The Historical Text Archive: Electronic History Resources, online since 1990 Bringing you digitized history, primary and secondary sources




Laptops

In both the academic and computer worlds there has been debate concerning who created the first laptop. Many historians and computer scientists consider the Englishman William Moggridge the first person to have developed a portable computer.

In 1979 while Moggridge was working for the company he founded, Grid System, he first considered the idea of a portable computer for the space industry. Moggridge developed the computer called the Grid Compass. The Grid compass weighed about twenty percent of the closest competitor and was placed in a magnesium case. It came standard with a collapsible graphics display case. NASA used the Grid Compass in the early 1980’s on the space shuttle. Although still rather heavy, the 340-byte computer was a foreshadowing of the many technological developments to come.

The next evolution of the laptop came when in 1983 Manny Fernandez founded a corporation called Gavilan computers. With Manny’s introduction of the Gavilan, the race for a lightweight portable computer had truly begun. In fact some historians consider Manny the father of the modern laptop. Manny’s overall vision was to create a laptop the average business executive could both afford and carry.

There has been debate among historians that the true father of the laptop was actually Adam Osborne. In 1981 Adam created the twenty-four-pound Osborne 1. The laptop came with a five- and-a-quarter floppy drive, a five inch view screen and was bundled with a large group of software - another first for its time. Due to the high cost of over seventeen hundred dollars, and the weight, the Osborne 1 never became successful.

Variety and pricing vary greatly. As of this writing you can purchase used lower-end laptops in the 300-1.0 ghz range for as little as two hundred dollars. On the upper end of the spectrum you can purchase a laptop which is equal to some of the most powerful desktops, which are over 3 GHz.

One thing is for sure - we all owe William, Manny and Adam a great debt of gratitude. If it weren’t for revolutionary minds such as theirs, today’s 3ghz + laptops would not exist.