On This Day: Apple Unveiled The First Modern Laptop in 1991


On this day in 1991, Apple unveiled its first PowerBook as the first modern laptop computer. Steve Jobs wasn’t at Apple at that time, but Wayne Westly and Bruce Gee took the stage at the COMDEX computer expo in Las Vegas, Nevada to introduce Apple’s first true notebook lineup – the PowerBook 100, PowerBook 140, and PowerBook 170. Yeah, Apple’s naming scheme was more convoluted before Jobs returned to Apple in 1998.

These notebooks pioneered these features that would appear in every future notebook from that day forward. Almost 19 years later when Jobs introduced the original iPad, he went on stage and mentioned how Apple transformed the notebook industry. As quoted by Jobs, they were the first to have a modern LCD display. They were the first to push the keyboard toward the display to create a palm-rest for better ergonomics. They were also the first to integrate a pointing device. Pointing devices back then were trackballs before the industry moved to trackpads. In fact, Westly and Gee actually poked fun at how notebooks back then were, by PowerBook’s standards, poorly designed.

How Apple Pioneered the Notebook Industry

Over the next 30 years, Apple has continued to push innovation across its entire lineup. In 1999, Apple pioneered WiFi with the original, colorful iBook. In 2001, Apple pushed the industry design forward with the PowerBook G4. In 2006, Apple transitioned its entire lineup to Intel processors for better power efficiency with the new lineup of MacBooks, effectively retiring the iBook/PowerBook line. In 2008, Apple redefined how a laptop can be super thin and ultralight with the MacBook Air. In 2012, Apple brought the Retina display to the MacBook Pro for a displaying smoother images/text. In 2015, Apple pushed the most-versatile USB-C standard with the ultra-light MacBook.

In 2016, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the original PowerBook, Apple showcased its reveal video for the MacBook Pro that paid homage to Apple’s milestone laptops. The MacBook Pro that Apple announced however was controversial to say the least. For example, it got rid of all the legacy ports and introduced the Touch Bar in place of the function keys.

Where’s Apple Now

In 2020, Apple made its biggest announcement that it would be transitioning its entire Mac lineup to Apple Silicon, and the big company has been raising the bar when it comes to power efficiency as Apple is now in the middle of its two-year transition to its own Apple Silicon. Earlier this week, Apple announced its biggest update to the MacBook Pro, which fixed everything that pro users didn’t like about the previous generation. This includes the return of the legacy ports as well as the full-size function row keys. With that widely acclaimed announcement, every MacBook that Apple sells now features the industry-leading Apple Silicon, bringing much faster performance and longer battery life.

It won’t be long to see the rest of the Mac desktop lineup transition to Apple Silicon, and both the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro form the strongest lineup of notebooks Apple has ever made.

What was your first Apple notebook if you owned one? What made it so special for you? Let us know in the comments below. Follow us on Twitter or Instagram. Also – make sure to subscribe to our new video podcast on YouTube!

Nick Soong
Author: Nick Soong

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