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The Woz iBook

[Apple IIgs Woz Special Edition.] In 1986, on Apple's 10th anniversary, the first 10,000 of their new Apple IIgs systems bore Steve Wozniak's signature on the front, badged the "Woz Limited Edition." Strangely, this commemorative edition of the last Apple II systems produced isn't too hard to find in the present day; I have a Woz IIgs, but I upgraded mine (shown at left) to a ROM 03 motherboard, internal HD and 1MB of RAM. However, after the IIgs, Woz never graced any other Apple product with his charming mark again ... until now.

Yes, despite his years away from the Infinite Loop, the wonder of the Woz's hand has finally come to the modern Macintosh -- the Woz iBook G4 Limited Edition. Every bit as glamourous as the beautiful IIgs, but now with the hand of the Master on the designs of the Ive: two worlds brought together in splendour.

But I will not let you unfortunate masses suffer, for I want to share how easily you too can have a Woz iBook. Simply send $1,999,999 in unmarked bills to Me, Behind the Steam Pipes, Ripoff Station ...

Just kidding. Actually, this page is more of a how-to and pitfalls about other kinds of art you might do to your Apple iBook, and some of the problems and workarounds we found. Oh, well, yes, it's also a rather obvious opportunity to brag. :) Let's get started.

First, get your iBook signed by Steve Wozniak. This really helps with the whole authenticity thing. Failing that, consider the use of your locally paroled and not wholly reformed forger, whenever his PO isn't looking. In this case, we found Steve at the Vintage Computer Festival 8.0, held annually in the Bay Area. Come by and check it out.

My host mugging with the Steve-o as well. Note the Mac Portable in the background -- I think there might be a Woz Portable somewhere out there too. :)

Then, admire it and show it to all your friends. Congratulations, job well done.

Fooling aside, this wasn't going to last a week. Although Steve had used what looked like fairly impervious ink, Apple's polycarbonate coating is itself fairly impervious and it was likely to rub off if someone just looked at it funny.

After some thought, we decided to go with a spray matte finish, since it 1) was convenient -- my host's wife already had some which she uses for sculpture and 2) there were various micro and a couple not-so-micro scratches on the surface, as this iBook G4 is and has been well loved, so we figured a full and even coating would look nice and hide them.

Wrapping up the bottom half in Saran Wrap. We decided just to do the top.

Polished well -- we wanted no fingerprints trapped under the matte coating.

Spraying away, trying not to get it in my eyes or mouth.

The finished product, part I. By this time, I was having second thoughts, though. While my host and hostess both thought the matte looked nice, I missed my nice iBook shine. The other problem was that the finish was somewhat immune even to the matte spray -- even after several spray layers, if you pressed hard on the iBook shell, the matte coating started to come off and left denuded fingerprint-shaped marks where the original plastic showed. After a little bit of use, the matte started to look quite moth-eaten. Thus, we went for plan B.

Plan B was to restore the original finish and then to figure out some way to save the signature; it seemed best just to take the matte off around it and leave the matte actually over it remaining for some modicum of protection, keeping our fingers away from the actual handwriting and the matte protecting it so there would be no more "moth holes." However easily the matte came off with finger pressure, though, it did not come off with simply rubbing. A little dampness and slightly more abrasive material did not do much good, and I didn't want to take something frankly abrasive to the finish lest I make it appear even worse.

So I penciled in around Woz's signature and looked for a polish product. Fortunately, RadTech makes a product called Ice Creme, ostensibly intended for iPods, but they also note that it works for iBooks as well (or pretty much anything with a similar finish). MacAddict had rated it Awesome, which carried big weight for me, so I purchased their $26 Ice Creme M kit just in case I decided to use the metal polisher later. To start with, I polished off (lightly!) the pencil outline with an eraser around the signature to mark the case slightly for when I started the polishing process. After that, I wrapped up the laptop again ...

... and then I got out the kit, read the directions, and started into it. Ice Creme performed exactly as advertised -- it took off the matte coating with minimal effort using Creme A, and did not damage the polycarbonate at all. Fabulous!

Gently, I worked around the signature, taking off as much of the matte as possible without actually getting into the matte coating protecting the signature.

After that, I took out Creme B and polished in the gloss, and lightly buffed it again with my polish cloth.

Doctor to Joker as he unwraps his face: "Well, you see the tools I have to work with ..."

The result, shown here with light reflection, shows the matte covering Woz's signature, but the rest of the unit maintained an excellent sheen with only minimal microscratches that would likely have been insanely difficult to get out anyway. It was still better than how it started, without a doubt.

The coating over the signature protects it well in my laptop case, and as long as you keep your fingers off the actual coating, it should remain in place with hardly any care at all.

The finished product, part II. The nice thing about this is, you can bet it would be insanely easy to trace if it got stolen. (I'm starting to sound like Jobs with all this overuse of the word "insanely.")

But, if this is all too much for you, I promise to put it up on eBay for lots of money. Not. There's still the $2 million behind the steam pipes approach, though.

Now that you've seen my stupid little "case mod," check out some ones that actually involved real work at Tom Owad's Applefritter Hacks.

Update 2005.11.20. Looks like I'm not the only one with a Woz iBook, although hers is a graphite clamshell G3.

Cameron Kaiser