The great October revolution of 1991: PowerBook

21 Oct 1991, has divided the history of laptops “before” and “after”. From this day, and so far, all the laptops in the world are built that way. The era of creative search is over, since the correct (perfect?) the layout of the laptop has been found…

At the end of the 80s the invention of laptops was engaged in large and small companies and people with boundless imagination. None of these serious devices were not successful, and experience the son of errors difficult, warned smart from following this path. Smart people learn from the mistakes of others, others on their own.

Macintosh Portable, despite everything written about him, was a very good computer. I have a right to their own opinion on this issue, because I used them for several years. He weighed 7 pounds plus, but in those days met laptops weighing in at 10 pounds. For example, Dynamac in 1987-88.

In the name of the second model of this portable computer (by the way, it was a portable version of the Macintosh Plus), Dynamac EL, the prefix stood for Extra Light, that is, transcendent light. Extra-light model weighed 7 kilograms 300 grams.

But the Macintosh Portable sold poorly, maybe its just incorrectly sold. In the annals of Apple it is recorded as a failure.

Therefore, the doubts of John sculley, read the offer Randy Battat, in the past, product-project Manager Lisa, can understand. Another product in the hopeless direction? Randy, however, didn’t give up. John was a good man, very kind and helpful, especially for the money of the shareholders. On reflection, he gave the go-ahead.

Precautions and assistance

With forethought worthy of a better cause, Scully has taken all measures to protect your company and yourself in the event of failure of the project.

To work on the project, he organized an Autonomous unit, but independent of Apple. In case of failure, the company and Scully could get out of hand strike without much damage. Lead the Department he instructed Randy Battuto, and gave him a small budget. To Randy joined John Medica and Neil Selwyn, and several dozen specialists.

But it was not enough. He was ashamed to admit it, but the idea light and convenient notebook which he has told me so much Randy, he was captured. Especially Alan Kay, to whom he turned for advice, reacted to the idea positively.

While it was clear to him one thing: the laptop, even though he and the computer, after all domestic product. Apple has no experience in this business segment. But it would be nice to achieve success in it.

He made a proposal on cooperation to Sony, and even sent them all the drawings and diagrams of the Macintosh Portable, and to everyone that wrote to Randy about this project. Engineers from Sony was required to turn Portable into the laptop. The project was called Asahi, and Apple has allocated the same budget and “autonomy”.

Tim LC and Tim

In the Autonomous unit of work on the project began in the fall of ‘ 90. Without further ADO, and without proving anything to anyone (autonomy!), decided to develop two models. Powerful, which has assigned the code name for Tim, and “budget”, Tim LC.

In the process of developing the code names have changed many times, to ensure secrecy. The developers could not imagine that somewhere over the ocean, the engineers of another company meticulously studying the materials of their project… something to approve, on something think, in doubt.

The main idea of the project was the design of the laptop in detail, and the evidence described in the documentation that I had studied Japanese. The keyboard should be moved toward the screen, between the keyboard and the user need a flat surface on which, during operation, to lean on the palm of your hand. This reduces fatigue, in addition, so comfortable.

The trackball is placed in the center of this platform, because in this position it will not interfere with a comfortable position of the hands, and in addition, this provision provides equal opportunities for left-handers and right-handers.

The sizes and proportions were chosen experimentally, before beginning work on the project.

I could not describe the main concept of the project. If you have a laptop issued by any company in the world after 1991, you can just look at it. 100% that it works that way.

In the embodiment of Tim developers “broke” in full. Bright screen with an active matrix, a 68030 processor with a clock frequency of 25 MHz and a coprocessor for floating point numbers (68882), the disk 40 Megabytes and 4 Megabytes of RAM in its base configuration.

This model was supposed to play the role of a heavy tank breakthrough, become the subject of envy and the object of immodest desires.

In Tim LC tried to reduce the cost while maintaining the basic idea of the design, which used a screen with a passive matrix (cheaper) CPU with a reduced to 16 MHz clock frequency, and without the coprocessor for floating-point numbers in base configuration was limited to a drive with a capacity of 20 Megabytes and two Megabytes of RAM.

This model, according to the developers, was supposed to be the main.

Both models are housed in identical enclosures, screen size, diagonally, was equal to ten inches (a whole inch more than the Macintosh Classic!), it is 25 centimeters.

The screen resolution is 640 by 400.

The project was difficult, the timing is tight (as always), but all engaged in the project understood that they were participating in a very important and historic project… was Filled, and plowed with breaks only for sleep.

Asahi vs Tim LC and Tim

Shortly before the appointed time, the autonomy with amazement and indignation, found out that they are not alone in the universe. About the Japanese colleagues working on the same thing.

The indignation increased, when they saw the result of Japanese work. In this all important project was ignored, it was a scandal. Most unpleasant of all was spending precious time in the belief their (Scully didn’t understand what the problem is) and others in the unacceptability of it all.

On the day of release of the goods into the light, someone announced, without details, that in the model, which was developed in conjunction with Sony, Apple found some problems in design, and that it forced the Japanese to change something. What to take with them, Apple is Apple, they always pick on some nonsense…

21 Oct 1991, and after

Scully did not believe in the success of this venture, and regretted that generally got in touch with her. Events for the production and promotion of portable line he has allocated only a million dollars. On the Macintosh LC, Macintosh IIsi and the other “checked” items was allocated five to ten million.

Was filmed only a promotional video, a basketball star in the title role.

I almost forgot: Scully ordered from Lexicon Branding name for the portable line, and approximately half received their PowerBook. Power because a powerful Book because the laptop. In the preparatory group of kindergarten, the same thing could be done cheaper.

The audience was presented three models: the PowerBook 100, with the CPU overclocked 68000 16 MHz, the same as in the Macintosh Portable, for $ 2,300. Scully put on it, so this model was produced in the first place and promoted in the first place.

And also, PowerBook 140 (Tim LC) and the PowerBook 170 (Tim). For 3199 and $ 4599.


The most successful model was the PowerBook 170, his popularity was soaring, the first edition prepared for launch, flew for several hours.

PowerBook 140 had a moderate (compared to 170) success, its reserves will last for a couple of days of sales. The first batch of PowerBook 100 sold for several months. To the credit of the “weave” I repeat: there were prepared 10 times more.

Apple, having started in the notebook market from scratch, very quickly seized on it 40%. Weaving, slipping to $ 1,000, also began to sell more.

The team of creators PowerBook, almost entirely, went to Compaq.

Scully did not object to the care team, and forced them to sign a nondisclosure agreement. Experienced Manager just let them go, enjoying the success and honors.

And besides, he not only gave a team of lawyers to make a unique (at the time) the design of the PowerBook, but even did not allow them to do it. In a few months…

To be continued

0 Comments on “The great October revolution of 1991: PowerBook”

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