The Notebooks of Yore - Portable Past Meets Future

Excuse me Sir, is that a Computer or a Luggage

Excuse me Sir, is that a Computer or a Luggage

It may come as no surprise to most laptop users that the original concept of the notebook came from a desire to make the bulky desktop computers portable. What's surprising is the fact that there have been attempts made since the 1970s, though the first commercially available "portable computer" (and we use the term loosely) was only released in 1981.

The Osborne 1 weighed in at a whopping 10.7kg, featured a 5-inch CRT monitor, a 4MHz CPU (awesome!) and 65kb of memory. Interestingly, it had no internal battery and required an external source meant that you couldn't use it on the go though a battery pack which provided about one hour of usage was made available after.

Being the first of its kind, the Osborne 1 was quickly popular with business users as the unit was loaded with productivity software. Due to its size and weight (which was often compared to a suitcase), the Osborne 1 and its competitors of that time have now come to be classified as "luggables", a far cry from the UMPCs and lightweight laptops of today.

Of course, by today's standards, the luggables of yesterday will probably get you no less than outright laughter and disbelief, but it's not hard to see why this is so. After all, it's hard to believe anyone these days would want to carry around a 10kg "portable" computer without some physical training programs in place, especially with the availability of portable computing solutions weighing less than a kilogram.

Which was why just barely two years after the launch of the Osborne 1, the Kyocera's Kyotronic 85 (which was popularly known as the Tandy 100), with its lightweight 1.4kg frame and powered by four AA batteries, soon became the one of the top selling models worldwide, with close to six million units sold. These days, it's most unlikely to find computers that run on AA batteries, given the energy requirements of modern day processors.

The Tandy 100 was more of an exception to the general rule of notebook designs in the 80s, admittedly, there were a few similar models to the Tandy 100 but generally, the designs of the notebooks then seemed to follow more of the earlier Osborne 1 machine (but smaller), or a clam shell design that we're all familiar with today.

Not all notebooks are built equal of course, and the reason for this is may be traced to the notebook's evolution as a portable computing device. The spirit of creativity and design may have gone a little wonky during the 80s, as devices that were being churned out featured different hardware specifications, sizes, components, screens... if you can name it, it would probably have existed in one form or the other then.

Of course, the notebook evolution was by no means instantaneous; even as far as ten years back to our first notebook review, which was pretty clunky and huge (and had a nice ass shot to boot). From the early to late 90s, notebooks in part have shrunk down somewhat in size and weight, while increasing in both battery life and power.