Wednesday, January 13, 2016 [Tweets] [Favorites]

The Most Upgradable Portable Mac Ever

Thomas Brand:

The PowerBook G3 Series was Apple’s most upgradable portable computer ever! It weighed 7.8 pounds, and cost anywhere between $2,299 to $7,000 fully loaded. Codenamed “Wallstreet” the PowerBook G3 Series was the second line of Macintosh portable computers to include a PowerPC G3 processor, and the oldest portable Macintosh capable of running Mac OS X.

[…]

The PowerBook G3 Series included two hot swappable docking bays on either side. The left hand bay could accommodate a battery, a 3.5" floppy disk, a Iomega Zip drive, a third-party magnetic optical drive, or even a secondary hard drive. The right hand bay was larger and could accommodate all of the above plus a full size 5.25" optical drive. A small internal nickel-cadmium battery allowed swapping of the main batteries while the computer was asleep, and with two batteries installed at the same time the PowerBook G3 Series could last up to seven hours on a single charge.

It’s hard to remember now just how useful the bays were. When working at my desk, I would often run it with no battery. There was no built-in Wi-Fi, and it was super thick. This particular model was much less reliable than today’s Mac notebooks. Often, mine wouldn’t turn on unless I reset the PMU.

10 Comments

"This particular model was much less reliable than today’s Mac notebooks. Often, mine wouldn’t turn on unless I reset the PMU."

All the PPC laptops were reliability disasters for many years, no?

I had a Powerbook 5300, and it had problems galore, which certainly didn't seem to be confined only to me....

@Chucky Probably true for the PPC PowerBooks. I had an iBook G3 (Dual USB) and iBook G4, which both were reliable.

"Probably true for the PPC PowerBooks. I had an iBook G3 (Dual USB) and iBook G4, which both were reliable."

Yup. They'd cleaned up their act by the time of those models.

But if memory serves, there was a 5+ year timespan starting when they moved to PPC, when all the laptops had severe reliability issues.

The 5300 was one of the worst computers ever foisted upon mankind; pretty much every other PPC PowerBook was at least a dozen steps up from that :-)

That sounds about right. The Wallstreet was the first PowerPC notebook that I had.

"The 5300 was one of the worst computers ever foisted upon mankind; pretty much every other PPC PowerBook was at least a dozen steps up from that"

As a (lousy) American President once said: the soft bigotry of low expectations...

Mine was the 13.3" display model (which came out before the thicker-screened 14.1" model; both had 1024x768 displays) which had a known design flaw that pinched the display cable so the display flickered/failed within a year. Not great. Every one of the (6, aiee) subsequent Mac laptops I've owned has been more reliable - the only one that failed was my 15" unibody MBP, which I dropped and bent, so that was really my fault :-) The earlier 1xx/5xx/Duo laptops were pretty solid in my experience; not much experience with the intervening 1400/2400/3400/5300/190s as I went right from a 540 to a G3.

"The earlier 1xx/5xx/Duo laptops were pretty solid in my experience"

Yup. If memory serves, it was only about a 5 year period starting with the move to PPC where the entire laptop line went blooey. Everything was essentially fine and dandy both before and after.

The G3 Series was my first PowerBook and (aside from the display cable, which failed within a month or so and which AppleCare repaired swiftly and without issue) it worked marvellously for many years, first for me and then for my brother. (My roommate the prior year, however, had a 5300, and it was nothing but trouble; I think he had the motherboard replaced twice….)

Those swappable bays were awesome, indeed.

Had no problem with the PowerBook G3. And it's still working fine for Mac OS 8/9. The only thing that stopped working after a few years was the battery.
The PowerBook G4 Aluminium was also fine. I'm still using it daily with Mac OS X 10.4.

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