Sigma Designs Power Portrait Platinum 15" Monochrome Monitor

(for older Macintosh computers and PowerBooks)

Model No: PVM-PL-1500B

Information Page

updated on 11 July 2002

Thanks to Dean Batten (USA) , Steve Bell (UK), Michael Dines (UK) and Jerry Holm (USA) for their contributions.

And thanks also to Bhavesh Patel at The Mac Driver Museum for linking us to their site.


15 inch display for early PowerBook, Classic, Classic II, SE, SE/30; interface via the SCSI port using a video card built in to the monitor.

Features include QuickDraw acceleration, 97 Hz refresh rate, low emissions, 3 user-selectable resolutions, and hardware pan for a virtual two-page display.


Download the driver extension disk image HERE (920k)

This is the final version (2.0.2) (dated 1992)


Note: This software is not compatible with Ram Doubler


 INFO LINKS to date:

Sigma Designs (original manufacturer, but has discontinued support for Macintosh) <>


Griffin Technology (monitor listing only) <>


The Mac Driver Museum (a collection of drivers for Classic Macs) <>


For Sale:

8 March 1999

From:Jerry Holm Profit by Computer

I have two of these monitors with cables and software if anyone is interested. Both in original boxes. One never used, except to check it's functioning. One used very little. The Sigma designs Power Portrait FPDs will connect to compact Macs and PBs 100-180 via the SCSI port. They can also be connected to an LC, LCII, IIci or IIsi. One of the above has a cable for connecting to a PowerBook and the other has a cable for compact/11 series Macs. Price $150 each plus shipping.

Jerry Holm

Profit by Computer

I took these photographs of one of three of these monitors which I aquired at
an ex-govt (Department of Defence - Navy) Macintosh Auction
here in Canberra, Australia.

The monitors were manufactured in 1993 in the USA.

 Maximum Resolution:
Scan Rates:
Horizontal scan: 78.7 Khz
Vertical refresh: 97 Hz

Video Signal:
Signal type: Digital

Physical Specifications:
Type of connector: SCSI
Tilt & swivel base: Yes
Net weight: 22

 Monitor Type:
Fixed Frequency

CRT Attributes:
CRT size: 15
Image size: 14.25 (diagonal)
Picture tube: Monochrome
Phosphor: Paper-white
Dot pitch: NA

Other Specifications:
Energy saver: None
MPR II compliant: Yes

User Controls: [Analog]

   3 mice (MacUser July, 1993)



Does anyone have any experience with these monitors?

Please send replies to: <>



From: Steve Bell <>

You must use the Sigma software. Also there should be a label on the monitor telling you the order to power up and shut down. The power portrait has to be powered on first.

Sigma dropped support for Mac products before dropping monitors altogether. As far as I can remember Apple system 7 or 7.1 was current when they where produced, no software updates were produced for newer system software. Yours is the platinum for standard Mac's, they also produced a granite coloured version for the power book. I used to repair them in the UK for the European warranty service provider.

When I used to repair the Power Portrait I tested with a Classic and a Power Book. The only ones sold in the UK were a large batch of around 300 sold to the Ministry of Defense.

They worked ok on the IIci, IIcx, LC etc, and power books that were current. Basically anything that was current when system 7.0 & 7.1 were in use.


FROM: Michael Dines <>

... I append the US MacWorld review for your information - good luck. Michael Dines.




Power Portrait

Sigma Designs

Platinum $899; Granite $949

The Power Portrait is a 15-inch portrait-style monochrome display for Macs with built-in screens, like the Classic and Powerbook.Because these models lack provision for external monitors, the Power Portrait gets its signal from the Mac's SCSI port.

The monitor has a tilt-and-swivel base and comes in both platinum and dark grey. SCSI devices can be frustrating to set up, especially if you have more than one. Sigma provides external SCSI ID and termination controls, but they're not as convenient as they could be. To change the SCSI ID number, for example, you have to rotate a miniature dial that is recessed into the back of the monitor. I found it hard to see what I was doing. And to turn SCSI termination on or off, you have to press 24 tiny rocker switches. Still, it's better than cracking open the case. The Power Portrait sports two 25-pin connectors instead of the more common 50-pin connectors. If you have additional hardware, it's easiest to hook the Power Portrait directly to the Mac and daisy-chain other devices to the monitor. Although you can place the Power Portrait anywhere the SCSI cable reaches, Sigma recommends locating it to the right of the Mac to avoid the computer's power supply.

