Why Apple’s G3 iBook is Still Great

You can’t beat this design

Key Takeaways

  • I’m the proud owner of an Apple iBook that’s old enough to drink, and I still love it. 
  • I use the iBook regularly for writing, and even after all this time, it’s a practical but limited computer (as long as you don't want fast internet). 
  • There are no email or other notifications to distract you when you’re working on the iBook.
iBook G3 blueberry laptop

Lifewire/Sascha Brodsky

Apple has added a splash of color to its new iMac lineup, but the company’s dearly departed clamshell iBook G3 still wins as the most colorful and cheerful computer ever made.

I own a clamshell iBook, as it’s known, and it still runs as smoothly as ever, more than two decades after it was released. I use it regularly for writing and even after all this time, it’s a practical, albeit limited, computer. 

The iBook was introduced in 1999, soon after the then newly released iMac. The iBook G3 has a PowerPC G3 CPU, USB, Ethernet, modem ports, and an optical drive. I love it.

“The clamshell iBook looks like no other laptop that’s ever been designed.”

Thinking Very Different

The clamshell iBook looks like no other laptop that’s ever been designed. I have the blueberry-colored model, and it resembles a giant cough drop that was squashed by a truck. Just looking at it puts me in a better mood. Examples of the iBook are on exhibition at the London Design Museum and the Yale University Art Gallery.

MacBooks and most laptops made these days are all minimalist, sharp-edged sculptures of glass and aluminum. They are serious tools to get serious work done. On the other hand, the iBook looks like a device you might do something you enjoy with it. 

Blueberry iBook, closed, with apple on top

Lifewire/Sascha Brodsky

My favorite part of the iBook is the giant translucent carrying handle that extends out of the back. When you tote this baby around, there’s no confusing you for another office drone. In fact,  it sort of resembles a giant toy laptop. 

Of course, the carrying handle on the iBook was necessary because the thing is enormous by modern standards. It’s 1.8 × 13.5 × 11.6 inches and weighs 6.7 pounds. On the other hand, the extra weight, combined with the handle, makes it handy for doing bicep curls. 

But I get real work done on the iBook even decades later. It’s great for word processing and spreadsheets. If you need to take a break from all that number-crunching, every iBook of that era comes preloaded with Bugdom, a game that is just fun enough to keep you amused, while not something that’s going to turn into a giant time suck.

Just Don’t Try Using the Internet

Once I produce a document on the iBook, it’s easy enough to transfer it via a USB flash drive (remember those?) over to another computer. My iBook is equipped with Wi-Fi via the internal Apple AirPort card that was an option for big spenders at the time. However, sending emails or browsing the web on this dinosaur is an activity best reserved for masochists, because it's so slow. 

The keyboard and trackpad are surprisingly good on this model, and I can hit the same typing speed as on the latest MacBook Pro. The keys do feel a little flimsy, but they’ve held up for more than 20 years without breaking or fading. 

While most people would find the iBook ridiculously underpowered today, I think there’s a case to be made that less is more regarding laptops. It’s the ultimate distraction-free device for getting work done (as long as your work doesn’t involve the internet). 

There’s no email or notifications to distract you when you’re working on the iBook. You don’t have to worry about software upgrades because those are long toast. 

Nor do you have to obsess about pixel counts or keeping up with the latest processor. You’re getting a 300 MHz PowerPC G3 or nothing. And, you know what? That G3 is plenty fast enough for handling Microsoft Word documents and spreadsheets. Applications launch relatively quickly. Just don’t plan on settling in to watch Netflix on this thing. 

Why do I keep using the iBook when I have Apple’s latest and greatest hardware at hand? There’s a particular joy intrinsic in the bold design that I find inspiring. Also, I’ll never waste time doom scrolling on this machine as it can barely get online. It’s always 1999 with the iBook, and sometimes that’s a good thing. 

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