The History of Laptops

The History of Laptops

This is a Guest post by Matt Rawlings. He is a writer that enjoys testing out the latest gadgets and technology as it hits the stores. He enjoys researching and writing about new tech trends, especially mobile technology and raves about everything to do with Dell laptops and computers.

Can you remember a time without laptops? In this day and age most of us own a trusty, portable laptop, but just how did we end up with this convenient technology?

Although a far cry from the advanced technology available today, the idea for portable computer systems was dreamed up as early as 1960’s. Dubbed ‘the Dynabook’ the very first laptop was invented in 1968 by an American computer scientist named Alan Kay. Aimed at children, the Dynabook formed the basis for the development of the laptop but failed to get off the ground thanks to a lack of technological advancements.

It wasn’t until 1981 that portable computers became available for purchase in the form of the Osborne 1. Although this portable computer offering couldn’t run on battery power and was the size of a sewing machine it was a major breakthrough in portable computing. The Osborne 1 was great for businessmen who wanted to carry their data with them but turned out to be another flop thanks to its size and failure to run on battery power, but did provide another valuable springboard for the development of laptops.

Fast forward to 1982 and the first recognisable laptop is born. With a flat display screen that folded down onto the keyboard, the GRID Compass boasted the clamshell design that is still used on modern laptops. As well as its modern design the GRID Compass had the ability to run on battery power but its high cost made it unaffordable to most consumers, although NASA and the US Military made great use of the technology.

Finally, in 1983 consumers were offered The Compaq Portable and the Epson HX-20 – these offerings proved to be much more successful commercially. Although The Compaq Portable was not battery powered it was compatible with both IBM software and the MS-DOS operating system that were used on desktop systems. This compatibility was a major breakthrough for businesses as it made data transfer easy. Thanks to its simple programming, the Epson HX-20 was inexpensive and boasted the convenient ability to run on rechargeable batteries.

In 1986 and 1987 IBM and Toshiba produced two laptops that were IBM compatible. Most early laptops were not compatible with IBM and their lack of success could be directly linked to this incompatibility. Consumers using desktops computers needed portable computer systems with data transfer ability, and as most desktops used IBM it was imperative that their laptops offered the same software.

1987 saw the emergence of several laptop manufacturers and the race was on to create the very first, universally successful laptop. The competition soon became even fiercer when the US Air Force offered a contract for the production and purchase of 200,000 laptops and Zenith Data Systems came out on top. Thanks to this contract win, the late 1980’s saw Zenith Data Systems become the largest laptop manufacturers and they soon teamed up with an equipment supplier in Japan to speed up their processes.

Although a market leader now, Apple was relatively slow to produce laptops, with the Macintosh Portable becoming available in 1989. Although it was a bulky offering it received praise for its long battery life and clear display it was Apple’s 1991 PowerBook series that truly became revolutionary in the production of laptops. Featuring designs that included a touchpad mouse and keyboard placement that are still used in modern laptops, the PowerBook series had an amazing impact upon the production and manufacture of laptops.

Microsoft also had a hand in revolutionising laptop production by offering Windows 95 which soon became the most prominent operating system replacing a variety of systems to offer one main system.

Development has continued and laptops are better than ever, with companies offering smaller devices, thinner screens and more and more advanced software. Statistics showed that in 2008 39% of Americans owned a laptop and further advancements in portable computing technology have given us portable reading devices as well as tablet devices and this rapid progression still shows no sign of halting.


Founder and Chief Editor of Techin5, currently based in Melbourne Australia. Has always had a deep appreciation of Technology and how it helps people, which led to the birth of Techin5. You can follow me on Twitter at @jubbing and on Instagram
  • http://twitter.com/aabie30 aabie30

    Thanks for sharing this idea alteast we got a chance to refresh our minds, it was actually a brilliant idea that laptop exist in our generation, I just couldn’t imagine how my life would be without a laptop.

  • gfddfhgdfg

    its called a desktop idiot

  • gfddfhgdfg is a fucking faggot

    Shut the fuck up faggot