Macintosh Portable (1989) vs. MacBook Air (2009)

What a difference two decades make!

By  |  Sunday, September 20, 2009 at 10:42 pm

Today, September 20th, marks the twentieth anniversary of the first truly mobile Mac, the Macintosh Portable. (For 1980s computers, all the compact Macs were surprisingly portable–they even sported convenient handles–but they couldn’t run off batteries.) When you hear the Portable mentioned at all these days, it’s mostly to mock its size–rather hefty even by late 1980s standards and absurd today. But we’re celebrating its birthday with Benj Edwards’ revealing teardown.

Benj contrasts the Mac Portable to the iPhone and iPod Touch–which makes sense, since they’re both truly portable computers, ones that are vastly more powerful and less expensive than the Mac Portable. They aren’t, however, Macs. So here’s a quick comparison of the Portable with today’s most portable Mac, the MacBook Air. Like its 1989 ancestor,  it’s been criticized for being compromised and pricey–especially the original early 2008 version. But can you imagine the dropping of jaws you would have witnessed if Apple fans of 1989 had been able to peek into the future and see the Air?

The Macs
Apple Macintosh Portable
Macintosh Portable
Apple MacBook Air
MacBook Air
Announced
September 20th, 1989 (original version)
January 15th, 2008 (original version)
Beneficiary of Steve Jobs reality distortion field?
No, he was at NeXT
Yes
PC rival
Starting price
$5799
$1499
Dimensions and weight
15.25″ by 14.8″ by 4″; 16 pounds
12.8″ by 8.94″ by .16-.76″; 3.0 pounds
Fits inside manila envelope
It would have to be the largest one the world has ever seen
Unibody aluminum design?
No (it would have involved a lot of aluminum)
Yes
CPU
16-MHz Motorola 68HC000
1.86-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
RAM
1MB of static RAM
2GB of dynamic RAM
Hard drive
40MB (optional)
120GB
Screen size, technology, and resolution
10″ active-matrix LCD with no backlighting; one-bit monochrome; 640 by 400
13.3″, active-matrix LCD with LED backlighting and millions of colors; 1280 by 800
Battery life
Lead-acid battery provides 8-10 hours of dial-up productivity
Lithium ion battery provides up to five hours of wireless productivity
Pointing device
Trackball; can be positioned to left or right of keyboard
Multi-touch trackpad; fixed
Numeric keypad
Yes, can optionally replace trackball
No
Internal floppy drive
1.44MB; option for second drive
None
Optical drive
None
None (external model available)
Ports
Video (requires adapter), external disk drive, SCSI, ADB, LocalTalk (printer), LocalTalk (serial), audio out
Mini DisplayPort, USB 2.0, audio out 
FireWire
None–Apple was working on it when the Portable shipped, but didn’t finish until 1995
None
Reader for memory cards
None, but nobody cared, since memory cards hadn’t been invented yet and nobody owned a digital camera
None
Networking
LocalTalk
802.11 Draft-N Wi-Fi
Bluetooth
I’m sure they would have included it if it had been invented yet
Bluetooth 2.0
Internal dial-up modem
Yes (optional)
No (external model available)
Webcam
Not invented yet
Yes
Operating system
System 6.0.4 (originally)
Currently OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard
Bundled software
HyperCard
iLife
Runs Windows
There were DOS-compatibility products for Macs from early on, but I don’t recall any that let you run Windows on a Mac Portable.
Yes, through Boot Camp, Parallels Desktop, and VMWare Fusion
Splashy TV ads
Chances of seeing someone using one on an airplane
Virtually nil–it was just too flippin’ large
Pretty high
Any additions, corrections, or questions?
More Apple nostalgia:
 
10 Comments


Read more: , ,

6 Comments For This Post

  1. Kevin Says:

    Correction: The Air debuted with micro DVI, not mini display port. http://guides.macrumors.com/MacBook_Air#Rev._A_.28January.2C_2008.29

  2. Harry McCracken Says:

    @kevin Probably my fault for being unclear, but the facts for the Air are the currents ones except where otherwise specified.

    –Harry

  3. tom b Says:

    You want some fun, compare the processing power of a Mac SE to an iPhone.

  4. Marion Says:

    Chances of seeing someone using one on an airplane
    Virtually nil–it was just too flippin’ large

    But don’t I remember seeing one on a space shuttle flight

  5. dreambox dm600 pvr Says:

    How to apply what you said to use it on an airplane., even thought the function is very strong.

  6. Mike M Says:

    I for one can't wait until the Mac App STore opens on Jan. 6. I have the new macBook Air and I am sure it's going to have so many coop iPad like apps that it will take portable computeing to a whole new level.

4 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Sonntagslinks Says:

    [...] TEXT: Featurevergleich: Macbook Air (2009) vs. Macintosh Portable (1989). [...]

  2. Пресата presata.com» Blog Archive » The Macintosh Portable Gets Splayed Open For Its 20th Anniversary [Retromodo] Says:

    [...] (and only two screws) to make it easy to take apart. Also worth a read is their fun look at the Macintosh Portable versus the MacBook Air. [...]

  3. Macintosh Portable Turns 20, Gets Undressed In Front of Sexier iPod touch [Retromodo] | Gizmo Nerd Says:

    [...] (and only two screws) to make it easy to take apart. Also worth a read is their fun look at the Macintosh Portable versus the MacBook Air. [...]

  4. Macintosh Portable Turns 20, Gets Undressed In Front of Sexier iPod touch [Retromodo] | Consumer Electronics Newz Says:

    [...] (and only two screws) to make it easy to take apart. Also worth a read is their fun look at the Macintosh Portable versus the MacBook Air. [...]