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Retro rarity: spring cleaning unearths a Colby Walkmac

Steve Sande
Steve Sande|@stevensande|May 30, 2013 7:30 PM

Retro rarity spring cleaning unearths a Colby Walkmac

For those of us who have been around the mobile computing space for a while, the name Ken Landau is quite familiar. Landau's currently the CEO of iOS development firm mobileAge, but he's been producing software for handheld computing devices since the true birth of the industry in 1993 with the introduction of the Apple Newton MessagePad. Recently, he was doing a bit of spring cleaning and found a rarity in his basement: a Colby Walkmac.

Landau's brother-in-law, David Carnoy, is an editor at CNET, so he wrote about the find in a recent post. The 13-pound Colby Walkmac was actually the first battery-operated Mac as well as the first portable Mac with an LCD display. At the time, amber displays were considered to be much more ergonomic than those nasty green screens:

Retro rarity spring cleaning unearths a Colby Walkmac

This machine was officially sanctioned by Apple, and used a stock Mac SE motherboard. A later model -- named the Colby SE30 after Sony threatened to sue Colby for a trade name too close to Walkman -- used the SE/30 motherboard and had an integrated keyboard (Editor's Note: I purchased two Colby SE30s for the company I was working for in 1990 because they were much faster than the Mac Portables Apple was selling).

Landau ended up with the Walkmac during his tenure at Apple between 1986 and 1992. According to Carnoy, Landau was "investigating sales force automation options when Colby Systems sent him one." The price at the time the Walkmac first appeared was about $6,000, or close to $12,000 in today's dollars.

Retro rarity spring cleaning unearths a Colby Walkmac

There's more about Landau's find in the CNET post, as well as information about Colby Systems founder Chuck Colby, a man who could best be described as a serial inventor. You can read more about Colby on his own website, which is chock full of amazing facts like the fact that when he was 12 years old, he built what is believed to be the first commercial transistor radio.