TIME technology

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

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

Proof that Apple has come a long way

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.

TIME Smartphones

Watch How Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus Fare in a Drop Test

This guy tested it so you wouldn't have to

The biggest problem with iPhones — much like bones and marriages — is that they break. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are no exception, and while they each do decently in a drop test over concrete, they can also suffer some pretty significant damage.

Scuffs on the case are annoying, and cracked screens are obviously worse. The phones are damaged in different ways depending on how they’re dropped, whether on their sides, fronts or backs.

Watch this here to see how the iPhone 6 fares in a drop test.

TIME Security

Here’s How Home Depot Could Have Combated Hacking

Experts say retailers should invest in detection rather than prevention

As Home Depot continues to assess the damage caused by a security breach that gave hackers access to 56 million credit and debit cards, tech experts say large retailers should turn their attention to addressing breaches quickly instead of trying to prevent all of them.

“Are we spending most of our money on trying to keep the bad guys out or trying to detect as soon as possible when the bad guys get in?” asked cyber crime expert Brian Krebs, framing the issue rhetorically. “The best you can do is stop the bleeding as soon as possible when they do get in.”

At Home Depot, where hackers used malware to collect customer data at cash registers, it reportedly took nine months for the breach to be identified and stopped allowing for the damage to affect millions of customers.

Companies face myriad and evolving ways their data can be breached, making protecting data akin to a game of whac-a-mole. Once one potential threat is identified, hackers have already begun trying to get through another way. Instead of devoting all their resources to chasing the threats, companies should focus on minimizing the time it takes to identity those breaches, said Brian Foster, chief technology officer at cyber security firm Damballa.

“There are two types of companies: those that have been breached and those that don’t know they’ve been breached yet,” he said. “The attackers only have to find one door in whereas Home Depot has to secure all their doors and before they do that they need to know where all the doors are at.”

But even if retailers like Home Depot switch focus to detection from protection, experts say they need to do a better job securing data. And, for retailers, the first place to look is the “point of sale system” where the transaction occurred (the cash register for traditional retailers).

“Some enhancement of that logical access in the point of sale would have been able to harden the system significantly,” said Guy Levy, senior vice president at technology security firm Usher. “This is part of what any big retailer that employs pos systems should be doing now. They should all be scrutinizing their systems very, very hard.”

Despite the recommendations of security experts, many companies remain reluctant to devote the funding to change. But dealing with massive security breaches almost always costs more in the long-term than instituting preventive measures would have cost. Home Depot said the breach at the company will cost at least $62 million.

“It takes awhile to update your technology, to understand the threat,” said Anup Ghosh, founder and CEO of technology security firm Invincea. “But the most expensive dollar spent in security is spent after a breach.”

TIME Companies

Alibaba Is Overpriced and Overhyped — So What Else Is New?

China-Based Internet Company Alibaba Debuts On New York Stock Exchange
Founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group Jack Ma attends the company's initial price offering (IPO) at the New York Stock Exchange on September 19, 2014 in New York City. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

Alibaba may be a Chinese company, but this IPO is an all-American way for inside holders to get rich

Jack Ma was lousy at math as a kid, and began his career as an English-language instructor in Hangzhou, China. He seems to have addressed that deficiency quite nicely. Ma, 50, is executive chairman of Alibaba, China’s biggest internet commerce company, which just launched an Initial Public Offering on the New York Stock Exchange that raised some $22 billion. It’s the biggest IPO on record. Alibaba’s shares were priced at $68—the high end of the range set by investment bankers—but when trading started the price jumped to $92.70. That values the company at about $232 billion, bigger than Facebook, IBM, Amazon and that tech fossil IBM. Ma’s shares are worth close to $18 billion, even after selling some $867 million in the IPO.

Alibaba does little retail business in the United States; it was originally designed to provide an online wholesale marketplace that connected Chinese companies with buyers all over the world. But the company now includes an e-Bay knockoff called Taobao that did indeed knock e-Bay out of the way in China; Tmall.com, a brands and retail platform, a cloud computing operation and other retail and wholesale businesses. “Alibaba is synonymous with e-commerce in China,” the company said in its filing statement.

