I hope I haven’t asked about this before - some of the laptops in the movie “Hackers” had color screens. I’m pretty sure I saw a Powerbook in a couple of scenes. Am I crazy in thinking that laptops didn’t have color screens back then? What about battery life as well? And what about the (apparent) use of audio modems in Grand Central Station?
Hackers is set in 1995. Color displays on laptops were common by then. Consider this quote from Wikipedia’s History of Laptops page:
By about 1991, two new color LCD technologies hit the mainstream market in a big way
I don’t have any recollections about battery life though it may not have been terribly bad or anything. I’ve heard things get worse because the systems at higher speeds are more power hungry and battery technology hasn’t advanced as quickly.
Been a long time since I’ve seen Hackers. I suspect that are many bigger technical problems with the film.
As for PowerBooks, the first PowerBook to feature a color screen was the slim 270c, released in Oct 1993, which featured an active color screen and a docking station, and the first stand-alone color models were the PB 520c, featuring a dual scan passive color screen, and the 540c, featuring an active matrix color displays, both released in May 1994.
As I remember it, the 520c enjoyed quite a market penetration (meaning, it was seen regularly) and wasn’t out of the world in 1995. (The cool kids would, of course, have a 540c.)
Okay, my question about color has been answered, but that leads to another question - how did these kids afford their laptops? I know the girl has a mother who is a bestsellling writer, but what about the others? One of them was mooching french fries and sleeping over at a friend’s house. Then there’s the issue over Joey’s downloading files on a //GS which were read by other, more recent computers. (Done by an emulator, maybe?)
They’re hackers! Maybe they were deep in credit card fraud at the time.
I had a PB 520c. In fact, a friend of mine is trying to breath it back to life. He managed to get the hard drive to start…once. But, it’s dead as a doornail now.
They are movie hackers! They know every config file format, there is, by heart, without a need to look it up, ever, they speak every computer language, there is, including any intrinsic APIs, and they for sure type faster than they speak (without breathing). I guess, their code and data is so advanced that it is universal, regardless of the machine it’s running on. (This is also, why the virus written on a Mac destroys the alien computer network in Independence Day.) And the laptops, they are given them on birth by the screen writer.
You kidding? They were born clutching them out of the womb.
Anyway, we are meant to stand in awe and to not ask any questions. Also, I’m pretty sure, the laptops were monochrome for ordinary users and only in color thanks to their special hacker gifts and brilliance of mind. They are demigods, at least…
Edit: This would actually make a nice scene in a typical hacker movie. Your ordinary MBA business suit guy is typing slowly on his laptop, displaying a monochrome business suite on its screen. Brilliant hacker guy in need for gear snaps the laptop, dismissively kills the business application by a key stroke and, as soon as she/he starts typing, the screen begins to glow in color, equal in brilliance to the hacker’s mind. (Technically, we may film any of the screen filled by the hacker using a color vector display – filmed with a suitable amount of bloom – and overlay this onto the otherwise dull laptop’s screen.)
You have a point. In the credits, they supposedly had “experts” to fact check the story.
The one part that made me laugh the most was the line, “Hackers of the world unite!” It would be like herding cats.
Oh,but they were supposed to be “good” hackers, whom would never do something like that. Anyway, I should just probably laugh it off as their “poetic license” of most Hollywood movies.
It might depend on where you are in the world, but according to my research, the first colour Powerbook was the 160c, launched in February 1993. The 180c came in June 1993 and the Duo 270c in October 1993. The Powerbook 520c was launched in May 1994.
I have several Powerbooks in my collection, including a 180c and a 540c. The screens on those seem to have aged better than the monochrome ones the last time I had them powered up. I have a monochrome 180 with a beautiful active-matrix screen that becomes mostly unusable within 10 minutes of power-up, as a dark black “vignette” effect creeps in from the outside edges. I also have a 165 with a passive-matrix monochrome screen that powers up with zero contrast, which slowly changes to a normal picture over a 10-minute period.
You are, of course, right. (I had that feeling I was missing something before the Duo.)
Regarding the PB LCD screens, this may be caused by subpar caps. (I was told that degrading caps may have all kind of effects on LCDs, especially on contrast. And 1990s caps are known to not age well… However, I am by no means an expert on this.)
Thanks for putting up with my silliness, everyone. I know that Powerbooks aren’t as retro as the usual postings are here, but it was nice to get responses. I must admit, I’m a little surprised that no one corrected my American grammar. (Word crimes are a pet peeve of mine.
I bet, it’s still better than my Austro-international grammar. (However, I’m pretty sure, “I’ll be back.” is a correct sentence.)
Dwelling on PowerBook history was actually fun. I got my first one, a PB 100, the day it became available.
Well, the first three PowerBooks (100, 140 and 170) are from October 1991, so that’s almost thirty years ago. Not a PDP or a Zuse but definitely retro as far as I’m concerned.
Ah, shades and shadings of retro! Elsewhere I issued the challenge of the fastest-clocked retro CPU, which is of course unanswerable, and David Thierry came back with “a DEC Alpha PCA56 that ran at 533MHz” - which is probably a winner but it did feel a tad modern to me. My own idea was “233MHz, the StrongARM-powered version of the RISC PC from Acorn, around 1996.”
As far as old fast CPUs go, I personally favor the last of the Motorola 68X00 line, the 1994 68060, which wasn’t used by Apple (who at the time had moved to the much more modern RISC CPUs) but briefly adopted for an Amiga model.
I cannot help but wonder what a Quadra with one of those chips (and a newer version of A/UX) might have been able to offer us…