One of Apple's oddest machines just turned 21, meaning that here in California we can now legally buy it a pint and raise a toast — if not to its success, at least to its good intentions. Apple Macintosh Portable The year was 1989, when Apple still had "Computer" in its name (click to enlarge) No, we're not talking about …
Much better than x86
with its totally fscked memory model.
For a while I wrote testing software for modules for voice response systems, which were 68k-based. Mostly C, but with splashes of assembler left and right. Pretty nice-ish all around, but the 6502 is still favourite.
680x0 was my second love
6502 was my first.
Relative addressing, 32-bit registers, a nice FLAT memory map - all great. I still consider it a real pity that Intel won the bid to have their architecture built into the first IBM PC, instead of Motorola. The 68000 architecture was THIS close to being put in the IBM PC, but Motorola fumbled on the execution, and ultimately Intel got the deal.
MIPS and ARM were two other processor architectures I really loved, but Acorn bit the dust around 1997 and I could not afford a SGI workstation.
And Data General used it in its minis for many years
I used one of these
My Ph.D. supervisor had one and I borrowed it once or twice to write up some papers while travelling to see my gf on the train. It didn't seem too bad to carry, given that I had disks with all the data on which meant I didn't need a bag full of notebooks...
Thanks for the walk through.
It's amazing how far tech has come in the last couple of decades. Just look at that compared to the Air.
I remember getting an Elonex 33Mhz 368 tower at work in the early-mid 90's that cost three and a half grand.
You to place that on the genius bar and ask for help....
Being at a rather prestigeous event in Westminster and one of these was being used to log attendees (or something),
At lunchtime on the first day - someone half-inched it.
The Motorola 68k wasn't RISC, although it was considered a fairly clean design by CISC standards. No pipelining though, so at least 4 cycles per instruction. Can't find any hard figures on clocks-per-instruction for something like a 386 chip. I suspect a 68k might do better, but then again it was quite an old design by this point, so maybe not.
The 68060 had dual pipelining and similar features to the Pentium. It just unfortunately had a pretty rubbish FPU with no pipelining.
It never made its way into a Mac, they had gone PPC by then. It was used in a few very expensive Amiga expansion boards though.
I've done the same with a netbook. I was browsing on the porcelain bus though.
I had made it back to the middle of my lounge by the time they gave out, which resulted in a rather ungraceful sit-down on the middle of the floor.
Pretty sure my Quadra 840av had the design team signatures inside the case.
I think it was one of the later real "Pirates of Silicone Valley" era Apple products.
Dead end technology though :(
Also known as Paris Hilton's cleavage?
Maybe someone will sneak in, as a memoriam, all the names of those sweatshop workers who perished by their own hand (or otherwise) to bring you your current lappies :P
Brings back many memories...
I joined Apple as a contractor before this was released. After I had gone through all the introductions, I was given a tour. On the way, I was introduced "to the portable we aren't working on". My project was Appletalk for A/UX (Apple's version of System 5 unix at the time). At the product intro Jean-Louis Gasse did a complete assembly of a portable while on stage. It was a wonderful demonstration. Some of the bits included tossing a power cord over his shoulder as being unnecessary, and coming out with a glass of water in a paper bag as being necessary to assemble the unit.
As for the bloke with a dead battery, the battery pack is a pretty standard one using lead-acid batteries (D size ones in a pack as I remember).
Yes, it used a 68k processor. Nice device. Much better than an 80x86 for its day. I always muse what would have happened to Intel had IBM chose a 68k as the processor for the IBM-PC. It has a MUCH better processor instruction set than the Intel ones, with LOTS more registers and a large addressing space from the very start.
Apple has changed a LOT since then (the stock is up quite a bit!) and Steve is back in the saddle. Now days cell phones have more CPU/memory than the portable did. Times have changed!
Seeing as everything is clip-in, clip-out, wouldn't it be possible to short the battery out of the systerm and run the lap-brick on mains juice??
