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Retro Fashion for the Mac mini

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The Mac mini was recognized from its debut as one of the most stylish Macintoshes ever introduced because of its sleek simplicity and compact size. Call it the Cube perfected. Apparently, even perfection can be improved. Many companies, including LaCie and Other World Computing, have produced hard drive and USB/FireWire hub combos that have the same footprint as the Mac mini, and The Plasticsmith offers stands and skirts for the product.

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But the latest Mac mini add-on takes the notion of a headless computer and turns it, well, on its head. The miniPLUS from MacStalgia adds a display via a small color LCD that’s part of a snap-on case for the top of a Mac mini (either PowerPC or Intel Core models). It uses passive convection to avoid an additional fan.


The LCD is just 9 inches measured diagonally, which shouldn’t be a surprise: the miniPLUS resembles a Macintosh Plus in both its external appearance, updated to the brushed aluminum look of the Mac mini, and its capability to accept 1.44 MB floppy disks. The 9-inch LCD offers extremely high resolution, providing a crisp 24-bit color image at a maximum of 1280 by 960 pixels.

Yes, you heard correctly: because floppy drive mechanisms are so remarkably cheap, the drive was thrown in as an extra bit of nostalgia. It can read some of the oldest formats, so you can finally recover data from your previously unusable floppies. Push a button next to the drive, and it moves out of the way to disclose an 8-in-1 flash memory reader that handles Compact Flash, SD, and other formats.

The MacStalgia folks didn’t skimp on nice touches. For instance, there’s a large, original-Mac-style power switch conveniently located in the back, and a set of SCSI, LocalTalk, serial, and ADB connectors. Again, these parts are so cheap, it’s trivial to add them for the authentic touch. SCSI, serial, and ADB are converted into USB 2.0 via included drivers for Mac OS X 10.2.9 and later, while LocalTalk is bridged into Ethernet or Wi-Fi.

MacStalgia has deep Apple roots, having been founded by reclusive Mac hardware genius Burrell Smith, widely recognized as second in cleverness at Apple only to Woz when it came to just creating stuff previously thought physically impossible. Smith has been a private citizen since departing monitor and storage company Radius, which he co-founded nearly two decades ago.

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MacStalgia’s next plan, after gauging market interest for this kind of combo retro/futuramo project, is to develop software that apes Front Row. For a certain audience, that combination might take the Mac mini beyond the switcher special to make it front and center in a media cabinet.

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