Ode to the Clamshell iBook G3 - aka "The Toiletseat" [OPINION]
The adorable, rubber-edged Macintosh laptop that stole my heart.
There was a couple year period of time, right around the turn of the century, when Apple fought back against drab, beige, mono-color computers.
The original CRT-Monitor’d iMac eventually introduced a wide range of colors and designs. Steve jobs regularly railed against boring — borderline evil — beige boxes. Apple iMac commercials even featured “She’s a Rainbow” by the Rolling Stones.
It was a colorful time to be a Mac user.
In 1999, Apple brought the colorfulness to their laptop line… with the original iBook.
Sporting a 300 MHz G3 processor, RAM expandable to 320 MB (officially… though, unofficially, over half a gig was possible), and a 12” 800x600 LCD. With enough battery life to last for hours (in a user-replaceable battery, no less!)
But the specs weren’t really all that important. The form factor was the big thing with these beauties.
First: It was colorful.
The first release was available in two colors: “Blueberry” (to, somewhat, match the blue iMac) and “Tangerine”. Later they added “Graphite”, “Indigo” (a darker blue), and “Key Lime” (which was a really bright green).
The edges weren’t a hard plastic. They were… rubbery. Which, for a laptop, was weird. And it had a handle. A big, spring-loaded, rounded handle that doubled as part of the hinge.
In many ways, it felt more like a toy than a laptop. And that’s part of what made it so beautiful. Even if they did slightly resemble a toilet set. I know we’re supposed to call this design “Clamshell” — and I see that as well — but once you start calling these the “Toilet Seat iBooks”… it’s hard to stop.
Not everything was perfect about these lovely, colorful toilet seats.
The keyboard, for example, was… squishy. Not the worst laptop keyboard of all time. But they definitely rank up there. You can feel, and even see, the bend as you type on them. Usable, but squishy.
And replacing the hard drive in these required somewhere in the ballpark of 8 million different types of screws. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But ask anyone who has replaced the hard drive in these and they’ll verify the pain.
On the flipside: Adding RAM and a WiFi (“Airport”) card is astoundingly simple — the keyboard just flips up after pushing on two tabs. And the battery can be replaced with a single turn of a coin-sided screw-lock. The toilet seat iBook truly was a combination of brilliant, user serviceable design… and whatever the exact opposite is.
These ran MacOS 9 — you know, the last in the line of the “original” Macintosh operating systems (before OS X landed). And even had themes and desktop wallpaper to match the color schemes of the hardware.
I have one of these bad-boys. I love it. Has an Ethernet port and WiFi (though the WiFi is a bit dated, making it hard to get onto most secured networks nowadays). Even in 2021, it is an exceptionally fun computer to use.
These machines were… magical. Heck. Still are.
Not perfect. Definitely very weird.