Vectronic's PowerBook 150
Originally Published: Feb. 18, 2008
My PowerBook 150 is still running the original version of Mac OS it shipped with, System 7.1.1, but it is modified with Apple's Appearance Manager for System 7. Appearance Manager is an optional add-on Control Panel that makes a System 7 Macintosh look and to some extent act like it is using Mac OS 8. The screenshots available below clearly show the Mac OS 8 trashcan and Mac OS 8-like windows. Also notice below that this PowerBook has 16 MB of available RAM, but only has 8 MB of actual RAM. Connectix RAM Doubler is installed. Connectix RAM Doubler allows for better memory management. It compresses RAM right in memory to store up to twice as much information in RAM, and if necessary, RAM Doubler will briefly use the hard drive to store memory similar to but much faster than System 7 Virtual Memory.
The PowerBook 150 was that last of the PowerBooks to use the classic PowerBook chassis. Hence, it used the same battery and the same power adapter as the 140, 145, 145B, 160, 165c, 170, 180, and 180c. The PowerBook 150 was the lightest laptop in its line at 5.8 pounds. Although the older PowerBook 100 was lighter at 5.1 pounds, it had an altogether different chassis. The PowerBook 150's low cost design allowed it to squeeze an additional 30 minutes more battery time over the model it replaced, the PowerBook 145B. The PowerBook 150 was capable of running up to 3 hours on a good battery.
The PowerBook 150 achieved low power consumption and low cost through a trade off of capabilities over previous PowerBooks of this form factor. The most notable trade off is the 9.5-inch Grayscale FSTN passive-matrix LCD. It can best be described as "poor", although the ability to display grayscale gives it a distinct advantage over its predecessor, the PowerBook 145B, which can only display black and white at 1-bit. You have to look directly sight on at the monitor or the screen washes out. It lacks the depth and richness of active-matrix (4-bit) LCDs like that found on the PowerBook 180, which is excellent and far superior to PowerBook 150. My PowerBook 150 has no dead pixels, which is often the case with older PowerBooks. As shown in the picture below, the contrast and brightness can be adjusted with two sliders just above the keyboard. Although the monitor is only 9.5 inches, it is capable of a single resolution of 640 x 400 (2-bit).
Another low cost consideration Apple gave to the PowerBook 150 is its lack of many of the standard ports found on other PowerBooks of its day. The PowerBook 150 has no ADB ports, so there is no way to hook up a standard Apple ADB mouse. The cursor is controlled using the trackball. Apple didn't introduce the trackpad until the next generation of PowerBooks, the PowerBook 500 series. The 150's trackball can easily be removed for cleaning. It works very well and I prefer it to using a trackpad. The PowerBook 150 ports include a standard SCSI port (HDI-30) and a standard Apple mini-DIN serial printer port. It does not have a built-in internal microphone, but it does have a small, adequate speaker. My PowerBook 150 has the optional modem card with RJ-11 port installed in the its modem expansion slot.
The PowerBook 150 originally sold for $1450 to $1600, depending on options. I picked up my PowerBook 150 on eBay for around $20. It is in great condition. These old PowerBooks don't yellow because of their gray-colored case, so if their former owners treated them well, they don't tend to show their age. However, when buying on eBay or from anyone sight unseen, there are few things to consider. First, most laptops lead a more robust existence than desktops, so collectors expect a few scratches here and there. Second, these old PowerBooks are very susceptible to dead pixels. My PowerBook 150 is in great shape and has no scratches or dead pixels.