Inside the Macintosh Portable

September 21st, 2009 by Benj Edwards

Inside the Macintosh Portable on Technologizer

Twenty years ago, Apple released its first laptop computer, the Macintosh Portable. It was a large and heavy beast, oft maligned (especially now) for its size and high expense.

But at the Portable’s heart sits a truly clever design — very nice for 1989 — that incorporated a number of interesting features people often overlook, since few have actually seen a Portable in the flesh.

In honor of this anniversary, I decided to take apart a Mac Portable for the seventh entry in my “workbench series” of technology teardowns. This time, Technologizer is hosting the slideshow.

Please join me as I pry into its secrets (including hidden case signatures!), compare the Portable to an iPod Touch (six of which could fit inside the Mac Portable’s battery), and just generally ogle over the beautiful technological clockwork that makes the Portable tick.

Here are my previous teardowns, if you’re interested (all at PC World): Nintendo Game Boy, Nintendo Famicom, Apple IIc, Commodore 64, IBM Model M Keyboard, and TRS-80 Model 100.

P.S. In case you didn’t notice, our Retro Scan of the Week this week focuses on the Portable as well.

5 Responses to “Inside the Macintosh Portable”

  1. Eagles409 Says:

    We have 2 of these in our warehouse at work, but because of the battery design we can’t get either of them to turn on. I’m sure they’ll just sit there until someone eventually throws them out.

  2. Xunil Says:

    Seems like you could fashion a NiMH or LiPo pack to replace the SLA battery. You’d need some battery-chemistry-appropriate charging circuitry, but that shouldn’t be too difficult to homebrew.

  3. Mike Says:

    Not a mac historian at all, was the operating system at the time capable of being run from the second floppy? On just a single disk and which version of Mac OS was that?

  4. Benj Edwards Says:

    Mike, I believe the Macintosh Portable required Mac OS 6.0.5, but supported up to Mac OS 7.5.5. If you lacked the hard drive, it would run on the first floppy (which you would boot off of) and you could switch other programs on the second floppy.

    Of course, many Macs prior only had one floppy drive, so it was possible to switch between them to copy things, etc. But mostly you ran programs off of the disk from which you booted unless you had a second drive or hard disk.

  5. Rockin' Kat Says:

    The Lead engineer or head something or other for the team that designed the Mac Portable owned an electronics/computer repair shop up in Seattle, WA.

    I went in there once with my girlfriend about a year go to get her turntable fixed. They had a Mac Portable prototype with the clear plastic on display on the front counter. I thought that was so cool.

    Unfortunately several months later I went in to get a TV repaired and they were closed down. So suck!

    I have a Mac Portable battery…. I found it in the box at a local used computer store. But I don’t have the computer. I’d love to get a hold of one.

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