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A Look Back At The History Of Mac Laptops

Radford C. Jun 12, 2012 2

With the refresh of the Macbook Pros and Macbook Air laptops and the newly released Macbook Pro with Retina, I figured we’d take a trip through memory lane to see how much Apple has changed throughout the years.

The First Mac Laptop

In September 1989, Apple introduced their very first laptop model. To this day, the Mac Portable still stands as one of the largest and heaviest laptops ever created. The Portable was essentially the Macintosh desktop model squished into a 9.8″ monochome active-matrix display. It included a 16 MHz 68HC000 processor, 1 MB of RAM, a 1.44 MB floppy disk drive and the option of a 40 MB hard drive in a boxy portable case. Buyers could choose between a built-in mouse or a number pad, depending on their needs. Much of the Portable’s weight came from its lead-lined battery, which offered as many as 10 hours of battery life. The Portable often was referred to as the “luggable” because it weighed nearly 16 pounds, but nevertheless, it still was a significant advance toward truly portable “laptop” or “notebook” computers. What was really interesting is how they were able to keep the look synonymous with its desktop counterpart. “Here I’m showing the 2 verions of the Macintosh Portable – the first Macintosh Laptop,” says YouTuber alker33. “The left one is the early version from 1989 without backlight and the right one is the 1991 M5126 MAC Portable. The M5120 came with 2MB RAM and the later M5126 with 4MB. They were expandable but the motherboards and RAM cards were not compatible.” The best part of the demo?  Tetris.

The Powerbook

In 1991, Apple introduced its second line of laptops. Youtuber Mike Dent takes us back with his collection of Powerbooks starting with the Powerbook G4 and goes backwards from there. Initially, three models were  released and of the three the Powerbook 100 was the most affordable at its time. It offered the same 16 MHz 68000 processor as the Mac Portable, but only 8 MB of RAM. To help reduce the weight of this model, the screen size was reduced, and the lead battery was removed. Unfortunately, battery life suffered from the design change and the operating time was reduced to only two hours of battery life. The Powerbook 140 featured a more powerful central processing unit, but still ran at just 16 MHz. This model had a built-in disk drive, which the 100 model was lacking. The Powerbook 170 was the most expensive of the three, and ran at 25 MHz. It also featured one of the largest and most impressive screens of any previous laptop models. The G3 and G4 Powerbooks was the biggest leap in not only specs but in design and form factor.

The iBook

After all the Macheads loathed Steve Jobs for “selling out” to Microsoft to save the company back in 1997, the re-energized CEO did his lab work with Jonathan Ive. This was a time when infamous designer began hitting his winning streak. It was this time when the iMac was making the waves and the iBook was essentially following suit from all the different colored iMac desktops. It was a little too gimmicky and fancy for my taste and what followed after the more corporate looking Powerbooks were these crazy looking clamshell-type laptops.

Macworld NY 1999 – The First iBook Introduction

But what happened in the next generation of the iBook was huge. One of Apple’s best moves was donating one computer to every school in California. This deal helped Apple gain a strong foothold in the education market, yet still lagged behind in overall home computer sales. Despite these place in total laptop marketshare, locking that niche of computer sales helped bolster newer designs of the iBook.

Apple Media Event 2001 – 2nd Generation iBook

Thankfully, the second generation of the iBook abandoned the original form factor in favor of a more conventional rectangular design. Instead of going for the more fancy and loud color schemes, Apple paved the way back to basics and designed for more of a simple and elegant system which was created to make the laptop truly portable. The 2nd generation iBook is arguably the laptop that forced manufacturers to think about cleaner form factors, polycarbonate plastic and a variety of other tidbits to stay ahead. These models were some of the most popular laptops at the time as it targeted the consumer and education markets with lower specs but prices much more affordable than the PowerBook.

The MacBook

Ah, the Macbook. When Apple switched from Power PC to Intel the company went through a transition. Intel was a chief supplier for most of Apple’s competitors but Jobs stated that Apple’s main reason for the transition was their disappointment with the progress of IBM’s development of the PowerPC. He had greater faith in Intel to meet Apple’s needs Intel despite being a chief supplier for most of the company’s competitors. In the video, he cited the performance per watt projections in the roadmap provided by Intel. This was an especially important consideration in laptop design and it affected the hours of use per battery charge. By moving to Intel, their desktops could now run Windows as a secondary boot and it essentially sent a message to Microsoft that Apple would take the hardware path instead of trying to complete directly with Windows. As part of the transition, the company introduced a new line of laptops known as the MacBook. The first Macbook models featured speeds up to 2.16 GHz, with hard drives that could hold up to 80 GB. The superior graphics of the MacBooks, along with their glossy wide screens, made them a favorite of web designers, photographers and art professionals.

Macworld SF 2006 – The First Macbook Pro

In 2008, the company introduced the MacBook Air. Weighing in at just 3 pounds, the MacBook Air is one of the thinnest computers on the market, yet offers many of the same features as standard-sized models.

Now, with the introduction of the Retina display and the iPad taking a sizable share of the laptop market, the Macbook seems to be in a good place. Below is the video from yesterday’s WWDC. Check the jump on it. You’ve walked this far down memory lane; you might as well finish it off.

Apple WWDC 2012 Keynote: The New Mac Books and Macbook Pro with Retina