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Comment: PowerBop not a prototype (Score 3, Informative) 169

by antoinec (#17047306) Attached to: Apple Prototypes: 5 Products We Never Saw
I bought a PowerBop around 1994 (don't recall the date exactly) and still own it! It is probably a relatively rare system as Apple made few of them.

The PowerBop was a high-end PowerBook with a MC68030 and a 68882 FPU (a must have at the time!). The system was running at 33Mhz and had active matrix display.

The interesting part was the built-in Wireless Modem. Being fairly large, the modem was replacing the floppy drive (an external floppy drive was included in the package). A small antenna was visible on the right of the laptop.

The PowerBop modem was using a wireless phone network deployed by France Telecom in 1991 called Bi-Bop.

The Bi-Bop service was based on a rather clever and simple idea. France Telecom installed numerous access points in large cities in France. The access points and mobile phones were nothing more than enhanced digital cordless phones.

Using this light infrastructure, France Telecom was in position to be one of the first companies to offer a (relatively) low cost mobile phone service.

The PowerBop was connecting to the service just like a regular Bi-Bop mobile phone. At 14,400 bps, the speed was pretty good especially for a wireless connection.

All of this made the PowerBop a very innovative system. Picture this: sitting outside of french café checking your emails, surfing on BBS and getting faxes! In early 1990's it was the killer feature!

Even better, France Telecom also sold private access points to install in your home. Meaning that your Bi-Bop phone was becoming a regular cordless phone when used at home.

This was also working with the PowerBop. I was surfing at home with a wireless laptop in the early 90s! The ultimate geek toy!

It is interesting to see that 15 years later, there is no unified service offering phone and wireless networking at home and in the street...

Antoine
PS: my first post on Slashdot!

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