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PB190, is it the worst? (Probably).

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Just finally received a PowerBook 190 I won some time ago on eBay. Widely regarded as (one of) the WORST PowerBook's designed and made. I can kinda see why people have that opinion or it.

 

Plastics are poor, can't use an external display (at least on mine), no mic input and because it's not the "c" model, it's only 16-colour grey scale. :lol:

 

But you know what, I couldn't resist the price. Plus unlike.most, this was in such good shape and it's probably the only working example I've seen that is also cosmetically 100% clean and without any damage at all (other than some battery mess but that's all deposited on the inside of the case thankfully).

Boots into 7.5.2 and I can clearly tell it hasn't seen much use in its life. 

 

Pictures to follow tomorrow...

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The 190 (especially the monochrome version) was a very budget-oriented machine (to the extent that "budget oriented" and "laptop" are compatible in the '90s). It suffered the same problems as the 5300, but I think the 5300 gets more credit as a "bad machine" than it really deserves due mostly to things that happened to it before it actually launched.  In addition, the 5300 has some problems the 190 doesn't. For example, I don't believe LiIon batteries were ever planned for the 190. In addition: The PowerBooks 5300/2300/1400 are architecturally basically mobile Power Macintosh 6200s, and the less expensive versions of the 5300 had a fairly small cache, which impacted 68k emulation more than actual PowerPC operation.

 

Macs that were "bad" when they  were new generally didn't seem bad in context. The base price on the 190 appears to have been a bit under $1,700USD, which for a Mac laptop in 1996 was a pretty good deal, It would have replaced the PowerBook 150.

 

That said: 20+ years haven't been kind to any of the '90s Macs, much less laptops, and this applies doubly to laptops that got used a lot. It's tough to find an old PowerBook that doesn't feel like it's going to fall apart.

 

So, I'd say it's a pretty nice find!

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I've got a soft spot for the 190, IDE drive and built in PCMCIA slots as standard equipment in a budget PowerBook was pretty good. Video out card optional.

 

@Cory5412 hadn't heard the 5300 and 1400 were on a 32bit bus? 2300c is, but all three were second gen CPUs with double the L1 of the 75MHz 6200 and considerably faster clocks. Definitely a tier higher than the 6200.

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Newer than the 6200, but the architecture is identical. The slowness of the 5300 and lower end 1400 gets attributed to this all the time. Even the 1400c/166 benches at, like, half what a 7600/120 does.

 

Perhaps the issue (I'd have to look) was that the base 5300 and 1400 had no L2 cache, which itself is a bit of a penalty. The Power Macintosh {5|6}{3|3}00 had 256k of L2 cache. (I looked, the PB5300, indeed, had no L2.)

 

MacAddict (or perhaps it was MacWorld) also expressed annoyance that Apple didn't manage to fit a CD-ROM drive into the PB5300. 

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I have a 190 sitting around and while it currently won't boot up, it's not a terrible machine. I got one that was almost new a few years ago on eBay. 

 

I always felt there was an identity crisis with the 190. It was some odd cross between the 520/540, 5300, and 150. The 100-series naming also made no sense. I would have called it the 510, personally, since when I think of a 100-series PowerBook, I think of the old, thick, gray models with the trackballs.

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I absolutely love my 190cs. It’s one of my favorite PowerBooks. I still need to install the NOS display housing I bought for it.

 

As Trash said above, having an IDE hard drive and PCMCIA is quite nice. I actually still run the stock 500MB IBM drive in mine because it’s big enough, and I like the sound it makes.

 

I’d actually like to have one of the black and white models too. 

Edited by PB145B

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I did spot the PCMCIA slots on the side, that will be very useful! Also, it's a nice surprise to learn of the IDE hard drive, that definitely makes me feel a lot better about this purchase.

 

It's a pity mine appears to be such a bare-bones system but the later PPC ones could be upgradable, do any of you guys know if they fit the 68K models? I'm assuming the connections will be different being very different architectures.

 

Specifically I'd like to see if I could get an external display upgrade as well as RAM.

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In my opinion, the 190/5300 range is not that bad, had a pair of 5300s until recently, sold one and still having a unit so far.

 

Plastic was bad, or probably not suited enough to the heavy hinges.

 

In my opinion, concerning the 100 series, the Powerbook 150 is the ugly duck of the range.

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13 hours ago, Trash80toHP_Mini said:

5300CD finally shipped, they just called the beast a 3400.

