Tribute to Bill Moggridge: GRiD Laptop For Sharing Stories

Oct 18, 2012WORDS BY Dave Vondle

With the passing of IDEO co-founder Bill Moggridge, we have been reflecting on the ways he has influenced our lives and made the world a better place. Bill has had an enormous impact on the field of interaction design and professed the importance of making interactions delightful.

Perhaps one of the most iconic objects Bill designed was the GRiD Compass, the world's first laptop computer. Bill's design was the original clamshell design that all current laptops have descended from. We wondered if we could use a GRiD as a way to collect stories about Bill from around the office.

The result is this GRiD Laptop that has been modified to house a Galaxy Tab. It renders everything in orange and black similar to the original GRiD, boasts a working keyboard, and can be plugged in to charge at the base behind the original door that housed the ports.

We are using this laptop as a way to add content to billmoggridge.com which has been created to honor him by sharing our favorite moments, Moggridge-isms, photos, videos, songs, and more.

I hope this puts a smile on your face, just as Bill has done for so many others during his lifetime.

As per usual, I tried to document and share all the details of the build process for others to learn from. Click through for the full details of what went into this build:


  • Broken GRiD 1720 from Ebay

  • Refurbished Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 w/ dock and keyboard

Before we start taking things apart, look at this! Things may not have changed as much as we think...

Taking apart the GRiD:

The Display

I wanted to have the charger on the base of the computer and not in the screen. For that we would need to make an extension cable that will work like the original cable that connected the screen. Luckily I have the dock and the keyboard dock to hack. I end up using both.

Here is the dock taken apart:

All we need is this part. This will connect to the bottom of the tablet:

This is the part inside the keyboard dock. I use this as the port to glue into the base of the laptop:

First I de-soldered the connector that originally would have plugged into the tablet. Then I connected the dock part to this keyboard part. Now I can use the multimeter in conductivity mode to probe the connections to learn which pad on the keyboard part will need to go to which pad on the dock part:

Then I (very carefully) soldered everything up with an ample length of cable to make my extension cable:

Once I verify the connections are sound, I blob on some 5 minute epoxy to lock everything up so it won't break later.

I couldn't have asked for better luck on fitting this in there! This is the bottom of the connector touching the base of the screen housing:

Lastly, there was no way to wake up the tablet once I put it in the housing, so I put a bolt in the lathe and turned a button that sits in the casing and allows you to press the button from the outside:

Lastly, I had to cut a hole in the display window so you can touch the screen of the tablet. I tried doing this with an x-acto and failed miserably. Luckily, our model-maker extraordinaire, John Grimley, came to the rescue and laser-cut / backpainted a replacement bezel. Thanks!

The Keyboard

Now on to the keyboard. I used a bluetooth keyboard from Motorola. The Samsung one that came with the tablet was too small. I was pretty lucky to find one with almost the exact size of the original GRiD keyboard:

I took all the keys off the GRiD and sanded them down so I could glue them flush to the bluetooth keyboard:

I used hot glue, a steady hand, and a lot of patience:

Now we have a proper keyboard, we need to wire it up. I wired the pairing button to the original power button of the GRiD because you have to press the pair button every time you power on. One reason I made that cable using the keyboard dock circuit board earlier is because the board breaks out power and ground which I can wire to power the bluetooth keyboard. This way there are no batteries to replace.

The Bluetooth Board:

Wired onto the keyboard dock:

Now everything is wired together, so I just place the connector in the original slot for the parallel port:

The Software:

This was actually the most difficult part to figure out. I wanted to have the display be yellow-orange on black like the original GRiD. I started poking around on the Android XDA-developers forum to dig up information. I won't go through all the steps in detail, but after trying versions of Android Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, Cyanogen Mod, etc. etc. I found that I had to re-install Android Honeycomb (which was on there in the first place!) and install Chainfire 3D:

This app calls itself “an intermediary OpenGL Driver“ so it sits in the middle and can mess with commands going to the GPU. This requires a rooted device. There's a guy on YouTube who does an awesome walkthrough on how to root a Galaxy Tab 8.9. If you are looking to do something similar.

Chainfire 3D has a “Night Mode“ that allows you to mess with which colors function and to what degree:

However, it still wasn't changing the color! It would change only during screen transitions when there was some sort GPU task happening. I decided to try some hacks to force the GPU to constantly be running letting Chainfire have the ability to intercept things. I had seen some other “screen tinting“ apps that on their own didn't accomplish what I wanted, but added a level of something going on so Chainfire could do it's job. The one I used is called “Screen Adjust.“



The Website

While I was working on the GRiD, IDEOers Arjun Mehta and Katie Clark—along with several others including Lance Birtcil, Ben Booth, Francis Tseng, Ivy Hu, Danny Stillion, Tom Hardin and Tim Brown—were putting together the tribute website that the laptop was built to access: billmoggridge.com.

It's really beautifully done, so go check it out to see what kinds of fantastic stories have been shared.

  • Senior Design Lead

    Dave started at IDEO in 2005 with a background in electrical engineering and design. At IDEO, he likes to focus on pairing appropriate technology with user needs and designing the experiences around them.

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