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The World's first laptop?

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Tredsaw12

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What do you think was the world's first laptop computer?

It sounds like an easy question, but in fact it's almost impossible to answer.

I had this discussion with some very knowledgeable collectors and we couldn't agree on one. Some of the models that came up were the Osborne 1, TRS-80 model 100 and the GRID. Of course most of the old portable computers were ....."PORTABLES". I don't think a portable could be considered a laptop. For one, it has no battery! The GRID has no hard drive or floppy drive and couldn't run regular computer software.

I think a good definition for a laptop was - a computer that most resembles today's modern laptop including a flat screen that folds down to protect itself and the keyboard, can run on a battery, has fixed drive and removable drive, serial/parallel ports, weighs 10 lbs. or less and runs 'regular' computer software.

What do you think?
 

apple2fan

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Just asking, but wasn't the Osborne 1 more of a portable than a laptop? I guess there both the same thing. But with portables its more like lugging them around more than carrying them.
 

Yzzerdd

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Yes, that is what he was implying--The Osbourne is more of a PORTABLE than a laptop.

I think you should change that definition of a laptop to include non-HDD systems. I used to have a Zenith and it had no HDD, just two floppies. Did everything a normal laptop could dream of AND had two floppy drives.

Plus, the IBM Covertible didn't have an HDD(well, it may have been an option) and yet it was a fine laptop.

--Ryan
 

Sharkonwheels

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I thought the agreed upon standard was the Data General One.

I think if you leave out wierdos, like non 80x25 screens, or 40x8 screens, or some wierd stuff, what you end up with, I think, is the DG One.

Although, I think EvanK can probably answer this question better....


T

EDIT: Hmmm....non-standard OS, but GRiD Compass announced 1979-80, released 1982...used something called GrID-OS?
 
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nige the hippy

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Kind of seems relevant, just scored a DG1, and an IBM Convertible (well cute!) off ebay for a fiver. Couldn't let that one pass me by!
 

Sharkonwheels

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Here's a link to the GRiD Compass:
grid_compass_2s.jpg

Full link:
http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?st=1&c=900

And that was released in 1982, so I don't know of anything clamshell-style before that. Apparently, they made a ton of money on patents on the design...

Wikipedia entry:
GRiD Compass Wikipedia Entry


T
 

EvanK

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What do you think was the world's first laptop computer? It sounds like an easy question, but in fact it's almost impossible to answer. I had this discussion with some very knowledgeable collectors

Impossible, you didn't ask ME. :)

(Arrogant? No, just observant. Okay, maybe arrogant.)

Anyway ... in 1982 there were FIVE laptops available ... in no particular order they were the Grid Compass 1100/1101, Epson HX-20, MicroOffice RoadRunner, Teleram T-3000, and Grundy NewBrain. (Anyone thinking about the DG should immediately disabuse themselves of that notion. Best-selling laptop of the early years was the Tandy Model 100, circa 1983. The DG was a 1984 product. 1983 comes before 1984 .... duh.)

Most people only think of the Grid and the Epson. But the Grid required AC power! So if battery power is a requirement, then the Grid doesn't count for 1982. (I am loathe to enter a debate about definitions. But to me, 'laptop' only defines the size and form factor, while 'portable' is the word indicating that it's not tethered to AC power. So technically a 'laptop portable' is the correct term, but for this thread, and to (gasp) normal people, 'laptop' suffices because we all 'know it when we see it'.)

Meanwhile, what applications/features must a laptop possess? That obviously gets subjective. The original Husky computer is, I think, from 1981. (I have to do some more research on that.) Also from 1981 is the Sony Typecorder. The latter is at first glance 'just' a word processor, but inside, it's a computer -- they just didn't enable other applications.

So this is not a straightforward question to answer. (It's similar to the question I asked on cctalk in approx. 2002: "What's the first PDA?" ... I didn't know at the time that my question would open a huge can of worms.)

For those who still aren't aware, I am writing a whole book on the history of portables. True, I've been saying that for five years. :) But I really am making good progress. Every time I think the research is complete, I learn about something else to include. As my goal is to be thorough and accurate, I will keep researching until there are NO unexplored paths -- whenever that happens, then I'll publish it. Not incidentally, because my daytime job is technology journalism, most of the sources in my book will be first-person, meaning I've actually tracked down and interviewed the people who designed these early laptops -- I'm not relying on what I read, heard, speculated, or blatantly plagiarized from old-computers.com, unlike other books.

This part about the first GENERATION of laptops will be a whole chapter.