The 3400 also featured an entirely new PCI-based architecture,and if I'm remembering correctly, the necessary cardbus bits for things like USB and Firewire PCMCIA cards.

 

3 hours ago, bibilit said:

the Powerbook 150 is the ugly duck of the range.

Aw. Although, you're not wrong, it was definitely a weird computer. The PowerBook 150 shares a lot of similarity with Duo guts, including supporting more RAM than the other PowerBook 100 models (40 megs, vs. 14 on the PB180/180c) and some other cost-saving bits, which should actually be helpful to their case today, such as using an IDE disk instead of a SCSI one.

 

150 would be a neat machine for that reason. 

 

The no ADB port thing is a bummer, but if you clean the trackball, I suspect most people are fine without it. It's a very budget machine, $1,600 in a time when the other PowerBooks were all $2,000 - but I suspect that it's not a bad machine for it, per se.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Cory5412 said:

The no ADB port thing is a bummer

 

IIRC it wasn't too hard to add one, tapping into the trackball, because ADB is a parallel topology

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As promised, albeit a few hours late (sorry it's a bit dark):

 

Since taking the pictures I've gutted the battery pack, with great difficulty I might add (what a mess!). So now there's no more gaping holes.

 

Does anyone know if there was a CD-ROM drive for these?

 

 

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20190725_210742_1.jpg

20190725_210832_1.jpg

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Quote

Does anyone know if there was a CD-ROM drive for these

No, except if you have the one displayed in Independence Day

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16 hours ago, bibilit said:

No, except if you have the one displayed in Independence Day

 

Oh them? Yeah I have a few of those.

 

But seriously, I read about that. Seems really bizarre that they didn't make it past the pre production stage being as the drives are so easily removable.

 

I suppose my only upgrade options are the external display and memory. I should think finding either would be like finding a needle in a haystack, with no needle in it.

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These machines also had PCMCIA if I remember correctly, and it works much better and is more consistent than the PowerBook 500 series PCMCIA.

 

There's also the 190/5300 MO module that got discussed a few months ago, and there might have been a Zip disk drive compatible with these machines. (If not, of course, you could chain it up with your external SCSI CD drive.)

 

Was there an Ethernet option for 190/5300? I know there was one for 1400, although it seems like the more common thing on that machine was just to use PCMCIA too.

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On 7/25/2019 at 1:11 PM, Cory5412 said:

The 3400 also featured an entirely new PCI-based architecture,and if I'm remembering correctly, the necessary cardbus bits for things like USB and Firewire PCMCIA cards.

You remember correctly, 3400c also got stereo speakers, which really should have been introduced in the 1400 given its student target market.

 

Yes Zips were available for the 190 form factor. The Zip Drive I use in 190/5300c/5300ce is marked as a 3400 module IIRC. I've got the expansion bay power adapter which was pretty sweet until the magic smoke escaped. Video Cards I've had for a while, but I recently picked up a nondescript eBay "memory module" that I've yet to test. Pretty darn sure it's for the PatioPaverBooks and has a lot of empty pads for RAM ICs.

 

3 hours ago, Cory5412 said:

Was there an Ethernet option for 190/5300? I know there was one for 1400, although it seems like the more common thing on that machine was just to use PCMCIA too.

Dunno, LEM makes a big stink about Apple leaving the Ethernet port off the 190, saying it was 25% slower than on the 500 series because PCMCIA is only a 16bit bus. I guess they've never looked at the 500 series block diagram, the entire peripheral bus of the Blackbirds is only 16bit, including the Ethernet implemented on it. Same deal for Ethernet cards for the Video card slot in the 1400, 16bit bus slot so WiFi is a better option on PCMCIA or a dongled PCMCIA NIC with a video card in that slot.

 

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16 hours ago, Trash80toHP_Mini said:

student target market

I have never seen anything about the 1400 to imply that it was targeted at students.

 

The most reasonable possible scenario for this in particular is if by 1998-1998 the last of the "It's the '90s and Apple's sales channels are always clogged with old inventory" 1400s from 1997 and were being sold at $1,400 or so (WELL under original price for *any* 1400 config) were selling to college kids who would later start buying iBooks.

 

At launch in 1997, the PB1400/117 started at $2,499 - which won't necessarily break a college kid's account, but most of them in my experience favor machines at around the $899-1299 mark. Granted, the 190 and 150 had been "a bit" less than that, so I don't exactly know what was up in that moment, and a Performa 6400 before a reasonable 15-inch monitor were also $2,499, so.

