Daniel Eran Dilger
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Two Decades of Portable Macs: 1989 – 2009

Daniel Eran Dilger
What does Apple have in store for the next MacBooks? Knowing where Apple’s been helps point out where it’s going. Here’s a look at the company’s past, leading up to what’s on the horizon this fall.

Articles in this Series:
What’s Next from Apple: New iPods Sept 22, iPhone OS 2.1, iTunes 8.0
Two Decades of Portable Macs: 1989 – 2009
The iPod Power Behind Apple’s Big Mac Push
A Product Transition: Giving MacBooks the iPhone Touch
The Macintosh Portable and Outbound.

Apple’s first mobile-centric computer, the 1989 Macintosh Portable, was a huge heavy monster with a lead acid battery just like your car (okay, a bit smaller). It trailed the emergence of competing PC laptops starting with the $8,000 GRiD in 1982 (originally running a proprietary OS, not DOS), and only arrived to market after third parties had started hacking together their own laptops from the guts of old Macs.

[Update: readers pointed out that the Dynamic Dynamac deserved mention. The $4,000 to $8,000, 18 to 24 pound laptops were a repackaged Mac Plus or SE with a 9“ 640×400 backlit amber electroluminescent or gas plasma screen. Dynamic acted as an official Value Added Reseller for Apple. Like other laptops of the day, there was no integrated pointing device (none needed for DOS!), so users had to attach an external mouse. So the Mac Portable was rather innovative in that it included a trackball.]


Dynamac Specs @ EveryMac.com
THE EXECUTIVE COMPUTER; For Mac Owners With Wanderlust – New York Times
Escapable Logic » Dynamac


Macintosh Portable: oldcomputers.net

Unofficial Mac cloner Outbound made a luggable Mac-compatible laptop the same year as Apple, followed by a notebook version. Both earned their Mac compatibility by taking the ROM chips from dead Macs, and both took their design cues from conventional DOS PC laptops of the time, which all pretty much looked the same despite lots of technology improvements throughout the 80s.


Outbound: www.applefritter.com

The New PowerBook Redefines Laptop for the 90s.

However, Apple destroyed the market for portable Mac clones and dictated a new form factor for the laptop when it partnered with Sony to design the entirely original PowerBook in 1991.

Its revolutionary design drew gasps from the industry; it not only moved the keyboard from the ”obvious“ front edge toward the screen to create a palm rest with a perfectly positioned trackball, but also debuted a slim new stylish case that came in a distinctive chocolate black, combining Sony’s flair for hardware with Apple’s Mac software and design savvy.

Outbound was quickly left behind, but nearly every other laptop since has copied the PowerBook design, because Apple didn’t patent its novel concepts. Apple also poured money into the PDA with the Newton, but the company largely gave away those advances as well.

The PowerBook series also debuted SCSI Disk Mode, later called HD Target Mode, which allowed PowerBooks booted with the T key held down to be used as an external hard drive. This feature would eventually become Firewire Target Mode and become available to both desktops and laptops. It remains a feature unique to Macs.

The original PowerBook 100 series captured 40% of the laptop market. Mismanagement at Apple resulted in much of its PowerBook team leaving for Compaq and taking most of Apple’s portable design expertise with them.


Newton Lessons for Apple’s New Platform
The Egregious Incompetence of Palm
Newton Rising: Is the Next iPhone Device a G3 MessagePad?

PowerBook Duo, Duo Dock, PenLite, and eMate.

Readers also wanted me to include mention of the 1992 PowerBook Duo 200 series, which delivered a light, 1.4” laptop that lacked any connectors apart from a serial printer port, an an optional modem card, and a Processor Direct Slot. It was intended to be paired with the $500 Duo Dock desktop docking station, which supplied a floppy, an additional hard drive, NuBus expansion slots, and additional VRAM for driving a larger monitor. There was also a simpler Mini Dock that served as a basic port expander, and a highly portable version called the Micro Dock.

Duo ad

PowerBook Duos: lowendmac.com

Apple also delivered a 1993 prototype for a PowerBook Duo Tablet, designed to be compatible with the same docks, under the code name “PenLite”, but the project was canceled due to its functional overlap with the soon to be released 1994 Newton Message Pad. The stylus driven PenLite would have run the classic Mac OS.


