My PowerBook Wishlist

by brian d foy

I want to buy a new PowerBook. This one will be the fifth PowerBook I have bought, and I still have them two of them, only because I passed on the others to computerless friends. Old Macs never die, they just become servers or fancy hard drives.

I never research these purchases. I just buy the one in the middle, and take whatever features it has. What am I going to do, buy a Dell or a Gateway? Yeah, right. I did buy a Vaio once, when Vaio meant "really, really small", and I put FreeBSD and an AppleShare thingy on it, so it looks like a Mac to the network. Nope, I just buy PowerBooks now.

Let's pretend, however, that I was not only going to buy a PowerBook, but that I was in the market to shop for a PowerBook, meaning that I actually might say no, or choose something else, or just not buy anything. What would I want? While I was running along the Detroit River yesterday, I started to make a list.

Now, I know that the PowerBook I am going to buy already has a lot of features that I would look for, like a DVD Burner, BlueTooth, 802.11g, and so on. Not counting those things that I expect in a PowerBook, what else would I want?

Some of this might already be on the new PowerBooks. I thought about checking, but then thought I would be cheating for this little intellectual exercise by letting the Apple marketeers put thoughts into my head.

  • Multiple Hard Drives - Not removable drives or external drives, but more than one inside the case. I want my system stuff separate from my user stuff so they do not have to compete for the read head on the disk.
  • RAID - If we can do multiple drives inside, let's do RAID! XServes do not count. I want this in my PowerBook.
  • A sliding door - I have one of those models with the flap in the back that rotates down to expose all the ports. I like the idea of hiding that stuff (although it did not do anything to keep desert dust out), but what about a sliding, flexible door thing where the door coiled from a spool or slide along the interior of the case? Okay, that is dumb, but I thought about it.
  • Detachable screen - I saw this laptop that an insurance assessor had. The screen was attached to the laptop by two arms that attached to the middle of the screen's edge, allowing it to rotate. He turned in completely around then closed it again so the screen was facing out. Cooler yet, it was a touch screen! I know Microsoft has a tablet PC thing, but I am talking about just the screen.
  • Stretchable screens - talking about screens, do you remember those movie projector screens from grade school? You had to pull them down just right for the clutch thing to engage, or the screen would violently roll itself up? I want an updated version of that, but for my PowerBook. Forget about 12, 15, or 17 inches. I could extend this flexible panel up, down, or sideways to create a custom screen size appropriate for the situation. At home I have it in cinerama mode, on the plane in 17 inch mode (just to show off), and for the World Series, I add a TV tuner and stretch the screen to 15 foot mode.
  • Wireless Power - after they discovered radio waves, they completely gave up on this. I would even settle for a really small nuclear reactor inside the case, as long as I could get 3 years out of my battery. I already have to put a magazine between my lap and the Powerbook, so why not a lead blanket?
  • External display - You know those little displays on the outside of some flip phones? I want one of those for my PowerBook. I would display WiFi signal strength, battery life, and the number of email in my inbox. That way I do not have to do anything to figure out if I have anything to do. I do not have to open my PowerBook if it is not worth it.
  • Cellular Phone Jammer - just like they had in Mission: Impossible (the movie). Turn my PowerBook into a forced cellular free zone. This would probably be illegal, but so is a lot music downloading and I hear kids still like that a lot, and it would be really handy right now in this hotel restaurant.
  • Flash card reader - I still want a BlueTooth camera, but until then, how about a flash card reader on the side of the PowerBook? Apple can take away my PCI slot if they like, but then I expect two flash card readers. Sure, I could hook up my camera with a USB cable, but then I have to remember where I put the cable, which I have not seen in months.
  • Manual CD eject button - whatever happened to those? The paperclip used to be a Mac toolbox requirement. When I say to "eject the CD", I mean "eject it now!", not when the operating system gets around to it (which can take a while if your CD reader is horked, or the disk is bad).
  • Pneumatic pads - pump these up to bring the Powerbook a comfortable height off the desk, or pump up only one of them to make the PowerBook sit level on an uneven surface.
  • Sound input - whatever happened to sound input? Sure, I have a Belkin iMic, and I am getting an Mbox, but what happened?
  • Track lighting - I know the latest keyboards light up, and I am really looking forward to that, but I would like tiny lights embedded on the top edge of the screen. These lights would light up the immediate area of the laptop, and reduce eyestrain from looking at the bright screen in the dark (at least I think so).
  • MP3 Player - I cannot use my PowerBook when it is closed, so I need to use my iPod to listen to music while I am walking around. What if I could have a cable like some of the new MP3 palyers have, with a mini-display? I hook this into the PowerBook, which I stow under the seat in front of me. The PowerBook is put away, but I am still listening to tunes without having to carry around another hard drive.
  • Carrying handle - my wife's clamshell iBook has one of these, and it is pretty nifty. I am always worried about crushing the screen of my TiBook when I pick it up.

