SystemSix: a love letter letter to old Macs for your desk

SystemSix is an e-ink display powered by Raspberry Pi 3B and designed to look like an old Mac interface. It’s a delightful whiff of nostalgia for your desk.

What can it do?

Maker j_calhoun has configured their e-ink display to suit their needs. The trash icon shows itself as “full” on Mondays to remind them to take the bins out for collection the next day. You can set this to a day of your choosing and never have to tear up and burn your recycling overflow in the garden fire pit ever again.

The next six calendar events are retrieved from a chosen public calendar and displayed in list view. Calhoun configured their latitude and longitude in the settings so the device can fetch their local weather forecast and display it in the Scrapbook tile.

And in the evenings, SystemSix displays the current phase of the moon.

How is it made?

SystemSix is powered by Raspberry Pi 3 and the display is a Waveshare 5.83″ e-ink display. Source code is written in Python and available on the project author’s GitHub (along with handy installation instructions if you scroll down).

j_calhoun tweaked the project to reduce the number of updates because they found the flickering of frequent updates too distracting. The whole system updates at midnight, and again at 4:05am when local weather forecasts are more accurate for the coming day. The device does attempt an update every hour, just in case something didn’t pull through, but the display will only update (and flicker) if it finds something it missed. At 5:05pm, a final update displays the moon phase image and checks for new calendar entries.

Atkinson-dithered moon

The Mini v Mac emulator is responsible for SystemSix’s retro on-screen aesthetics. To provide a vintage Mac-inspired appearance for the moon phase application, the maker found a photo of the moon in each phase they wanted to display, and uploaded them all to be Atkinson-dithered. (If you too have an image you’d like to see under the classic Macintosh 1-bit filter, you can simply drag and drop it here.)

Everything is housed behind a laser-cut piece of acrylic.

All the images in this blog are lifted from the maker’s project blog, with thanks and kudos.


Miles Raymond avatar

Pretty neat, and not too far away to make a fully-working classic Mac!

Liz Upton avatar

I’m getting jaded: I haven’t felt inspired to recreate a build from here in ages. This one, though: all of a sudden it’s the mid-80s, I’m ten years old again, and I’m playing The Dungeon of Doom with my friend Cecily on her Dad’s university-issued Macintosh. I likely don’t have the patience for a roguealike of that vintage any more – but I DO think I’d like looking at my calendar and the weather in this format every morning much more than I enjoy doing it in my browser!

Esbeeb avatar

I sincerely wish that “Hotdog Linux” would get ported to the Raspberry Pi (to use the “Mac Platinum” theme, my personal fav). It’s so bad that it’s good. Prepare to laugh!!
Note: the Security would be atrocious, but the nostalgia would be worth it, sequestered behind some trustworthy firewall.

Dale avatar

Awesome! I may have missed it but is audio available for that “special” start-up tone? I assume the Pi is plugged into an outlet for power but a battery source would make it much easier to move around than those early Mac SEs which I remember fondly including stuffed under my feet for business flights.. Thanks for sharing!

fanoush avatar

Would also expect to see clock with current time somewhere. Did Mac have analog one with hands like e.g. Amiga?

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