Didnt the 68000
Run at 7mhz?
Plus I am sure they used to use these in washing machines or i think they still do...
The Sega 16 bit consoles and the Amiga...
...both ran at about 7.67mhz. The 68k itself could be clocked up to about 16mhz though, IIRC.
And yes, wouldn't surprise me if you found one in a washing machine. The m68k family did get everywhere, and still does.
I used a Portable one day at my first-ever graphic design job in '89. Was impressive indeed, which tells you how now-tech WE were in those days.
But I wanted to talk about the IIfx; I used one of those in '92 to create (to my knowledge) the very first full-colour gloss magazine with entirely desktop prepress, on a IIfx. It almost killed me, but I did it.
I recall deciding that "IIfx" stood for Too Fucking Expensive, but until the '040-powered Quadras came along it was the Cadillac. I had a poster showing the labeled components in the 'fx and I noticed that they had not just one but TWO Motorola 6502's. "Why," I thought, "Those are CPU's from my old Atari 800!" (which I'd used less than a decade before that). Know what they were used for? Driving the keyboard and mouse. One per ADB plug.
Those 6502's were probably the first example I saw of the exponential growth of computing power. "A CPU reduced to an I/O driver! Oooh, ahhh, the magnificent power of the IIfx!"
Another former owner
I owned one for a while. As others have said, it was impressively heavy. I have issues with shoulder separation on my left side (old hang glider injury), and I always had to make sure never to carry the beast on my left side. I slogged that thing all over the country. I replaced it with a Powerbook 190 IIRC. It became my desktop Mac for quite a while after, but I did end up selling it at one point. Don't remember how much I got for it.
"We haven't yet cracked open a MacBook Air yet, but when iFixit did, no such evidence of the design team was found. Personally, we miss this human touch."
Do 'SOS' messages carved with bloody fingernails by Foxconn workers/prisoners count?
I still have my old AtariST somewhere...
That used a 68K running at a full 8Mhz, the Amiga ran at 7.8ish, but had the clever graphics/sound chips. Compared with the PCs of the time the St and Amigas were very fast and vastly more capable machines. The basic ST came with 512KB or 1MB of ram when PC's were struggling with a few 64K pages on DOS.
The ST used a 6502 for its keyboard controller.
The 68K was an excellent chip to program; if I remember correctly, it had 16 x 32bit registers, though these were split between data and address registers. The difference was that the data registers could not be used to address memory.
As for speed I remember writing a simple (integer) speed test in C and running it on my ST and a MicroVAX II at work.
The AtariST was faster by about 5%, and about £10K cheaper. Though it didn't have anywhere near as good an OS (I still think VMS is the best designed and implemented OS ever) and the VAX was full virtual memory, multi user and a lot more expandable.
Get a Stanley knife and open up the battery, and see what the cells actually are for replacement with modern alternatives.
Or jumper it out of the way
If the problem is that the battery is dead, and is wired up in series with the power supply, so that it can't run now, why not just take out the battery and make the appropriate connections?
You'd lose the ability to run it on the go, but it's not like you're really going to do that, but you'd gain a fair savings in weight.
Smuggling Lead is illegal now...
... watch out if you even try to board an airplane or cross borders lugging that thing, you could be charged with heavy metals smuggling. Using a back-strap or wheelies might prove useful in avoiding spine injuries too.
Also beware of the 40-pounds limit for hand luggage. You can take your wallet, a coat, and not much else.
I bet you could try to start a motorcycle with that battery... once.
Just my coat, I'm not carrying that.
Comments, comments, a horse for my comments.
That video connector is a DE15F, to be precise. As in subminiature 15 pins female in an E-size D-shaped shell. The apple's funky take on scsi* is an actual DB25F. The floppy connector would appear to be an apple invention somewhere in size between a DA and a DB (Dapple19F?), as it has the standard pin spacing but fits 19 pins instead of 15 or 25. Yes, ``everyone else'' gets the D-sub terminology wrong too. No reason to not mention it, though.