And it is also synonymous with the frenetic tech IPO market in the U.S. The companied initially tried to list its shares on the Hong Kong Exchange, which would seem to be a friendly home. But its byzantine ownership structure, with Ma at the center of a web of interrelated companies tied to Alibaba, wasn’t deemed fairly structured enough to meet the Hong Kong exchange’s rules. Nor did Alibaba list with NASDAQ, always seen as friendlier to tech IPOs and to companies with multiple share classes. Instead, Alibaba listed with the old-school New York Stock Exchange. According to the NYSE, Alibaba is the 25th tech company to list its shares this year.

Except that you are not actually buying Alibaba’s shares directly, since China’s government won’t allow foreigners to control one of its most prized companies. Investors are buying shares in something called a variable interest entity that has a claim on the company’s earnings. The VIE is registered in the Cayman Islands—yes, the Cayman Islands!—that black hole of offshore money. And did I mention that Alibaba is in China. As global auto companies are learning, political risk is not unknown in that country, and even though Alibaba is a home team favorite, foreign holders are just that.

Ma is more than familiar with the way the investment cycle works, as well as the Chinese government. He was introduced to the Internet in 1995, in Seattle, and set out to become China’s web pioneer. He linked up with Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang for a $1 billion investment 2005 that will paying off enormously for the otherwise struggling American firm. Throughout it all, he has done things his way. In this regard, Ma has a lot in common with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch. If you are a big fan of shareholder democracy, you might have the wrong outfit in Alibaba.

All of this should tell investors to tread very cautiously. Yeah, right. Even as talk of another tech bubble keeps bubbling up in Silicon Valley, investors have demonstrated over and over that they are not going to be dissuaded from taking the plunge in the red-hot IPO pool. There are some compelling things about Alibaba. Yes, China, for one. The company’s IPO cites data claims there are 500 million mobile internet users in China and 279 million active buyers. Better yet, only 8% of all shopping is currently done online in China. And the Chinese government is not only raising wages but wants consumer spending to become a greater force in its economy.

The potential is enormous, of course, and Alibaba is not a startup. It’s a company with $7.3 billion in sales that earns actual profits. But the question for investors is always about how much you want to pay for growth. And when it comes to tech, the answer is often: too much. Alibaba may be a Chinese company, but this IPO is an all-American way for inside holders to get rich, or in Ma’s case, dynastically rich.

TIME technology

iOS 8: The Operating System That Would Be King

Apple Inc.'s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus Go On Sale
An Apple Inc. iPhone 6 stands on display at the company's Causeway Bay store during the sales launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in Hong Kong, China, on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. Bloomberg—Getty Images

Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv.

No company, even one as worshiped by its fans as Apple, is ever more than a couple of flops away from being cast into furnace of hell.

Why are we so obsessed with the release of Apple’s new mobile operating system, iOS 8? The election of a new Pope barely generated as much as anticipation and coverage. Sure, Apple is touting it as the “biggest iOS release ever,” and if there’s anything Steve Jobs’ heirs know better than sleek design and high-profit margins, it’s how to hype something P.T. Barnum–style.

But we’re right to care. Our gadgets—phones, tablets, PCs, wrist monitors, you name it—are nothing less than the magic that we use to generate the illusion (and sometimes the reality) that we can actually control our lives. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” quipped the science-fiction legend Arthur C. Clarke, whose dark vision of a supercomputer that bends humankind to its will animated 2001: Space Odyssey. A similar question haunts us, especially whenever our OS fails and we find unexpected, unscheduled, un-busy time on our hands: Are we running our machines or are they running us?

Your smartphone not only lets you talk with anyone in the world wherever you are, it also acts as a portable GPS that lets you find the most off-the-beaten-track address (unless, that is, you’re stuck using the original version of Apple Maps). What was once science fiction in Dick Tracy comics—video calls—is now known as Facetime or Skype. “Wearables” like Fitbit allow us to know how well we slept, how many steps we’ve taken in a day and how many calories we need to burn before eating another doughnut.

In the new world of technology über alles, the operating system is the god of the machine. If it functions well, all is smooth sailing in our lives and we can be pretend to be wizards and witches from storybooks, able to traverse time and space and make miracles happen. We can arrive on time via uncongested routes and we can bank from the coffee shop and invest while riding the subway. We can set the home alarm long after we’ve left for work, track the kids’ homework and use a flight delay as a way to catch up with our friends, lovers and co-workers.

