Today in Apple history: First affordable PowerBook goes on sale

By

Powerbook_150
Do you remember this Apple laptop?
Photo: Dana Sibera/Wikipedia CC

July 18July 18, 1994: Apple ships its PowerBook 150 laptop, the company’s first truly affordable PowerBook — and the last to feature the original case design, which included a built-in trackball mouse.

While it’s a normal sight to see students using Apple laptops today, there was a time when Mac notebooks were out of the reach of your average learner. That all changed in the 1990s — and the PowerBook 150 played an important role.

Starting at $1,450, the PowerBook 150’s price tag helped make it an important computer in Apple history. Early on, the price of laptops limited their audience. Just five years earlier the Macintosh Portable had carried a price tag of $6,500. The significantly cheaper PowerBook 150 cost of between $1,450 and $1,600, thereby making it an affordable to people looking for a PowerBook on a budget.

PowerBook 150 was part of Apple’s low-end PowerBook 100 line. It boasted a 33 MHz microprocessor, around 2.5 hours of battery life, and was fairly light for its day — weighing just 5.5 pounds.

It was also one of Apple’s more upgradable laptops in terms of storage, and the first of its series to incorporate a lithium-ion backup battery — which let users preserve the RAM contents in the event that a battery had to be replaced.

In other ways, however, the PowerBook 150 was very much compromised Mac. For example, it relied on a less expensive hard drive than other PowerBooks, and was the only laptop in the product line not to include an Apple Desktop Bus port, the bit-serial computer bus which connected low-speed devices to computers from 1986 to 1999. This meant that it was not possible to use it with an external mouse or keyboard.

On top of this, the laptop included a relatively poor LCD “passive matrix” display, which was vastly inferior to some of the higher-end displays Apple featured on its more expensive PowerBooks.

Do you remember the PowerBook 150? What was your first Apple laptop? Leave your comments and reminiscences below.