Mac Museum First Impressions – Tangerine iBook G3

I’ll be honest here, it’s going to take me a while to do a full write up on all of the Macs that I have. So as I add new Macs to my collection, I’m going to post quick summaries of my first impressions.

My latest addition is a 300 MHz iBook G3 in Tangerine.  This is the first generation of the iBook released in 1999 to fill the consumer notebook spot.  This officially completed Apple’s 2×2 (Pro Desktop, Pro Laptop, Consumer Desktop, Consumer Laptop) product line.  The iBook was intended to be an iMac in laptop form.  It had a bold clamshell design with rounded edges and swooping curves.  The case was a mixture of translucent “ice” and “tangerine” or “blueberry” plastic.  It was designed for consumers – people with children, people in college, and children themselves.  It had tapered rounded edges that were easy to grasp, rubber inside the case to protect the hard drive and internal components, and extra casing around the sides and the screen to prevent damage.  All of this extra protection made it big, and heavy.  At 6.7 lbs, it was almost a pound heavier than the professional PowerBook G3 of the time.  Even though it only has a 12″ display, it’s barely an inch less wide and over an inch deeper than my 15″ MacBook Pro.

It shipped in Blueberry and Tangerine colors with a 300 MHz PowerPC G3 processor, 32 MB of RAM, a 3.2 GB hard drive, a tray-loading CD-ROM drive, a 12″ 800 x 600 pixel active matrix LCD display, a a 56K modem, USB, Ethernet, and wireless networking. All that could be had for only $1,600.  That’s a far cry from the $999 MacBook Air of today, but at the time it was a full $900 less than the lowest-end PowerBook G3.

The iBook introduced a lot of firsts for Apple. It was the first (and only) Apple laptop to include a handle on the back which on one hand made it easy to carry, but on the other made it look like a purse. It was the first laptop to dispense with the latch to keep the screen shut.  Instead it had a powerful spring in the screen hinge that snapped it shut.  It was the first Mac to include fast AGP graphics.  It was also the first Mac to include Airport wireless networking. It included a glowing, pulsating sleep light instead of the blinking one found on most other Macs.  Apple intended for the iBook to be used a school environment, so it even included two charging terminals on the bottom so that iBooks could be laid atop a special charger that would charge multiple iBooks at once.

I scored my Tangerine iBook off of eBay for $63 including shipping, which is a really great deal. On average, iBooks go for about $100 before shipping, so I was lucky to get this one.  I’m rather impressed with its condition of it for the price.  The top of the case is excellent – no major scuffs, cracks, or scratches. The rubberized plastic on the top and sides is free of scratches and is still very grippy.  The handle is sturdy and works well. The bottom of the case is in good condition save for some minor scratches and magic marker.  The screen hinges are great – they hold the screen up well and close the laptop with a snap. The only odd thing about my Tangerine is that the inside of the iBook isn’t Tangerine at all.  It’s Indigo (a later revision). The area surrounding the trackpad is dark blue as is the trackpad button.  I also think the keyboard is from a Blueberry model.  It’s not a big deal though – the iBook is in good condition.

My iBook has a 300 MHz processor, a 6 GB hard drive, and 160 MB of RAM.I was surprised to find that it also has an AirPort card, which is fantastic. It included a battery which seems to hold a reasonable charge of 2-3 hours.  It even came with Apple’s famous “Yo-Yo” power adapter. It’s currently running Mac OS 10.3 Panther, which I’ll probably replace with an older version of Mac OS X and Mac OS 9.  Although it is large and heavy, I’m impressed with it’s sturdiness. It feels much sturdier than my PowerBook G3 Lombard (which weighs less).   The keyboard is the same as my Lombard but in “ice” white, and it’s just as comfortable.  My only complaint is that the screen is a bit top heavy and has a tendency to tip the iBook when it’s on your lap.

The original iBook is a very neat machine and it’s a cool addition to my collection

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