Introduction: Apple II Watch

Picture of Apple II Watch

CUPERTINO, California—September 9, 1984—Apple Computer Inc.® today unveiled Apple // watch™—its most personal device ever. Apple // watch introduces a revolutionary design and A BASIC USER INTERFACE created specifically for a smaller device. Apple // watch features A KNOB, an innovative way to SCROLL, without obstructing the display. The KNOB also serves as the RETURN button and a convenient way to PRESS RETURN. The CATHODE RAY TUBE display on Apple // watch features TEXT, a technology that ALLOWS YOU TO READ, providing a new way to quickly and easily access BASIC PROGRAMS. Apple // watch introduces a built-in VERY SMALL SPEAKER that discreetly enables an entirely new vocabulary of alerts and notifications you can HEAR. Apple Computer custom-designed its own 6502 PROCESSOR CUT IN HALF to miniaturize an entire computer architecture onto a PRINTED CIRCUIT BOARD. Apple // watch also features TWO DISK DRIVES to pair seamlessly with your MAGNETIC STORAGE DISKS.

Pricing & Availability Apple //w will be available in early 1985 starting at $1299 (US). Apple // watch is compatible with Apple // or Apple // Plus, Apple /// or Apple /// Plus, Apple //c, Apple //e, Apple Lisa, and Macintosh running on ELECTRICITY.

Step 1: Anachronistic Objects: Designing a Device That Never Was

Picture of Anachronistic Objects: Designing a Device That Never Was

When I set out to design the Apple II watch, I originally planned to create a faithful tiny replica of the classic machine in a wrist-sized form factor. While researching the design I began to ask if I really just wanted to make a miniature, or something altogether new? I settled on the latter. The design would be a working* device, heavily inspired by the form factor of the full size computer, but it would also be an imaginative exploration of a wearable tech world that began long before we had the technology to do so in a meaningful way. Calculator watches are already, by definition, a wrist-worn computer, and are pretty neat, but there's just something so appealing about the idea a tiny wrist-worn CRT. I also wanted to push my new 3D modeling skills as well, so building a reasonable complicated enclosure was a fun challenge.

Does it run BASIC?

Although the MCU I'm using runs at a blistering (by early 1980's standards) 72 MHz , the watch functions are mostly parody of the modern Apple Watch. My version does keep and display the real time and date, the rest of the UI is mostly for fun. I considered spending the time to add a BASIC interpreter (either Woz's Integer Basic or perhaps Tiny Basic), but the return on my time would be diminishing. I spent about 3 weeks casually working on the case design and basic circuitry and another week on the graphics and software.

Step 2: Technical Specifications

Picture of Technical Specifications

The actual functioning hardware includes:

Teensy 3.1(72 MHz ARM processor, 256K ROM 64K RAM, built-in real-time clock)

1.8" TFT LCD (160x128 pixels 18 bit color)

SOMO II MP3 (for playback of sound effects)

LiPo charger/boost converter

push button power switch

momentary push button

rotary encoder (panel-mount)

8 ohm 2W speaker

(2x) 3mm red LED

(2x) 1 K ohm resistor

800 mAh LiPo battery (gives about a 3 hour lifetime)

2032 coin cell battery

32.768 kHz crystal

(2x) 2GB microSD card

1/4" knob

(8x) M2.5 x 6

(4x) M2.5 x 10

wire (26 gauge)

Step 3: Electronic Assembly

Picture of Electronic Assembly

There is quite a lot packed into this tiny package. Since I had so little space, the entire circuit uses point to point wiring using stranded wire. Ultimately this proved to cause a few headaches (more on this later), so I settled on solid core wire, despite it being a bid harder to compress into the case. The electronics are ultimately wrapped in electrical tape in order to prevent shorting when squished together. For those curious, I've attached the datasheet for the MP3 module (you can find the full pinouts on the product pages linked on the previous step).

Step 4: Software

Picture of Software

The main program is a simple Arduino sketch running on the Teensy 3.1 (attached above are the main sketch, required libraries, bitmap images, and sound effects). You'll need the Teensy IDE + loader to run this. Paul Stoffregen has put a lot of work into making the Teensy dev boards awesome and easy to use, so they're my go-to micro for quick embedded projects.

