Laptops: Modern Laptop Computers

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Technology on the Go
The History of the Laptop Computer

In this day and age, computer technology develops so rapidly that it seems there is no end to the possibilities of the miracle machine. Computers, once monstrous behemoths that could dominate whole rooms, can now be compacted into lightweight, portable notebook systems. The laptop computer was likely unimaginable when computers were first created more than 60 years ago, but today it features incredible technology in a very small package.

The Idea Is Born

The idea of a portable, technically complete computer system was first conceived of as early as the 1970s. While the technology of the laptop would not be feasible until the next decade, researchers at Xerox were experimenting with a type of portable computer, called the Dynabook, in the late 1960s and early 1970s (Wurster 2001). The Dynabook was intended to be a type of tablet computer (with a screen that did not fold down as the screens of most modern laptop computers do) that could run on nearly eternal battery life. Unfortunately, technology in the 1970s was not advanced enough to support this idea, and the concept of the Dynabook was never developed into an operational unit.

Earliest Laptops

Portable computers first became commercially available in 1981 with the Osborne 1 system (Wilson 2006). This computer was about the size of a portable sewing machine, featured a tiny monitor, and could not be run on battery power. However, it revolutionized the business world, allowing business professionals to carry their computer data with them for the first time, even on airplanes. But due to the unwieldy size of the Osborne I and its inability to run on battery power, the system never really took off in the commercial market, though it would remain a vanguard of technological advances to come.

The first true laptop computer, which featured a flat display screen that could fold down on the keyboard, was introduced in 1982. Termed the GRID



References: Wilson, James E. 2006. Vintage Laptop Computers: First Decade: 1980-89. Outskirts Press, Inc. Wurster, Christian. 2001. Computers: An Illustrated History. Taschen.

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