 

(Though, there were options. (PDF, ~137MB MacWarehouse 1997))

 

Incidentally, 2006 is the year most schools in the US reported that their students brought more laptops than desktops, collectively. I'd love to see what the yearly numbers for iBooks vs. MacBooks looked like, because I started in 2006 when it's reasonable that a bunch of students might have had iBooks and PowerBooks from high school and virtually none of them did. Of the Mac toting first-year college kids in that moment, I was the only one I have any memory of having a PowerPC notebook (and: I happened to have a Pismo at the moment.)

16 hours ago, Trash80toHP_Mini said:

LEM makes a big stink about Apple leaving the Ethernet port off the 190, saying it was 25% slower than on the 500 series because PCMCIA is only a 16bit bus

This is an extremely LEM feeling and is also, as you're speculating, probably wrong.

 

If you wanted video output (and, part of the 190/5300/1400 filling several roles at once was not presuming people wanted that in order to keep cost down at the low end) then, yes, networking in pcmcia and the video adapter in the slot would be the way to go.

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One more thought:

I don't mean to imply that I know for sure Apple was completely adverse to the idea of students buying 1400s, or anything like that -- just, that it didn't really start out as a low end product, and that until the introduction of the iBook, "budget focused" didn't actually co-incide directly with "affordable".

 

Thinking about it: There is definitely a market of college students who buy relatively high end computers, whether that's because they need the power for their program of study, or because their families can afford it, or because they still believe in overbuying for longevity, or because they just want it for whatever reason. (And: I'd argue that this includes both high end laptops, entry/midrange desktop workstations, and gaming hardware, which can range greatly in price.)

 

The other-other thing here is that I don't happen to have retail pricing from the '90s on hand. It could be that the 1400 was in fact very very attractively priced for education, but that would realistically involve over their $100 or 10% typical reduction, today.

 

The other-other thing is that a 2-4 hour advertised battery life isn't extremely good. You can hold a second battery in the CD/Floppy bay and then swap them quickly, but that's another couple hundred dollars of accessories (batteries, plus potentially a wall-based multi-battery charger) on top of the machine itself which by the time of the iBook, weren't normally needed. Granted, whether or not that matters kind of depends on what someone's use case for a machine is. If someone only has one class where it's relevant or is using it for trips to the library but not for classes, or has the miraculous luck of having frequent outlet availability, then the battery life isn't that big a deal.

 

For me, the Pismo ended up being an ideal laptop computer, while it worked, because with dual batteries I could get around 10 hours of run time off of it. Significantly more if I hyper-miled it by booting OS 9 off a CF card or USB stick, foregoing wireless, and turning the display brightness to notch 0 or 1.

 

Also: in 1997 used PowerBooks would have been an option and should've been relatively available. Though, I'll admit my personal take is that probably most students in 1997 would've gone for a desktop to either save money (PM7200/120 was $1,299, for example) or to get better performance, such as with the 7300/180 for $2,299.

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7 hours ago, Cory5412 said:

I have never seen anything about the 1400 to imply that it was targeted at students.

IIRC the bookcover thing was mentioned in the mags as a marketing ploy aimed at attracting younger, non-business users. Worked great playing CDs using headphones BTW.

 

Interested to hear if any late nineties college students used the 1400 as a desktop replacement that could be lugged to the library? I doubt the time had come for using laptops in class, so that two to four hours of use time at the library would probably have supported at least a four or five hour stretch of study. That's too long for me. Didn't know it at the time, as an adult I was diagnosed with ADD, which is why I could study in my room, but couldn't concentrate at the library. Everyone else seemed to prefer the library for study and many asked how I could manage to get anything done in my room. I graduated the year the Apple 1 shipped.

 

ISTR that for a while the LowendBook was the 5300, 1400 the mid-range pro-sumer Book with the 3400c being the flagship of the PowerBook line.

 

It probably wasn't until the G3 Series shipped that students were taking a laptop to all their classes, if many did even then?

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Back to the 190 topic: I like the 190 more than the 5300 because there's cubic under the trackpad to rip out the damn thing and install a Duo TrackBall. [}:)] Gotta take another look at that one now that we've got 3D printing available for hacking. The 5300 has gobs of power supply components underneath the trackpad, no can do.

 

At one point I hacked a CD into a PatioPaverBook, it will fit, but you lose the foot on that side and have to remove much of the section between floppy and battery. Never got around to making the adapter to hook it up, the physical challenge was the journey that mattered.