And of course, there was also the Newton eMate 300, a mini laptop form factor of the Newton introduced in March 1997. It was intended for use in education, and was originally only available to schools, although Apple later made some half-hearted attempts to allow individuals to buy them, too.

PenLite: the Apple Museum | Prototypes

PowerBook 500, 2000, and 5000 Series: Innovation and Crisis

Apple attempted to reinvigorate its stalling laptop line with the 1994 PowerBook 500. It was first laptop to use a trackpad rather than a trackball (which had also been introduced by Apple in its 1989 Mac Portable). The 500 was also the first laptop to include a PCMCIA (PC Card) expansion slot, 16-bit stereo audio with stereo speakers and the first use of intelligent NiMH batteries using an onboard processor to monitor charge level. It also supplied pioneering built-in Ethernet, SCSI, and ADB.

Foreshadowing future laptop problems that would unfold with the PowerPC G4, Motorola’s early 90s 68040 CPU was becoming too hot for use in a portable, making it difficult for Apple to compete against 486-based PC laptops. In 1995, Apple delivered a snap in upgrade for the 500 series that supplied a 100MHz PowerPC 603e processor to replace the 25 or 33 MHz 040.

The 1995 PowerBook 5000 and Duo 2000 lines were the first to ship with PowerPC CPUs. The PowerBook 5000 introduced hot-swappable expansion modules that could accept a floppy or Zip drive, or be used to store two batteries. It also introduced the lithium ion battery, although the flaming failure of those early batteries in tests resulted in a recall and a replacement of NiMH batteries. Together with other reliability problems, the model became regarded as one of the worst products Apple ever shipped.


A Bland Recovery: PowerBook 1400, 2400, 3400.

Starting in October 1996, Apple recovered its laptop reputation somewhat with the release of a series of new PowerBooks, including the entry level 1400, which was the first PowerBook to ever ship with a CD drive, and among the first laptops from any maker to support CD drives; a slim 2400 with a 10.4“ screen designed to replace the Duo line (but incompatible with its Duo Docks); and the higher end 3400, which used a PCI architecture and fast EDO RAM which helped make the 240 MHz PPC 603ev machine the fastest laptop available.

While still leading the industry in a number of areas and bundling in a variety of features that few other PC laptops included, Apple’s PowerBook line began rapidly falling behind other PC makers in both technology innovation and design. The company’s increasingly shrinking market share and the economies of scale behind x86 CPUs conspired to make in difficult for Apple to remain competitive, let alone lead the industry.


The PowerBook G3.

During the company’s struggle to survive in the mid 90s, the PowerBooks were often Apple’s most popular product. The company frequently couldn’t manage to keep enough in inventory despite weak sales elsewhere, in part due to the confusing array of product model numbers.

When Steve Jobs returned in 1997, one of the first new products to be released was the new PowerBook G3, which again melded technology with an original design to create a standout product that endured for three years.

The new PowerBook G3 replaced the three existing models. [It was originally slated to become the 3500, but Jobs canceled the Duo and entry level products and made the high end 12.1” model (which became the new title holder of the world’s fastest laptop) Apple’s mainstream, single choice under a more familiar “G3” brand. The original PowerBook G3 “Kanga” would become the only G3 Mac unable to officially run Mac OS X when it was released three years later.]

A new Newton Message Pad 2000 series also shipped in 1997, but the entire PDA line, including the eMate, was canceled early the next year after sales failed to take off.


Bold New Design and a Return to Innovation: New G3s and the iBook.

In 1998, the PowerBook G3 “Wallstreet” was given a sleek new redesign and a larger 13.3“ or 14.1” display. It also supplied hardware for DVD playback at a time when software wasn’t fast enough to decode play DVD MPEG-2 video. It would be the last Mac model to sport a rainbow Apple icon.


In 1999, the PowerBook was given a significant internal update with the New World ROM architecture first launched with the iMac a year earlier. That new model, called the PowerBook G3 “Lombard,” was also thinner and lighter using a new case design that made it incompatible with the Wallstreet’s batteries and drive bays.

