Apple launched the iBook Clamshell in 1999 as an affordable portable Mac for the consumer market. In contrast to the more understated design of Apple’s PowerBook range, the Clamshell’s design was a continuation of the radical all in one, curvy, multi coloured iMac. Many people loved the unusual design though some cruelly likened it to a toilet seat. Despite the detractors the Clamshell was hugely popular, no doubt some of it’s success came from it’s prolific placement in many movies of the time - it was instantly recognisable on screen and had a futuristic look that other laptops didn’t have.

The first two Clamshells were available in tangerine or blueberry colours, had PowerPC G3 300 MHz processors, and could be fitted with a then new AirPort wireless network card. With an AirPort card fitted the Clamshell could be used to browse the internet without the need for wires - one of the first mainstream laptops to have such a feature.

A Graphite Clamshell was launched less than a year later with a faster 366 MHz processor. This was followed by models featuring Firewire ports and improved graphics (6MB vs 4MB in the previous models). The new models were available in two new colours - indigo blue and key lime. The final Clamshells had 466 MHz processors 8MB of VRAM and DVD-ROM drives and they were available in Lime or Graphite.

Based purely on the iBook Clamshell’s unusual design I bought an indigo model off ebay a couple of years ago, and despite being 8 years old it still performs very well today. Thanks to a mixture of plastic and rubber casing these Macs are incredibly tough. Other innovative touches include a fold out carrying handle and a latch free opening and closing mechanism.

The later iBook Clamshells such as the indigo, key lime and graphite models can officially run Mac OS X Tiger, though even with maxed out RAM performance is poor, so it's best to opt for Mac OS X Panther. If you do still want to try Tiger on a Clamshell that doesn't have a DVD-ROM drive you will have to connect it to another Mac (that does have a DVD-ROM drive) and reboot the Clamshell in FireWire target disk mode (hold down T while it restarts). This will turn the Clamshell into an external hard drive on the other Mac from which you can then install Tiger.

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Apple iBook Clamshell

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