On Macs with the 68000 processor, you can use the Power Portrait by itself or alongside the Mac's internal screen; you set display options in Sigma's control panel (or cdev). On Macs with 68020 or 68030 processors, like the Powerbook, the internal display remains active, and you control the Power Portrait via the Monitors cdev. Either way, you can set the monitor's screen resolution to 72, 80 or 88 dots per inch, as well as turn hardware panning on or off. With panning enabled, the Power Portrait displays a small portion of a larger virtual screen of up to 1024 by 1024 pixels (about two 8.5-by-11 inch pages side by side); hidden portions scroll into view when the cursor reaches the edge of the screen.

Brightness and contrast are easy to adjust using knobs on the front of the monitor. Three dials at the rear let you tweak the position of the display on the CRT screen. Once I set the controls, text and graphics were crisp, and the background was adequately bright. Although I couldn't verify the claimed refresh rate of 97Hz, there was no noticeable flicker, and I worked with the Power Portrait for extended periods without eyestrain.

In the past, SCSI-based monitors have been criticised as being too poky to be practical. To overcome the SCSI bottleneck, Sigma incorporates QuickDraw acceleration into the Power Portrait's hardware. On average, display speed was similar to that of my PowerBook 170's built-in screen. However, the Power Portrait doesn't work with software that bypasses QuickDraw, including certain After Dark modules, many games, and HyerCard (Sigma's installer adds an XCMD to HyperCard to make it compatible). A Read Me file disk lists known incompatibilities and workarounds, but doesn't mention Aldus Persuasion, which had minor problems displaying graphics. At first, I was sceptical about the value of an external display for my PowerBook. After a while, though, I began to appreciate the larger display area. The Power Portrait is also an acceptable option for users of compact Macs, like the Classic. Before you buy, though, check with Sigma to make sure that your software is compatible.




 8 March 1999

From:Jerry Holm Profit by Computer

I have two of these monitors with cables and software if anyone is interested. Both in original boxes. One never used, except to check it's functioning. One used very little. The Sigma designs Power Portrait FPDs will connect to compact Macs and PBs 100-180 via the SCSI port. They can also be connected to an LC, LCII, IIci or IIsi. One of the above has a cable for connecting to a PowerBook and the other has a cable for compact/11 series Macs. Price $150 each plus shipping.

Jerry Holm

Profit by Computer



From: (Jerry Holm)

Date: Tue, 9 Mar 1999

Hi Steve,

Sorry the latest,and only,version of the Power Portrait software I have is 2.0.2. I have only used it with System 6.0.8 (essentially a slightly modified version of 6.0.7), 7.0, 7.1 and 7.5.3 (with a MacIIvx). The latter only briefly to determine if it would come up on that model. It did but I didn't put it through a detailed check. It won't work well with an LCIII, but does work with the LC,LCII,IIci,IIsi and IIvx models. Theoretically it should work with any version of the system software that will run on the Mac models that it can be used with.

Of course it doesn't work at all with any Macs with Quadra or PowerPC microprocessors. About three years ago I asked Sigma Designs if they had any plans to develop a later version of the software to work with a Quadra. They said they hadn't any such plans. Now they are out of business.

Once set up and running on those models with which the software is compatible it can be the only monitor attached if desired.

BTW Version 2.0.2 is dated 1992. The Quadra processors were introduced in early 1993. Also by that time the first generation of PowerBooks were being superceded with models that had built-in capability to use an external desktop monitor. The Power Portrait doesn't work with these PowerBooks. The combined effect of the new models of PowerBooks and the discontinuation of manufacture of compact Macs by the end of 1993 effectively dried up the market for the Power Portrait product. There were better FPD solutions available for any desktop Mac including Quadras.

So what we have are, in technology terms, dinosaurs. Yet they still function and can be used with some vintage Macs. I have a PowerBook 100 that a friend gave to me. It needs the hard drive replaced and a memory upgrade. With that done it would make a handy little word processor, especially if combined with a Power Portrait Display. Even so there would be precious little market for it. It really doesn't have the desk appeal of an iMAC.

Regards, Jerry Holm


From the READ ME file included with the software (1992) :

Power Portrait works with all Macintosh programs which use Macintosh QuickDraw instructions for drawing to the screen. As you'll see, virtually every Macintosh program available uses QuickDraw. A few programs, such as SuperPaint, HyperCard, and FrameMaker, do not always use QuickDraw, but they will if you set special preference settings. These exceptions and special settings are described in this document. Many games do not use QuickDraw at all, however, and they will not work on the Power Portrait screen. Fortunately, games will work fine on the built-in screen, either by dragging their windows to the built-in screen or by setting the menu bar to appear on the built-in screen.