As we voluntarily become cyborgs and wire ourselves up and express ourselves instantaneously through an ever growing array of social media, we need a perfect operating system that allows us to multitask with ever greater flexibility and ever greater ease across computers, phones, tablets and more. Who has time to reboot any of our peripheral devices? Indeed, what machines even count as peripheral anymore? They are all central to us, and more so with each passing day.

In its heart of hearts, Apple knows just how high the stakes are. No company, even one as worshiped by its fans as Apple, is ever more than a couple of flops away from being cast into furnace of hell. Its previous mobile operating system, iOS 7, was a disappointment, if not an epic fail like Windows 8 or Vista, to name two of Microsoft’s ill-conceived and executed operating systems. iOS 8 must be better, smoother, faster, or else even true believers may revolt and slay their god. (Alas, the early reviews for iOS 8 are not heartening.)

In Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King, a common Englishman is mistaken for a god by natives. When they realize he is not the divine entity they took him for, they cut off his head with the crown still on it. That is the irony that Apple seeks to avoid: Nobody causes more disappointment than a god that fails.

Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv and the co-author with Matt Welch of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with America.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Security

Experts Doubt ISIS Could Launch Major Cyberattack Against the U.S.

A member loyal to the ISIL waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa
A member loyal to ISIS waves an ISIS flag in Raqqa, Syria in June 29, 2014. Reuters

Experts say the Islamist militants' social media savvy doesn’t translate into a real cybersecurity threat against the U.S.

The Islamist militants who have taken over swathes of Syria and Iraq have proven remarkably adept at using 21st century technology.

In the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria’s (ISIS) drive to establish what it calls a new caliphate, the group has gathered between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters, partly thanks to its recruitment campaign over social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Widely disseminated video footage of executed American and British citizens have become ISIS’s tools for terror; the Internet is ISIS’s vehicle.

Today, ISIS’s adroit use of modern technology is raising a new specter: cyberterrorism. Several prominent national security experts and cyber analysts warned this week that ISIS could someday threaten the United States, elevating fears about the West’s vulnerability to a cyberattack.

“ISIS has already had success in utilizing technology, using the web for recruiting, distribution of terrorist information and scare tactics,” David De Walt, the chief executive of tech security company FireEye told the Financial Times this week. Now, De Walt said, “[w]e’ve begun to see signs that rebel terrorist organizations are attempting to gain access in cyber weaponry.”

And on Tuesday, National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers warned that the U.S. needs to bolster its defenses against digital attacks from terrorist groups like ISIS.

“It’s something I’m watching,” Rogers said of ISIS’s aggressive use of Internet technology at a cybersecurity conference in Washington, D.C. “We need to assume that there will be a cyber dimension increasingly in almost any scenario that we’re dealing with. Counterterrorism is no different.”

But do we really need to fear a cyber attack from ISIS? As it turns out, probably not: ISIS’s social media savvy doesn’t necessarily translate into a real cybersecurity threat against the United States, and much of the talk about the group’s growing cyber-prowess overstates the point, experts told TIME.

“I don’t think anyone has any proof that there’s an imminent attack or that ISIS has acquired the manpower or the resources to launch an attack on the infrastructure of the United States,” said Craig Guiliano, senior threat specialist at security firm TSC Advantage and a former counterterrorism officer with the Department of Defense. “It could be a potential threat in the future, but we’re not there yet.”

ISIS, a group with little technological infrastructure, doesn’t have many resources to wage a cyberwar against the United States. Compared to larger, state-sponsored hacking operations, ISIS is miles behind. Chinese hackers, for instance, who have been accused of attacking U.S. businesses and government contractors, are reported to have wide-ranging support from Chinese authorities, with many of the hackers hailing directly from the Chinese army.

A few ISIS-related figures have been connected with cyberattacks or cybercrime. Abu Hussain Al Britani, a British hacker who has since moved to Syria and begun recruiting for ISIS, was jailed in 2012 for hacking into former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Gmail account. One of the more prominent tech-savvy ISIS supporters, Al Britani maintains a Twitter account that calls for new ISIS recruits.

And a group called “Lizard Squad” that has claimed responsibility for high-profile cyberattacks that have brought down the websites of the Vatican, Sony and others has tenuously been linked to ISIS on the basis of tweets like this one:

But ISIS doesn’t appear to have the manpower to launch sophisticated attacks against the United States. “You need some resources. You need access to certain kinds of technology. You need to have hardcore programmers,” Jim Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said. “ISIS doesn’t have those capabilities.”

