A thing of beauty is a joy for… well as long as it keeps working I suppose. This is the tangerine iBook, released in 1999. It’s my sister’s ‘old’ (old as in computer years) machine which she bought new. Before and indeed after this, most laptops have been fairly samey looking, but Apple had done well with the curvy all in one iMac desktop machines in various colours and thought to try a similar revamp on their laptops. The clamshell design (as it is called) only lasted two years before they went back to the more conventional approach. It was aimed at non-professional and home users, as well as the education market. I assume it was designed by Jonathan Ive, as he had already done the iMac.
The machine does look great on a worktop when closed, but the rectangular screen sits kind of awkwardly in the curved lid once you open it. One of the nice design touches (aside from any technical trickery) was the integral handle so you could carry it around, and the casing was stronger to eliminate the need for a separate bag or cover. I would imagine a lot of the machines’s success was down to it being quite a cool item to be seen with, much as teenagers lugged around their transistors in the sixties.
Certainly the look helped sell it to my sister, though as with a number of Mac laptops some of the envelope-pushing construction techniques did take the edge off for her. Small hairline cracks in the casing corners appeared fairly soon. Nothing to get too anxious about but enough to take the shine off the purchase. The same issues hit the replacement machine, with edges on the keyboard moulding flaking after a time. In that case Apple offered (and I think still do) a replacement housing FOC.
Anyhow, the tangerine machine came back to me when the screen failed after a dropping and she upgraded to a MacBook. As archiving seems to be in the genes, I’ve stashed all sorts of old Mac gear and packaging away in the loft and was able to reunite this with it’s original box. If anyone ever does a Mac design exhibition they know where to come.
I had a quick look to see what these old machines go for and it’s quite interesting. You can pick up used and unboxed examples for £50, but mint shape and boxed they can fetch a few hundred pounds still.