Macintosh PowerBook 540

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Macintosh PB540.jpg
Macintosh PowerBook 540
CPU: 33 MHz Motorola MC68LC040
RAM Type:Pseudostatic RAM
Maximum RAM: 36 MiB
Supported OS: System 7.1.1 - Mac OS 8.1
Introduced:May 16 1994
Discontinued:August 26 1995
MSRP:$3160 (540), $4840 (540c) (US)
Full Specifications

Released alongside the PowerBook 520 and PowerBook 520c, the PowerBook 540 (and 540c) offered users extra power, a better display and even more connectivity in the form of an internal modem.


Just as with the PowerBook 1xx series, Apple's decision to release several machines geared towards different user's needs had resulted in the PowerBook 5xx series being released in varying configurations. What was different about the 5xx series, was that Apple released the entire series in one fell swoop, and never felt the urge or need to update it, with the exception of the PowerBook 550c, which was released solely for the Japanese market the following year.

The entire PowerBook 5xx series had taken the very best elements of the Duo and PowerBook 1xx machines and created a computer that was not only portable, like the Duos, but was also easy to transfer data to and from – like the PowerBook 1xxs. Based on the Motorola 68LC040 processor, the 5xxs were not only fast but also energy efficient. Running at 25 MHz, the 68LC040 was a fantastic package, but the PowerBook 540s improved on that package by cranking up the processor to 33MHz.

For an extra $1000 over the PowerBook 520 machines' price tag, users were probably expecting more than just an 8 MHz speed increase and, luckily, the 540 machines certainly offered far more than just that. Ditching the passive matrix screens seen on the 520 machines, the 540s used the far more impressive active matrix panels and the result was a machine that not only flew, but looked simply stunning. In mono – an unorthodox 6-bit version allowing up to 64 greys to be displayed – the 540 was superb; in 256 colours – or even 65,536 if users were prepared to use a 640×400 display resolution – the 540c was just jaw-dropping.

Expansion and connectivity had been two of the biggest selling points of the 5xx series, and the 540 machines not only sported the same expansion bay – which could double up as a slot for a second battery, thus doubling the amount of time the machine could be away from the mains supply – and on board Ethernet, but also included a Global Village 19.2 kbps data/14.4 kbps fax modem. Radical stuff for the time.

Although aimed at the very high-end user (the 540c was getting close to $5000), the 540 machines were the very best portable Macintosh that users could buy, and they still had the ability to be upgraded to the newer PowerPC processors once they became available.

Full Specifications

  • General
    • CPU: 33 MHz Motorola MC68LC040
    • ROM: 2 MiB
    • Bus Speed: 25 MHz
    • Data Path: 32-bit
    • RAM Type: Pseudostatic RAM (85 ns)
    • Standard RAM: 4 MiB
    • RAM Onboard: 4 MiB
    • RAM Slots: 1
    • Maximum RAM: 36 MiB
    • Cache: 8 Kib (L1)
  • I/O & Expansion
    • ADB: 1
    • Serial: 2
    • SCSI: 1 (HDI-30)
    • Ethernet: 1 (AAUI)
    • Audio In: Mini-jack
    • Audio Out: 16-bit stereo 22 KHz (mini-jack)
    • Built-in Speaker: Mono
  • Storage
    • Hard Drive: 240 MiB (540), 320MiB or 500 MiB (540c)
    • Hard Drive Type: SCSI
    • Floppy Drive: One 3.5" 1.44 MiB SuperDrive
  • Video
    • Built-in Display: 9.5" 6-bit 640×480 active matrix (540) / 9.5" 8-bit 640×480 colour active matrix (540c)
    • Max Resolution: 640×480 (6-bit) (540) / 640×480 (8-bit), 640x400 (16-bit) (540c)
    • Standard VRAM: 512 KiB
    • VRAM Onboard: 512 KiB
    • VRAM Slots: 0
    • Maximum VRAM: 512 KiB
  • Miscellaneous
    • Codename: Blackbird, SR-71, Spruce Goose
    • Gestalt ID: 72
    • Power: One (or two) Nickel-Metal-Hydride
    • Case Style: PowerBook 520
    • Dimensions: 11.5" x 9.7" x 2.3" (W x D x H)
    • Weight: 7.1 lbs. (both batteries), 6.3 lbs. (one battery)
    • Mac OS Support: System 7.1.1 - Mac OS 8.1
    • Introduced: May 16 1994
    • Introduced: August 26 1995
    • MSRP: $3160 (540), $4840 (540c) (US)

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