Much like many of our current technological innovations, it's hard to think back to what they first looked like during their inception. In the case of the laptop, it looked like this ...
Called the "Dynabook" this design, created by computer scientist Alan Kay in 1968 was intended to give children access to digital media. While this device could be used by adults and children the target audience was children. Not surprisingly part of the motivation for the creation of the Dynabook was fueled by the military's need for portable military maintenance, repair, and operations documentation.
From the Dynabook, laptop evolved into this device, the Epson HX-20, launched in 1981 and available to consumers in 1983...
This machine is essentially regarded as the first laptop/portable computer and hailed by BusinessWeek as the fourth revolution in personal computing. Here's what this technological wonder featured:
- A full-transit keyboard
- Rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries
- A built-in 120 × 32-pixel LCD (smaller than that on many mobile phones today) which allowed 4 lines of 20 characters.
- A calculator-size dot-matrix printer
- The EPSON BASIC programming language
- Two Hitachi 6301 CPUs at 614 kHz which is essentially a souped up Motorola 6801, 16 kB RAM expandable to 32 kB, two RS-232 ports at a maximum of 4800 bits/s for the first 8-pin DIN intended for modem or serial printer.
Translation: It was clunky, slow and didn't do anything like what your expect your laptop in 2012 to do. But in 1981 -- this was amazing.
Eventually the design, functionality, portability and computing power of laptops made them less expensive than say the ones offered up in the 80s which ran around $9,000 to the plethora of PC and Apple laptops that currently populate our technological consumer landscape.
So technically our now everyday machine has not been around that long but it is a wonder to think how it's evolved from a military-inspired children's tablet to the lighter than air mega-powered machines that exist today.