Apple Macintosh portable computer, 1989.
An early Macintosh portable computer Science & Society Picture Library / Getty Images

Apple Introduced Its First 'Laptop' 25 Years Ago and It Was Totally Awful

Sep 20, 2014

Correction appended, Sept. 22, 2014, 10:55 a.m.

Twenty-five years ago Saturday, on Sept. 20, 1989, Apple released its first "portable" Macintosh computer — and "portable" belongs in quotation marks, because Sisyphus might as well have been made to lift this thing up a hillside for eternity.

Coming in at a hefty 16 pounds — that's more than five MacBook Airs, and about four of IBM's rival product at the time — Apple's Macintosh Portable had a price tag to match its weight: $6,500 got you the machine, loaded with super-modern features like an "active-matrix screen" and a "cursor-control device called a trackball," as TIME described it in the Sept. 25, 1989, issue. The computer could also only run on a wall outlet when batteries were installed, unlike desktop computers.

"Apple is taking pains to call the machine a portable rather than a laptop, but computer industry wags have already dubbed it a 'luggable,'" reads TIME's article about the Macintosh Portable, revealing that tech writers' penchant for adorable nicknames ("wearable," "phablet" and so on) is well-rooted in our trade's history. "Even so, experts believe the Mac is likely to be a walkaway success."

Clever pun, but we (or those experts!) were way off base: Customers greeted the Macintosh Portable like a sour apple; PCWorld would eventually deem it the 17th worst tech product ever made.

Read the most recent TIME cover story about Apple here: Never Offline

Correction: The original version of this post incorrectly stated the power needs of the original Macintosh Portable.

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