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My old Powerbook 190cs

Published on Aug. 13, 2016 2016-08-13 in Blog ┬╗ Hardware

Disclaimer: this blog post is a translation. Original post in french here.

Wow! A laptop older than me and still working well :) The Powerbook 190cs was released in 1995 for $2,200, it was the last Macintosh to use the Motorola 68k platform.

Computer booting

Features

It has a 500 Mb hard disk. Mine has, in addition to the 8 Mb of RAM, an extension of 16 Mb, and a 33 Mhz CPU. It runs on Mac OS 7.5.3 but supports up to 8.1.

The screen displays in 640x480, it is with passive matrix, each movement on the screen is very slow, like a e-reader.

For the time the autonomy was not bad, between 3 and 5 hours. More than twenty years later, the NiMH battery is completely dead.

Photo de la fuite de batterie

Usage

The hinges hold well, but are a bit tired, so I avoid opening and closing it often, for fear of breaking it. The internal speaker works, as does the microphone. The screen also works, although it displays strange echoes in a row and column format. The touchpad button is slightly slanted due to a broken plastic clip.

The keyboard is very comfortable and has nothing to envy to some horrible keyboards found on recent machines (the keyboard of my old Toshiba for example). Obviously it's an Apple keyboard, with the punctuation in a different place comparing to french PC layout.

The system starts up well, which confirms the apparent good condition of the hard disk, which does not make any suspicious noise. The Mac OS System 7 is not as good as Windows 95 but it's fast and quite pleasant to use. The passive screen is however special to apprehend, the remanence is terrible, which makes games unplayable.

The Macintosh Desktop

But how to transfer data? The floppy drive doesn't work anymore, and I couldn't remove it because I didn't have the right screwdriver... The device was offered with an optional Infrared port that could perform IRTalk data transfers at 230 kbps, but mine doesn't have this option, which rules out any DIY on this side. There is still the ADB serial link and the good old AppleTalk.

The touchpad works randomly after a minute. The disturbing thing is that my PC laptop next to it on the table has a similar problem when plugged. A power supply problem?

Because the battery is dead, the date and time is not saved, but also the screen brightness/contrast settings and the pointer speed. So every time I start up, I have to drag my mouse on the table to find the pointer settings window in the Apple menu and restore a correct acceleration for my old ADB mouse.

Opening

I obviously wanted to disassemble the device to clean it, but also to see how it was designed and to eventually fix touchpad and screen lines issues. Disassembling it involves unscrewing Torx screws.

The battery and the floppy drive, located under the hand-rests, can be removed by sliding. After that, you have to remove the keyboard to have access to the bottom panel, then to the hand-rest + touchpad panel. Finally, it's much easier than most recent Apple computers.

Computer opened
Behind the touchpad
Computer opened
Behind the keyboard
Computer opened
Top left of the computer

Conclusion

It's a nice machine, well designed and expandable with its slot for additional RAM and its PC Card bus. Stylistically, we're in the "curved / dark grey" trend, which follows the mythical Snow White design language and precedes Jonathan Ive's "rounded / fluorescent" wave, with the iBook Palourde and the iMac G3.

Computer opened
Memory extension

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