The program does a few things:


The main user interface is a rotary encoder, ehem, digital crown, so the teensy uses an interrupt-based (via the Encoder library) to check for any rotation. The Bounce library makes quick work of easily reading the button. Spinning the knob cycles through highlighting the sub-menu selection with a button press for entrance and exit of said sub-menu.

Boot Sequence

The watch does a quick "boot" up routine to mimic the start-up process of a real Apple ][ computer. A full screen of of brackets fills before the system beep, followed by a disk drive head "calibration." Both noises are .MP3 files that are played on the tiny 2 watt speaker.


The main user screen shows the current date and time and a plain all caps list of various submenu functions:

clock - shows a random analog clock face

fitness - fills up "progress bars" for moving, exercising, and standing

pictures - cycles through a selection of bitmaps

phonebook - displays a list of abbreviated names

weather - shows a photo of Earth

music - slowly animates a flower opening

utility - displays a static photo of a butterfly

disk manager -blinks the disk drive LEDs a couple times

Step 5: 3D Print an Enclosure

Picture of 3D Print an Enclosure

I designed the watch using Autodesk Fusion 360 and printed the entire watch on an Objet Connex printer, allowing for the fine details and certain things like the "CRT glass." I've attached the .stl files for anyone who wants to print their own. If you don't have access to a 3D printer, you can use Shapeways, Ponoko, or 3D Hubs (which is built into intstructables) all very awesome services who can print nearly anything.

Step 6: Painting the Case

Picture of Painting the Case

These photos show off the paint process of an earlier prototype that still accomodated the magnetic induction charging system, but the process is the same. I coated the pieces in Montana brand primer and followed up with "Elm" colored paint. This was the closes approximation I could find at my local art supply store to the "classic" sickly beige color of electronics circa 1985. A layer of black paint was also added to the disk drive face plate to cover any imperfections in the 3D printing process.

Step 7: Stickers!

Picture of Stickers!

For an added touch I wanted to add a little prop to make the watch seem even more scaled down (the watch is roughly 1:6 to an Apple ]['s monitor). With this scale in mind, I decided to create a 7/8" floppy disk that could slide into the front face of the watch. I found a high resolution photo of a 5.25" floppy and created a vector file for printing. I used a Roland vinyl cutter/printer to turn the floppy artwork into stickers, which I then adhered to a thin piece of laser-cut card-stock in order to give them some rigidity. I went through a similar design process for the Apple logos on the inductive charger and main case. I've attached the artwork for the floppy disks and logos as .PDFs above.

Step 8: Setbacks...

Picture of Setbacks...

Patience is a Virtue

In my desire to meet my own personal deadline to complete the watch, I neglected to do continuity testing throughout my circuit in a hunt for shorted connections. A wary power wire on the MP3 module had wiggled toward the adjacent ground pin, frying my circuit. Damn. I was unsure what damage I really did, but nonetheless, my circuit would not turn on. It was time to reset. Thankfully, Adafruit's powerboost circuit had spared me the misfortune of a directly shorted LiPo battery, the built-in over current protection was up to spec!

Inductive Charging

Although this was ultimately scrapped, I wanted to show off this little added gizmo. I originally wanted to mimic the magnetic locking inductive charging aspect of the new apple watch, but the inductive coils broke. I'm not sure of the point of failure, but at this point I decided I'd rather scrap this feature. It was cool, my mock "mag-safe" connector worked, but it was more of a hassle than a feature. Leaving this behind meant more time to focus on the main watch!

Step 9: Final Thoughts

Picture of Final Thoughts

This was a really enjoyable project to build and I certainly gained a lot of respect for the fine engineers who do this for real products. I'm definitely in the mood of creating even more anachronistic devices in the future. I would also love to see someone build on this and make a fully featured "smart watch" using a retro computer design and true OS. If you have any ideas for similar projects, I'd love to know. Thanks for reading!


Are you selling these?

No. This is just a one-off art piece.

Why not?

This design uses Apple trademarks. Also, I don't want to manufacture these. I'm quite happy with my job and lack of cease and desist orders.

