|Release date||September 20, 1989 (Original)
February 11, 1991 (Backlit)
|Discontinued||February 11, 1991 (Original)
October 21, 1991 (Backlit)
|Operating system||6.0.4 (Original) 6.0.7 (Backlit) - 7.5.5|
|CPU||Motorola 68000 @ 16 MHz|
|Memory||1 MiB, expandable to 9 MiB, 8 MiB backlit version (SRAM)|
The Macintosh Portable was Apple Inc.'s first battery-powered portable Macintosh personal computer. Released on September 20, 1989, it was received with excitement from most critics but consumer sales were quite low. It featured a fast, sharp, and expensive black and white active matrix LCD screen in a hinged design that covered the keyboard when the machine was not in use. The Portable was one of the early consumer laptops to employ an active matrix panel, and only the most expensive of the initial Powerbook line, the Powerbook 170, used one, due to the high cost. The cursor pointing function was handled by a built-in trackball that could be removed and located on either side of the keyboard. It used expensive SRAM in an effort to maximize battery life and to provide an "instant on" low power sleep mode. The machine was designed to be high-performance, at the cost of price and weight.
Unlike later portable computers from Apple and other manufacturers, the battery is charged in series with the supply of power to the computer. If the battery can no longer hold a charge, then the computer cannot run on AC power and hence it will not boot. The main reason for this is that the original power supply had a very low output. This is also why in many instances the special low-power hard drive would not spin up. Several popular unauthorized workarounds were devised, including to use the power supply from the PowerBook 100 Series which provides a higher output. As with automotive batteries, the sealed lead acid cells used in the Portable failed if they are fully discharged. The batteries are no longer manufactured and it is very rare to find an original battery that will hold charge and allow the computer to start. It is possible to repack the battery with new cells, or use alternative 6 V batteries. The sealed lead acid cells used in the Portable's battery pack were made by Gates and were also used in Quantum 1 battery packs for photographic flash use.
Despite the dramatic improvement in terms of ergonomics offered by the responsiveness, sharpness, and uniformity of its active matrix panel, one of the drawbacks of the Portable was poor readability in low light situations. Consequently, in February 1991, Apple introduced a backlit Macintosh Portable (model M5126). Along with the new screen, Apple changed the SRAM memory to less expensive and more power-hungry pseudo-SRAM (which reduced the total RAM expansion to 8 MB) and lowered the price. The backlight feature was a welcomed improvement, but it came with a sacrifice: battery life was cut in half. An upgrade kit was also offered for the earlier model as well, which plugged into the ROM expansion slot. The Portable was discontinued in October of the same year.
In addition, at 16 pounds (7.2 kilograms) and 4 inches (10 centimetres) thick, the Portable was a heavy and bulky portable computer. Lead-acid batteries, although providing long uptime, contributed to its weight and bulk.
In May 2006, PC World rated the Macintosh Portable as the seventeenth worst tech product of all time. By contrast, MacUser magazine noted that this machine tended to remain relevant and therefore tended to have a long usage lifespan for those who bought it, reducing its TCO.
- Outbound Laptop, a Mac-compatible laptop available at the same time as the Portable. It was significantly smaller, less expensive, and lighter but offered a much less responsive "twist" LCD and a less ergonomic pointing device. It was also restricted to 4 MB of RAM, due to its requirement that users install a ROM chip from an Apple machine such as the Macintosh Plus.
October 21, 1991