Vectronic's PowerBook 520c
Originally Published: Nov. 18, 2007
Blackbird LC was Apple's code name for the 500 series PowerBooks. The PowerBook 500 series is a smart redesign of the original PowerBook concept incorporating many new innovations:
Apple was well on its way to introducing the first PowerPC Macs during the time the 500 series PowerBooks debuted. To keep the 500 series PowerBooks marketable in light of this coming change, Apple specifically designed them to be upgraded with a 100 MHz 603e Macintosh PowerBook Processor Card Upgrade that Apple first introduced in late 1995.
The 500 series PowerBooks have the ability to use two batteries at one time. Batteries can be added under each side of the palm rest. This gives the PowerBook 500 series an unprecedented 4 hours of possible battery life from the two installed batteries.
The left side battery chamber also has an internal processor direct expansion slot (PDS) that allows for custom modules to be installed. Unfortunately, not many actually reached the market, so expansion options are extremely limited. The most widely used expansion option is Apple's PCMCIA module. PCMCIA cards compatible with PCMCIA modules are primarily used for memory expansion but other applications such as wireless networking exist. Apple released three revisions of this module in an attempt to support the emerging PCMCIA standard. PCMCIA later evolved into the PC Card. Unfortunately, PCMCIA modules are difficult to find.
The 500 series PowerBooks have a full-sized keyboard with 12 function keys. Apple moved the power button from the back of the computer as it was on the previous generation PowerBooks to the keyboard located next to the F12 key. The previous generation PowerBooks are difficult to upgrade because the entire bottom half must be disassembled. The PowerBook 500 series is very easy to upgrade because the motherboard is accessible simply by removing the keyboard. As demonstrated below, the keyboard is held down by two torx screws that can be removed using a T9 torx screwdriver. The entire keyboard is a removable unit.
The PowerBook 520 is the less expensive monochrome passive-matrix equivalent of the 520c. The 520c has a very good 9.5-inch color dual-scan LCD capable of 256 colors (8-bit) at a single resolution of 640 x 480. Brightness and contrast can be adjusted by two buttons located on the right front side of the display. The 520c has 512K VRAM (video RAM) and is capable of driving an external monitor over the following possible resolutions: 512 x 384, 640 x 480, 800 x 600, or 832 x 624.
The PowerBook 520c has the following ports: one mini-15 video port, one ADB port, one HDI-30 SCSI port, one AAUI-15 Ethernet port, one microphone jack, one speaker jack, and one serial port that can be used for a modem or printer. The PowerBook 520c has a built-in microphone located at the middle bottom of the display. The PowerBook 520c has an internal communication slot for a modem. My PowerBook 520c has an installed modem card in this slot.
Maximum RAM is 36 MB with 4 MB residing on the motherboard. My 520c has 20 MB of RAM. The 520c has a single internal 1.4 MB floppy disk drive. Apple shipped the PowerBook 520c with either a 160 MB, 240 MB, or 320 MB SCSI hard drive. I recently had to replace my 520c's original 320 MB hard drive after it unexpectedly died. These hard drives are hard to find and it is often easier to buy a whole PowerBook 520c than it is to find the hard drive alone. My PowerBook 520c currently has a 240 MB hard drive.
The PowerBook 520c originally shipped with Mac OS 7.1.1 and it officially supports up to Mac OS 8.1. My PowerBook 520c is using Mac OS 7.5.5. I would suggest not going past System 7 on any 68K Mac. Mac OS 8 is noticeably ponderous on 68040 Macs and it is especially slow on a Mac with an LC 040.
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The 500 series PowerBooks were as revolutionary upon their release to the general public as the original classic PowerBooks they replaced. Apple once again stirred up the laptop market with a remarkable example of industrial design that helped usher in many conveniences consumers now expect from all marketable portable computers including stereo speakers, trackpad cursor control, modular expandability, and built-in networking capabilities.