Apple: We’ll Take That 3G MacBook Pro Prototype Back, Thanks

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Apple made a 3G-enabled MacBook Pro? Who knew! And did you know someone got their hands on one and listed it on eBay earlier this month, where it almost sold for a whopping $70,000? Apple put the kibosh on that one, of course, contacting eBay to have the auction liquidated. And now they’re after North Carolina resident Carl Frega to repossess the thing.

It looks like an older-style 15-inch MacBook Pro, circa 2007, and Frega bumped into it on Craigslist, where he apparently thought he was buying something that’d serve as spare parts for his repair biz. When he got it, however, he noticed a slide-up antenna along the right-hand side of the screen and something that looks an awful lot like a SIM-card slot. It also had an oddly red-colored circuit board. According to AppleInsider, “Red circuit boards and the lack of an EMC Number serve as evidence that the machine is a pre-production prototype.”

(LIST: Best Inventions of 2008)

So a 3G MacBook Pro. Not that the notion’s far out. Tablets like the iPad and Amazon’s Kindle have inbuilt 3G, after all, and anyone who’s used a 3G USB modem or tethered their 3G (or faster) mobile phone to a laptop knows how this works. Apple was probably fiddling with the idea years ago, before it realized most folks won’t crack open a laptop unless they’re near a wireless hotspot, or if they are somewhere remote, tethering works as well (that is, if you can’t simply do what you need to direct on your phone in the first place).

Patent watchers will note Apple filed a patent for precisely this sort of device in April 2008:

Electronic devices may be provided with sensors for determining the presence and position of extendable and removable antennas. The antennas may extend by rotating about an axis, by reciprocating along their length, or by flexing from a retracted position to an extended position… The electronic device may determine the extent to which an antenna has been extended using signals from the sensors. The electronic device may control the operation of a radio-frequency transceiver that is coupled to the antenna based on signals from the sensors… When the antenna is partially extended, the electronic device may place the transceiver in a low-power mode or place a dual-band transceiver into a single-band mode.

Sorry collectors of the rare, bizarre and occasionally illicit, it sounds like Apple will get this thing back before you can track Frega down. ZDNet reports Apple got in touch with Frega on Tuesday and that they’re sending someone over to reclaim it.

MORE: 2012 MacBook Pros to Get All New Case Design?

Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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