I could probably come up with more things, but I did not run that far.

What do you want on your PowerBook?


2004-05-01 21:03:28
I hear ya

Some of your ideas are a bit pie in the sky but three really struck me. First, the light. I have one in my ThinkPad (have to use it for work, alas) and it's quite useful on those redeye flights when I'm getting workdone while the lights in the cabin are off. The Powerbook should really have one.

Two, the little LCD display on the side. My laptop is really the swiss army knife of my digital life (especially since I can no longer carry an actual swiss army knife on a plane). I always have it with me. All of my files are on it. I can fix any computer problem, install any customer software, and burn emergency cds. It does soooo many useful things that I'd pretty much be dead in the water without it. Making a little (programmable) LCD or mini remote would make it even better. What about the ability to do certain things entirely over bluetooth in some sort of low power mode? Then I could control it with my phone!

Finally, the should bring back the handle. The first Mac I actually purchased for myself was a tangerine iBook four years ago. (which my sister still uses today and it's running Panther quite nicely). I miss the handle. I really do. It just made it feel more like it was a part of my life.

- joshy

2004-05-02 10:58:58
Flash card reader
My couple-years-old Powerbook already has a flash card reader on the side -- a $5 adapter turns a Compact Flash card into a PC Card, and Bob's your uncle.
2004-05-02 17:20:17
Flash card reader
Good point. Now I just need to get off the couch and get one of those.

Wait a minute, with the wonders of the internet, I don't even need to get off the couch.

2004-05-03 08:01:53
A better way to do MP3s from the Powerbook
We'll forget for a moment that the iPod exists. The more cool but worse sounding way to listen to the MP3s on your Powerbook while it is stowed away would be using a Bluetooth headset and using a Bluetooth cellphone and Romeo to control volume, tracks, etc.

2004-05-03 10:10:16
PB wishlist
Add the ability to swap batteries in sleep mode. This would need some sort of PRAM battery I guess, prehaps a 9 volt or stack of silver oxide watch Batteries.

I have also asked Apple to put in native composet video input so a TV or mini cheap video camera can be used sort of like a web camera. I have a MyTV and it sucks too much processor power using USB. I use to love my Apple TV card in my old PB6500. I would even pay for an upgrade build to order to get this feature.

The handle is a good idea, or at least make the case re-inforced to an after market one could be added easily.

Dust and sand proof tuffbook type field option and or case for field use, water resistant. Could hire 3rd party vendors to do the retrofit like what car makers do for some convertables.

Yes, allow it to run with the lid closed for itunes. There is a way to set the LCD to be off when a docking station is used, but not sure if this works with the lid closed.

2004-05-03 13:14:53
PB wishlist
> Add the ability to swap batteries in sleep mode.

Both my Al PB and Ti PB can do this. As far as I know, this feature has been around for some time.

Jonathan Gennick
2004-05-04 14:14:00
Flash card reader
My Thinkpad has a compact-flash slot built-in. It's very convenient, so convenient that it's the only way I even bother to get photos off of my camera. I do know where my camera's USB cord is, however.

I know you can buy PC slot adaptors, my daughter uses one of those, but it's a tad bit more of a pain to use, because to remove the CF card, you must first yank the PC card, and then yank the CF card, and then you must reinsert the PC card (or risk misplacing it). Built-in is great. I love it.

The problem I see though, with building in a CF card slot is that there are so doggone many memory card formats. A CF card slot won't help the many people using SD cards or Sony's gum-stick memory. I really hope to see the number of mmemory card formats fall over time. If we had just one overwhelmingly common format, I believe laptop manufactures would be more likely to support it than they are to deal with the plethora of formats that we have today.

Jonathan Gennick
2004-05-04 14:21:35
Increased battery life (and RAID?)
I would like to see support for two batteries along the lines of the manner in which some Thinkpads support an extra, clip-on battery. It'd make my day if there was a way to swap a battery in place of the combo-drive on a 12-inch Powerbook. There's a lot to be said for never having to look for an outlet in an airport.

Like Brian, I too have sometimes wondered about the utility of having two drives. My goal would be to have redundancy, in case one drive failed. If I dropped such a Powerbook, would both drives be likely to fail at once? Perhaps so. In the end, I don't really care so much about having two drives per se as I care about having some sort of on-the-road protection against data loss, protection that would work seamlessly and automatically.

2004-05-07 17:20:39
TiBook Handle...
When I had a TiBook, one of the greatest additions was the Tote and Tilt

I still miss it sorely now that I have an AlBook...I even put of getting the new 'book because of it... It is just that cool...

2004-05-08 09:38:14
I hear ya
Actually there is a cool product call Salling Clicker that allows you to control several functions of your PowerBook via Bluetooth and a compatible phone. I use my SE T610 to control iTunes, DVD player, etc. Very, very cool.
Rosa Snyder
2006-03-24 20:57:27
what about a dvi or s-video input port? it's only output now...