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Apple Prototypes: 5 Products We Never Saw 169

Posted by samzenpus
from the blast-from-the-past dept.
Michael writes "For every Apple product we see on the shelves, there are dozens that never make it to production. Sometimes, these rare gems surface on the web for us to take a look at, and ponder what might have been. Scouring through the interweb, I've compiled this list of 5 Apple products that only the most hardcore of hardcore MacAddicts have ever stumbled across. Surprisingly, some of these products, over 10 years old, are still being speculated about in one form or another to this day. Will we see new products based on these old prototypes? It's far more likely that anything resembling the devices listed below have been rebuilt from the ground up, but still, it's fun to look back on the products that didn't make it to the mass market."
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Apple Prototypes: 5 Products We Never Saw

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  • by Slur (61510) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @12:30AM (#17044846) Homepage Journal
    Whatever happened to the iBrator??
  • The Newton Telephone (Score:3, Informative)

    by davidwr (791652) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @12:32AM (#17044868) Homepage Journal
    When the Newton came out in the mid-90s, a lot of people remarked on how much it "looked" like a telephone without buttons. Even the speaker was in just the right place.

    Who needs buttons when you've got a touch-screen anyways?

    It could even surf the web, with a little help from a nearby Macintosh.
  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @12:32AM (#17044878)

    "Apple Prototypes: 5 Products Microsoft Never Got To Copy"

    I should AC this, but what the hell. What good is karma if you don't spend some now and again? =)

    • by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Thursday November 30, 2006 @01:14AM (#17045292) Homepage Journal
      What good is karma if you don't spend some now and again?

      You're kidding right? You really think you're going to take a karma hit for saying MS copies Apple on slashdot?

      What's the weather like on your planet?
    • by Trespass (225077)
      More like 'Videophones were a retarded idea then, are a retarded idea know, and are likely to be retarded in the foreseeable future'

      • by cptgrudge (177113)

        Exactly. I don't want to comb my hair or shave in order to use the phone.

        Of course, the natural progression after video is to integrate another human sense. How about smell? The comedic potential aside, I don't want to smell some person's poor excuse for "pleasant fragrance" in that powerful, eye-watering scent wafting out of my phone. Because people just waking up won't bother to shower or brush their teeth before they call; they'll just cover the phone in perfume.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)
        Actually, videophones are a great idea - for mobiles. And not so the person I'm talking to can see me, but so they can see where I point the phone. Ditto for home use really; I may not want to show myself off, but I might want to show someone the pie I just baked or my perpetual motion machine or what have you.
  • by Rude Turnip (49495) <valuation@@@gmail...com> on Thursday November 30, 2006 @12:34AM (#17044884)
    Apple seems to have a philosophy of "just because we *can*, that doesn't mean we *should*" Many of the products in that article would have been plausible, but incredibly half-assed in terms of practical functionality, given the state of technology at the time. The videophone Newton is a pretty good example of this...sure, it might have worked, but the device was gigantic. Apple has a knack for waiting until tech gets small enough that it will fit into a tight package.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      "Apple seems to have a philosophy of "just because we *can*, that doesn't mean we *should*""

      That could be said of just about any technology company. Heck, I worked at a really small software company a few years ago and despite a shortage of resources, they invested some time into a variety of products that never saw the light of day. The philosophy was more like "it's neat... but would it sell?" Any project goes through this phase, it's not just some business practice exclusive to Apple. Yeah, stupid pr
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Fred_A (10934)

      Many of the products in that article would have been plausible, but incredibly half-assed in terms of practical functionality, given the state of technology at the time.

      It's also because of mistakes in the article. The PowerBop certainly wasn't a prototype (and certainly wasn't for *Internet* access) but was a wireless modem sold in France for the local BeBop wireless phone system that was briefly deployed in cities prior to the availability of GSM cell phones and as an unexpensive alternative to the ana

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by squiggleslash (241428)

        Sounds like BeBop was a CT2 (or earlier) operator. A similar service in the UK was operated by Rabbit [wikipedia.org], which in a roundabout way became Orange. The CT2 standard itself ended up being evolved into DECT, which is the primary cordless phone standard in Europe (and has finally just become available in the US.) CT2 phones and base stations are much prized by their owners apparently.

        The major disadvantage, aside from the lack of incoming calls, was the poor range and lack of hand-off. If you wanted to make a c

        • by Fred_A (10934)
          I did a little searching and the system was indeed based on CT2. And apparently I misspelled it earlier. It was BiBop, not BeBop. Sorry. According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] (fr) it was introduced in 1991. The article also shows the "cell in the vicinity" sticker in location on a lamppost.

