Apple IIc As a Battery-Powered Portable Computer

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Apple IIc was designed to be portable. That meant that the computer could be easily carried from work to home or anywhere else where you had a power socket and a composite screen (or TV). I knew about the LCD option offered by Apple but I didn’t know that there were complete kits to make the computer usable everywhere.

A true mobile user could enhance his Apple IIc with a passive-matrix non-backlit LCD (connected to the video port using a ribbon cable) and an external lead acid battery. There were also bags specially designed to carry all this stuff safely.

This option was not very successful, though. Not because of its weight around five kilograms – that was adequate by the standards of the era (there were people carrying Osbornes). The main problem was the LCD screen which could produce a good picture only under direct sun light. The contrast was extremely low and the screen was hardly readable in a dimly lit room. I’ve tried few different laptop LCD screens from the same generation and my eyes almost bled after 30 minutes of work.

Having three separate parts was also not very convenient for frequent travelers. The screen was not designed to cover the keyboard when the computer was being transported and you always had to attach the battery. The first generation of laptops started to appear at the same time. Although they were as heavy as this kit, they had all components in a single briefcase-like package. In 1985, you could buy Bondwell Model 2 (a cheaper CP/M laptop with 64kB of memory) or one of those PC compatible laptops which started to appear at the end of the year (like my Bondwell Model 8).

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Lead-Acid Batteries

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We all have Lithium-based batteries in our mobile devices today. In mid-80s there was the first wave of battery-powered portable (IBM compatible) PCs. They used lead-acid batteries which are much heavier for the same charge capacity. There were a lot of troubles connected with these batteries. Average battery lifetime in a laptop was about one to two years before charge capacity degraded. If you discharged the battery too much or let the device unused for a longer time you had to replace the battery. You even had to unplug your device from wall power when the battery was full. Otherwise it can be damaged according to manufacturer’s instructions.

On the other side these batteries were (and are) cheaper than any other type suitable for large portable computers. These two were removed from my Bondwell Model-8 laptop. They are not specifically designed for the laptop so they can be easily replaced with new ones even today after 30 years. Similar ones are used in some devices such as emergency lights.

Damaged Keyboard on Bondwell Model 8

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Keyboard flex (caused by a loosen screw) was a reason of a damaged keyboard circuit board in my Bondwell Model 8. Fortunately David helped me and repaired an interrupted trace. The laptop is almost in 100% shape now…