How much did this cost to make?

Approximately $100 in electronics and $100 in 3D-printed parts and miscellaneous hardware bits.

How big is it?

The final case is roughly 3" x 3" x 1"


stevewoz (author)2015-04-09

This is incredible and has great significance to the maker community. I would buy this over the Apple watch and would wear it too! It would go well with my nixie watch.

Maker2_0 (author)stevewoz2017-03-26

LOL Nixie Tube Watch, Woz never takes it off

Aleator777 (author)stevewoz2015-04-09

Wow, I couldn't possibly ask for a nicer compliment. Thank you so very much. I'm deeply grateful you enjoy my watch. I think it would make an excellent companion too!

WernerM1 (author)Aleator7772015-04-10

Dude, the guy who did the Apple ][ emulator got interested!!

I am certain you must be doing one of two things right now:

1) scratching your head & thinking "what have I gotten myself into?"

2) jumping up & down with excitement, thinking "now I have GOT TO do this!"

Please don't be doing the former for too long before you jump to the latter...

WernerM1 (author)Aleator7772015-04-09

Dude. You got The Woz himself giving you his seal of approval.
You got the people claiming. You got no excuse.
Suggestion: source out potential case makers for the watch, make deals with them, rework the electronics (may I suggest you implement the emulator? I will definately try this out on one of my UNOs), make this happen!
As a suggestion, you could offer it as a partial case kit (just case And maybe a wristband) a completely assembled watch And a completely finished case kit with wristband.
I would definately buy the case kit, And stuff it with a real Apple ][ emulated on Arduíno.

criggie (author)stevewoz2015-04-09

Did you join Instructables just to comment on the Apple II Watch ?

You ROCK dude!

undanganpernikahan (author)2017-01-05

Wow, cool watch.

digitalr2 (author)2015-05-14

How would the fitness section work if there are no HR monitors or bluetooth modules?

Kidhacker (author)digitalr22016-10-01

Everything except for the clock portion is a gimmick

Kidhacker (author)Kidhacker2016-10-02

But its still really cool

Kidhacker (author)2016-10-02

i was also thinking about adding a m accelerometer to make the fitness portion of the legitimate

Kidhacker (author)2016-10-02

since there is a power button between the battery and recharging circuit dont u need to leave the watch on while charging it

Mee505 (author)2016-01-14

I'm having trouble uploading the Apple II Watch.ino Arduino file to the teensy 3.2.

Arduino: 1.6.7 (Mac OS X), TD: 1.27, Board: "Arduino/Genuino Uno"

/Downloads/AppleIIWatch/AppleIIWatch.ino:4:54: fatal error: Adafruit_GFX.h: No such file or directory

#include <Adafruit_GFX.h> // Core graphics library


compilation terminated.

exit status 1

Error compiling.

This report would have more information with

"Show verbose output during compilation"

enabled in File > Preferences.

Arduino comes up with the message 'compiling error'. Any suggestions?

Kidhacker (author)Mee5052016-10-01

Make sure you have the library installed in your libraries folder and not just in your downloads folder

Alexiades (author)2016-09-07

I love it!!! but I need a 3D printer :S

Excelent job!!

austinwebdesign (author)2016-04-27

Nice job Aleator777. Very well thought out and explained!

LutzB2 (author)2016-03-24

Are the stl files based on INCH or MM (or CM)?

prophunter (author)2016-02-28

um hi i was wondering does this run on batteries? or is it charged? i can't tell by the parts list (probably because of my lack of research)

thanks ahead of time!

Corbin_Hacks_Stuff (author)2016-02-17

Could I buy one of this from you?

andrew_bentley (author)2016-01-26

Looks really awesome. Like an item from an old sci-fi flick.

KaranG8 (author)2015-12-30

Was this the same Apple II watch that was on PopSci?

Aleator777 (author)KaranG82015-12-30

Yes :)

jeffc84 (author)2015-12-30

build it and they will come.........

MartinG40 (author)2015-12-30

The best part is the AWESOME floppy disks and drives. They look EXACTLY like the real thing.