 

Brick or Block doesn't sound like it looks right for these clunky things. Take a look at some of the pavers next time you're at a big box. I swear if you took two of them, cut a little over a half inch off the top of one paver to use as the lid and a bit less than half inch off the bottom of the other to flip it over for the base unit you'd have a 190 in hand, Flintstone style!

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The PB190 was the first Mac I ever bought new. My brother had bought a Performa 475 and I had bought a thirdhand Plus some years' previously.

 

It was August 1996 and I only bought the PB190 new because the PB1400 had just come out and the PB190 was being sold off at half-price (and I'm a sucker for a bargain). It cost 20 man yen rather than 40 man yen. JPY200,000 yen today is USD1840.

Akihabara is a great place to be at sales time. To give a rough sense of value, my monthly salary as an assistant English teacher in chuugakkou in Japan was 30-man yen. Before that I couldn't justify spending more than a month's salary (before tax) on an item that would be useful but not that useful. I didn't need it for work and second IIcxs could be bought at Sofmap (anyone who has been there will know the jingle - I have been scarred for life) for 10-man yen. So it was an impulse buy. I really wanted a PB540c or a Duo but they were over 50 man yen.

 

I found the PB190 to be a great machine. It seemed fast for the time. The big trade off was PPC software. It was the last 68K mac and I was fully aware that soon there would be no new software available for it. This didn't bother me. I had the games I wanted, I had most of the Claris suite (MacWrite Pro is still my favourite text-editor), I had Quark Xpress 3.32.

 

 

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Growing up - I had PowerBook 190cs and later upgraded to 5300cs, later found 5300ce sold it all off (regretted!)


Last year I obtained two PowerBook 190s and both are working well.

 

About 4 years ago I did obtain PowerBook 5300cs and it just crumbled into pieces - very bad plastics and it had battery cancer as well.

 

190s/5300s did not have CD ROM - I used to use external CD/CDRW.

 

I also have couple of 3400c including Japanese version. Love it but the plastics is also brittle as well and I rather minimise using it.
Cheers

AP

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I was working the computer department of a college bookstore at the time of the 1400, and Apple made kind of a big deal about the cover and how much it was likely to appeal to college students.  I don't recall whether it actually did or not.

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15 hours ago, Trash80toHP_Mini said:

IIRC the bookcover thing was mentioned in the mags as a marketing ploy aimed at attracting younger, non-business users

That's an interesting take on it, and I can very see it.

 

The 1400 was definitely at least ultimately positioned downward, but I've seen lots of different suggestions for the BookCovers, and it of course comes with a plain black one for someone who might not want to use the feature.

 

For what it's worth, here's a dealer talking points/datasheet: http://www.vectronicscollections.org/gallery/ads/laptop/0049.php - from relatively early on in the system's life. The 133MHz CPU had been added, but the 8/12x CD drives hadn't, for example. I also think it's interesting the 1400/2400 (and I believe 3400 but I haven't seen its dealer sell sheet floating around) included ClarisWorks.

 

15 hours ago, Trash80toHP_Mini said:

ISTR that for a while the LowendBook was the 5300, 1400 the mid-range pro-sumer Book with the 3400c being the flagship of the PowerBook line.

This is incorrect. The 5300 was discontinued in August 1996 and the 1400 was introduced in August 1996. The 190, interestingly, stayed on sale for longer, until October 1, 1996.

 

The 3400c was introduced February 1997, and the 2400c was introduced even further after that in May 1997.

 

Per EveryMac - the Duo 2300c was discontinued in February 1997, but I'm not 100% sure how true that is, in that: I don't remember seeing it discussed much at all in the 1996 MacAddicts I've seen. Perhaps it's time to download 1996 MacWorld and look through it.

 

Depending on the status of the Duo, this might mean that Apple was in effect not selling a PowerPC PowerBook at all for a hot couple months. And even if you could get the Duo, it didn't have PCMCIA and you needed to add docking to it, so buying one in 1996 arguably only made sense if you were upgrading an existing ecosystem with a new machine.

 

The gotcha is, and I haven't seen, like, Zones/Warehouse etc catalogs from before mid-1997, is that resellers weren't really allowed to advertise prices in magazines until fairly late on. I believe 1998 is when I started seeing the bigger ones do it. I don't know what their own catalogs were like at that point, however.

