Road Hog, Baby

The Emperor of the Highway














Do you smell smoke?
Look, my 5300 stopped burning long enough to pose for this picture.



FEATURE August 16, 2000
Road Hog

Loading up your PowerBook G3 for serious road work

by Tim Wilson
Man About Town™
[email protected]

Last year's G3 was Apple's first truly muscular portable, and truly portable muscular machine, several pounds lighter than its less powerful predecessors and able to hold its own against nearly any "road warrior" class machine on any platform.

And in true Apple fashion, its elegant curves look a whole lot better than the competition's lumpy boxes. The advent of the 1999 PowerBooks marked the first time when we untethered Mac users got envious stares from peecee users, instead of vice versa. The 2000 vintage PowerBooks are even more amazing, featuring built-in FireWire, massive hard drives and up to a full GB of RAM. I refuse to use the semi-official names Lombard and Pismo to describe these models because they're pathetic names for fine computers. I'll refer to them by the year of their release.

The iBook is also a fine computer, by the way. It is with good reason the best selling portable computer in the world. My unofficial observation in the press room at the recent Macworld Expo is that iBooks outnumbered PowerBooks by easily a four to one margin.


Because if you have real work to do, you need a real computer, which is why I'm talking about the PowerBooks. That's POWER-Books, friend. Do you even know what the "i" in "iBook stands for? Whatever it is, it ain't Power, so "i" don't care. We're not here to talk about popular computers. We're talking about the kind that frightens small children.

One of the things that sets the PowerBook apart is its abundant and abundantly cool accessories. Some are cooler than others, and some more useful than others, and you'll need some of each if you really want to make the kiddies flee. I've been using Mac laptops since they were introduced, and I've traveled tens of thousands of miles with this one, a 1999 G3/400. I've had to learn the hard way which accessories are truly indispensable—often because I've been without them. Read on, and avoid my pain.

Note that many of the accessories I'll share with you are available for other models than mine. Even iBooks.

A long strange trip
Macintosh portability was a long time coming, although in a way, it was there from the beginning. I took shipment on my first Mac in February of 1984 and it was portable enough that many of us carried them in backpacks. We weren't under any illusion that this was real portability, though, which didn't show up until 1991, with the introduction of the PowerBook 100.

I gladly bought one, but it was a mite underpowered, even by 1991 standards. It shipped with 2 MB RAM (!), expandable to 8, and a 20 or 40 meg hard drive. I quickly jumped to the 140 (with a whopping 16 MB RAM) but was more than ready for the PowerBook 5300 in 1995, the first portable with a PowerPC chip: With a 100 MHz CPU and a 500 MB drive, it seemed a bargain at around $5000.

Until it blew up.

Well, burst into flames anyway, but that was plenty close enough for me. I got a new 5300 but never quite got past waiting for it to explode. While it never did, it had enough other problems that I was truly elated to see it go. Refurbished, it labors on as an e-mail machine for a friend, who used it to retire his original Apple "portable," the 17-pound behemoth that's actually too big to fit in most airline overhead compartments. It's portable like a microwave oven is. I witnessed my friend lug this monster across Japan for a month, where it was larger than some of the cars we rode in.


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