Also note that hard disk drive access times have only halved in those score-and-one years. Throughput and capacity have improved far more. Of course that's physics for you, but still. And yes, flat colour-capable screens were quite a big deal. Compare the luggables with CRT, or the slightly smaller but still bigger than this things with amber plasma screens.
Nice article though, and nicer engineering still. I'd wish more companies would put some serious thought into their products and pick a stance different from Jobs' vision. It'd be good for the overall competition. Most of us buy cheap knockoffs, but the drive needs to come from somewhere and if there's only one guy showing what way we can go, that's a bit poor.
* Funky in the sense that regular scsi needs a 50-lead ribbon or cable, half of which are earth lines. Guess what apple did away with? Makes for cheaper cable but also for length restrictions over and above what you can expect from regular scsi. Still, it worked pretty well on the desktop. And a lot less unwieldy than a long thick shielded cable with a DD50 on each end. (sun sparc, anyone? And a bunch of others, of course.)
On a related note, I find that USB ``just works'' for things like cup warmers, but as soon as you try to boot over it you're in trouble. Even with a known-correct setup it regularly swaps devices around so that suddenly it's trying to find boot sectors on a data device. In that it's at least as moody as scsi. In fact, due to a system bug I plain couldn't boot over it until I got that patched, and the workaround was to add a scsi card(!) to the system. And yes, that worked.
Not to mention that USB claims it's "universal serial" but there's an awful lot of things it doesn't do. Proper serial console for one. Using it for a laplink-type cable took a shady bodge; I was rather amazed the designers had overlooked that use in the design. Actually work as fast as advertised for 2.0 speeds for another. And then there's the programming interface for the extended speeds.... No, I don't think usb is inevitably so much better than scsi. It pushed firewire out which actually does do what it says on the tin. But usb is cheaper.
I loved the fact that you could swap the trackball to the other side... Sweet!
If you want to be really retro....
...and review an even worse machine, dig up an Apricot Portable.
They tried so hard... even built in voice recognition. I gave up on that very quickly, when it mistook 'fuckoff' for 'format'...
Still have it, still works as badly as ever: http://www.corestore.org/ApricotPort.JPG
please please sell the apricot and buy a vacuum cleaner!!
From bulging huge acorns ...
I've never seen one myself, but IIRC the Macintosh Portable was a very conservative design: basically a respectable desktop Mac with the minimum necessary concessions to portability. (Apparently, the lack of a backlight was one of the users' sorest complaints: Steven Levy has a personal tale of woe on p. 257 of /Insanely Great/.) Of course, Apple followed the Portable embarrassment by almost inventing the laptop as we know it with the first, 100-series, PowerBooks. And still no Jobs in sight, either.
Nobody can feel the weight in outer space
Mac Portable in zero-G action...
Something is up with prices
The two prices mentioned on page 1 of $5500 and $10000 were converted incorrectly into present day prices (allowing for inflation). Somehow $5500 and $10000 became approx $10000 and $16500. Notice how the multiplication factors are different?!
(click to enlarge)
Well done, well presented and all.
The design looks very 80's, the 'wedge-look' was big back then.
This brings back memories
I picked up a 21-year old Mac IIfx recently, just for nostalgia's sake. A fellow I knew was getting rid of it. I wrote all of my college papers in the early nineties on Mac Pluses and SEs and it ibrought back memories.
It's nice to play Civ I, Prince of Persia, Tetris and Risk again. I could play them on Basilisk or VMac, I suppose.
I still think about System 6 running on a few hundred K while Windows 7 (and probably also Snow Leopard) requiring gigabytes to run, and not necessarily all that much faster at basic tasks.
Was this the device where the trackball could be shifted to the other end for southpaws?
Not a VGA Connector
That 15 pin connector is not a VGA connector, even though it is the same style of connector as VGA uses. It is a digital out port for the LCD panel data. If you want to use the output from that port to display video you need circuitry which will convert the digital screen display into a format that your target display will understand.
