Another old computer — the Powerbook 180c

In 1993, Apple released the PowerBook 180c, which sold for over $4100 new. It was, I think, the final PowerBook with the iconic form factor that had been introduced with the PowerBook 100 in 1991.


Somewhere along the way I picked one up for a percentage point or so of the original selling price. The memory had been upgraded to 14Mb, an amount that would have been astounding at the time, and almost unimaginably expensive, considering the Sumitomo Chemical Plant fire of July 1993 that caused RAM prices to spike. Consider this in comparison to the recent Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, which put much of northern Japan at least briefly underwater and had virtually no impact on the global economy. In 1993, a fire in one Japanese factory caused computer memory prices to remain elevated for two years.

about this mac 1993

I hauled the computer out of the basement recently to convert some old floppy discs, and put it through some paces online. Unlike the Apple Lisa I recently connected, indirectly, to the web, this machine has a true TCP/IP stack, and can run mail clients, web browsers, and the like.

The machine was made before Apple routinely put ethernet ports on their computers, so an adapter is needed. There probably exist AppleTalk-to-Ethernet adapters that can be connected to the machine’s serial port. I am lucky enough to have an Asante Mini EN/SC 10T adapter, which allows older Macs to be connected to ethernet via their SCSI ports. The driver software was well coded, and the Mac regards the resulting connection as built-in ethernet.

asante en/sc 10T

Network access in Mac OS7 was handled via the MacTCP control panel, not the network control panel, which back then related only to the AppleTalk protocol I think. If you have a similar device and are having trouble configuring it, select “Ethernet Built-In” in MacTCP, then click the “More” button. If you plan to talk to the world, find the names and addresses of your DNS servers and enter them by hand. Your ISP can tell you, if you don’t use OpenDNS or another alternative.

Set your router address (called a “gateway address” here).

I do not think MacTCP handled DHCP correctly. Anyway, I set a manual IP address just in case.

macTCP 1993

Numerous older web browsers and FTP clients, etc., are available online. I used NCSA Mosaic and Fetch. Then I logged into IRC using the venerable Ircle client, which unfortunately killed itself after 30 minutes to punish me for not buying a license.
irc on a PowerBook 180c

Mathematica 2.2 was loaded on the machine, and I ran a couple of quick problems through it.
mathematica 2.2, 1993

The syntax for simple problems like this has not changed, and those problems can be solved using the exact same commands in Mathematica 8.01. On my home Mac Pro, the first problem can be solved a bit better than 8x as quickly on the modern machine, and the second problem about 127x as quickly.

Using NCSA Mosaic, here’s how this website would have looked in 1993:

monkeywrench as rendered in NCSA Mosaic