A year later in 1999, Apple added a consumer laptop under the new iBook brand. The brightly colored “toilet seat” design of the original 12.1“ iBook was reminiscent of the translucent clamshell of the eMate 300; it was similarly targeted toward education users, although it was also clearly aimed at mainstream consumers. It was also the first laptop to offer integrated support for WiFI wireless networking, signaling a return to industry-leading innovation following the company’s rebuilding of its laptop foundation.


PowerBook G4 Titanium.

Jobs introduced the thin new 15” titanium PowerBook G4 in 2001, a product that helped the company survive the crash of the dot com bubble and frequently served as an advertisement for Apple’s distinctive blend of technology and design expertise that helped sustain the still-struggling company over the model’s three year lifespan, during which the same design was given faster processors, Gigabit Ethernet, and other incremental advances.

In 2000, two members of Apple’s Titanium PowerBook G4 team, Jory Bell and Nick Merz, left to form OQO after a struggle within Apple to develop prototype designs for a new micro-sized laptop. Their new company produced a tiny Windows XP device by 2004 using the Transmeta Crusoe processor.


Toned Down Design: the white iBook G3 and Aluminum PowerBook.

In 2001, Apple responded to the collapse of the dot com boom by toning down the bright colors and whimsical kid-proof design of the iBook to deliver a simpler entry level machine with broad appeal and practical functionality. The slot loading iBook G4 was released in the fall of 2003.

At the beginning of 2003, Apple had started selling a line of well-regarded but conservatively designed aluminum PowerBook G4 laptops, starting with new 12“ and 17” models. A matching 15“ aluminum model replaced the titanium PowerBook G4 in the fall. Once again, Apple ran into a problem with the pace of Motorola’s chip development, and the G4 processor increasingly fell behind the progress in the x86 world.

While IBM had delivered an impressive new 64-bit G5 in 2003, it was not designed for mobile use, and neither Motorola nor IBM had much interest in creating new mobile processors just for Apple. That left Apple with little room to impress on the high end, and little range to differentiate the iBook line from the professional PowerBook models.


MacBook and the MacBook Pro.

Apple turned to Intel and found that the company had an impressive new roadmap for mobile processors that would reclaim the speed and efficiency crown from AMD, which had up to that point been embarrassing Intel in performance, power use, and 64-bit leadership. Starting in 2006, Apple launched new 15” and 17“ professional laptops under under the MacBook Pro name using Intel’s new Core Solo and Core Duo processors, followed by a 13.3” consumer MacBook mid year.

The entire line of Intel-based laptops got Toslink optical digital audio, MagSafe power adapters, and built-in iSight cameras. The MacBook is differentiated by its simpler integrated graphics and plastic case with easy access to its hard drive and RAM through the battery compartment. The MacBook Pros largely followed the existing Aluminum PowerBook design.


By the end of the year, all models were shipping with the 64-bit Core 2 Duo processor, although both retained a 32-bit memory bus. This means that all MacBook models with a Core 2 Duo but prior to the Santa Rosa chipset can run 64-bit EM64T instructions (execute 64-bit code) and can handle a large 64-bit virtual address space but can not address more than 3.2GB of physical RAM, due to limitations in their chipsets outside of the CPU.

The MacBook Pro received the Santa Rosa chipset in June 2007 along with new LED backlighting and NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics, while the MacBook’s chipset was upgraded in November 2007 along with improved Intel GMA X3100 graphics. Laptops with the Santa Rosa chipset can now make use of the entire 4GB of RAM installed. Starting in 2007, both models also gained official support for faster WiFi 802.11n wireless networking.

Macbook Pro

Road to Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard: 64-Bits

The iPhone and the MacBook Air.

Earlier this year, Apple shook up its laptop line with the MacBook Air, a higher end system designed to be light and thin but still powerful, with a full sized display and keyboard and a processor competitive with the high end of ultra mobile laptops.

Apple again gave it distinctive lines and introduced new technologies designed to set it apart, including software to minimize the need for an external optical drive and a multitouch trackpad that could respond to more complex gestures to pinch, rotate, and swipe similar to the iPhone.


