Vintage Portable Computers
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The Evolution of Portability
Today the notebook computer is an everyday sight in coffee shops, libraries, colleges and
the teenage bedroom. For the most part, these computers out-power their office
counterparts. The standard laptop computer of today is complete with USB ports, DVD
burners, video interface, floppy and hard drives, and full multi-media applications. But
the computers were for the most part tethered to their desks. That was until engineers
began to see the importance of taking their work with them.
It must be remembered that early personal computers had little in the way of application
software. For the most part, the portability revolution began with the programming
community. Computer manufacturers just satisfying their in-house needs. But the first
computers were characterized as boxes with CRT display built-ion along with large 8" or
5.25" floppy drives. The easy solution was to add a handle on the top of existing units.
This was very evident in the advent of the TRS-80 Model 4p. Basically a Model 4
squeezed into a sewing machine case. The Kaypro, Olivetti's and Osborn computers did
the same and the outcome was a 20 to 35 pound behemoth. But they were great
computers in their own right.
Tandy, Olivetti and NEC countered with what many today see as the best computers ever
built. These are the NEC-8300, TRS-80 Model 100, and Olivetti M10. Computers that
had programming power, and application software complete with connectivity. These
units worked 4 AA batteries, and were under 3 pounds. Amstrad added to the mix with an
absolute fabulous unit known as the NC-100.
Just before Intel began to penetrate the market with their 8808 CPU which launched the
industry in their current path for the notebook, Tandy Corporation produced the Model
600. An extremely cool computer, that for a small footprint weighted heavy on the thighs.
This unit had a3.5" floppy drive and Microsoft Works built-in. A basic ROM was also
available but not shipped and very few of these chips exist today. The computer was
released only a few months before the first 8088 laptops appeared by companies like
Epson, NEC and Toshiba to name a few. As a result the Model 600 was a flop, and now is
only treasured by collectors. NEC also pulled the same stunt with the Model 8401, and
CPM based computer with similar flare as the Model 600. It was also a failure for the
same reason. Tandy countered with the release of their Model 1400's, heavy 8088
laptops that were replaced 18 months later by their Tandy 1100FD and 1110HD models.
Take some time and read the pages in these sections for reviews of these great collector