In the 1970s, Alan Kay of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center had a vision for a wireless portable computer roughly the size of a notebook. He called it the Dynabook. Kay's Dynabook never got past sketches and a cardboard model, but it set the wheels in motion for the development of a truly portable computer.
In 1979, William Moggridge of Grid Systems Corporation created the first functioning portable computer: The Grid Compass Computer 1109. It had 340 kilobytes of bubble memory, a die-cast magnesium case and a folding electroluminescent graphics display screen. NASA bought a handful of them at $800 apiece for use in the space program.
Other companies, like Gavilan Computer and Apple, introduced other portable computers in following years. The first commercially viable machine, however, was the IBM PC Convertible, introduced in 1986. The PC Convertible featured:
Weighing in at a hefty 12 lbs (5.4 kg), the PC Convertible sold for $3,500. It was the first portable computer with the clamshell design used in today's laptops. The success of the PC Convertible was the catalyst for competitors like Compaq and Toshiba to switch to the clamshell design in their portable computers. And so began the era of the laptop computer.
For more information about laptops and related topics, check out the links on the following page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- How PCs Work
- How Mobile Broadband Works
- How Portable Internet Devices Work
- How Wireless Mesh Networks Work
- How Wireless Internet Cards Work
- Improve Your Wireless Connection
- Can the government take away my laptop?
- Will the $100 laptop help save the developing world?
- What is causing lithium-ion laptop batteries to overheat?
- How Computer Keyboards Work
- How a Computer Mouse Works
- How Computer Memory Works
- How Sound Cards Work
- How Graphics Cards Work
More Great Links
- The Pros and Cons of Laptops http://www.breadtv.com.au/resources/technology/prosAndConsOfLaptops.asp
- PC World: How to Buy a Notebook PC http://www.pcworld.com/howto/bguide/0,guid,13,page,1,00.asp
- Geek.com: Laptop Buyers' Guide http://www.geek.com/htbc/glanlap.htm
- Tom's Hardware Guide: A Dell Novelty http://www.tomshardware.com/mobile/20021101/index.html
- ATI, nVidia to Rev Up Laptop Graphics http://news.com.com/ATI%2C+Nvidia+to+rev+up+laptop+graphics/ 2100-1006_3-992407.html?tag=st.rc.targ_mb
- Tom's Hardware Guide: The Return of the King http://www.tomshardware.com/mobile/20050224/index.html
- ExtremeTech: Mobile Graphics Shootout http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,3973,1414287,00.asp
- Game PC: Mobile CPU Showdown http://www.gamepc.com/labs/view_content.asp?id=gmso&page=1&cookie%5Ftest=1PC Mech: Mobile CPU Overview http://www.pcmech.com/show/processors/819/
- Vivian Dynabook vision http://www.users.qwest.net/~rvossler/vision.html
- The Dynabook revisited http://www.honco.net/os/kay.html
- Intel Centrino Mobile Technology Brief http://intel.com/products/mobiletechnology/docs/performance_brief.pdf?iid=ipp_centrino+perfbrief&The History of Computing during my lifetime http://www.pattosoft.com.au/jason/Articles/HistoryOfComputers/1980s.html
- IBM User Systems Ergonomics Report http://www.almaden.ibm.com/cs/user/tp/tp.html
- United States Patent 5,854,625: Force Sensor Touchpad http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=/netahtml/search-bool.html &r=11&f=G&l=50&co1= AND&d=ptxt&s1=touchpad&s2='force+sensor'&OS=touchpad+AND+"force +sensor"&RS=touchpad+AND+"force+sensor"
- Computer Power User Magazine: May 2004 - Vol. 4, Issue 5