How the MacBook Air stacks up against other ultra-light notebooks
Is the MacBook Air Another Cube?

Just prior to that, Apple had delivered the iPhone with a sophisticated new minimal interface that allowed users to control a full computing environment without any need for a stylus: there were no drop down menus nor any window controls.

A highly simplified text entry system with correction features removed complexity to open up usability. It was also designed to look great and behave realistically, with physics that bounce and jiggle elements in the interface to create natural associations with real objects.

The obvious next step is to put the iPhone into the MacBook. The next article will look at how that will happen, starting with The iPod Power Behind Apple’s Big Mac Push.

Did you like this article? Let me know. Comment here, in the Forum, or email me with your ideas.

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  • http://www.enterprisesystemsbackup.com pdeguise

    Hopefully the next round of Mac Book Pro machines will see e-sata ports. It seems that Apple is heading in this direction given their recent filings regarding e-sata target disk mode, but that doesn’t guarantee availability in the upcoming laptop revisions.

    The comment regarding physics in the controls reflects how Apple really can design excellent UIs – the fact that scrolling lists ‘bounce’ when you hit top or bottom is perfect proof of Apple’s attention to detail; it’s entirely logical yet something I can’t imagine a single other company bothering to do. Such attention to detail lifts the interface from something you merely use to something you intuitively _relate_ to.

  • Jesse

    That’s it? It’s so short, for a RoughlyDrafted piece. Hey, who wrote this–DED or Prince McLean? :)

  • fatbarstard

    So Dan reckon’s that Apple is about to unveil a new form factor and goodies for the MacBook Pro line… I can’t wait… My Rev B MBP comes off its lease early next year and a cool new laptop would be just the ticket…

    Maybe this is the big new things that Apple has been hinting at in its recent earnings calls?? Trouble is that you can only know after the fact…

  • pluki7

    Hey, where’s the Toilet Seat iBook?

  • elppa

    Ah, the Titanium PowerBook G4, still a better looking product than the current Pro Laptops, in part due to the two tone metal, black keyboard and other design flourishes.

    I’m surprised 2003 wasn’t mentioned. At MacWorld SF Steve Jobs announced to a packed audience:
    – The 17″ Powerbook G4, the world’s thinnest, lightest 17″ notebook (there weren’t many 17″ notebooks on the market full stop at that time).
    – The 12″ Powerbook G4, the world’s smallest, fully featured notebook.

    These were two great examples of Apple being right on top of their game.

  • Brau

    “Apple didn’t patent its novel concepts”

    I knew about Sculley giving away the rights to the Mac GUI, but I didn’t realize just how much more Apple lost under Sculley in the way of product patents. You’d almost think he was paid off by MS to perform that badly. The words “do you want to sell sugar water all your life or change the world?” must ring like a horrid nightmare in Jobs’ ears whenever he considers where Apple might be today had he never made that call. No wonder Jobs crowed loudly “… and we’ve patented the hell out of it” when he held up the iPhone.

    As for future products, Apple’s true strength is in being able to create a cohesive infrastructure within their product lines that no other conglomerate of disjointed third parties can ever hope to match, let alone in a timely fashion. Steve Jobs has said so himself. I think Apple’s biggest breakthroughs are still ahead but not so much in regard to single products, rather, the ongoing seamless integration of all these products across a broader scale. The iPhone is a good example where it’s only part what it does, and more about how easily it does it all. The other makers who rely on MicroSoft will always be playing catch-up.

    I do see games coming to the AppleTV eventually and perhaps a snap-on gaming controller for the iphone/Touch (shaped like the Mophie Juice Pack?) … all as a “hobby” of course. I see possible cellular integration being built directly into Apple laptops making finding any internet service as easy as it is on the iPhone (caveat: would need to be optional or require being unlocked to a single carrier ) and negating the need to “tether”.

    Multi-touch laptops/tablets plus Logic Studio are set to steal a whole market away from the traditional makers of bulky analog audio recording mixers by making laptops wirelessly connected virtual mixing consoles that are modifiable yet still provide one-touch access to multiple channel settings (the way the iPhone has now shown it can via “ProRemote”). As a musician who has spent countless hours EQ-ing drum kits, running back and forth between the kit and the console, this one feature is worth its weight in gold.

