And the Winner Is: '89 Mac Portable vs. MacBook Air

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September 20 marks the 20th anniversary of the first truly mobile Mac, the Macintosh Portable. (For 1980s computers, all the compact Macs were surprisingly portable–they even sported convenient handles–but they couldn’t run off batteries.) When you hear the Portable mentioned at all these days, it’s mostly to mock its size–rather hefty even by late 1980s standards and absurd today. But we’re celebrating its birthday with Benj Edwards’ revealing teardown.

Benj contrasts the Mac Portable to the iPhone and iPod Touch–which makes sense, since they’re both truly portable computers, ones that are vastly more powerful and less expensive than the Mac Portable. They aren’t, however, Macs. So here’s a quick comparison of the Portable with today’s most portable Mac, the MacBook Air. Like its 1989 ancestor, it’s been criticized for being compromised and pricey–especially the original early 2008 version. But can you imagine the dropping of jaws you would have witnessed if Apple fans of 1989 had been able to peek into the future and see the Air?

Announced Beneficiary of Steve Jobs reality distortion field? PC rival Starting price Dimensions and weight Fits inside manila envelope Unibody aluminum design? CPU RAM Hard drive Screen size, technology, and resolution Battery life Pointing device Numeric keypad Internal floppy drive Optical drive Ports FireWire Reader for memory cards Networking Bluetooth Internal dial-up modem Webcam Operating system Bundled software Runs Windows Splashy TV ads Chances of seeing someone using one on an airplane
Apple Macintosh Portable
Macintosh Portable
Macintosh Portable
Apple MacBook Air
MacBook Air
MacBook Air
September 20th, 1989 (original version) January 15th, 2008 (original version)
No, he was at NeXT Yes
Compaq LTE Dell Adamo
$5799 $1499
15.25? by 14.8? by 4?; 16 pounds 12.8? by 8.94? by .16-.76?; 3.0 pounds
It would have to be the largest one the world has ever seen Yes
No (it would have involved a lot of aluminum) Yes
16-MHz Motorola 68HC000 1.86-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
1MB of static RAM 2GB of dynamic RAM
40MB (optional) 120GB
10? active-matrix LCD with no backlighting; one-bit monochrome; 640 by 400 13.3?, active-matrix LCD with LED backlighting and millions of colors; 1280 by 800
Lead-acid battery provides 8-10 hours of dial-up productivity Lithium ion battery provides up to five hours of wireless productivity
Trackball; can be positioned to left or right of keyboard Multi-touch trackpad; fixed
Yes, can optionally replace trackball No
1.44MB; option for second drive None
None None (external model available)
Video (requires adapter), external disk drive, SCSI, ADB, LocalTalk (printer), LocalTalk (serial), audio out Mini DisplayPort, USB 2.0, audio out
None–Apple was working on it when the Portable shipped, but didn’t finish until 1995 None
None, but nobody cared, since memory cards hadn’t been invented yet and nobody owned a digital camera None
LocalTalk 802.11 Draft-N Wi-Fi
I’m sure they would have included it if it had been invented yet Bluetooth 2.0
Yes (optional) No (external model available)
Not invented yet Yes
System 6.0.4 (originally) Currently OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard
There were DOS-compatibility products for Macs from early on, but I don’t recall any that let you run Windows on a Mac Portable. Yes, through Boot Camp, Parallels Desktop, and VMWare Fusion
Yes Yes
Virtually nil–it was just too flippin’ large Pretty high

Any additions, corrections, or questions? More Apple nostalgia: Apple Patentmania: 31 Years of Big Ideas The Patents of Steve Jobs A Brief YouTube History of the Steve Jobs Macworld Expo Keynote

This story, "And the Winner Is: '89 Mac Portable vs. MacBook Air" was originally published by PC-World-India.

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