Apple Everywhere

'Can I Try It?'

- 2010.05.25 - Tip Jar

Lying down in bed with a bit of a stomach ache, I decided to swing over and check out Low End Mac's hardware profiles to divert my focus. (This is yet another area my iPad excels in - because of its small size and screen lock, I can use it while lying down sideways.) As I was lying there, I started looking at the Limited/Road Apples, eventually coming to the PowerBook 150.

PowerBook 100From there, I clicked on the PowerBook 100 link, just out of curiosity, and proceeded to read about Apple's first laptop.

It wasn't anything I hadn't read before. The PowerBook 100 was lighter, smaller, and more capable than anything that had come before it. Sure, the two hours of battery life weren't exactly a big plus, but hey - something that size, back in '91, running for two hours, doing what it did was nothing to sneeze at.

Anyway, like any curious person with a stomach ache, I decided to search YouTube for some footage of the old PowerBook, hoping for a video of Steve Jobs proudly carrying it out onto a stage in front of hundreds of cheering people.

What I found was a bit more interesting.

I happened upon one of the original TV ads for the PowerBook 100, which had been uploaded back in 2007 under the title Apple Original PowerBook Ad. The subtitle - "It's a great way to meet girls!" - was worth a laugh. I tried to imagine a guy impressing a girl with one of those things, and the situation just didn't materialize in my mind. An iPad could impress girls - no doubt about it . . . though I have yet to employ that particular function with my own tablet (I'm waiting for the opportune moment). But a PowerBook 100? Ha!

Anyway, I proceeded to watch the video.

I won't go into detail, but I will say it was a slice-of-life commercial, unlike Apple's more recent ads. Seeing a PowerBook in public, in the hands of actual people - people with faces, that is - was very refreshing. It seemed more true to life than Apple's sterile, device-oriented modern ads.

I was struck by how much the ad resembled my actual experience with my iPad. The most memorable part of the whole ad was the very end. A man is typing on his PowerBook in a public area, telling a curious onlooker "Everything else is a dinosaur."

The onlooker replies, "Can I try it?"

The PowerBook owner answers, "No."

I think something has changed since 1991. The PowerBook 100 was heralded as a revolution in its day - and it was. It spawned a whole generation of great Apple laptops, as well as a steady stream of copycats. The idea behind the PowerBook 100 was clearly to make the computer not a corporate or business item, but something small and light enough that it became personal. It was like Macintosh in a pizza box. I dare say it was the first computer you could hug without looking awkward.

Fast Forward to April 3, 2010

Apple released another revolutionary device on April 3 of this year. In Jonathan Ive's words: "It's hard to believe that something so thin and so light could be so capable" and "I don't have to change myself to fit the device - it fits me" sound strangely familiar:

  • "It has my whole life in it."
  • "...my expense reports, invoices, ordering forms...."
  • "It's a great way to meet girls."
  • "Look at the resolution on that!"
  • "...hardly weighs anything."
  • "This lets me do it."

It's that go-anywhere, do-anything spirit that has consistently set the better of Apple's laptops apart from their counterparts in the PC market. Now it's setting the iPad apart from everything else.

You know what I'm talking about - the pre-G3 PowerBooks had it, the clamshell iBooks had it, the Wallstreet, PDQ, Lombard, and Pismo had it.

Then, it kind of died off. The G4s were more tabletops than laptops (with the exception of the well-loved 12" PowerBook G4, of course), as were the MacBooks. The first to come close to that feeling again was the MacBook Air, but it just doesn't bring back the glory days.

The iPad has it. Anyone who's owned an iPad for more than a week can tell you that it just begs to go anywhere and do anything.

Needless to say, one of the things I must do before I die is hold and/or use a PowerBook 100.

And what's the thing that's changed since 1991?

When somebody I know sees my iPad and asks, "Can I try it?" I say, "Sure." LEM

Further Reading on the PowerBook 100

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Austin Leeds is a Mac and iPad user - and a college student in Iowa.

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