  • sobesoho

    wonderful new website design Dan. I have to say that I hated the last one, so am happy that now the website reflects more the excellence of your articles. Well done and onward valiant soldier!

  • lmasanti

    What about opening the iPhone SDK/App Store to the AppleTV?

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    My guess: laptops which finally move beyond 1991’s PowerBook by leaving the physical keyboard and trackpad behind, having a second display down there instead … just as big as the main screen. Only this display will be fully multi touch – just like the “tablet Mac” so often dreamt about.

    It’ll happen someday, of this I am sure. But I doubt it’ll happen in 2008. Could be that the new Air-like designs we’re supposedly soon to be will be the last of the old guard instead of the first of the new.


    Yes. I concur. The “original” RoughlyDrafted design I was used to when I first came here in 2006 and lasted through 2007 was better than the first WP theme Daniel used until a few days ago. This new one however is finally better!

  • http://marcos.kirsch.com.mx/ kirsch

    Missed too many milestones: The trackpad, the Duo… odd.

  • nat

    Nice teaser. :D

  • stefn

    Daniel’s article gives cred to today’s MacBook Touch rumor.

    For my part, Apple will have a tough time persuading me to buy another MacBook rather than just an iPod Touch, which does most of what I need on the road at 1/8 the weight, 1/5 of the price and small enough that I can take it hiking and biking—not to mention use in a plane seat. And it already has MultiTouch.

    Now a US$600 book sized Mac…hmmm.

  • stefn

    Apple needs a true education Mac for children—MacXO—backed up with a model grades 4-12 curriculum in computer science to demonstrate why we no longer need textbooks in print. (Books sure, but not textbooks.)

    It’s ridiculous that our kids carry around 70 lbs of books when the same money could purchase the same content in a 1 lb device with terrific creativity—writing, drawing, photography, math—and communication tools built in.

    Add EVDO ala the Kindle to a Pro model and away we go.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir
  • PerGrenerfors

    Like someone already said, where’s the clamshell iBook? It was the first model to really prove that less definetely is more. It has the handle, the lid that closes without a latch, Airport wireless and a single USB (and later on FW and video-out) just like the MBA. The design was not only playful, but it was also extremely durable. You could drop it without breaking it. It is also one of the comfiest of the ‘Books to type on, which is why I still keep mine as a backup computer.

  • stefn

    @ John Muir: I like your double screen mac concept. So think about it using a 6 x 9 inch book metaphor-mat. (Now there’s a coinage.) Open it up and you get a screen and keyboard, as you say. Turn it sideways and you get a two page book layout. Goodbye, Kindle.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir


    It quickly becomes incredible what’s waiting to be done when you really get into this multi-touch stuff. Flexible, rollable, foldable compound screens and input devices are at least feasible and may well become products in the future.

    Basically: once you have completed the migration from WIMP in the API, you are free where you take your platform.

    But I reckon Apple will keep things sane wherever they go! The MacBook Touch concept isn’t a quantum leap to imagine, but would be in usability. Tablet computers used as slates or with opposable screens (think double sided rather than clumsy double-hinges) are already out there, but Apple happen to be leading the way in small sized tablets already!

    I linked my piece to a Windows friend who’s incredulous that Microsoft could be far behind. From all indications however: they are. If you can’t shake off the WIMP assumption, your users will be stuck with a stylus or fingers posing as them!

    It’s fascinating to think just how the Mac and Windows may diverge in the future.

  • mpkaufmann

    Hey, you left out the 540C and 520c. I bought a 520C. The battery would last about a half hour. It’s so funny to look back and see how limited the memory and hard disk sizes were I think the 520C had a 300+MB HD!

  • designguy

    Thank you Daniel.

    A few things to consider to those out there with active imaginations. While I would love to see many of these ideas come to light, not many are feasible at this time, nor the near future.

