Macintosh Portable

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Macintosh Portable.jpg
Macintosh Portable
CPU: 16 MHz Motorola MC68HC000
Maximum RAM: 9 MiB (8 MiB in Backlit)
Supported OS: System 6.0.4 - System 7.5.5
Introduced:September 20 1989
Discontinued:October 1991
MSRP:$6499 or $7299 with HD (US)
Full Specifications

Spawned from the desire to take the Macintosh on the road, the Macintosh Portable – and later Macintosh Portable (Backlit) – was anything but what its name suggested.


The Macintosh had certainly come a long way since it was first launched in 1984 but, whether it was in its traditional all-in-one (AIO) design or the newer desktop style, the Mac was always limited by just how long a power cable you had. The PC industry had been dabbling with portable machines for several years and, in 1989, Apple decided to get in on the act and deliver what many users had been crying out for: a Mac that you could take out on the road with you.

Released in September 1989, the Macintosh Portable might have been everything that users had asked for but it was hardly lightweight – and did somewhat stretch the realms of credibility when it was named 'Portable' – weighing in at nearly 16 lbs. Some felt that Apple had rather missed the point of the term 'portable', as the machine sported not only a full sized floppy drive (of the 1.44 MiB 'SuperDrive' variety), a full sized keyboard and trackball (or numeric keypad as an optional replacement), a 9.8" LCD display, and had the option of a full-sized 3.5" internal hard drive – albeit with special interface (N.B. Care must be taken when formatting, lest the drive be corrupted – the version of HD Setup that ships with System 6 is safest), but also had a main lead-acid battery that weighed in at over 2 lbs on its own.

In terms of power and performance, the Portable was excellent; and with its Motorola 68HC000 CPU (a low power version of the 68000) running at 16 MHz, it was actually only one generation behind Apple's (then) powerhouse machine: the IIci (running at 25 MHz). Capable of running anywhere up to 10 hours on a single battery charge – hardly a mean feat, even by today's standards – the machine was technically brilliant, certainly, yet Apple did have to make sacrifices to squeeze everything into the box. Using a proprietary SRAM system, memory was hugely efficient in terms of power and speed but was expensive and limited to a maximum of 9 MiB. Expansion was limited to a single slot for a proprietary modem – although the SCSI port allowed plenty of scope for external drives and boxes – and the audio system was reduced to a simple 'beep'.

The screen, so important in a portable machine, was a very crisp 9.8" LCD affair running at a reasonable 640×400. It might not have been quite up there with the Mac II machines but it was still a step up from the all-in-ones and their 512×342 desktops. What it wasn't, however, was bright and, in an effort to cut power consumption, Apple had decided against a backlight. This made using the machine in anything but bright light awkward. Luckily the revised Backlit version solved this.

Released five months after the original Portable, the Portable (Backlit) may have resolved the screen problem but it seriously compromised the battery life. It wasn't only the screen that was to blame, however, as the Backlit used a different type of RAM (Pseudo-SRAM as opposed to SRAM) and this not only sapped power but reduced the memory ceiling to 8 MiB – although the Backlit version did raise the base memory from 1 MiB to 2 MiB.

Selling for $6499 (or $7299 with a hard disk) the Portable was simply too big and expensive for most users. Yes, it was a fully-fledged Macintosh but it wasn't portable or even in the same league as the contributions from Compaq and IBM.

Full Specifications

  • General
    • CPU: 16 MHz Motorola MC68HC000
    • ROM: 256 KiB
    • Bus Speed: 16 MHz
    • Data Path: 24-bit
    • RAM Type: SRAM (Pseudo-SRAM in Backlit) (30 ns)
    • Standard RAM: 1 MiB
    • RAM Onboard: None
    • RAM Slots: 1
    • Maximum RAM: 9 MiB (8 MiB in Backlit)
  • I/O & Expansion
    • ADB: 1
    • Serial: 2
    • SCSI: 1 (DB-25)
    • Audio Out: Beep
    • Built-in Speaker: Mono
  • Storage
    • Hard Drive: 40 MiB
    • Hard Drive Type: SCSI
    • Floppy Drive: One 1.44 MiB SuperDrive
  • Video
    • Built-in Display: Internal 9.8" B&W LCD
    • Max Resolution: 640×400 (1-bit)
  • Miscellaneous
    • Apple Model Number: M5120
    • Codename: Laguna, Riviera, Malibu, Esprit, Guinness (Portable), Aruba, Love Shack, Mulligan (Backlit)
    • Gestalt ID: 10
    • Power: 5W, 13 amps (6V 5Ah sealed lead-acid)
    • PRAM Battery: 9V "transistor"
    • Case Style: Macintosh Portable
    • Dimensions: 15.25" x 14.83" x 4.05" (W x D x H)
    • Weight: 15.8 lbs.
    • Mac OS Support: System 6.0.4 - System 7.5.5
    • Introduced: September 20 1989
    • Introduced: October 1991
    • MSRP: $6499 or $7299 with HD (US)

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