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E-Machines EtherDock for the PowerBook Duo series

With a little more free time with the holidays, I thought I would showcase some stuff I have collected over the past few years. I have made quite a collection of docks for my PowerBook Duos. Although the concept of a lightweight notebook that can be docked to form a full size desktop is novel, I find the selection of mini and micro docks to be another interesting facet of the line. With out the docks, the Duo becomes a nearly enclosed computing system, with only a serial or modem to access the outside world. Apple's MiniDock and EtherDock is a compromise between the full Duo dock and the desire to have connection ability while out in the field. They are small enough to be carried with the laptop, but also provides the full complement of Macintosh Ports: Serial, ADB, Monitor, Floppy, SCSI, Audio In/Out and a communication port (modem for the MiniDock, ethernet for the EtherDock). The user has the option to use the Duo's internal screen in addition to an external monitor, or run the Duo in a 'lid-closed' mode, disabling the Duo's built in LCD screen in favor of the external screen. The quick-release 'spoiler' on the back allowed the duo to be ejected quickly and easily (once shut down). The only Apple branded dock that supported ethernet was the full sized Duo Dock, which required the installation of a NuBus ethernet card. The Duo Dock II and Plus had built in AAUI Ethertalk, enabling the connection to ethernet networks. Apple's MiniDock had a passthrough port for the built in modem. The only other way to get ethernet out of it was through a SCSI to Ethernet adaptor.

E-Machines was licensed to manufacture the MiniDock for Apple. They also manufactured a rebranded version of the MiniDock as a third party accessory, but with a built in Ethernet port replacing the modem passthrough. EtherDock was the first to provide ethernet capability. The EtherDock also appears to have a unique video processor. When booting up with an external display, a unique E-Machines logo appears on the external monitor. Otherwise, the performance is equivalent to the MiniDock, providing 256 colors on 640x480 and 800x600 displays, and 16 colors on 1024x768 displays with its 512k video memory. I have not been able to dig up any unique software for the EtherDock, but it appears to be fully functional with out extra software. Even the ethernet works with out extra drivers.

There are several different versions produced of the EtherDock. They are denoted with letters at the end of the model number. I happen to have a revision D Etherdock, which is compatible with the '040 and PPC Duos.( 1) Earlier versions were compatible with the '030 Duos, the 210, 230, 250 and 270. Although there is no way to use the internal modem with the EtherDock attached, it is not an issue for me because I use ethernet to connect to my high speed internet.

I personally like the form factor of the Apple MiniDock and E-Machines Etherdock. I prefer its layout of ports that directly face backwards over the port designs of other contemporary docks. Both match the arc theme seen on the top bezel of the Duo's display, and the arch seen on the Microdocks. These Mini docks are both unique in that they provide both a modem and printer port.

One thing I particularly like about the MiniDock and EtherDock is that it still somewhat resembles a laptop when docked. I think this may have been particularly attractive when in the field, allowing the user the full set of ports that Apple's other notebooks offered (including the 100 series and 500 series). The MiniDock and EtherDock operated differently though, despite their similar design. The MiniDock allows the Duo to go to sleep when docked, and can be removed during sleep (provided there is no SCSI or Monitor connection). However, the EtherDock is similar to the Duo Dock in that the Duo cannot sleep while connected and must be shut down to undock. This reduces its usability in the field when running off battery power.

Unfortunately, my EtherDock is showing its age. The plastic 'spoiler' had cracked before I acquired the dock. The part that is broken is a small connection between the docking mechanism and the 'spoiler'. The small connection stresses over time and eventually will crack. I already see a similar crack forming on my MiniDock. Hopefully some superglue will fix the problem.

I feel really lucky to have this dock. It combines the design that I like from the Apple MiniDock with the ability to connect to an ethernet network, which I argue is a necessity today. I just happened to spot it in a low resolution picture while browsing on the local craigslist. The seller had a collection of PowerBook Duo power supplies, batteries and chargers he was getting rid of. He told me I had good eyes for spotting it. I had been looking for an EtherDock for a long time, and actually passed up one on eBay that sold for $75. I got mine for $20.

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Comment by MacMan on January 7, 2009 at 3:26pm
I never even knew such a thing existed - thanks for posting this! An ethernet port was always something that was lacking on the Apple MiniDock, especially in the latter years of the Duo. I shall have to keep an eye out for one of these as it would be perfect for my 2300c.
Comment by Wholly Mindless on January 8, 2009 at 8:37am
Nice find! Thanks for sharing!
Comment by Mac128 on March 11, 2011 at 12:30pm
I love the Apple MiniDock design. Which is why I pulled the label off the e-Machines' to reveal a depression for Apple's own logo. The dock housing is identical to Apple's own, clearly purchased from Apple. So I plopped in a spare Apple logo and have a nice Ethernet MiniDock, the way Apple intended it. I also have a 2300 and the Rev. D dock is not compatible with it, I have yet to make mine work reliably. I heard rumors of there being a Rev. E dock, but I have yet to come across it.


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