          I wasn't aware that this kind of "broken by design" public phone system had been tried elsewhere. This is interesting :)

          I don't recall the range thing to be that much of a problem though (that's from what I recall users saying a
    • by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yoda&etoyoc,com> on Thursday November 30, 2006 @10:03AM (#17048246) Homepage Journal
      I still consider Apple to be the gold standard for a company that continually pump innovation into its product line, while keeping old users happy. My first Mac was back in '94. I bowed out in the late 90's to do the Linux thing for a while, but after a few years of scratch building computers and rebuilding operating systems once a week because Gentoo decided "Hey lets roll out a new version of GLIBC!" I'm back on mac.

      I just love opening the lid, doing my work, and slamming it shut. When they drop in a new widget, it's solid. Sure you have to take it in for an occasional blown logic board... but you CAN take it in for a blown logic board. My Sony's would drop a component and it would be "oh well, sucks to be you." The only reason I had to replace my previous iBook was that I had marinated the thing in coffee. It was 3 years old and running like the day I, or rather work, bought it.

      How many of you kill a three year old laptop and say "GOSHDAMNIT!!!!" It was that good to me.
  • by vga_init (589198)
    I'd sure like to get my hands on one of the Paladin thingies. If I ever wanted to start up a small business, I could keep that little puppy on my desk, not to mention I would have a blast programming it. I think with a little adaptation I could seamlessly integrate a lot of important business applications without having to rely on much overhead or security risk lost to network transmission.

    On the other hand, I'd hate to think of what would happen to me if it broke. :-/
    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Funny)

      by dbIII (701233) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @12:57AM (#17045120)
      I'd sure like to get my hands on one of the Paladin thingies.

      I think Paladins have vows to stop you getting your hands on their thingies. That and the time it takes to get the plate mail off.

    • On the other hand, I'd hate to think of what would happen to me if it broke. :-/

      Yeah, how would you call tech support?

  • iGirl (Score:5, Funny)

    by b17bmbr (608864) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @12:37AM (#17044926)
    it was a prototype female that was attracted to long hair, lonely, coders who spend their nights writing open source software, planning to overthrow the evil empire, and have enough computing power to siumultaneously recompile their kernel while playing Quake 3. And she was supposed to be eager to watch the entire Star Wars collection on DVD, but only if he got it to play on his linux box.

    Didn't work. Even Steve Jobs can only do so much.
    • Sure iGirl was out only briefly, but many users did upgrade to an iWife. There was that awkward transition with iFiancee the turned a lot of folks off. And many found iWife to be incompadible with their old way of doing things. But just because it didn't appeal to the masses does not mean that the iGirl line was a flop. I find mine to be rather perky, even after all of the upgrades and years of regular use.
  • by eebra82 (907996) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @12:38AM (#17044932) Homepage
    They forgot to list the following products:

    - iZune, the modest mp3 player.
    - iPond, the relaxing garden equipment.
    - iPple, an actual Californian apple with a fancy name.
    - iCar, the fancy, white car with an iPod scroll wheel instead of a regular steering wheel.
    - iBus, same as above, just bigger. Intended for hip schools.
    - iShmael, the iPod designed for Amish, relies on two horses to power it.
    - iLonium 210, the perfect Russian killer (designed during the cold war).
  • PDA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 30, 2006 @12:39AM (#17044946)
    Why the heck can't they just make a decent PDA and be done with it? They had a decent start with the newton then just chucked it out! If it could dock with a normal screen and keyboard easily, possibly with wireless, it could do double duty as some sort of internet appliance at home as well. We have all that is necessary today to pull this off tech-wise. Sure, there's a ton of smaller cellphone thingamajobbies out there, and all their various iPod gizmos, but I think there's still a market for a real PDA if it was built with apple's eye for function.
    • iPhone? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by cgenman (325138) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @05:36AM (#17046626) Homepage
      Apple pushed on the Newton for quite some time. It did OK, but they were a little too expensive for the time, and a little too bulky for a normal pants pocket.

      Unfortunately, things really took off with the Palm Pilot... which dumped functionality for a form that was actually convenient and fit in a pocket. Sound familiar? I say unfortunately, because 3Com / Palm clearly hasn't had the legs to keep running with it. Now the pure PDA are has the Palm Pilot on the low end, MS's Pocket PC on the high end, and a gamut of random stuff like Psions in the middle. And it looks like the market is shrinking.

