Blackbird: The PowerBook 500 Series

Blackbird was Apple’s code name for a new line of PowerBooks based on the 68LC040 processor. (The LC version of the 68040 draws less power but has no FPU.) These PowerBooks introduced a full-sized keyboard with 12 function keys, replaced the trackball with a trackpad, had a 640 x 480 screen, and even had built-in stereo speakers. They were also designed so they could later be upgraded with a PowerPC processor.

PowerBook 550c

The PowerBook 550c (image ©raneko)

These were a big hit since they were the first notebook computers from any manufacturer with any of these features: a trackpad, built-in ethernet, 16-bit stereo sound, built-in stereo speakers, an internal expansion bay, and auto-sleep when the lid was closed.

In the field, users raved about the dual battery slots, providing up to 4 hours from a charged pair of batteries.



  • introduced 1994.05.16
  • requires System 7.1.1 or later; highest version supported without a PPC upgrade is Mac OS 8.1.
  • CPU: 25-33 MHz 68LC040
  • FPU: only on 550c
  • ROM: 2 MB
  • RAM: 4 MB, expandable to 36 MB using a special 100ns pseudostatic RAM card
  • VRAM: 512 KB
  • display: 9.5″ 640 x 480 except for 550c, which is 10.4″
  • video: 512 KB VRAM, VID-14 port, supports 8-bit external video at 512 x 384, 640 x 480, 800 x 600, and 832 x 624 with video adapter
  • SCSI hard drive varies with model
  • ADB ports: 1 port for keyboard and mouse
  • serial ports: 1 DIN-8 RS-422 port on back of computer
  • ethernet: AAUI connector, requires adapter
  • SCSI ports: HDI30 connector on back of computer
  • proprietary modem slot
  • power supply: M1893 or M1910

CPU Upgrades

  • Apple 100 MHz 603e PowerPC Upgrade (M3081LL/A), 8 MB RAM
  • NewerTech NUpowr 500/183c 603e upgrade w/128K level 2 cache
  • NewerTech NUpowr 500/167 603e upgrade
  • Sonnet Technologies PowerPC 100 MHz 603e upgrade, 8 MB RAM

Online Resources


  • Batteries are prohibitively expensive, usually well over US$100 each – and the computer uses two. Condition your batteries regularly; don’t let them run down and die.
  • The 100-series and 500-series PowerBooks do not provide SCSI termination power, depending on external SCSI devices to provide it. For more details, see SCSI Termination Power.

Keywords: #blackbird #powerbook500series

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