Apple Everywhere

Resurrecting Apple's PowerBook Duo

- 2010.05.05 - Tip Jar

I got my first laptop in 2005, an AT&T Globalyst running Windows 95. Two months after it arrived, I was in the market for another laptop, thanks to a short somewhere in the stupid machine.

I had liked Macs during my childhood (I made no distinction between PCs and Macs early on - of course, those were the days of Mac OS 7 and 8 and Windows 3.1, so there wasn't really much to distinguish them anyway), and I felt called to go in that direction.

A Goodwill Mac

Shortly before my 16th birthday in 2006, my parents happened to notice an Apple laptop while they were shopping in Goodwill one day, and they called me on one of our walkie-talkies to come in from the van and see it.

It wasn't much to look at, but it was small - really small. That's what stuck out to me. The local nerd employee tried to lead us to believe it was more powerful than it really was, but I could tell it wasn't anything impressive, even if his far-fetched claims went over my parents' heads. For $25, it was hardly a bargain - a PowerBook Duo 230 (from 1992) with a dead battery (estimated value: $20).

I really didn't care if it was the crummiest Mac laptop on the planet - it couldn't have been any crummier than my Globalyst.

Actually, it was in pretty nice shape, except that the screen hinges were a little weak. The keyboard felt all tingly and "Mac-like" as I held it in our van, imagining myself using it to write my novel. That's really what I bought it for - writing. There was no other purpose for its existence (in my mind) than to put my words on its screen. I knew there had to be a dock - the weird port on the back screamed "dock me, baby!" So as soon as the laptop was in my hands, I started thinking about a dock.

Oops, the Keyboard Is Busted

Well, as God would have it, I would have to go another year without a decent writing machine - the Duo's keyboard was "busted." Only the Caps Lock key worked. Even though I'd been disappointed by my first Mac, I couldn't help but admire the fact that the laptop was 14 years old at the time and still running fine (the startup sound really got me too).

PowerBook Duo 250 (copyright by rameko, used by permission)Fast forward three-and-a-half years. I'd been through the Duo, a Clamshell, and now the Pismo (which was in prime-time service at that point). For some strange reason that I'll never understand, I felt called again to have a look at the Duo, now in the possession of my techno black hole of a sister (she gets most of my old tech stuff).

Fixing the Keyboard

After a quick Google search, I found out that my Duo's keyboard just might be dirty.

Eagerly, I knocked on the door to my sister's bedroom (this was about 7:00 AM).

"Hey, can I borrow the Duo?" I whispered.

"What for?" my sister groaned.

"I think I might be able to get the keyboard working."

Now my sister likes her beauty rest, but she knew she'd never be able to sleep in if I was bugging her about the Duo. She relented, and I ran downstairs to work some magic on the now 18-year-old laptop.

After a half-hour disassembling the case, removing the keyboard, disassembling all the little keycaps, cleaning the plastic circuit sheets with a pencil eraser, reassembling all the little keycaps, reattachment of the keyboard, and reassembly of the case, I plugged the Duo in and turned it on.


A few seconds later, I pecked anxiously at the first key, thinking to myself, "It's not going to work, it's not going to work..."

It worked!

That first keystroke went right from my finger onto the screen, like the spark of life from God to Adam in The Creation of Adam. A multitude of angels appeared in the sky, singing "Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth, peace, goodwill towards Mac." And all the old Swedes had a collective heart attack, leaving me and my family as the only inhabitants still alive in our Iowa town.

Exaggeration aside, I felt like I was about to burst. The Duo's keyboard isn't Apple's finest by any means, but to have it working was like a dream come true. My whole family had to come and see the revived Duo, typing like it was brand new.

Passing It Forward

After that, I persuaded my sister to give the Duo (she already had the Clamshell) to my youngest brother, who now uses it quite frequently. I plan on buying him a floppy drive so he can use the Duo for school assignments (maybe I can find a MS Office disk set on eBay). For now, the Duo just keeps on chugging, and I can't imagine it dying anytime soon. LEM

Further Reading on the PowerBook Duo

Join us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or Google+, or subscribe to our RSS news feed

Austin Leeds is a Mac and iPad user - and a college student in Iowa.

Today's Links

Recent Content

About LEM Support Usage Privacy Contact

Follow Low End Mac on Twitter
Join Low End Mac on Facebook

Favorite Sites

Cult of Mac
Shrine of Apple
The Mac Observer
Accelerate Your Mac
The Vintage Mac Museum
Deal Brothers
Mac Driver Museum
JAG's House
System 6 Heaven
System 7 Today
the pickle's Low-End Mac FAQ

The iTunes Store
PC Connection Express
Macgo Blu-ray Player
Parallels Desktop for Mac

Low End Mac's store


Open Link