Tools of the Trade

Comet, Andrew Hill's PowerBook

Andrew W. Hill - January 2002

Earlier I told you of my primary machine, a Blue G3. I also have a laptop, a PowerBook 2400c, that I use in class and on vacation.

The first laptop that I used extensively was a PowerBook 150. The biggest problem with it was the weight. It is a reasonable size for a laptop, but much larger than I wanted. This became my mother's Christmas present, and I acquired a Duo 210 for the right price - free.

The Duo had 20 MB of RAM and an 80 MB drive. Later I got another Duo 210 with a 160 MB drive and a modem. I removed the larger drive and the modem and put them into my Duo 210. Running System 7.1, the Duo 210 was great to take to other people's dorms to work on essays collaboratively, and the modem let me access my email over weekends at my mother's. However, the lack of a battery that would hold a charge long enough to get through a class, and, to some extent, the lack of power the 68030 processor offered meant that I did not use it as much as I would to have liked.

Not too long after that, a friend's 5300cs died, and she came to me to fix it. I tried many things and replaced many parts before coming to the conclusion that the problem was probably the logic board. The end of the school year came, and she didn't want to be burdened by a nonfunctional computer. I gave her $20 for the broken 5300, the stack of spare parts, and an external CD-ROM drive. After discovering that the CD-ROM was an 8x - and well worth the $20 I paid for the bundle - I tossed the 5300cs into a drawer. The 5300cs was simply too large of a machine for my needs.

Not too long after, a computer dealer called me up looking for a part for a 5300cs. I offered him my whole 5300cs, plus the stack of parts and some spare case plastics I had. What I was looking for was a 2300 motherboard that I could put in my Duo 210 case to give it the ability to run PowerPC software. What I received was a whole Duo 2300c with 40 MB RAM and a 1 GB hard disk. The battery would last for a decent period of time, but still not quite enough to get through 90 minute lectures.

I decided that for this computer to be perfect, I would need to find a portable ethernet dock. I looked around and found that they would cost me at least $100, if I could even find one. This was a problem.

Not too much later, a friend of mine sent a message to the LEM Swap List. He needed a machine that he could PowerBook 2400crun OS X on and was offering his 2400 in trade. A few phone calls later and . . . okay, several phone calls and two months later, he had a Revision B Beige G3, and I had an absolutely loaded PowerBook 2400.

I actually haven't added all that much to this machine. I own a Que!Fire CD burner, which I use on my Blue G3, and I figured it would be nice if I could use that on my laptop as well, so I paid $30 for a Newer Tech FirewireToGo. Sure, I know it will never be OS X compatible, but neither will my laptop.

The engineering building at my university, UC Santa Cruz, has wireless ethernet throughout. I bought an Orinoco Silver wireless ethernet card so I could log into my campus account and work along with the professors in class using a telnet terminal. This makes understanding the code they give us in class much easier, as I can play with it even as we first learn it. That puts me ahead of the ball when I get to writing my assignments in discussion sections.

I also have a car cigarette lighter adapter and a small light that plugs into the ADB port to give me some light while typing in the back of a dark car or airplane.

The most important thing about this 2400 is the size. I take it to class in a Kensington Wetsuit 3.0 case, which is only slightly bigger than the laptop itself. It's so small that the AC adapter doesn't fit - just the computer and a small ethernet cable. Computer and case weigh about 4.5 lbs and measures 8.5" x 11" x 2". This is about the same physical size as a ream of paper, but significantly lighter.

It is small, light, has ethernet, a good battery, and enough RAM to happily run Mac OS 9.1. I no longer drag my Blue G3 home on vacation, as the 2400 can easily last me for two or three weeks. LEM

Processor PowerPC 603ev @180 MHz
Storage 4 GB IBM TravelStar (ATA)
Removable Drives PowerBook 2400 Floppy Drive
6x Sony Discman CD-ROM
Expansion Cards 56k V.90 Global Village modem
Asanté FriendlyNet 10Base-T ethernet
Macally USB
Newer Tech FireWireToGo
Orinoco Silver WiFi
PowerBook Details 10.4" 16-bit active matrix LCD
Duo 280 AC adapter (with duct tape)
Car charger
Lithium Ion battery
ADB keyboard light
Kensington Wetsuit 3.0 carry bag

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