CelioS (author)2015-12-29

Amazing !!! Congratulations! You are a Genius !

Aleator777 (author)CelioS2015-12-30

Thank you so much!

SteveK62 (author)2015-12-30

Make them, Make Them Please someone do it, the drive could be micro SD, screen LCD please please do it, Crowd funding etc

Aleator777 (author)SteveK622015-12-30

This very talented fellow made a much more working Apple II watch after seeing mine : You should contact him. Enjoy!

Cypher08 (author)2015-12-21

Hmm. This 'watch' would be a bit too large for my wrist. I'm going to make it as a fob watch

gavinh6 (author)2015-11-25

This is amazing looks great hopefully I can bulid one of these one day

AUSTINS8 (author)2015-10-12

I want one! Its cool

Socrates6 made it! (author)2015-09-23

Here is a wire run list I made for this project. I have all the parts wired and 99% working. I can't view any images on the watch because of a file not found error.

Socrates6 (author)2015-09-21

Mine is 99% done as far as electronics goes. I keep getting a file not found error when I click on any images. Im someone gets theirs to work I would sure like to know what I did wrong. I've verified the display works with another piece of code. I've double checked the wiring.

TiaRiaa (author)2015-08-15

you should put this on sale .how much would it be if you were putting that apple II

watch on sale???I want to get the apple II watch !!!! it is sooo cool

TiaRiaa (author)2015-08-15

wow great job love the idea of apple II watch !!!

Yonatan24 (author)2015-08-07

I am wondering if it is okay that I ask about how much the whole prototyping, printing, and building costed? Also Where did you get the idea to do this?

nerd7473 (author)2015-08-04

I need to make one but I know of a 3d printing service called shapeways that can print the thing in high or low quality using nylon powder and lasers

Certified Nerd (author)2015-08-01

If you are not selling this then I suppose you wouldn't mind if I sold the printed parts needed for this project in kits?

alaskaray (author)2015-07-17

This is a great idea and project. Is there a wiring schematic or diagram available anywhere? It would be very helpful. Thanks.

Socrates6 (author)2015-07-04


What is the file structure on the SD card? I've got the images and sounds at top level but that doesn't seem to work.



Aleator777 (author)Socrates62015-07-04

Hmm, that's strange. What size and brand SD cards are you using for the SOMOII and the LCD? On both the files should be in the root/top directory, no subfolders.

Socrates6 (author)Aleator7772015-07-05

Its actually a 2GB sandisk. I tried a different SD just to be sure. I ran the serial debug. I cycled through the Apple II menus and I get a "file not found" for all the pics. I also noticed that the earth and butterfly filenames are not spelled correcctly, i.e. they arent what the Teensy code expects them to be. I corrected the spelling on the SD card but I still get a file not found. Can't figure it.

Socrates6 (author)Aleator7772015-07-04

Its just the 4GB SD that adafruit includes with the display.

Socrates6 (author)2015-07-04

I've made a wire run list/schematic for this in Libre Office Draw. I used photos of the modules so it's easy to use. I've used it to wire up the project and so far as I can tell it's correct. What't the best way to link it to your project. Do I create an instructable with the document and just put a link in to yours?

dharrigan1 (author)2015-05-25

Harry Dierks. ...This is my son's creativity at work..My greatest gift to planet Earth!

GhostHawk11 (author)2015-05-24

How much does it cost to make one?

jimmyodunn (author)2015-05-08

You should make these and make retro packaging and sell them, I'm sure Apple wouldn't have a problem unless your selling thousands of them. I bet people would pay up to $500 ea. for them. How about crowd funding???

arduino_boy13 (author)2015-05-07

I want to make this so bad! I dont have a 3D printer but if I did I would totally make this. I love the idea for this. Incredible idea!

Johnny5g (author)2015-05-02

Wow I love this so much! But sadly I can't make one. Can I buy one?

mistergreen (author)2015-04-22

are you.. a.. a.. wizard?

About This Instructable



Bio: My name is DJ and I previously made electronic whatsits, 3D-printed thingamabobs, and laser-cut kajiggers for the Instructables Design Studio; now I build and repair ... More »
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