    Double sided screens would be compelling, but as Apple is switching over to LED screens this seems very unlikely. Additionally one must consider the warranty and repair issues with two screens. Finally, with Apple as concerned about battery life as they are with any other feature, two screens would be out of the question.
    One can always follow up economically as well. The titanic majority of continued computer growth is currently laptops, especially for Apple. Apple will not be rid of the keyboard for their bread and butter sales. It would be safe to assume that most people today, would choose the traditional keyboard for word processing compared to a screen version.
    Following Apple’s well engineered business model, one can assume that a tablet style or slate mac will not even be showcased till 2009 at the earliest. Beyond just the ability to build a tablet Mac, one must consider the additional requirements to that platform. The “App Store.” while an excellent market, has not matured to the level needed to support a slate. While many people were willing to go purchase an iPhone regardless of Apples future commitment to open the development platform, this will not hold true for a slate. Apple will need to finish cleaning up the iPhone before it can build a similar SDK and then test for a slate. Additionally Apple will of course want to tie “Mobile Me” into the new slate, possibly with a “back to my mac” link, to take your home/office desktop/server screen anywhere. Other required technologies would build upon similar creations for the MacBook Air, such as “DVD or CD sharing.”

    A side note on imagination land…
    I would like to see the “App Store” include the Apple TV in the near future, allowing iPhones and Touches to act as real remotes and game controllers. (The current remote dos not allow certain features such as youtube, accept as text input for search) I would like to see a home server system for holding one’s whole media library, act as a time machine backup for other computers in the home/office and act as the processor for virtual computer links. Then introduce the slate and it’s “App store.”
    From that point on, one could enter a room, use their slate or limited control via mobile (iPhone or Touch), as a controller or keyboard for the Apple TV that served up your remote desktop. While visiting a friends home or Apple equipped office, one would just need to join the local WiFi network and the same services would appear, thanks to “back to my mac.”

    Daniel, what do you think about this possible direction as one of Apple’s future growth routes? I would really enjoy your input on such a scalable and proprietary system of devices.

  • Mr. Reeee

    Nice article.

    I still love by old TiBook! We use it like a MacBook Air as a wireless “floater” machine, since the optical drive is dead and I added a QuickerTek nQuicky PC Card.

    I was a bit surprised to see omissions:
    The Duo and DuoDock.
    The Powerbook 500 series with the first trackpad and first laptop with built-in Ethernet.
    The eMate 300. Sure, it was a Newton OS machine but beautifully designed and a pre-cursor tho the original iBook!
    The first iBook.
    The PowerBook 2400.

    What a shame Apple didn’t patent the original PowerBook 100’s palm rest design! Among other things!


    John Muir…

    if you need more ammo to prove exactly how far behind Microsoft is, read this article about the coming full 64-bit Snow leopard. It’s a real eye-opener to see how far Apple is, will be AND for quite some time. It’s pretty stunning to see just how far behind the PeeSea world is!


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  • designguy

    Just another quick thought on the slate…

    One of the largest purchasers of slates would most likely be the business sector. One can assume that many people would forgo the initial offering of slates due to already owning an iPhone, Touch, or notebook, unless the price was right.
    Price being low enough might actually be a possibility. Apple’s low component and Flash pricing in combination with the included OSX (not paid for like vendors and the windows ecosystem) would give them a price break. Will Google or another manufacturer adapt the Android into a similar system?

    Already it is known that the medical community needs high resolution, reliable devices that cannot be matched by windows CE. Put “File Vault” on the tablet and the government and their partners (contractors) can carry around sensitive data with advanced screen lockout technologies. Perhaps they would auto wipe the flash memory if wrong passwords were entered.
    No paper trails…… Happy Government! LOL

    These tablets can truly assist the paperless office concept as well. A simple “note sync” application from apple would keep your notes together (such as stickies and notepads) from computer to mobiles, and slates. It is already well known that the hospitality industry is taking more note of Apple, both cruise ship and hotels. Great restaurant tie ins or such.
    Just some other industries for thought that can benefit from this technology, education, transportation, law enforcement, Apple checkouts…. LOL (any remote checkouts for that matter), any salesperson, construction, research, and many more.

