May 8, 1997: Apple launches the PowerBook 2400c laptop, a 4.4 pound “subnotebook” that’s the MacBook Air of its day.
The PowerBook 2400c both predicts the future rise of speedy, lightweight notebooks, while also paying tribute to Apple’s past with a design that echoes the original PowerBook 100 in appearance. Even years later, it remains a cult favorite among many Mac users.
Impressively thin, impressively powerful
Today, a 4.4 pound laptop doesn’t sound particularly impressive. The modern MacBook weighs just a fraction over 2 pounds, making the PowerBook 2400c seem chunky by comparison. However, in the late 90s it was about half the weight of most laptops, which made it an impressive engineering feat from Apple.
Despite this, it was surprisingly powerful. Manufactured by Apple’s old rival IBM, it came with PCI-based architecture with a 180 MHz PowerPC 603e processor and 256KB of Level 2 cache. This allowed it to run the standard business applications of the time almost as well as Apple’s more powerful PowerBook 3400c, which was available around the same time.
They also looked good on the computer’s 800 x 600 10.4-inch active matrix TFT display, which was a step above what many laptops were offering at the time in terms of quality. In terms of additional specs, the PowerBook 2400c also boasted a 1.3GB IDE hard drive and 16MB of RAM, which was expandable to 48MB. Its lithium-ion battery gave between 2-4 hours of usage before needing to be recharged.
Life after Steve
Unlike Apple’s present love of ditching ports wherever possible, the 2400c came with a decent collection of ports including 1x ADB, 1x serial, 1x audio-out, 1x audio-in, and 1 HD1–30 SCSI connection, along with the onboard Mini–15 display connector. There were also 2x Type I/II PC Card slots, and the option of double-high Type III PC card for added expandability.
Later, when other Apple laptops of the era were outdated, this level of expandability gave users access to everything from USB and FireWire to Ethernet and wireless networking.
As with any lightweight laptop there were compromises, of course. To achieve the thin form factor, Apple ditched the CD-ROM drive and internal floppy drive, although it came with an external floppy.
Nonetheless, the level of expandability made the PowerBook 2400c a computer that lived well beyond just a few years. It came preloaded with the popular Mac OS 8, but could run anything from System 7 to Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar, with the correct modifications. It was particularly well-liked in Japan, which favored lightweight laptops long before Western consumers.
Sadly, the PowerBook 2400c didn’t survive the wrath of Steve Jobs. When he returned to Apple and subsequently assumed full control (he took over as interim CEO just two months after the laptop was released), he began scrapping projects to streamline Apple’s offerings.
Do you remember the MacBook 2400c? Leave your comments below.