Q&A: Apple’s first laptop

Q A colleague insists that Apple’s first laptop Mac was the PowerBook, but I think there was an earlier model. Who is correct?

The Macintosh Portable. Note the grubby spacebar and trackball from airline meals. By Hannes Grobe, via Wikimedia Commons
The Macintosh Portable. Note the grubby spacebar and trackball from airline meals. By Hannes Grobe, via Wikimedia Commons

A The first true laptop Mac was the PowerBook 100, launched in October 1991, but it replaced a long-lived heavyweight mobile known perhaps optimistically as the Macintosh Portable, available from September 1989. Weighing over 7 kg and 10 cm thick, that Portable pinned you to your seat rather than rested on the lap, but attracted a devoted following among those with a physique to match.

Once, when flying back to the UK through Washington Dulles, I was asked to open up my Mac Portable and demonstrate that it worked. The curiosity of the security staff almost backfired: when trying to shut it away, I fumbled and it flew towards them. Seven kilograms of flying lead-acid battery and hefty plastic casing could have caused significant injury. Thankfully neither the staff nor the Portable was damaged.

Updated from the original, which was first published in MacUser volume 26 issue 2, 2009.