Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The History of Laptops

By: Pete Malcolm

When it comes to computers and computer technology, it seems there is no limit to the possibilities. Computers were at one time huge and expensive devices, but now, thanks to the digital revolution, nearly every home has a computer, particularly small and lightweight portable laptops. This history of laptops is a fascinating story of evolving technology.

The concept of a portable computer system was born in the late 1960s and early 1970s. During this time period, researchers at Xerox were experimenting with a portable type computer called the Dynabook. The intention of the Dynabook was to be a kind of tablet computer that could run on battery life. However, technology had not yet evolved at this time to develop the Dynabook.

In 1981, the Osborne 1 system was developed for commercial purposes. This computer had a very small monitor but could not run on battery power. The Osborne 1 system gave businesses the ability, for the first time, to take their data with them, which included taking them on planes. However, because it could not run on battery power which prevented it from becoming a success.

The first real laptop computer was introduced in 1982. It could run on battery life and it contained a flat display screen that folded down on the keyboard. It also featured a clam shell design. It became known as the GRID Compass. Its design is still used for many laptops today. However, the high cost and IBM incompatibility made it unappealing in the commercial marketplace. It was mostly used by NASA and the US military.

In 1983, two new portable computers were introduced - The Epson HX-20 and Compaq Portable. They featured technological advancements that made them more viable for business use. The Compaq system was the first portable computer to be compatible with the MS-DOS operating system and IBM software. The Epson HX-20 was reasonably priced and could be run on rechargeable batteries.

In late 1983 the Kyocera Kyotronic 85 was released. This laptop was initially released in Japan but suffered from poor sales. However, American computer developers started marketing it in the United States and it had considerably more sales success. The laptop contained an internal modem and a number of programs that were designed by Microsoft. As well, it could run on regular AA batteries.

In 1986 and 1987, two IBM-compatible laptops were fairly good sales success. Manufactured by IBM and Toshiba, they had limited operating capabilities but they could run on batteries, lightweight, and had a pause feature that gave users the ability to resume work without restarting.

By 1987, several laptop manufacturers had emerged on the market, and competition among laptop manufacturers had greatly increased. A contract from the United States Air Force for the purchase of 200,000 laptops was offered and computer manufacturers competed intensely for it. Zenith Data Systems (ZDS) won the contract and became the largest manufacturer of laptop computers in the late 1980s.

ZDS partnered with a Japanese equipment supplier to boost the production of laptops. Also, Companies formed partnerships with Taiwanese suppliers and began to become leaders in the laptop market. In 1989, Apple Inc. released its first portable computer, the Macintosh Portable. The computer had a long battery life, clear display, but it was expensive and bulky. Apple's 1991 PowerBook series has such technological features as built-in network adapters, the keyboard placement we see today, and the touchpad mouse.

In 1995 Microsoft released the Windows 95 operating system. The development of Windows 95 standardized most areas of the laptop design. It was also during this time that such features as Intel Pentium processors, CD-ROM drives, and floppy disk drives, became standard features of most laptops. Since 1995, technology developments have improved laptops making them a popular computer system choice that is now used by millions of people all over the world