      Personally, I've had many PDA's, and liked them all. They were replaced by a Treo, until the shoddy build quality dragged that phone into nothingness. Since the Treo, I've used a standard phone with a unlimited use network plan. Now when I need to make an appointment, I just go to calendar.yahoo.com. Text input with the phone pad is worse than with the Treo's excellent keyboard, but typing in appointments at my normal computer works perfectly.

      I suspect that apple is working on something WRT the iPhone. It would make perfect sense for an iPhone to sync automatically with iCal. It could be more of an Apple Communicator or something like that, with phone functionality relegated the same status as text messaging, calendar functions, and purchasing music from iTunes.

      There isn't a lot of room left in the space between a dedicated PDA [yahoo.com] and an ultralight computer [sonystyle.com]. Apple would need to go a different direction.
      • Personally i think the whole PDA/palmtop scene died off when Psion gave it up, and is yet to be ressurected. I still have a Revo but alas as i no longer take the train to/from work i've little excuse to use it nowadays. Mono screen, insanely usefull-but-simple office suite (with auto convert to MS office formats), small but not too small qwerty keyboard AND a touch screen.

        Someone out there should take a long hard look at what made the revo good (and the nokia communcator bad (clunky, bad tiny keyboard keys)
      • http://www.europe.htc.com/products/htctytn.html [htc.com] I've got one of those, works well. I think you can get adapters to plug into a VGA monitor but I'm not bothered about that. The build quality probably isn't up to taking a lot of beating if the keyboard was out at the time, but overall it works well as a phone and integrates fully with the Exchange server at work, which I just upgraded to 2003 recently pretty much to get DirectPush going. We now have 3 WM5 devices and will probably get more as more of the man
  • Apple PenLite (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nightspirit (846159) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @12:41AM (#17044984)
    I wish apple would do something like that now, a convertible tablet mac. That is the only thing holding me back from buying a macbook pro, as I would miss the tablet features of my fujitsu.
    • by WillAdams (45638)
      I'm in exactly the same situtation. I use a G5 at work, and at need, my wife's Powerbook at home, but mostly I use a Fujitsu Stylistic 'cause I won't give up having pen input, and I got tired of schlepping around a Wacom graphics tablet w/ a laptop back when I was using my ThinkPad 755c.

      William
    • My guess is that there isn't enough market for it. Even with a market of graphic designers, the device wouldn't have enough screen estate to be useful. Due to low demand, the price for anyone else would be unacceptable Thus, it along with the ultraportable mac are just another prototype that wont see the light of day.
      • Screw graphic designers! I'm a college student (engineering and CS) and I want one! I use an iBook now, but when I replace it it'll be with a Tablet PC because I want to be able to draw diagrams in my notes. It just pisses me off that I'll have to use something other than Mac OS because Almighty Steve won't deign to grace us mere mortals with a tablet Mac.

  • In addition to the items in the article, my research has come up with several other items that Apple prototyped but never manufactured. These include:

    The iCorvair - Apple's first and only attempt at making a car. It was similar to the Volkswagen in that it was to appeal to the same market and had it's engine in back. Unofrtunately, a design flaw in the suspension gave it a tendency to flip over going around corners.

    The eLisa - This was an Apple Lisa with a special AI user interface that emulated a
  • by sudotcsh (95997)
    Man, I saw the words 'edit post' in the URL to that story and I got all excited, thinking about how I was gonna go change it to reference Apple products like the Apple Post-It Notes [google.com] and the iBrator [flamingmailbox.com] and the iZune or whatever ... then once I found out I couldn't edit the post I got all sad.

    Then I started thinking about the iBrator and Ellen Fleiss again and all was well.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by 1u3hr (530656)
      Then I started thinking about the iBrator and Ellen Fleiss again and all was well.

      I think you're confusing two icons: Heidi Fleiss, Hollywood madam, Ellen Feiss, teenage Mac switcher. The first is a bit skanky these days, the latter is probably legal now.