"Generation" is what counts the most, I feel. Which of these few products were actually 'first' is, I feel, a pointless and nearly impossible question. It really doesn't matter because 'first' means ... what? First to think of something, sketch it on a napkin, prototype it, patent it, announce it to the press, collect money for it, actually ship it? If you look at any of these four or five computers and draw a grid with the various definitions of 'first' on one axis and the different challengers on the other axis, they'd all be 'first' in different categories, and no two people agree anyway about which category(s) are most important. So rather than waste time at that futile and sensationalist debate, I instead focus on the first generation, which is quite clearly 1981-1982. (So that part of the chapter will not include the Model 100. Just like Ford's Model T, the Model 100 was the first commercial smash-hit laptop. But to claim it or anything else from '83+ as the first overall is just very poor historianship.)

You may all now bow before me. ;)
 
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Terry Yager

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You may all now bow before me.

<bowing, scraping> I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy, etc...

By my own definition, a 'laptop' should be a hand-holdable computer that runs independent of the power grid, and possesses the features and power of contemporary desktop personal computers. My vote therefore still goes to the HX-20, which meets these criteria earlier than other computers, AFAIK (pending correction by The Master).

--T
 

EvanK

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My vote therefore still goes to the HX-20, which meets these criteria earlier than other computers, AFAIK (pending correction by The Master).

Heh ....

As I said, the HX-20 is a peer of the MicroOffice RoadRunner, Teleram T-3000, and Grundy NewBrain, so unless you study those other three extensively, then your 'vote' is misinformed and meaningless. :)

All four of those may indeed be a moot point if we accept the Husky (which again, I'm pretty darn sure is from 1981) as a laptop.

I don't mean the Hunter: http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?st=1&c=285 ... I mean the plain old Husky: http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?c=471 ... I had a chance to hold and experiment with one of these at VCF 10 last fall (Sellam has one) but I didn't see any external date codes on it. I'd like a chance to open it and see what is inside -- that usually gives clues about the year of manufacture. Ideally I hope to find someone from DVW who was involved in the project, or someone in the USA from Sarasota Automation (see the reference at http://www.atarimagazines.com/creative/v10n6/174_Notebook_computing.php). Another source of information could be the company that owns the Husky rights -- http://www.gd-itronix.com/index.cfm?locale=en_UK. And here's an interesting page, but I don't know anything about the author: http://tinyurl.com/6z6ous.
 
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garsky

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maybe

maybe

I would agree that both words differ,laptop and portable..i dont know but maybe it matters on the features..portable is for the old stuff and laptop is definitely for the lap not for ports?haha...i'm a newbie and expects great things in here.so long
 

linemanduke

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By my own definition, a 'laptop' should be a hand-holdable computer that runs independent of the power grid, and possesses the features and power of contemporary desktop personal computers. My vote therefore still goes to the HX-20, which meets these criteria earlier than other computers, AFAIK (pending correction by The Master).

--T

so my p70with the portifier (u.p.s in an old camcorder bag) don't count

btw my father had an ibm convetible that ibm actually put a had drive in it for him (he worked there and knew some people who planned the convertible) i wish i still had his we lost it some how when our house caught fire.
 

billdeg

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laptop vs. portable

laptop vs. portable

In addition to portability the easy definition of laptop (vs. portable) is
1) LCD or Plasma (not CRT)
2) Used 80's battery technology / had low power requirement

These are both innovations commercialized successfully by Japanese companies although there were US hints of it before that.

The Osborne, Kaypro, IBM 5100 were CRT display computers and required a wall outlet.

The Grid 1101 was the first production laptop:
http://www.vintagecomputer.net/grid/1101/

The first LCD display portable IBM-compatible is the Visual Computer "Commuter" (not a laptop)
Data General made the first full-screen IBM-compatible LCD laptop.

The coolest looking early laptop - The Grundy NewBrain.
http://www.vintagecomputer.net/grundy/grundy_newbrain-AD.jpg
bd
 
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Terry Yager

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Heh ....

As I said, the HX-20 is a peer of the MicroOffice RoadRunner, Teleram T-3000, and Grundy NewBrain, so unless you study those other three extensively, then your 'vote' is misinformed and meaningless. :)
Roger that, and since I've never even heard of the RoadRunner, I need to do my homework (that's why you're The Master).

--T
 

Mike Chambers

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yup, the osborne 1 is generally considered to be the first "laptop"

i've got one of those suckers in my basement too... big thanks to curtus for sending me boot disks!

that thing is pretty much useless. i guess you could use it as like a calculator. a really heavy one.
 
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