Unlike China’s state-sponsored hackers, who have a strong interest in attacking U.S. businesses to hawk trade secrets and intellectual property, ISIS is more concerned with taking real-world territory and controlling it. ISIS’ first priority is establishing control over the disparate desert regions from the outskirts of Aleppo in Syria to Falluja in Iraq and creating an Islamic caliphate—not an expensive and often intangible cyberwar against American websites.

“ISIS wants to conquer the Middle East, not hack websites in Omaha,” said Lewis.

That’s not to say that ISIS is incapable of launching an attack in the future. ISIS is believed to be well-funded, likely capable of purchasing simple malware on the black market and using it against the West. But the kinds of attacks ISIS would be able to carry out would likely be more of an annoyance than a debilitating strike on the United States’ infrastructure, the kind of attack that national security experts really worry about.

During the most recent spate of violence between Gaza and Israel, for example, hackers on both sides launched distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, which involves using multiple servers to overload a website and briefly disable it. That kind of attack is a far cry from shutting down power plants in the U.S. or attacking nuclear reactors. Still, the threat of a cyber strike, particularly against financial institutions as a means of funding ISIS’s expansion, may grow over time.

“ISIS is continuously looking for new ways to carry out high impact high visibility events to bring attention to their cause,” said John Cohen, recently the counterterrorism coordinator at the Department of Homeland Security and currently a professor at Rutgers University. “One has to speculate they are looking at the results of major cyber breaches such as Target or Home Depot and against critical infrastructure, and thinking about them as a potential avenue.”

TIME Paycheck Friday

5 Unique Cell Phone Gadgets for Under $50

Come on, you're making some decent money now. Live a little! Consider blowing your paycheck on these worthy splurges.

Bluetooth-to-FM Transmitter ($36.99)

streambot
Mpow

You pride yourself on owning the most bleeding-edge smartphone that money can buy. Your car, on the other hand, is a 1990 Mitsubishi Mirage with a tape deck. A tape deck! Sure, you could hook your Galaxy S8 — that’s a thing, right? — up to one of those gnarly tape adapters, but this is 2014, Jack. Let’s get with the program.

The StreamBot pairs to your phone’s Bluetooth connection and relays the audio to an open radio station. You can use it for music or as a speakerphone, and there’s a built-in USB port that allows you to charge your phone at the same time.

[Amazon]

iPhone-Android Combo Charging Cable ($27.99)

magic_cable_lightning_connection
Innergie

While the world around you fights over whether iPhone or Android is best, you quietly retreat to the window seat in your childhood bedroom. It reminds you of a simpler time. You feel safe there.

Oh, and you brought your Android phone and your iPad Mini with you. The world must never know. They wouldn’t understand. And seeing that you hate cable clutter, you’ve also packed this two-in-one charging cord. It’s got a Micro USB tip that snaps into a Lightning tip, allowing you to charge just about any device that’s currently on the market. It’s simple and safe. Like your childhood.

[Innergie]

Bluetooth Gloves ($49.99)

bluetooth gloves
hi-Fun

That guy walking down the street who looks like he’s talking to himself? He’s using a Bluetooth headset. He looks crazy, but you eat crazy for breakfast.

One-up the insanity by talking into these Bluetooth gloves like a lunatic. The pinkie acts as the mouthpiece, while the thumb serves as the earpiece. Sure, people will stare, but while they’re rubbing their eyes and breathing through their mouths in disbelief, you’re selling mildly abrasive cleaning supplies to the third largest school district in the county. Crazy like a fox!

[ThinkGeek]

Lipstick-Size Emergency Battery ($17.99)

ravpower
RAVPower

“Can I borrow your lipstick?” one of your sassy girlfriends will ask. “Not unless you need to recharge your FACE!” you’ll howl back. “You’re such a Samantha!”

Clearly, I have no idea how female relationships work, but this inconspicuous backup battery can provide more than a full charge for most modern phones and slips into your Kate Spade without taking up too much space. There are several color options available, including more masculine hues if you’re not into the whole lipstick motif.

[RAVPower]

Retro Handset ($6.99)

handset
Echo Logico

If you think Bluetooth is some sort of dangerous dental affliction, perhaps it’s time to uncomplicate certain aspects of your personal technology collection.