  • by dgrisman (974104) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @01:01AM (#17045166) Journal
    Copland. From Macworld, July 1995: "A fundamental reworking of the Mac system software is in the works--Macworld reveals how this will make the Mac even better It will do more. It should crash less and use less RAM. It will automate more tasks and reduce desktop clutter. "It" is the next generation of the Macintosh Operating System, a major reworking of the Mac OS. Due in mid to late 1996, this as-yet-unnamed successor to System 7.5, code-named Copland, promises to boost productivity by making the Mac OS operate more efficiently, by building automation into common tasks, by incorporating many features that ..." (Any wonder why Win95 got a leg up on Macs when it launched?) MacUsers everywhere should bow their heads and thank Gil Amelio for killing Copeland and apologize profusely for allowing Steve Jobs for ignominously have him ousted after he cleaned up the excesses on Infinite Loop.
  • Swing for the fences (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dlenmn (145080) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @01:04AM (#17045182) Homepage
    This is the Apple I like. When most other computer companies were making clones, Apple was doing R&D and making some nifty stuff. Granted, they also almost went broke, but I still liked the attitude, even if there were management problems, turf wars, and whatnot. The balance has shifted somewhat away from R&D, which was obviously needed, but I don't think the balance is quite right yet... I'd like to see more things along these lines from Apple. They've got money now. It wouldn't kill them to swing for the fences a few times.
    • by 0racle (667029)
      Is simply taking a bunch of existing ideas and throwing them together really R&D. D maybe but there was little to no R going on at Apple.
  • Pippin (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cybercyph (221022) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @01:09AM (#17045228)
    What about the Apple Pippin, their video game console? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Pippin [wikipedia.org]
    • this is stuff that never made it past R&D... the Pippen actually was made and sold for a VERY limited time.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)
        I've never heard of the Pippin (nice spelling btw) being on sale... However, I'm willing to accept that it happened if you can provide a citation. Meanwhile, at least two out of five of the devices in the article were on sale... Nice try though.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I have been waiting 20 years for a Knowledge Navigator [wikipedia.org]!!

    Where and when did Apple go so wrong?

    ---
    CAPTCHA of the comment: reprieve
  • by ktakki (64573) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @01:12AM (#17045266) Homepage Journal
    Every, and I mean every company has products under development that never see the light of day.

    Case in point: mid-'90s, I did a lot of 3D animation and multimedia production. One of my clients was DEC, the Digital Equipment Corporation. Some of the presentations I created for them were for products like the DEC Dove, a tablet/laptop that could use wireless to connect to other DEC Doves in a conference room (this was 1994, before wireless was a standard and about when tablet computing first appeared).

    I was lent a prototype of the Dove (cost: $50,000, delivered by an armed guard) in order to digitize it and create a 3D model. The operating system was something akin to PalmOS, and the screen would automatically rotate from landscape to portrait mode when the screen was opened. I had only the one example, so I can't say how the wireless function worked, but it never crashed on me, which is a lot to say for a prototype.

    There were other DEC projects, none of which got past the stage of painted foamcore models, like a network-attached storage appliance that was about the size of an abridged dictionary. Again, this was 1994, and I didn't see an equivalent product in the marketplace for another 7 or 8 years. That one was ahead of its time, since most of the networks I worked with back then were 10Base2, chugging along at 10Mbps. NAS at that speed would be all but useless for anything but small Word docs.

    I could go on about what killed DEC, but I'd rather let DEC ex-employees tell that story.

    k.
    • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @05:19AM (#17046570) Homepage Journal
      it never crashed on me, which is a lot to say for a prototype.

      Being a DEC product it probably had something like RSX inside. It will only crash if a device fails. But a good UI is way too much to expect.

    • DEC had some cool stuff. I was lucky enough to go to their UK R&D labs once and they had some stuff which isn't so impressive now but back in 1989 when I went, it was seriously impressive stuff. A lot of it was various multimedia type stuff but the one that impressed me was a database engine that let you store video in tables - great for e.g. estate agents (real-estate). They also had a video digitizer that worked a frame at a time using fractal compression.
    • by tgd (2822)
      That one was ahead of its time, since most of the networks I worked with back then were 10Base2, chugging along at 10Mbps. NAS at that speed would be all but useless for anything but small Word docs.

      Computers were awfully slow back then. We ran NFS mounted root drives over Ethernet all the time. The system wasn't impacted that greatly because drives weren't a whole lot faster anyway. You could run dozens of machines without local storage booted off an ethernet segment without major problems.
    • 1982 or so, the DecPro350. WYSIWYGish (bold, italics, embedded charts) word processor, on top of an unfortunately overly screwed down OS called P/OS. (and aptly named, may I add). Later models would run RT-11. However, overpriced, undermarketed, and gone. Had something been done differently, everyone could have been running MicroPDP-11s under their desks, instead of 8088s.
  • Just 5 of soo many (Score:4, Informative)

    by maggard (5579) <michael@michaelmaggard.com> on Thursday November 30, 2006 @01:37AM (#17045464) Homepage Journal

    First off, the list of 5 is really a 5- more list, there are numerous others listed by the same author on the same website in other articles.

