Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

What was the first portable computer?

Author's Note

When researching this article, it was interesting to see how passionate some people can be about older computers. Many models are still in use by enthusiasts. You can still buy the printer ribbon and other accessories for the Epson HX-20, and I came across a person who still writes programs meant to be used on it. The earliest laptop I can remember using was my father's and it was supplied by his employer for work. He sometimes brought it home so I could play the first "Sim City" on it, and this was around 1990. I wish I could remember the model, but I do recall that it was impressively small compared to the computers I was using at school!

Related Articles


  • Ahl, David A. "Epson HX-20." Creative Computing. March 1983. (Sept. 10, 2012)
  • Boisseau, Olivier and Thierry Schembri. Old Computers Museum. 2011. (Sept. 9, 2012)
  • Epson. "Epson HX-20 Manual." (Sept. 9, 2012)
  • Fallows, James. "Living With a Computer." The Atlantic. July 1982. (Sept. 9, 2012)
  • Hollister, Sean. "Osborne 1 celebrates its 30th birthday, and that of the portable computing revolution." Engadget. April 3, 2011. (Sept. 9, 2012)
  • IBM. "IBM 5100 Portable Computer." 2012. (Sept. 10, 2012)
  • Pals, Leon. "World's first laptop, 25 years ago and still running!" The Next Web Shareables. Oct. 26, 2010. (Sept. 9, 2012)
  • Stengel, Steven. "Old" 2012. (Sept. 10, 2012)