Portable Computers

By | Jan 17, 2008

After the announcement by Steve Jobs at MacWorld 2008 for the world’s smallest computer, the MacBook Air, I started thinking about the first time I saw a portable computer. It was in the early 1980’s when computers were just in their infancy. I was a young man who grew up with an interest in electronics and still recall using a Tandy TRS-80 in college library.

The first Portable Computer I saw was one made by a company called Columbia Data Systems. The computer happened to have been made in Columbia, Maryland and since I was living and working in the area at the time it really made one feel good. Also carrying the computer made one feel good, if you were looking for exercise since the computer weighed a great deal. It was like carrying a suitcase.

Columbia Portable Computer

This was far from the first portable computer, but it was one of the first based on the same chipset as the IBM PC. The first portable computer (it weighed nearly 25 pounds) was the Osborne 1, made by the Osborne Computer Corporation and first introduced in 1981. It was based on the Z80 microprocessor and used the CP/M operating system. Osborne also invented the concept of software bundling. The computer came with a word processor (WordStar), a spreadsheet (SuperCalc) and the BASIC programming language.

Osborne 1

The computer company Compaq was created with a Portable Computer. Compaq was able to product a portable that used the Intel 8088 processor (the same one as the IBM PC) and ran all of the same software as the PC. This computer was a bit bigger than the Osborne weighting over 28 pounds.

Compaq Portable

Even IBM created a Portable computer, The IBM Portable PC, that looked and worked very much like the Compaq. It was also IBM who produced the first true laptop computer, The IBM PC Convertible, introduced in 1986. It weighed just a little more than 12 pounds, used a LCD screen instead of a small CRT.

IBM PC Convertible

Apple, Inc., once known as Apple Computer, has seemed to always be on the forefront of the computer industry. they were the first to successfully market a computer that used a GUI interface, that kept the user from needing to remember and type in the instructions on a command line. This same computer also was the first to use a mouse. It was the MacIntosh. They did however have another that preceded this one with many of the same features, the Lisa, but it was not a marketing success. The MacIntosh was introduced in 1984 and many people did carry it from one place to another since it could be easily packed.



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