 

15 hours ago, Trash80toHP_Mini said:

It probably wasn't until the G3 Series shipped that students were taking a laptop to all their classes, if many did even then?

Maybe!

 

However: the original PBG3 was introduced at $5,700, followed up by the G3 Series, which started at $2,299.

 

The original (Kanga) was of course basically a revision of the 3400c. The G3 Series could run dual batteries, so it's certainly more practical to do all-day meetings or classes with a G3 series machine.

 

I suspect that the iBook was the real start of "consumer" market buyers being reasonably able to buy laptops. A college kid might have bought a laptop in the '90s, but in reality I suspect few did. Even moreso, I don't think laptops in classrooms (at least in higher ed) were common until well into the 2000s. Like I said, the crossover for "more students bought laptops than desktops" is 2006.

 

7 hours ago, sstaylor said:

I was working the computer department of a college bookstore at the time of the 1400, and Apple made kind of a big deal about the cover and how much it was likely to appeal to college students.  I don't recall whether it actually did or not.

Good to know! Apple's general marketing materials don't call out college students specifically, but they do call out the customizeability as part of the 1400 having been an attempt to build a machine suitable for a variety of different buyers. (Basically, here's a system, add whatever you need to it to make it what you need.)

 

Do you happen to recall in general what proportion of desktops to laptops you were selling?

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15 hours ago, Trash80toHP_Mini said:

IIRC the bookcover thing was mentioned in the mags as a marketing ploy aimed at attracting younger, non-business users

That's an interesting take on it, and I can very see it.

 

The 1400 was definitely at least ultimately positioned downward, but I've seen lots of different suggestions for the BookCovers, and it of course comes with a plain black one for someone who might not want to use the feature.

 

For what it's worth, here's a dealer talking points/datasheet: http://www.vectronicscollections.org/gallery/ads/laptop/0049.php - from relatively early on in the system's life. The 133MHz CPU had been added, but the 8/12x CD drives hadn't, for example. I also think it's interesting the 1400/2400 (and I believe 3400 but I haven't seen its dealer sell sheet floating around) included ClarisWorks.

 

15 hours ago, Trash80toHP_Mini said:

ISTR that for a while the LowendBook was the 5300, 1400 the mid-range pro-sumer Book with the 3400c being the flagship of the PowerBook line.

This is incorrect. The 5300 was discontinued in August 1996 and the 1400 was introduced in August 1996. The 190, interestingly, stayed on sale for longer, until October 1, 1996.

 

The 3400c was introduced February 1997, and the 2400c was introduced even further after that in May 1997.

 

Per EveryMac - the Duo 2300c was discontinued in February 1997, but I'm not 100% sure how true that is, in that: I don't remember seeing it discussed much at all in the 1996 MacAddicts I've seen. Perhaps it's time to download 1996 MacWorld and look through it.

 

Depending on the status of the Duo, this might mean that Apple was in effect not selling a PowerPC PowerBook at all for a hot couple months. And even if you could get the Duo, it didn't have PCMCIA and you needed to add docking to it, so buying one in 1996 arguably only made sense if you were upgrading an existing ecosystem with a new machine.

 

The gotcha is, and I haven't seen, like, Zones/Warehouse etc catalogs from before mid-1997, is that resellers weren't really allowed to advertise prices in magazines until fairly late on. I believe 1998 is when I started seeing the bigger ones do it. I don't know what their own catalogs were like at that point, however.

 

15 hours ago, Trash80toHP_Mini said:

It probably wasn't until the G3 Series shipped that students were taking a laptop to all their classes, if many did even then?

Maybe!

 

However: the original PBG3 was introduced at $5,700, followed up by the G3 Series, which started at $2,299.

 

The original (Kanga) was of course basically a revision of the 3400c. The G3 Series could run dual batteries, so it's certainly more practical to do all-day meetings or classes with a G3 series machine.

 

I suspect that the iBook was the real start of "consumer" market buyers being reasonably able to buy laptops. A college kid might have bought a laptop in the '90s, but in reality I suspect few did. Even moreso, I don't think laptops in classrooms (at least in higher ed) were common until well into the 2000s. Like I said, the crossover for "more students bought laptops than desktops" is 2006.

 

8 hours ago, sstaylor said:

I was working the computer department of a college bookstore at the time of the 1400, and Apple made kind of a big deal about the cover and how much it was likely to appeal to college students.  I don't recall whether it actually did or not.

Good to know! Apple's general marketing materials don't call out college students specifically, but they do call out the cus

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