    And yes, there are many more items, from the workstations developed with Apollo, the clients with Wang, the Pippin game machine, etc.

    Then there's the technologies like Hotsauce, Cyberdog, OpenDoc, and of course Newton, all of which got into demo or even release but never really made it. And of course the first post-Next version of MacOS which was to be interoperable with MS Windows (not the Star Trek Windows-on-Mac but a MS Windows-based MacOS layer).

    It's really remarkable the amount of technology Apple has pumped out, and of that how much have proven remarkably prescient. Whenever folks complain about how much attention Apple gets I always point out it is because they truly do innovate & lead the market (their small market share notwithstanding)

    Oh, want links to all of the nouns above? Try using your search-engine-of-choice with Apple and whichever it is strikes your fancy - lots of nifty stuff.

    • by cgenman (325138)
      Newton was pretty big. It basically gave us the pen computing we have today.

      It wasn't, say, Windows big. But it doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the Pippin.
  • On Video Phones (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doomstalk (629173) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @01:50AM (#17045556)
    Video phones failed because people have come to realize that they DON'T WANT to be seen. In his novel Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace puts it very nicely: "It turned out that there was something terribly stressful about visual telephone interfaces that hadn't been stressful about voice-only interfaces. Videophone consumers seemed suddenly to realized they've been subject to an insidious buy wholly marvelous delusion about conventional voice-only telephony. They'd never noticed it before, the delusion --- it's like it was so emotionally complex that it could be countenanced only in the context of its loss. Good old traditional audio-only phone conversations allowed you to presume that the person on the other end was paying complete attention to you while also permitting you to not have to pay anything close to complete attention to her."
  • by gsfprez (27403) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @01:56AM (#17045588)
    a few of my friends (okay, all of the groomsmen in my wedding) work(ed) at Apple. One of them showed me one of the iMac (with the lamp arm) prototypes.

    It was the basic iMac lamp you know, but it didn't have a shiny Luxo-like arm. What it did have was fully articulated arm... that is, it moved like snake-light, except that it didn't have tension built in. It was totally fluid and you could move the monitor to just about any angle and direction you wanted.

    The trick was, there was a paddle behind the monitor on the right side of the mount - you pulled on it like a flappy-paddle gearshift behind the steering wheel on some new cars. When you did, the arm would go totally limp, with all the weight of the monitor in your hands, and when you released the paddle, the arm went totally stiff - like some kind of magic potion turned the snake-arm into stone.

    I don't know what kind of clutch it used to do that, but it was really eerie. One moment, you could pull and push and pretty much move the monitor however you wanted, and the moment you let go - BAM - the round base and the monitor and the arm were magically a one-piece device - rock solid and totally stable.

    While quite interesting as a design concept - it was rightly rejected. First of all, it totally ruined the lines of the monitor (bah me if you want, but its true) on the back and made it look like some kind of weird bike/computer thing. Secondly - and most importantly - even if you were warned "Look, the weight is going to go from zero to 15 pounds in a microsecond, so be sure to hold on tight" - you'd still end up pulling the handle, it would crash land on the bottom of the monitor frame like a ton of bricks on the keyboard below. I was warned, and i did it. The break point wasn't at the beginning or the end of the pull - which was about and inch and a half of travel. Unlike a car clutch, which has a smooth and vague transition, this went from on to off like a light - and the problem was that the weight of the monitor also went from zero to everything in your hands that fast as well.

    In the end, Apple is the quintessential engineering house.. they start off with the user in mind totally, then they throw out whatever doesn't work, even if it cost a ton of money to develop.. then, they develop and maintain contingencies on the off chance that they'll totally change direction.

    That's why they are kicking ass and why their stuff is worth more than they charge for it and why they can't make their shit fast enough.
  • Am I the only one who was utterly underwhelmed by those five products? Most seemed to try and solve multiple problems poorly instead of solving one or two very nicely.
  • by SickLittleMonkey (135315) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @02:57AM (#17045930)
    ... even to those of us who used the Apple II before the Mac.

    There was the Apple II Ethernet card. (Production ready, Announced, Hyped, Cancelled.)

    There was the Apple IIGS / Mac hybrid, which would have allowed an upgrade path for Apple II software owners (e.g. schools) to keep their investment and slowly migrate to the new Mac platform. (Cancelled.)

