PowerBook Duo

Powerbook Duo 280c
Powerbook Duo 280c

The PowerBook Duo was a small yet powerful laptop from Apple Computer. It came in seven different models. They were the Duo 210, 230, 250, 270c, 280, 280c, and 2300c, with the 210 and 230 being the earliest, and 2300c being the final incarnation before the entire line was dropped in early 1997.

The 2xx Duos were powered by either 68030 or 68LC040 processors, ranging from 25-33mhz. When Apple debuted its next-generation PowerPC processors in 1994, it took nearly two years for the first PowerPC Duo (the 2300c) to debut. The original PowerPC 601 was too hot and power hungry to fit into a laptop case, but by the end of 1995 the more efficient PowerPC 603e had been developed, which found its way into the Duo 2300c as well as its full size companion, the PowerBook 5300 series.

What set the PowerBook Duo family of sub-notebooks apart from all other laptops (including other Macs) was their docking ability. Unlike cumbersome "port replicators" that plugged into the back of other laptops, the PowerBook Duo would actually slide completely into its companion dock, thus becoming a full size, full powered, fully functional desktop computer. It could even physically support heavy, high-resolution displays on top of it. The Duo Dock included a floppy drive, three NuBus expansion slots, an optional FPU and room for more RAM and a second hard drive. The idea was to have an extremely small and light laptop to carry around during the day, without sacrificing the performance of a full desktop at home or the office. It was like having two computers for slightly more than the price of one.

Because it was small for portability, the PowerBook Duo had only a single serial port and an optional modem internally, and as such, lacked ports such as ADB, monitor, SCSI, PC card slot, and floppy drives when not plugged into the full docking station. Later, Apple introduced a mini-dock, which was much cheaper than the full-size Dock, but only gave the Duo extra ports. It did not add expansion slots and was not large enough to physically support a monitor. Apple and third parties also made micro-docks, which would usually give the PowerBook Duo just one or two extra ports (such as ethernet or SCSI), for a fraction of the price of the other Docks.

The last PowerBook Duo was dropped from the Apple product line in early 1997, possibly because of the difficulties switching to PowerPC processors. The PowerPC 603e was designed for a 64-bit bus, but was forced to run on a 32-bit bus to maintain compatibility with the Duo Docks. The 32-bit architecture led to poor system and video performance. Apple considered improving the Duo with a new motherboard design and a Dock with an internal CD-ROM drive, but instead the entire family was cancelled.

Taking its place was the PowerBook 2400, which was similar in size to the Duo. Although it featured much more onboard functionality, it lacked docking capability. This left Duo owners without an upgrade path.

Apple no longer supports the Duo, although information and help can be easily found on the web at places such as The PowerBook Duo Site (http://www.powerbookduo.com) and Low End Mac (http://www.lowendmac.com/).it:Famiglia PowerBook Duo fr:PowerBook Duo


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