It is interesting to dream, right? But, shortly after the return of Steve Jobs, just such a computer became a reality. It was the PowerBook 3400c, a luxury laptop. Much has been written about the first days after the return of Steve Jobs, and he himself spoke a lot about those days, but the period from December 1996 to March 1997 is still full of secrets and riddles that will never be revealed. For example, in the PowerBook 3400c, solemnly presented to the public on February 17, 1997, the influence of Steve seems to be felt. He did not have the opportunity to do this, but …
After the merger of Apple with NeXT, Steve received his non-binding status as adviser to the head of the company. Gil Amelio, who led Apple, was also very difficult. Known in the industry and in business circles as the savior of National Semiconductor, who brought this company out of a deadly peak, despite the outward mildness and good nature, he never went to anyone about it, and everything that Steve advised him, at best, took note.
Steve’s participation in the Hooper project, February 17, 1997, was solemnly presented to the public as the PowerBook 3400c, the world's most powerful portable computer, surpassing many desktop computers in this setting, has never been officially confirmed. Maybe this was not. This is my guess.
The coolest laptop?
The PowerBook 3400c, at the time of its presentation, was indeed the fastest, most packed and the most expensive laptop in the world. This computer was insane, violated all the unwritten rules of the industry, and was the most shamelessly successful.
Apple was not allowed to enjoy superiority in performance for a long time, but for a demoralized company inexorably approaching the abyss, this brief moment of success was a ray of hope.
At that time, the share of LCD-displays in the cost of laptop computers was very high, from its half and above, so the desire to pack laptops with screens was easier to understand and explain. Until February 17, 1997, all PowerBook models came with two display options: with an expensive and uncompromising active matrix display and with a cheaper display. Otherwise, these options were almost identical.
This was done to increase the coverage of the market. Common sense prompted this decision, and there seemed to be no reason to argue with him. And suddenly, someone unknown, took and questioned his majesty common sense. Who could it be?
The Hooper project (in honor of the dog of one of the project’s engineers) also suggested the launch of two versions of a luxury laptop computer: with a 12.1-inch LCD screen with an active matrix, the largest and most advanced used ever before in laptops, which cost more than the average powerful laptop of the time, and with a screen with a passive dual-scan matrix, cheaper. The second option, according to tradition, was to be called the PowerBook 3400cs.
It was intended for less affluent customers, and for customers who, like me these days, were more interested in the computing power of metal and plastic products.
But the mysterious he raised sales statistics (this may be absent for us), and with inhuman convincingness he confirmed his insane assumption: usually, except for a small number of cases, the “expensive option” was sold an order of magnitude better and more active than the “option for the poor”. All exceptions to this rule had common signs: they were relatively inexpensive (even in the version with a super-screen) cars that were not considered particularly prestigious. For example, PowerBook 1400cs / 1400c.
Meanwhile, another model with another display is additional components, this complicates production and increases the cost of quality control …
Option 3400cs has been canceled. Someone was able to convince Amelio to suspend the development of this option.
The same someone convinced him not to be afraid of extremes, and shockingly high prices. The backup version was ready, its launch into production and the accumulation of necessary reserves could be accomplished in a few weeks, so the “coolest laptop” was named the PowerBook 3400c.
As always, Apple struggled with “distorting the company's product names”, but not only anarchopithecs from independent media, but even the authors of Apple’s technical documentation familiarly omitted the letter index in the references to the model: PowerBook 3400.
Like they called it “ no misters”.
Portable Monster, details
Let's start with the most expensive and visible parts. From the LCD display with an active matrix and a diagonal of 12.1 inches (30.7 cm) Nowadays, this is an attribute of small and, as a rule, not at all outstanding laptops, but in 1997 it was almost fantastic. “Almost” solely due to the fact that a laptop computer with such a display actually existed, you could touch it, or even buy it … Otherwise, it remained fantastic.
16-bit color, the standard resolution of 800×600 for the then full-size notebooks. Honestly, it seemed big!
The case was a modified copy of the unfortunate 5300 case, and it impressed with its smooth lines and unearthly elegance. Its design was copied, it was “fashionable.”
The PowerBook 3400c used a PowerPC 603ev processor, which was produced using 35 micron technology, and could be overclocked to 300 MHz. Compared to conventional PowerPC 603e, produced using 50 micron technology, whose maximum rested at 200 MHz, this was a serious step forward. In addition, 603ev was noticeably more economical than 603e, and emitted less heat.
In 1997, this processor had only one drawback: the high price.
They decided not to save on the second level cache, as well as on other elements that affect performance. Faster, compared to other PowerBook models, RAM chips (EDO RAM), a 40 MHz bus, and all in the same vein.
It all cost more than was accepted in a sinking company, but … Who gave the order to the engineers “do not take care of the cartridges”, and they came off in full.
Lithium-ion batteries, rechecked dozens of times, in a variety of conditions, with which in fact there were no problems.
The PowerBook 3400c was sold in three “basic” configurations that differed in the processor clock frequency (180, 200 and 240), the hard disk capacity (also not from the regular ones) of 1.3 Gigabyte, 2 Gigabyte and 3 Gigabyte. At that time, “Gigabyte” sounded as loud and solid as in our day “Terabyte”, and suddenly such volumes in a portable computer! The configurations differed slightly from one another and other details, less significant.
The cheapest configuration, PowerBook 3400c / 180, without a CD-drive (could be added for a fee) and without Ethernet (10Base-T, for a fee) cost $ 4,500. It was more expensive than the most expensive laptops of the time.
Its version with a 12-fold CD-drive and Ethernet cost 5000.
The PowerBook 3400c / 200 with a 6-fold CD-drive cost the same $ 5,000, with a 12-fold – 5500.
In the expression “ X-fold CD-drive “X indicates how many times the read speed of this drive exceeds 150 kilobytes per second, the read speed of the first such drives.
The most expensive option, the PowerBook 3400c / 240, included everything, and cost $ 6400 .
There is no exact data, but according to information from Apple Europe, 3400c / 240 was not the best-selling configuration of this model …
End of 3400c
In November 1997, 3400c was removed from izvodstva, they were replaced by the PowerBook G3 (Kanga) in the same case, but they were sold until stocks exhausted. The first ran out of 3400c / 180, December 13, 1997. The second – 3400c / 200, sales of which ended exactly one year after the model was announced, on February 17, 1997.
The most expensive option was bought more slowly, but on March 14, 1998 its last copy was sold.