    There was the Apple IIGS "Mark Twain", with hard disk, SCSI, SIMMs. (Production ready, Cancelled.)

    There was the "GUS" Apple IIGS software emulator for Mac OS. (Almost complete, Never released.)

    Apple makes great stuff. But every generation of Apple users should expect to be screwed in the wrong hole at least once. Obsoleting your latest purchase by switching CPUs for example ...

    SLM
    • by evamedia (997482)
      errr, which CPU change obsoleted your latest purchase? Apple have transitioned pretty well over all their changes 68040 / PPC - PPC / Intel and the software one as well OS9 / OS X
    • Waitaminute.

      You are bitching about a product line that (digging out my calendar) that ran for 17 years and died in 1993?

      Exactly how many product lines run for 17 years? There are automotive lines that are lucky to see 5. For a computer 17 years is the equivilent of a Redwood tree. WINDOWS hasn't been around that long. (As a product line, I'm not even talking about Windows 3.1.1, 95, 98, ME, XP etc.)

      I was playing with those things as a kid. I mean literally as a kid. I was 7 when those things were out, and I
  • ...when I was in training for Apple Service with Kodak. I knew it was a prototype and was almost able to take it home. It was a very cool concept, almost reminded me of a Powerbook Duo strapped to a fax machine.
  • by solios (53048) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @03:10AM (#17045996) Homepage
    Seriously. I have five of them (quadra 605 and 610-based, plus MPEG board) in my basement. Apple put some serious effort into developing a cable/set-top box prototype, but it never went to market.... and I'd have more to say on the matter if I could actually read the contents of the one hard drive that came with the lot.

    The propable functionality has likely been superceded by the tv shows on ITMS, but that isn't the point.
  • by kauttapiste (633236) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @06:45AM (#17046926)
    This made me laugh:

    "..the GMS based service was extremely buggy, and moving from service area to service area caused an almost constant loss of signal.
    The device was ahead of its time."


    Yeah, ahead of its time indeed! It was clearly anticipating the features of the latest 3G phones.
  • by antoinec (1033792) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @08:23AM (#17047306)
    I bought a PowerBop around 1994 (don't recall the date exactly) and still own it! It is probably a relatively rare system as Apple made few of them.

    The PowerBop was a high-end PowerBook with a MC68030 and a 68882 FPU (a must have at the time!). The system was running at 33Mhz and had active matrix display.

    The interesting part was the built-in Wireless Modem. Being fairly large, the modem was replacing the floppy drive (an external floppy drive was included in the package). A small antenna was visible on the right of the laptop.

    The PowerBop modem was using a wireless phone network deployed by France Telecom in 1991 called Bi-Bop.

    The Bi-Bop service was based on a rather clever and simple idea. France Telecom installed numerous access points in large cities in France. The access points and mobile phones were nothing more than enhanced digital cordless phones.

    Using this light infrastructure, France Telecom was in position to be one of the first companies to offer a (relatively) low cost mobile phone service.

    The PowerBop was connecting to the service just like a regular Bi-Bop mobile phone. At 14,400 bps, the speed was pretty good especially for a wireless connection.

    All of this made the PowerBop a very innovative system. Picture this: sitting outside of french café checking your emails, surfing on BBS and getting faxes! In early 1990's it was the killer feature!

    Even better, France Telecom also sold private access points to install in your home. Meaning that your Bi-Bop phone was becoming a regular cordless phone when used at home.

    This was also working with the PowerBop. I was surfing at home with a wireless laptop in the early 90s! The ultimate geek toy!

    It is interesting to see that 15 years later, there is no unified service offering phone and wireless networking at home and in the street...

    Antoine
    PS: my first post on Slashdot!
    • I have a Powerbop (with my stack of "collector" powerbooks). It's a Powerbook 180 with a wireless modem allright, but the data was only 9600 at best (possibly less) and there was no email at the time, unless you had your own private access. There were no fully fledged commercial ISPs in france until some time later. Apple "innovation" had not foreseen the tcp/ip and the internet and at the time, "MacTCP" was pretty lame.
      So with powerbop, you could connect to classic BBSes and do faxes, but mostly all you co
  • You hear about the rich software wizards who make a fortune and then fade off into the sunset, e.g Netscape, Yahoo, etc. But Steve Jobs has had four mega-hits over three decades Apple-2, Mac, Pixar and iPod. So it take several dogs between megahits. Very few people get a second chance, much less four, and hes not done yet.

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