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Vectronic's PowerBook 165c

Blue Arrow Archives Section:  Apple Laptops Collection Archive

Vectronic's Collections (New Site):  PowerBook 165c

Originally Published:  Aug. 12, 2008

The PowerBook 165c, introduced on February 10, 1993, was the first PowerBook with a color display. The form factor is the same as the PowerBook 140. The PowerBook 165c is essentially a PowerBook 165 with an 8.9-inch passive-matrix display capable of displaying 256 colors. Native screen resolution is 640 x 400. The PowerBook 165c has a 33 MHz 68030 with an integrated PMMU and 68882 FPU. My PowerBook 165c only has 4 MB of onboard RAM. Maximum RAM is 14 MB, which is accomplished by installing a 10 MB PB1xx RAM chip in the 165c's single RAM slot. My PowerBook 165c has Connectix RAM Doubler installed, which is why the "About This Macintosh" shown below shows 4 MB of built-in memory and 8 MB of available memory. I purchased this PowerBook 165c for $35 from a seller on eBay. It is in great shape, but the hard drive spins a bit loudly and should probably be replaced.

"About This Macintosh" showing Mac OS and RAM

Click to View Screen Capture 1 (About This Macintosh)
Click to View Screen Capture 2 (Claris Works Folder)
Click to View Screen Capture 3 (Claris Works)
Click to View Screen Capture 4 (PowerBook Display Control Panel)
Click to View Screen Capture 5 (PowerBook Control Panel)
Click to View Screen Capture 6 (Memory Control Panel)
Click to View Screen Capture 7 (Monitors Control Panel)
Click to View Screen Capture 8 (Macintosh HD)

My PowerBook 165c still has installed the original operating system shipped with this model PowerBook, Mac OS 7.1. It officially supports up to Mac OS 7.6.1. However, I would not advise installing Mac OS 7.5.5 (and definitely not 7.6.1) on a Mac like my 165c that only has 4 MB of RAM. There is not enough RAM, so it just won't run well. System performance would slow to a crawl.

PowerBook 165c ports

Contrast and brightness sliders

The PowerBook 165c has an ADB port, sound in port, sound out port, HDI-30 SCSI port, video out port, modem port, printer port, and one available expansion slot to add an RJ-11 modem card. My PowerBook 165c does not have a modem card installed. Like most of the classic PowerBooks, the 165c has a port cover that must be opened to access the power button and the ports. These plastic port covers are somewhat fragile and many older PowerBooks have lost their port covers over the years. Fortunately, my PowerBook 165c has a good port cover that is not loose or cracked. The 165c has a built-in microphone located just beneath the speaker grill, above the keyboard. Contrast and brightness for the monitor is adjusted by two slider controls located above the keyboard to the right. The 165c has two elevation feet that can be snapped down to angle the laptop for more comfortable typing. The mouse is controlled using a trackball that can be removed for cleaning. For those that like to use a regular mouse, an Apple ADB mouse can be connected to the ADB port.

Elevation feet up

Elevation feet down

Trackball removed

The PowerBook 165c shipped with either an 80 MB or 120 MB internal SCSI hard drive. My 165c has the 80 MB hard drive. Like all the other classic PowerBooks, the 165c has a built-in 1.4 MB floppy disk drive. When the PowerBook 165c was first introduced in 1993, CD drives were large and expensive. It wasn't until the later half of the 1990s that CD drives became small enough to fit in a laptop. The pictures below show the ridiculously large size of one of Apple's earlier external CD drives. This is a working AppleCD 600e connected to the 165c with an Apple HDI-30 SCSI Adapter System Cable. The adapter cable is necessary to connect these early PowerBooks with the wide variety of SCSI devices compatible with 68K Macintosh desktop computers.

AppleCD 600e connected to SCSI port with Apple HDI-30 SCSI Adapter System Cable

Powerbook 165c and AppleCD 600e

Without a doubt, the 165c's passive-matrix color display is superior to older grayscale displays like those found on the PowerBook 140 and 170. Taken by itself, the 165c has a good display, but when compared with later color displays like those on later model 68K PowerBooks like the 180c, 520c, and 540c, it falls a little flat. The 165c's color display is pleasant, but not entirely adequate. It is sharp enough for everyday use, but it lacks the richness and brightness of later LCDs found in PowerBooks introduced not much later. The 165c is capable of driving an external color monitor over a variety of resolutions beginning at 512 x 384 and ending at 832 x 624.

The PowerBook 165c is compatible with the same NiCd PowerBook battery used by all the other classic form factor PowerBooks. The battery is held inside the left side palm rest and can easily by removed by pushing forward the battery latch. The PowerBook 165c's color display takes its toll on battery life. A fully charged battery will only last about an hour. Like the other classic PowerBooks, the 165c uses the standard classic PowerBook power adapter.

Powerbook 165c battery

This PowerBook 165c was a sound offering by Apple in 1993. Its color display is somewhat lacking, but suitable for everyday use. The 165c, although rather expensive in 1993 at around $3,400, was affordable when you consider that the PowerBook 180c, introduced a few months after the 165c, with its far superior active-matrix color display cost nearly $1,000 more. Vectromania

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