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Cleaning the case

With the electronics well underway. it was time to do something about their enclosure: while the case of the MacSE still was in good shape, it could use some cleaning. Aside from that, the color was a bit off too: while it originally was supposed to be a fresh gray color called 'Platinum', it now was more brown-ish.


First things first: let's clean all the crud off the case, keyboard and mouse. While I could have hand-washed everything, I decided that I could just as well put everything in my dishwasher. The process did, unfortunately, somewhat destroy the Faraday-cage-like metal coating inside the Mac, but I've never been too much of a believer in these things: my old server doesn't have any metal in it's enclosure either and works just fine.

Now, how to get the brown colorization off? Luckily, I wasn't the only one asking myself this question. It seems that the retro-computer community is full of people wondering how to get their beloved computer case back in the original colors; almost every plastic computer case seems to have the discolorization problem. Luckily, a community of mad-cap chemists slash retro lovers tried to tackle the problem and have found a way to get the brown discolorization off of the cases: Retr0bright. This is a mix of several ingredients resulting in a paste you can smear all over your old computer case. Let that sit in the sun or under an UV lamp for a while and your computer case will be as good as new... at least, that's the idea.


The original recipe called for hydrogen peroxide, glycerin, an oxy-based laundry booster and Xanthan gum, a thickening agent. The first 3 ingredients I could find just fine, but the Xanthan gum was a problem. A possible replacement gelling agent, Arrowroot, was just as unobtainable. Luckily I can cook, so I knew these weren't the only gelling agents available. I decided to try tapioca powder, corn starch and agar-agar.


First on the list: tapioca powder. Mix the hydrogen peroxide with the glycerin, mix some tapioca powder through it, put everything in the microwave to heat it up... and get a chemical reaction: probably the hydrogen peroxide reacted with the tapioca powder because I got a bubbling self-heating mixture for a while. When the reaction died down, all I had was a liquid which didn't really seemed to do much at all.


The second try was with corn starch. This attempt went much better. What I did (if I recall correctly, no guarantees this will work 100% of the time!) was to mix 3 rounded teaspoons of corn starch with 100ml hydrogen peroxide and one teaspoon of glycerin. Heat 10sec in the microwave, stir, heat 10sec, ... until all the corn starch has dissolved and the mix is a nice non-dripping gel. Don't heat too long or the corn starch somehow gets broken down and you'll end up with a liquid instead of a gel.


Step two was to get the case covered in the gel and expose it to ultra-violet light for a couple of hours. Because of the extreme amounts of sun we get here in the Netherlands (yeah, right), I decided to put everything under a sunbed I had stowed away somewhere. It had a timer switching it off after 15 minutes max, but that was quickly subverted using a strategically placed piece of ducttape.


And here's the end result: a nice and fresh-looking case in the original coloring. The only drawback of the whole process seems to be that the Apple-logos on the case and the keyboard have suffered a bit. Ah well, can't have them all...

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