Thursday, June 19, 2008


It is a little hard to determine what was the first portable or laptop computer, the first portable computers did not look like the book-sized and folding laptops that we are familiar with today, however, they were both portable and lapable, and lead to the development of notebook style laptops. I have outlined several potential firsts below and how each qualifies, many of the off-site links provide good photos of the computers that will let you see the progression in design.

The First Laptop? Maybe

Designed in 1979 by a Briton, William Moggridge, for Grid Systems Corporation, the Grid Compass was one fifth the weight of any model equivalent in performance and was used by NASA on the space shuttle program in the early 1980's. A 340K byte bubble memory lap-top computer with die-cast magnesium case and folding electroluminescent graphics display screen.

Gavilan Computer As The First Laptop?
Manny Fernandez had the idea for a well-designed laptop for executives who were starting to use computer. Fernandez, who started Gavilan Computer, promoted his machines as the first "laptop" computers in May 1983. Many historians consider the Gavilan as the first fully functional laptop computer.

The First Laptop Computer - Osborne 1
The computer considered by most historians to be the first true portable computer was the Osborne 1. Adam Osborne, an ex-book publisher founded Osborne Computer and produced the Osborne 1 in 1981, a portable computer that weighed 24 pounds and cost $1795. The Osborne 1 came with a five-inch screen, modem port, two 5 1/4 floppy drives, a large collection of bundled software programs, and a battery pack. The short-lived computer company was never successful.
(second photo)

More History of Laptop Firsts

  • Also released in 1981, was the Epson HX-20, a battery powered portable computer, with a 20-character by 4 line LCD display and a built-in printer.
  • In January of 1982, Microsoft's Kazuhiko Nishi and Bill Gates begin discussions on designing a portable computer, based on using a new liquid crystal display or LCD screen. Kazuhiko Nishi later showed the prototype to Radio Shack who agree to manufacture the computer.
  • In 1983, Radio Shack released the TRS-80 Model 100, a 4 lb. battery operated portable computer with a flat and more of a laptop design.
  • In February 1984, IBM announced the IBM 5155 Portable Personal Computer.
  • Three years later in 1986, Radio Shack released the improved and smaller TRS Model 200.
  • In 1988, Compaq Computer introduces its first laptop PC with VGA graphics - the Compaq SLT/286.
  • In 1989, NEC UltraLite was released, considered by some to be the first "notebook style" computer. It was a laptop size computer which weighed under 5 lbs. (second photo)
  • In September 1989, Apple Computer released the first Macintosh Portable that later evolved into the Powerbook. (second photo)
  • In 1989, Zenith Data Systems released the Zenith MinisPort, a 6-pound laptop computer. (more Zenith laptops)
  • In October 1989, Compaq Computer released its first notebook PC, the Compaq LTE.
  • In March 1991, Microsoft released the Microsoft BallPoint Mouse that used both mouse and trackball technology in a pointing device designed for laptop computers.
  • In October 1991, Apple Computers released the Macintosh PowerBook 100, 140, and 170 - all notebook style laptops. (more on Powerbooks)
  • In October 1992, IBM released its ThinkPad 700 laptop computer.
  • In 1992, Intel and Microsoft release APM or the Advanced Power Management specification for laptop computers.
  • In 1993, the first PDAs or Personal Digital Assistants are released. PDAs are pen-based hand-held computers.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


The early foundations of what would become computer science predate the invention of the modern digital computer. Machines for calculating fixed numerical tasks, such as the abacus, have existed since antiquity. Wilhelm Schickard built the first mechanical calculator in 1623.[4] Charles Babbage designed a difference engine in Victorian times (between 1837 and 1901)[5] helped by Ada Lovelace.[6] Around 1900, the IBM corporation sold punch-card machines.[7] However, all of these machines were constrained to perform a single task, or at best some subset of all possible tasks.

During the 1940s, as newer and more powerful computing machines were developed, the term computer came to refer to the machines rather than their human predecessors. As it became clear that computers could be used for more than just mathematical calculations, the field of computer science broadened to study computation in general. Computer science began to be established as a distinct academic discipline in the 1960s, with the creation of the first computer science departments and degree programs.[8] Since practical computers became available, many applications of computing have become distinct areas of study in their own right.

Many initially believed it impossible that "computers themselves could actually be a scientific field of study" (Levy 1984, p. 11), though it was in the "late fifties" (Levy 1984, p.11) that it gradually became accepted among the greater academic population. It is the now well-known IBM brand that formed part of the computer science revolution during this time. IBM (short for International Business Machines) released the IBM 704 and later the IBM 709 computers, which were widely used during the exploration period of such devices. "Still, working with the IBM [computer] was frustrating...if you had misplaced as much as one letter in one instruction, the program would crash, and you would have to start the whole process over again" (Levy 1984, p.13). During the late 1950s, the computer science discipline was very much in its developmental stages, and such issues were commonplace.

Time has seen significant improvements in the useability and effectiveness of computer science technology. Modern society has seen a significant shift from computers being used solely by experts or professionals to more a more widespread user base. By the 1990s, computers became accepted as being the norm within everyday life. During this time data entry was a primary component of the use of computers, many preferring to streamline their business practices through the use of a computer. This also gave the additional benefit of removing the need of large amounts of documentation and file records which consumed much-needed physical space within offices.