop including windows, icons, menus, and a pointer — but everything is is rendered in black-and-white, owing to the non-color display of the hardware for which it was written. Many modern ePaper displays are also black-and-white, or at least shade of gray, giving Calhoun a shot of inspiration.

"SystemSix is an e-Ink 'desk accessory' running on a Raspberry Pi," Calhoun explains. "It is a bit of nostalgia that can function as a calendar, display the weather, the current phase of the moon or just be generally fun to look at. It was written as a love-letter to my first Macintosh. Hopefully it is nostalgic, somewhat informative, and fun."

The software's main user interface is a replica of a System 6 desktop. A "Scrapbook" application provides live weather updates, while a "Calendar Events" window pulls in calendar entries for the day. A final window shows a picture of the phase of the moon — rendered, naturally, in black and white - or a puzzle. As a semi-hidden bonus: A single "trash day" can be configured, and on that day the desktop's Trash will be filled as a reminder to take out the bins.

"This project was my introduction to learning Python. I started from the sources of the beautiful eInkCalendar submitted by 13Bytes," Calhoun writes. "I did a lot of refactoring of 13Bytes code and added a lot of rendering code to display the desktop and icons in various configurations. I added the weather and phases of the Moon. Much of the effort though involved preparing image assets, coming up with visually attractive desktop layouts."

To finish the project off, Calhoun designed a laser-cut acrylic stand that mimics the appearance of a classic Apple Macintosh — scaled to fit a Waveshare 5.83" ePaper display. To avoid visible refreshes of the electrophoretic display, updates take place only once a day — though this can be changed in the project's Python source code.

The source code for the project, and an SVG for cutting the stand, is available on the SystemSix GitHub repository under an unspecified open-source license.

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