• Type: Laptop
  • Manufacturer: Apple Computer
  • Released: 1989
  • Discontinued: 1991
  • OS: System 6.0.4
  • Introductory price: US$7,300 ($14,412 in 2017)
  • CPU: 68000 @ 16 MHz
  • Memory: 1 MB SRAM (expandable using internal RAM card)
  • Graphics: 640 x 400 pixel, 1 bit
  • Display: 9.8″ black and white active matrix LCD
  • Input: keyboard, trackball
  • Internal storage: 40 MB 3.5″ SCSI hdd
  • Removable storage: 3.5″ HD fdd (1.4 MB)
  • ROM 256 KB
  • Dimensions: 4.05″ x 15.25″ x 14.43″
  • Weight: 16 pounds (7.2 kg)
  • Power: 5 Ah lead-acid battery, AC charger
  • Predecessor: Mac Plus, Mac SE
  • Successor: PowerBook 100/140/170

Released 1989: The Macintosh Portable is the first portable by Apple, produced from September 1989 to October 1991. It’s an laptop factor battery-powered Macintosh computer and garnered significant excitement from critics, but sales to customers were quite low. It featured a fast, sharp, and expensive black and white active matrix LCD screen in a hinged design that covered the keyboard when the machine was not in use. It was one of the early consumer laptops to employ an active matrix panel, and only the most expensive of the initial PowerBook line (PowerBook 170  used one, due to the high cost. The cursor pointing function was handled by a built-in trackball that could be removed and located on either side of the keyboard (I think a numeric pad instead of the trackball was optional).  It used expensive S-RAM in an effort to maximize battery life and to provide an “instant on” low power sleep mode.

With its 16 MHz Motorola 68000 CPU, it was twice as fast as the most common model back then, the Macintosh SE.  It also featured an SCSI hard drive with an attached proprietary 34 pin connector, that was specially manufactured by Conner, that consumed less power than normal.

The machine was designed to be high-performance, at the cost of price and weight.

My Macintosh Portable

This computer was given to me for free and it was very noticeable it came with several issues. A little surprise was that the entire computer is holding together without screws, it’s all clams, except to screws in top of the LCD that is.

Macintosh Portable as seen in my collection..
Macintosh Portable as seen in my collection..

Upgrades and repairs:

  • Repaired two broken wires in the ribbon cable to the LCD screen.
  • Replaced the electrolytic capacitors on the mainboard, both SMD and trough hole .
  • Cleaned motherboard and plastic with soap and hot water in the kitchen dish.
  • Got hold of a new 7.5 volt 2 amp power adapter and extended the cable length.
  • Replaced battery with a cheap general 6 volt “hobby battery”,  fitted the new battery inside the original battery shell. It was very hard to split open the original battery as someone had glued the plastic together.
  • Made an adapter to attach a normal 50 pin SCSI hard drive. Haven’t got this to work jet, need to test some more.

Macintosh Portable

Remi Jakobsen

I'm collecting classic computers and video games, stretching from the 70's into the 90's. Restoration, history, usage ...

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6 thoughts on “Macintosh Portable

  1. Hey there,

    Great post on your work on this old portable. You seem quite handy with repairing and creating an adapter for this unit etc., so I would like to ask you a question based on your expertise. I’m currently attempting to start my own project where I’m going to build a computer inside the mac potable chassis, all seems doable but for the keyboard, and mouse conversion to ps2, or usb. I was wondering due to the nature of the keyboard and trackball mouse being detachable ribbon cables, if an adapter for it can be made? some sort of 50 pin ribbon to usb that will translate and read the keyboard and trackball data? Let me know if you have any ideas as I would love to hear them.


    1. Thanks for comments. I think such adapter would be ‘complicated’ to make and require to design a PCB with components and stuff.

      I really hope you don’t ‘kill’ an original Portable to make this custom build.

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