General Compatibility

  • Adobe Illustrator

The Preview feature bypasses QuickDraw and cannot be used unless you move the window onto the built-in screen. All other Illustrator features and functions work just fine.

  • Aldus Pagemaker

Ocassionally, the last characters in a line of text will not be displayed correctly in PageMaker if the Tracking is changed from the default of "No Track" in the Type Specs dialog box. We are working to resolve this issue.

  • Connectix Power Utilities

If the Connectix Power Utilities software spins down the hard disk to save power, the Power Portrait monitor will freeze when the hard drive is spun back up. This does not occur when using the Macintosh System Software's sleep function. We are working with Connectix to resolve this problem.

  • Radius Accelerators

Power Portrait is currently incompatible with Radius Accelerators for the MacPlus and SE. We are working to achieve compatibility.

Technical Tips

  • Installer

Be sure to use the Installer program for installing your Power Portrait software. The Installer program ensures that the old version of the Power Portrait software is removed, that your System Software is a compatible version, and that it is installed in the right place. Also, it ensures that HyperCard and SuperPaint work correctly with your Power Portrait display.

  • After Dark

You must rename the After Dark Control Panel filename so that it loads after the Power Portrait Control Panel. To do this, insert an character (Option key + z) before the first letter of the After Dark Control Panel filename. Otherwise, After Dark will think that only the built-in screen is connected, and it will not blank the entire screen when it runs.

Also, a few After Dark modules do not use QuickDraw, therefore use of these modules will cause system errors to occur. The incompatible modules are Boris, Dominos, Gravity, Spotlight, Maze and possibly a few shareware and public domain After Dark modules.

  • FrameMaker

To use FrameMaker with Power Portrait, select "Preferences" from the Edit menu and make sure that the "Use Fast Text" preference option is turned off. Otherwise, FrameMaker will bypass QuickDraw when it draws text to the screen.

  • Timbuktu and timbuktu remote

To use a Power Portrait-equipped Mac as a host, you must boot up with the menu bar on the Macintosh built-in screen and select the "Support Bypassing QuickDraw" option in the Timbuktu preferences dialog box.

  • Now Utilities' Alarms Clock, Adobe Type Manager and SuperClock!

The Filenames for these Control Panels must be changed so that they load after the Power Portrait software. This can be accomplished by putting a symbol (Option key + z) before the first letter of the filename.

  • Screen Capture

The standard Apple Command+Shift+3 screen capture method is supported by Power Portrait. However, other screen capture programs may not work correctly with Power Portrait.

  • HyperCard

The Power Portrait Installer program automatically installs an "XCMD" (external command) into HyperCard which instructs HyperCard to use only QuickDraw. If this isn't installed, HyperCard bypasses QuickDraw and won't work correctly with Power Portrait.

Users of Mac SE/30, Classic II, and PowerBook 140/170 Computers

The Monitors Control Panel lets your Macintosh computer recognize the Power Portrait monitor. When you install your Power Portrait software for the first time, you must open the Monitors Control Panel to activate the Power Portrait screen. When you close the Monitors Control Panel, Power Portrait will be up and running.

If you open the Monitors Control Panel while Power Portrait is disconnected, you'll have to reopen Monitors when you reconnect the Power Portrait again.

Users of Mac SE/30:

Using the Power Portrait with an SE/30 requires System 7.0 or later.

Performance Tips for PowerBook Users

For maximum performance with Power Portrait, use Apple's Portable Control Panel (included with your Portable or PowerBook) and check the "Stay awake when plugged in" setting. This eliminates any delay you may experience when the hard disk spins up after Sleep mode. Also, if you are using Power Portrait with a PowerBook, we've found that in most cases you'll want to have the Power Portrait SCSI Termination turned ON (factory default setting). Apple recommends that if you connect two external SCSI devices to a PowerBook, you terminate both devices. This ensures that your SCSI bus is terminated even after the PowerBook goes to sleep and re-awakens.

(Sigma Designs 1992)

Macintosh Classic with Gemini

Lastupdate: Wed Jan 6 1999

This is the first machine I bought myself. Moreover it opened the way to the world of computing for me. I wrote papers, prepared for oral presentations, made examinations, started telecommunication using this machine.