    This represents a new growth model that Apple has not really pushed in the past, and even thus far has yet to exert much energy in. Apple does love to enter a marketplace ready for their new gizmos, but recently they have been consumer.
    It would be interesting to see who would purchase most of the slates, but that would depend on price. Perhaps once AT&T has their 3G systems working correctly, they can put a chip in it and subsidize this as well………
    It is a nice dream…. LOL

  • digital-express.de

    The famous Apple Duo Concept is obviously missing here because Daniel does not want to hint too early toward Apple’s plans heading for an “Über-Interface” performing gadget which takes care about cross-connecting everything clumsy with everything tiny – regardless what brand and / or interface it is.

  • Realtosh

    @ stefn
    book-sized Mac–Book
    & education Mac with digital textbooks

    @ designguy
    slate Mac with many industry & enterprise uses

    It’s cool to see my ideas that I’ve repeated so many times being carried by others. Thanks.

    @ John Muir

    Double screens. Sounds great, but I don’t think the economics are there. I agree that September is probably not the timeline for this one.

    Why couldn’t this all be done with ONE screen, instead of two.
    1) It’s more economical.
    2) Weighs less
    3) Uses less battery power
    4) Less bulky

    Two screens sounds great, but if we’re reinventing the whole product, why not consider just on screen, with integrated input interfaces that responds to context as you explain.

    It will make economic sense to do what you suggest with just one screen BEFORE two screens would be economical enough.

    Still sounds cool doesn’t it.

    Still thinking we’ll see a iPhone-like product on steroids someday. Think of a cross between a big iPhone and a mini laptop, sometimes called book-sized, sometimes slate, sometimes mini tablet, etc

    I don’t know better than anyone else what Apple will do in the future. My analysis consists of studying the patterns of Apple’s previous behavior, adding to it trends and limits of current technologies, and trying to synthesize the most natural and simple solutions, that make use of Apple’s abilities and good common sense.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    Slates are pretty cool. I’d certainly like one which ran full Mac OS X, completely reworked for multi-touch…

    But the iPhone / iPod touch platform looks like it has that side of things covered going forward. I reckon Apple would more likely extend (some future models of) the iPhone *up* into broader slate computing than developing down the way from the Mac.

    The dual screen idea basically means a full touch based Mac by stealth. You wouldn’t be forced to ever use the lower touch surface for anything other than a fixed keyboard and standard trackpad if you didn’t want to. Or crucially: if your software wasn’t designed for it.

    LED backlighting will use less power and small screens are cheap thanks to large displays booming into TV’s. I don’t think there would be a sizeable price problem for this system in a handful of years time. But then, like all of us, I only guess!

  • stefn

    I’ll continue to plump for a book sized unit with two screens and multitouch. Just the image of a two page book layout popping up when you turn the unit sideways. Wow.

  • tehawesome

    @ elppa: I’m typing this on a 12″ Powerbook that I bought the minute they hit the stores. Still runs like a charm, is precisely the right size and perfectly designed. How I wish there were a direct replacement for it.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir


    867 MHz G4 still here too! A gig of RAM and it’s the smallest you’re going to get Leopard on the go. Still … five years later. Although the Air is pretty much the same idea, just not quite.

  • http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com steveballmer

    Pretty! That’s about all you can say!

  • brittb

    So roughly drafted…

    You left out the Dynamac luggable that was far more prominent and successful than the barely-sold Outbound. Dynamac was Apple’s official Value-Added-Reseller (VAR) for Mac portables from 1987-92. During that period, if you asked Apple about Mac portables, you were referred to Dynamac.

    Dynamac users were a who’s-who of Mac users: Steve Wozniak, Andy Hertzfeld, Alan Kay, Rick Smolin, Herby Hancock, Branford Marsalis, and scores of Apple employees.

    More at .

    New York Times at: .

    I’m the Britt Blaser that the NYTimes’ article quotes, and I authorized this message.

    Google at .

  • brittb

    Apparently no links are allowed. Try Googling: “dynamac apple computer”

  • http://www.roughlydrafted.com danieleran

    ha so I really started writing about an idea and it became so long that I started chopping it up. This turned into part one, and was intended just to introduce an overall look at Apple’s laptops. So now I filled in the 90s and 2000s. And threw in some of the more famous ads. Wait for what I got in part 3 :)

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  • http://homepage.mac.com/lunaticsx/ LunaticSX

    “The 500 was also the first laptop to include a PCMCIA (PC Card) expansion slot”

    Uh, no. I’ve got a 540c right here and it does not have a PCMCIA slot.