This retro handset plugs into the headphone jack of your phone and lets you telecommunicate like people used to back in the good old days. Back when kids didn’t sass their parents and gas cost a nickel. Get off my lawn!

[Amazon]

TIME Video Games

Neal Stephenson Sheathes Crowdfunded Swordfighting Game for Good

Speculative fiction writer Neal Stephenson's ambitious history-minded swordfighting simulation will go no further than crowdfunded prototype, says the author.

So long, Clang. You were a very, very expensive curiosity, in part because your lead proponent is something of a literary treasure.

The crowdfunded project to develop an ultra-realistic motion control driven sword fighting simulation, which originally generated over half a million in funding but ran out of money in September 2013, has been officially shelved — it sounds like for good.

In a “final update” to Clang‘s Kickstarter site, Stephenson writes that he’s decided to “cut the cord, and announce the termination of CLANG.” He says he delayed announcing the end sooner because of “new ideas and opportunities” that were happening, and that he says “may ultimately wind up in some of the same places we wanted to take CLANG.”

But he says as far as Clang-the-Kickstarter-project is concerned, it’s over. He expresses regret that it couldn’t continue further, but makes it clear he believes it delivered on its promise, though assuming much of the blame for its inability to continue.

Last year, Subutai Corporation delivered the CLANG prototype and the other donor rewards as promised. The prototype was technically innovative, but it wasn’t very fun to play.

Stephenson, author of speculative fiction novels like Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon and Anathem, launched Clang in 2012 as a project he hoped would “revolutionize sword fighting video games.” Stephenson is a self-described “swordsmanship geek,” though I’m not entirely sure what that means. I can’t find anything about him actually hefting blades or suiting up to fence with sabers, foils or épées, but he often talks about sword history (at least in the many interviews I’ve read over the years), for instance admiring the way a show like Game of Thrones is careful to represent aspects of swordsmanship realistically.

Here’s Stephenson’s original pitch for the game:

Clang sounds like a classic example, by Stephenson’s own admission, of someone relatively un-versed in the insanely byzantine complexities of game design (and bringing a concept to fruition), but very well-versed in the history of sword fighting, over-obsessing about the latter and not enough over the former. As he says of the reasons that ultimately led to Clang‘s termination:

Some of these [reasons] were beyond our control. Others are my responsibility in that I probably focused too much on historical accuracy and not enough on making it sufficiently fun to attract additional investment.

The debate from here out, I suspect, is going to be over whether Stephenson and his cohorts delivered the goods. The promise made on Clang‘s Kickstarter page, somewhat buried in the print, does seem fairly unambiguous: “The next step is to build a functional proof of concept in the form of an exciting prototype we can share with you and use to achieve our next level of funding.” Anything subsequent to that prototype would have required additional funding, writes Stephenson — funding beyond the project’s original Kickstarted $526,125, that is.

I’m not sure anyone’s verified whether Stephenson and Subutai delivered their prototype or donor rewards to backers as claimed (it doesn’t seem that anyone’s yet written about their experience with the prototype). Stephenson says he’s issued $700 in refunds to “around two dozen CLANG backers” who’ve asked for their money back. He adds that the financial burdens on members of the design team, as well as himself, have been substantial, above and beyond the money spent from the Kickstarter pool:

Members of the team made large personal contributions of time and money to the project before, during, and after the Kickstarter phase. Some members, when all is said and done, absorbed significant financial losses. I am one of them; that has been my way of taking responsibility for this.

There are no further formal plans to return backers’ money (or at least no obvious ones). Stephenson ends his final update by offering a link to sign up for a list to receive updates about future projects, but cautions those projects may or may not come to anything. The reactions to the announcement, restricted to backers, have been mixed, from folks chiming in to express their support for Stephenson and satisfaction with the project, to others asking for their money back.

TIME Smartphones

Take a Look at What’s Inside the iPhone 6 Box

The best part of getting a new device: ritual unpacking

Apple is launching its two latest iPhones Friday, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Can’t get one today? No problem.Here’s a closer look at what’s in the box for the 4.7-inch version:

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TIME iPhone 6

See the World Await and Celebrate Apple’s iPhone 6

It is a big day for Apple and iPhone enthusiasts. Many waited in line for days before doors opened on Friday, allowing them to buy the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

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