Introduced October 1991
We find ourselves in the early nineteen nineties. Apple is still riding the wave of the early Macintoshes, but their advantage over PCs and the new Windows 3.0 environment is waning. Apple is still innovating, but is struggling to compete in terms of cost and usability.
In October 1991, Apple launched the desktop Quadra and laptop PowerBook computers, which were either more powerful or more portable depending on which route you took.
The PowerBook was probably the most interesting device. Apple had tried to make a portable Mac years earlier with the Macintosh Portable which was a market failure despite some very promising engineering. Several years of technological advancements – especially in the PC-compatible arena – demonstrated that it was possible to come up with a compact and usable laptop computer. The PowerBook took many of these ideas and created a more elegant and usable solution, and critically one that was a Mac and not a PC.
|Apple Macintosh PowerBook 100|
The first generation of PowerBooks break down into two distinct models. The PowerBook 100 was actually designed and built by Sony, and took the bulky original Portable and shrunk it down to a fraction of the weight. Running the by-then elderly 68000 processor, the PowerBook was essentially a classic Mac in a laptop form. The more powerful PowerBook 140 and 170 models were Apple designs running the more powerful 68030 CPU. The 170 was faster than the 140 and had an active-matrix monochrome display compared with the passive-matrix on the cheaper model.
The PowerBook was a huge success at first, but Apple struggled to fit the more powerful 68040 processor in it due to heat dissipation problems. By the time they’d fixed that, PC manufacturers had looked at the PowerBook and improved their models too so Apple started to struggle to compete. However, the PowerBook line remained until 2006, transitioning to the much more powerful PowerPC co-developed by Apple, IBM and Motorola.
The Quadra didn’t have the same problem with heat as the PowerBook and was a more natural platform for the improved 68040. More powerful than the 68030, transition between the two was not always smooth as the code required some optimisation to run on the new platform. A more modest success than the PowerBook the Quadra spawned a variety of models into the mid-1990s when it too was replaced by the PowerPC-based Power Macintosh line.
|Apple Macintosh Quadra 700|
Despite some initial success, these models mark the beginning of a long decline for Apple. The Motorola 68000 series was reaching the end of its life, Microsoft’s kludgy early versions of Windows became more polished and Apple’s prices remained out of reach of many. Just a few years after the launch of the Quadra and PowerBook it seemed that Apple was doomed. But that is a different story.
Danamania via Wikimedia Commons - GFDL
Simon Claessen via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0