My Turn

The Wonderful PowerBook 100

- 2000.12.11

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

Recently, I acquired my tenth Mac and my third PowerBook: a mint PowerBook 100 from 1991. I was really lucky, as I got it with the external floppy drive and the AC adapter (mine says Sony on the back, not Apple, though the front has the Apple logo!) for a mere PowerBook 100$20 at Goodwill Computerworks here in Austin, TX! Those of you who have read my Mac Obsession article on My First Mac will recall that I was looking for a 100-series PowerBook at the time I wrote it. Well, firstly, I found a mint PB 145B and then, two months later, this great PB 100!

The PowerBook 100 is my favorite PowerBook to this day. I also have a PowerBook 540c, which is a really great machine, but there's just something so cool about the 100.

There are several reasons I prefer it. Firstly, there's the size and weight. It's around 5 pounds, making it almost a full two pounds lighter than any of the other 100-series 'Books. Plus, since it uses an external floppy instead of an internal one, it's smaller and slimmer than those machines, as well. The result is a sleeker looking, easier to tote around PowerBook, which I believe was the whole idea in the first place!

My 540c weighs like 7 pounds, which isn't super heavy - and cool looking as the 540c is, it's far from sleek! That applies to most PowerBooks, though. I think the only ones that truly embody the original intent are the 100, the Duos (but they lack too many features without the DuoDock), the 1400 (my next PowerBook!) and the 2400 (way cool machine!). The newer PowerBooks and the iBooks are just far too weighty and big when compared to these models.

My first Mac was also a PowerBook 100, so there's a lot of sentimental value there for me. The 100 was also Apple's very first PowerBook, debuting on October 21, 1991. True, it was conceived in the pre-World Wide Web-era, as we know it, and it's lowly 68HC000 CPU and 8 MB RAM ceiling preclude any kind of modern software, but the PowerBook 100 can still do a lot, making it a very useful Mac.

For example, it will run ClarisWorks 3.0 beautifully, a great program for writing, painting, drawing, etc. As I write a lot, I find CW 3.0 on the 100 perfect for that, plus the 100 is so easy to travel with! Of course, viewing web pages is not really an option on the 100, but it does email fine. I'm on AOL, and the 100 will only run up to AOL 2.7 (no browser), but that does allow for email, instant messaging and chatting. I have a Global Village TelePort Platinum 19.2 kbps external modem I take with the 100 when I travel (I must confess, for major road trips I take my 540c, as I can access my websites and the Internet from it). Really, the 100's forte is as a writing machine. When inspiration hits (like right now!), it's the Mac I choose, hands down.

There's still a lot of software that can be run on the 16 MHz PowerBook 100. Basically, anything that will run on a Plus, Classic, SE, or Portable will run on the 100. That's a lot of software, and it can usually be found for cheap or free! The PowerBook 100 will run the software better than those other Macs, too.

As far as an operating system, I find that 7.1 is best, and about as high as one should go on the 100. It will run up to 7.5.5, but there's a lot of stuff in there that won't work with the 100's 68HC000 CPU. System 7.1 still does a lot, anyway, and the 100 boots in no time, letting you get to work quickly.

So there you have it, the still stylish, still useful, sleek, and highly inspiring PowerBook 100! It usually can be found for less than $50, and when you realize just how cool it is, that's a steal.

Much maligned (unfairly!) in 1991-1992, this machine has stood the test of time and become a classic Mac, just like the Mac Plus, the II-series, and the SE/30. To quote Neil Young, to my PowerBook 100 I say long may you run!

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