Today in Apple history: The best Mac portable to date

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May16May 16, 1994: Apple
launches the PowerBook 540c, one of the best laptops in its
history.

Part of the
innovative 500 series of PowerBooks, the 540c is the
laptop to own in 1994. Blisteringly fast, packed with
innovative features, and offering the best notebook
display on the market, it’s a triumph on every level. Although
for $5,539 ($9,139 in today’s money), it had better be…

Apple’s best laptop yet.


The
PowerBook 540c was a major leap forward for Apple laptops at
the time. It was so good that, for the first time, a sizable
percentage of Apple’s fanbase were convinced that it was the
best machine the company was making, including its desktop
Macs.


The previous
100 series PowerBooks
were a massive commercial and
creative success for Apple, and helped drive Apple to new
financial heights. However, by 1994 they were looking less
impressive, both in terms of aesthetics and features.


The 500
series PowerBooks were the best sequel this side of
Aliens or Terminator II. Of these, the
PowerBook 540c was the undisputed champ. It boasted the world’s
first 16-bit portable display, which Apple claimed at the time,
“may well be the finest screen ever to grace a notebook
computer.” Although it only offered 640×400 resolution,
the active-matrix 9.5-inch display’s ability to show thousands
of colors at the same time made other rival laptops look
positively prehistoric — particularly when you factored in

Apple’s QuickTime video software
and the laptop’s built-in
stereo sound.


The display
wasn’t the only big upgrade, either. The 540c was also
impressively fast, being the first Apple notebook to include a
33MHz Motorla 68LC040 CPU. In benchmark tests, this made it a
whopping 80 percent faster than the fastest previous
PowerBook.

In addition, it sported on-board 10bT or 10b Ethernet, support
for PC cards and external monitors up to 20-inches, a trackpad
instead of the trackballs of Apple’s previous laptops, twin
NiMH batteries for five hours of battery life, and 4MB of RAM,
which was upgrade to 12MB.

Did you own this particular Apple laptop? What’s your pick for
greatest laptop in Apple history? Leave your comments below.