It was 20 years ago today ……. when Macintosh Portables first came out to play.
Actually it is still a few days from now, but on the 20th of September 1989, Apple introduced the first portable, battery powered Macintosh computer. In April of 1986, the Apple board decided to create a battery-powered BookMac. After Jobs left later in the year, the project continued, until the Macintosh Portable was released in September 1989.
“Do not trust a computer that you cannot lift.” Steve Jobs, 1984.
“The Macintosh Portable was portable, but no lightweight. Introduced 1989.09.20 at $6,500 and $7,300 with hard drive. There was one problem with the Portable which unfortunately led to its demise, it just wasn’t very portable. Being rather large and weighing 16 lbs, few people had the patience to lug it around anywhere, despite all of its great features.
The Macintosh Portable was Apple Computer’s first attempt at making a portable Macintosh personal computer.
It had a crystal clear 9.8″ 1-bit 640 x 400 pixel active matrix screen, a 16 MHz 68000 CPU, and a front-mounted handle (which doubled as a lock to keep the lid down). The best thing about the Portable was probably the up-to-ten-hour lead-acid battery. (No memory effect!) Options included an internal modem and either a numeric keypad or trackball. The Portable was the first Mac to ship with a preformatted hard drive and a preinstalled operating system.” (from myoldmac.net)
I was lucky enough to be loaned one of the original Macintosh portable computers when it first came out and it was quite an experience. My first impression was that it looked like a very modern portable Singer sewing machine when it was closed up for transport. Since I knew that I would only have the computer for a few weeks, I took it everywhere with me, to restaurants, pubs, business meetings, friends houses, pretty much like everyone does these days with their laptop computers. You can imagine that every time I opened it up and started working on it, a crowd would form. It really was a great tool but it was just much too big, so I decided to wait for the next generation Macintosh Portable.
Apple Macintosh Portable
Announced: September 1989
Price: US$7300 w/ hard drive
Weight: 16 lbs
CPU: Motorola 68HC000, 16Mhz
RAM: 1 Meg, 9 Meg maximum
Battery: 6.5-Volt, 5 amp lead acid (gel type)
Display: 10-inch b&w active matrix LCD, 640 X 400 pixels
I/O: Built-in trackball.
Ports: Apple Desktop Bus (ADB), Two serial ports, External SCSI port, External floppy port, Video port
Storage: Internal 1.4Meg 3.5-inch floppy drive, Internal 40 MB SCSI hard drive
OS: Mac OS 6.04
The most incredible thing about this story is that within two years Apple shrunk the 16 lb. Macintosh Portable down to a very small (and very portable) 5 lb. Macintosh PowerBook 100. And when I say Apple shrunk it down, I mean they took the original Macintosh Portable, sent it to Sony and asked them to tear it apart and re-assemble it in a smaller package. Sony did an incredible job, but as far as I can remember that was the one and only time that the two companies collaborated on building a better computer. The higher end Power Book 140 and PowerBook 170 (released simultaneously in October of 1991 and similar in appearance) , were both designed in-house by Apple.
Apple Macintosh PowerBook
Models: PowerBook 100, 140, and 170
Introduced: October 1991
Discontinued: October 1992
Price: US$2,499 (100), $2,899 (140), $4,599 (170)
CPU: Motorola 68HC000 @ 16MHz (100), 68030 @ 16MHz (140), 68030 @ 25MHz (170)
RAM: 2MB minimum, 8MB maximum
Battery: 2.5Ah NiCad
Display: 640 X 400 monochrome LCD – 9-inch Passive (100), 9.8-inch Passive (140), 9.8-inch Active (170)
Ports: ADB, 1 or 2 serial, floppy, HD
Storage: 1.4MB 3.5-inch floppy drive (external on 100, internal on 140 & 170), 20MB, 40MB, or 80MB SCSI HD
Comms: optional modem
OS: Mac OS 7.01 – 7.6.1
As the first really useful portable Macintosh computers, the PowerBooks were a great success for Apple, selling over 100,000 in the first three months alone, and sales in excess of $1 billion in the first year.
The PowerBook 100 was also the most compact Apple computer for the next decade, until the Titanium PowerBook came out in 2001.