If you connect a VGA monitor to that port you will almost certainly destroy some internal components of the Portable.
The mystery component is indeed a power management circuit. It came in at least two different styles.
If would be interesting to see you give the Outbound Laptop Model 125 the same treatment. It came out in 1989 or 1990 (can't remember which) weighs 9 or 10 lbs and has similar specs to the Mac Portable -- oh, and runs the Mac OS, almost forgot that tidbit.
The main differences are that the Model 125 weighs 2/3s as much, uses a standard lead acid camcorder battery which is *still* available new, has SIMM sockets for expansion (only 4 MB max. though, not 8 MB), uses an internal 2.5" IDE hard drive (long before Apple used IDE), has a detachable keyboard with pointing device (IR interface), and has four internal SIMM sockets dedicated to a RAM Disk with a capacity up to 16 MB. With one's OS and applications on the RAM disk, the hard drive could be left spun down except when saving documents. And it booted the OS and launched apps incredibly fast.
The disadvantages of the Model 125 were that the internal hard drive displaces the internal floppy drive -- you could not have both. SCSI connectivity required an external adapter. The SCSI adapter or the external floppy could be connected but not both at the same time. The display was passive instead of active, and the battery life was shorter.
One notable advantage of the Model 125 was that with the SCSI adapter connected, one could put the Model 125 into Target Mode and the hard drive and Silicon Disk (RAM Disk) (if any) were available to a host computer connected via SCSI. This was a feature that Apple would not have until the first PowerBooks came out. I've been told that they actually bought this technology from Outbound.
The wedge-shaped design?- it complements the slanting shape of an Imagewriter II.
fx was the bomb
I lusted after those.
Until I got a 68040 NeXT Cube that Cornell University was selling when they dumped the machines from an all-NeXT computer lab. Drove all the way from Philadelphia to Ithaca, NY (about 4 hours each way) to pick it up. I think I paid about $1500, in I think it was summer of 1992.
I stripped the RAM from my SE/30 to bring the Cube up to 16MB, and didn't go back to the Mac until 2001.
My first 68000 computer was a Sinclair QL. The assembly was quite different to the Z80 I learned on and by the time I was up to speed, the machine was obsolete. I was able to carry my 68000 skills over to a Mac 512 though and use in conjuction with Lightspeed Pascal.
So, about 2 weeks then.
My first was a QL too
I maxed it out with RAM and had twin 4MB floppies attached to it (whatever happened to them?)
I was always amazed that it could do so much with so little RAM (640KB) and that the PSION software suite was so capable, even then.
I ran my business on it until I switched to Mac.
it WAS small!
See it's competition...
On sale at the same time: (compaq beat them to market by a year, but the mac was still smaller)
just 4 years earlier this is what a portable was:
The NEC Ultralight came out about the same time as the mac, and yea, it was about the size and weight of a common portable 15" today, but it was a monochrome DOS BOX and had no internal drives other than a 2MB "silicon" drive. Add the drive, power supply, etc and it was heavier and bulkier than the Mac. The Macintosh Portable was a full fledged mac, comparable to the SE in every way, with true B&W graphics, floppy AND HDD inside, and could support up to 9MB of RAM (1MB standard). No portable released until 1991 could run more than just DOS, and the Mac was a leader in build size/weight for full power systems at the time. More lug-able than portable, yea, but the term Laptop followed 2 years later fir a grossly slower and less classed system that STILL relied on 5lbs additional stuff to make it work.
- Product Round-up Smartwatch face off: Pebble, MetaWatch and new hi-tech timepieces
- Geek's Guide to Britain BT Tower is just a relic? Wrong: It relays 18,000hrs of telly daily
- Geek's Guide to Britain The bunker at the end of the world - in Essex
- Review: Sony Xperia SP
- FLABBER-JASTED: It's 'jif', NOT '.gif', says man who should know