  • Macintosh Classic 4MB RAM
  • external HDD 100MB (At first I used 40MB one.)
  • HP DeskWriter
  • The following two were added later:
    • Gemini 68030 50MHz an accelerator board produced by the late Total Systems accelerator
    • PowerPortrait, a SCSI 15 inch monitor produced by Sigma Designs

Many thanks to thee, my Classic.

I had amassed as much information as I could before I decided upon buying Classic. I also took time selecting the word processor to buy. Nisus was my choice and I was absolutely right. Nisus is the only word processor that satisfied me and fit my purpose. It was not yet localized but it happened to be Japanese language-compatible. The only shortcoming was that you could not create tables with it. Microsoft Word, which I also bought following the advice of one of my colleagues, had a table-making function but it was not a Japanese version (you had to wait a few more years for a localized version to be released) so you could not edit Japanese documents. That led me to buy Sweet Jam, a program that made Word a Japanese word processor. However, Sweet Jam demanded much CPU power and ran very slowly on my Classic. The makeshift I adopted was: make the text part of a document using Nisus and when it comes to making tables, use Word + Sweet Jam and save the table as a graphic and paste it on the Nisus document. What a roundabout and time-consuming procedure!

The system I initially used was Kanji-Talk 6.0.7 but soon afterwards I learned to mix it with the English system from reading relevant magazine articles and gaining information via telecommunication. That was the first time I had ever customized programs. Then I resorted to System 7.0 + GomTalk and after that came System 7.1 + Kanji-Talk 7.1.

Nisus continues to be the word processor for me during the days when Macintosh was my working environment. Besides, I used Excel to grade my students, used J-Term to get connected to the Internet, and used COM-Nifty and Nasu (both freeware) to access NIFTY Serve. Gofer was very useful in searching the contents of the files on my hard disk. Classic led me to the world of free/shareware: I used so many of them, Inline ++ TSM and FontPatchin', for example.

Soon after I became a Mac user, mouse operation felt a waste of time and I started to hope that I could perform every operation with the keyboard. DiskTop, Nisus macros and Quickeys were natural result of my inclination.

Speaking of a keyboard, I first found the Classic keyboard passable but when I bought SE/30 a year later, I immediately became a fan of the SE/30 keyboard touch. The best keyboard of my choice is the GS keyboard, which I later bought at a computer shop in Akihabara. I paid 30,000 yen for it. This keyboard is now connected to LC475.

As I mentioned above, I bought SE/30. I used it in my office and used Classic at home. SE/30 felt surprisingly fast for me after half a year of using Classic. Then my desire grew further and I was dying for a larger display area. Several months later I bought Vimage SE/30, a video card for SE/30, and an Apple 15 inch Portrait monitor. The multi-screen environment was really helpful: I displayed the entire A4 document on the Portrait Monitor and at the same time read my notes on the SE/30 9 inch monitor.

That was the beginning of a vicious circle. I then wanted the same speed and multi-monitor environment at home. The speed was satisfied by an accelerator, a product of the late Total Systems, Gemini 68030 50MHz. It made my Classic faster than SE/30. More than that, the accelerator board was loaded with 16 MB simms, which greatly broadened the memory workspace. The original 4 MB on the motherboard served as a RAM disk, which I made use of in several ways to speed up the software response. All this memory expansion was made possible by the help of a program "Virtual" by what firm I forgot.

How I realized multi-screen, then? Classic did not have an external video port and the situation seemed hopeless. Surprisingly, however, Sigma Designs released PowerPortrait, a 15-inch monochrome "SCSI" monitor. I read a review article of the product and after a few weeks it was on my desk top. Some programs did not go very well with this monitor, HyperCard, for instance. However, the environment thus achieved satisfied me a great deal.

Had Total Systems not closed business, the company might have updated its supporting software (GemStar) to make it System 7.5 compatible, and "Virtual" might also have been updated. But no. By and by the shortcomings of the system I had paid so much for (slow, unstable, monochrome) made it less and less attractive and I came to use it less and less often. Now the system lies beside my desk in my study at home, left untouched. Once or twice a year, I turn it on as if to see if it is still alive, and soon turn it off.

Soon after I had written the paragraphs above, one of my colleagues kindly accepted my Classic. He says he finds it very handy and that he is thinking of writing programs on it.


Questions, comments, etc. to:

Steve Keough