Portable computers, smart phones and you

The personal computer as we know it was invented 27 years backimage in August 1981 and ever since then they have wanted to make it small and portable and with you all the time. Not so much perhaps in 1981. Laptops began from a desire to have a full-featured computer that could be easily used anywhere. Their predecessor was called the luggable. These all-in-one systems could be easily transported, but were heavy and usually were not battery powered. The CRT (cathode ray tube) was one of the major reasons luggables were so large and heavy, but the use of a full-size desktop motherboard with room for ISA expansion cards was another size factor.image

Alan Kay of the Xerox Palo Alto research center was the first to come up with the idea of the portable PC in the 1970. Kay envisioned a portable computer much like the ones found today. Something small and lightweight that anyone could afford. The first notebook that was actually built in 1979 by William Moggridge who was with Grid Systems Corp. It featured 340 kilobytes of memory, a folding screen, and was made of metal (magnesium). This was hardly like the laptop computers found today, but it was a start.

Arguably, the next mobile computer produced was in 1983 by Gavilan Computers. This laptop featured  128 megabytes of memory, a touchpad mouse, and even a imageportable printer. Weighing in at 9 pounds without the printer, this computer was actually only a few pounds heavier than notebooks found today.
Gavilan later failed largely due to their computer being incompatible with other computers. Mainly because the Gavilan laptop useimaged their own operating system.


Apple Computers introduced the apple IIc model in 1984, but it wasn’t all that much better than what Gavilan had produced a year earlier. It did feature an optional LCD panel which had on impact on later notebooks. Finally in 1986 a true laptop was created by IBM called the IBM PC Convertible. It featured two modern 3.5 inch floppy drives, and space for an internal modem! Also found on the Convertible was an LCD screen and basic applications the user could use to create word documents, and schedule appointments. And from then on there was the talk of ‘ubiquitous computing’, everywhere, insidious and all pervasive! I think we are now at that point in technology development and our own evolution where that time has indeed come. One of the steps in this leap was when the microprocessors were introduced and engineers thought of what next? Next was processors in everything, automobiles and other automatons. The robot as we know of them are automatons with processors in them.

For humans ubiquitous computing came in with mobile phones wanting to be smart and the personal computer wanting to be small. The sub note book, the UPMC has been around for a while now but I think it was Nicholas Negroponte’s OLPC that really brought the cat out of the bag at a proposed $100 a piece! Since the machine would run an AMD Intel had to do the defensive thing and introduced a mobile platform smaller than the Celeron with the Atom. Soon the Classmate PC on intel and a toned down version of Win XP was a viable alternative. Before long Asus a Taiwanese company had the Eee PC out and the sub note book was a reality! It wouldn’t perhaps be fair to call them pioneers but they did take the leap of faith to actually commercialise the concept of full function ‘sub’ computer at a price of $300 a piece! Today mainstream computer manufacturers despair the growth of these sub net books at sub profitable prices with negligible margins and question how long they will last? With growth of the smart phone and a capability on the mobile, why would you need a sub notebook – except what if it were not the sub – but the main notebook – and the next device was the smart phone like the iPhone with a totally different interface and input/output. No more mice and keyboards!

About Soumya
A technology enthusiast, forever enamored by all that it hath wrought and of course here is an attempt at making sense of it all and perhaps simplifying it!

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