An Unexpected Grail: The PowerBook G3 Kanga

For a long time, one of my grail items was the PowerBook 3400c. Reason being is because I had one many moons ago, when I was just starting out this computing journey I now find myself on. I had two back then, and unfortunately I lacked the skills to save either of them. So it goes.

The main problems I faced in finding one in the distant future are two:

People use them to revive TAMs. The keyboard, trackpad, and displays drop right into TAMs, so if a TAM needs any of these parts…best to shuck them from a 3400c, which is a far more common machine. But even this problem isn’t as common as the next…

Battery bombs. Apple in their infinite wisdom stuck the PRAM batteries right above the display connector for the 3400s. What this means is if you don’t get that battery out in time, it’ll begin to leak with age…right onto the display connector, corroding it and destroying it. Sometimes you can salvage the situation by just running the system headless with a standard VGA monitor connected to the external video port, but this is kinda jank.

I had already found a 3400, but alas, it suffered from the battery bomb issue. The display connector was completely corroded and there was no saving it. From that day forward I kept an ear somewhat to the ground on 3400s, but never really pursued them what for getting my hopes up only to have them dashed by the battery having gone off over the years.

However, a lead came up by way of the savior of saviors: dosdude1. We’ve done a few sidequests for him, and they never miss: From the pallet ‘o Macs in 2017, to retrieving a ModBook from a piano shop in 2018…and now this. A kind gentleman reached out to him to offload some Macs, among them a PowerBook 3400c. dosdude1 declined but pointed him at a friend and I. Things were arranged, and on the 13th of August, we finally managed to go over and collect the Macs. What we saw was a sight to behold: a set of machines in their actual boxes. Including the very PowerBook 3400c I really really wanted.

I was psyched. I couldn’t believe it. Even told us it came with a bunch of accessories. Even if the 3400 itself was a wash, man oh man this was cool to have.

I opted to wait to open the box until I got home, but the other boxes we opened up and found two great condition PowerBook G4s: a DLSD/HR (the best and last PowerPC Mac laptop you could buy) and a Titanium PowerBook. In one of the other boxes was a PowerBook 180. All cool machines, but not even as cool as what I was about to run into.

After getting home, I wanted to know if I was going to be set up for heartbreak, or victory. I got the 3400c out of its box…only to discover that it was not in fact a 3400c, rather it was a Kanga PowerBook G3.

Kangas aren’t the most common thing, and they’re one of the more eccentric Macs you’ll find. They internally were called the 3500, and are–as the name implies–just a 3400 with a G3 grafted on. That’s really it. These are the only G3s that cap out Mac OS-wise at the same spot the 60x Macs do: 9.1. This machine was in essence a stopgap machine to tide us over until we got the real PowerBook G3s.

Now I was nervous: I was prepared to accept this was a wash with the 3400c, and be like “hey, cool, I got a box at least”. But a Kanga?! Oh, if this thing is bombed/dead I am actually going to be sad, now. I really should have been eating dinner, but I just had to know if this machine was a bust.

I plugged in the power adapter, and prayed to the tech gods harder than I ever had in my life.


The screen might as well had taken ten hours to come to life. But come to life it did, and my heart sank.


I mean…it’s doing more than my battery bombed 3400c ever did, so that’s good, right? But…this was looking like the display was still utterly hosed. I put the machine away, ate dinner, and bounced some messages to dosdude1 and he suggested pulling the RAM. THAT DID WORK! (Except, as we’ll see later…this wasn’t the issue.)

Now we’re getting clean image. I also checked our little friend and it’s a damn Christmas miracle that there’s zero signs of leakage.


I did eventually get it to boot (from its own optical drive!) and verified that this is, in fact, a Kanga (the 3400c only has 16MB of RAM built in, the Kanga has 32. And this Kanga has a 128MB RAM card! Nice!)

However, that problem with the artifacting kept coming back. The screen would just randomly corrupt. Sometimes it’d be minor, and a quick color depth change would clear it and it’d be fine. Other times it’d get really bad and take over the entire display to the point of making the Kanga unusable. However, it never locked up. Not once.

The artifacting seemed to come and go if I applied pressure to the keyboard in just the right way. Initially it was thought to be an issue with the display’s ribbon cable, but connecting an external monitor to the back of the Kanga confirmed that the artifacting appeared on an external monitor, too. So it definitely isn’t a ribbon cable failure.

That’s kinda where we’re at, now. I did install a hard drive (original owner took theirs and destroyed it, but left the cable thankfully) and get it to take an OS (first 9.1, then 8.6), but that graphical issue still comes and goes, and the keyboard only 80% works. None of the modifier keys (Command/Control/Shift/etc) work. Everything else does.

The Kanga clearly needs work, work that I hope I can perform on it. I suspect there’s a intermittent solder joint somewhere that’s causing the glitching, and the keyboard may well just need to be replaced wholesale.

This is also where I wish I had a microscope to get deep into the nooks and crannies and really check for broken connections rather than just willy nilly reflowing everything. Maybe someday. (Or, hey, if you like my antics, maybe consider leaving me a tip or something! No pressure.)