Technology Flashback: Apple PowerBook 100 Laptop (1991)

The PowerBook 100, released in 1991, ushered in a new era for laptops.

In 1991, owning anything by Apple wasn’t really considered as cool as it was in the 1980s,  but Apple’s first laptop ended up influencing a lot of other laptops. The PowerBook 100 ended up being introduced in the marketplace for $2300 (without the floppy disc drive). That wasn’t an outrageous price for high-end laptops then, but it was outrageous for a laptop that only had a 16 MHz processor, 2MB RAM and a 20MB hard drive.

The PowerBook 100 weighed slightly more than five pounds, which was considered very light for the time. It had a 9.0″ monochrome passive-matrix screen and just one external serial port that was designed for use with a printer or even a hand scanner. It didn’t offer an external modem port, but one could purchase an optional 2400 baud modem.

In September of 2009, CNET ranked Apple’s PowerBook 100 as the top gadget of all-time.

“Never mind the Apple versus PC debate: Until Apple unveiled this 5.1-pound machine, most ‘portable’ computers were curiosities for technophiles with superior upper-body strength. But the PowerBook 100′s greatest and most lasting innovation was to move the keyboard toward the screen, leaving natural wrist rests up front, as well as providing an obvious place for a trackball.”

CNET added that the layout of the PowerBook 100 seems natural now, but the style ended up being copied by other notebook manufacturers. This is one of those times where Apple actually did create something new rather than reshaping failed products from other companies in order to make them marketable.

PCWorld named the PowerBook 100 as the 10th best PC of all-time. They also noted how moving the keyboard towards the screen ushered in a lasting design. They also thought the trackball was different and very innovative.

There were some problems with the PowerBook 100. In fact, in September of 1992, UPI reported that Apple had to recall all PowerBook 100 laptops due to  a circuit board short capable of melting the outer plastic case. There were reportedly 60,000 units affected by the problem.

The PowerBook G3 was released in 1997.

Apple soon discontinued the PowerBook 100, but it lead to a bunch of other PowerBook releases in the 1990s and early 2000s, including the PowerBook Duo (1992), The PowerBook 500 Series (1994), the PowerBook 1400 (1996), and the PowerBook G3 (1997). But it’s the PowerBook 100 that will go down in history as the laptop that started the modern notebook era.

 

 

About Daryl

Daryl Deino has been a technology enthusiast since 1995 and has written for several newspapers and technology sites. Please reach him at [email protected]
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