    There was an optional PCMCIA card module that could go in the 500-series left battery bay, but it was never popular and few were sold. Most likely this was due to the fact that the main initial reason for PCMCIA cards in laptops were for Ethernet and modem cards (WiFi PCMCIA cards came much later), and the 500-series came with Ethernet built in, and could be configured with an optional internal modem (19.2 Kbps max).

    The twin battery bays in the 500-series were an innovation you left out, however. You could supposedly get up to 2.5 hours of life out of each battery, adding up to a whopping possible 5 hours of use with two batteries. In practice, though, we all know how inflated official battery life claims are.

    The 500-series also came with video-out ports that supported an expanded desktop on an external display.

    There was some thought within Apple of shipping a 500-series model with the 100 MHz PowerPC 603 CPU card pre-installed. It’s unfortunate that it never happened and Apple’s resources were entirely put behind the PowerBook 5300 and 190 (same design as the 5300 but with a 68040 CPU) and Duo 2300.

    The PowerBook 5300 and 190 were the actual first Mac laptops to include PCMCIA slots. They also used IDE internal drives instead of SCSI (2.5″ SCSI drives were *expensive* at higher capacities, and I don’t think anyone made them larger than 1 GB before discontinuing SCSI drives in that form factor completely).

    As a bit of an oddity now, but as a pre-cursor to WiFi wireless networking, the PowerBook 5300 and 190 were the first PowerBooks to include IR ports that let you point two of them at each other and create a network over “IRtalk” (AppleTalk over infrared). There were even some 3rd party IR pods you could hook up to desktop computers to provide a “wireless network” for these PowerBooks much like a WiFi base station. Unfortunately IRtalk was extremely slow, line-of-sight only, short range, and generally flakey, so you might as well have used a cable.

    Except… The 5300 and 190 did NOT include built-in Ethernet or modems. So you had to buy and carry around PCMCIA cards for these functions, which had previously been built-in or available as an internal option.

    The other reason Apple decided to focus on the 5300 and 190 PowerBooks was because they designed its expansion bay (where its 3.5″ floppy drive normally lived) to accept a 3.5″ CD-ROM drive. Apple figured that there was no way anyone was going to cram a full 5.25″ CD-ROM drive into a laptop, so most likely 3.5″ CD-ROMs were going to become the rule for portable computing. Then, while the 5300/190 was under development, a few other manufacturers announced laptops with full-sized 5.25″ CD-ROM drives at an industry trade show. Oops.

    In hindsight Apple would have been much better off selling a PowerBook 500-series machine with a PowerPC CPU card pre-installed. It could have been based it on the (Japan-only) 550c, which had a full 640×480 active matrix display (the 520 and 540 models had 640×400 displays). The top of the line 5300 had an 800×600 display, but with the size of the display bezel on the 500-series Apple probably could have fit one of those into it. They then could have used the development resources they spent on the 5300/190 on a more revolutionary laptop with a 5.25″ CD-ROM drive and full built-in features that could have been a true successor to the 500-series.

    “Motorola’s early 90s 68040 CPU was becoming too hot for use in a portable, making it difficult for Apple to compete against 486-based PC laptops.”

    It wasn’t so much a heat problem. The 33 MHz 68LC040 in the PowerBook 540 ran cool enough, and it was the fastest ‘040 they made then. It was more about speed. Apple had already decided to transition to the PowerPC architecture and their laptops naturally had to go along.

    “A new Newton Message Pad 2000 series also shipped in 1997, but the entire PDA line, including the eMate, was canceled early the next year after sales failed to take off.”

    Newton, Inc. was being spun out as a separate company. Steve Jobs really liked the eMate and wanted to keep its designers. The Newton, Inc. spin out was canceled and then Apple decided the Newton was too much of a distraction to be kept going in-house. Notice how much of the design of the iMac and the original iBook followed from the eMate. (Even the curvy Wallstreet and Lombard/Pismo gave nods to the eMate, especially with the later translucent “chocolate” keyboards.)

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