I bought my first laptop computer in 1987. I had already owned a computer for several years, but I wanted something a little more portable than a 25-pound sheet metal box. I opted for an Epson Geneva which, from DAK (does anyone here remember Drew Alan Kaplan and DAK?) cost around $500 with 64K of RAM and an optional 64K RAMDisk (not shown in this photo):
It was really a very awesome little computer. I used it in the library when I needed to take notes on the microfilm I was reading (anyone remember microfilm?) and got envious looks. With the RAMDrive attached underneath and the screen folded down, the whole thing was about the size of a reasonably full 3″ ring binder–though it weighed a great deal more!
I customized it as much as I was able–I modified programs on my full-sized CP/M computer (Kaypro, see earlier posts) and sent them off to be burned into a PROM that mounted in one of two slots in the belly of the machine. The other PROM held basic utilities. If I needed long-term mass storage, there was a tape drive. I believe that the 8-bit Z80 CPU ran at something like 2 MHz. There was a built-in 300 baud modem.
What a far cry from the technology I’m using to write this post! And yet, how similar. The Geneva had a 2Mhz, 8-bit processor, compared to the 1.83 GHz, 32-bit processor in this Acer netbook (so the Acer is roughly 1,000 times as fast, and handles 4x as much data at a time). Both ran on batteries–the Geneva on a set of lead-acid cells (state of the art at the time) and my Acer on Lithium-based cells. I think that the Geneva had a screen of 8 lines by 80 characters (which was pretty good at a time when the standard for a desktop was 25 lines x 80 characters, and many were limited to 40-character-wide lines). The Acer has a “limited” resolution, by modern standards, of 1024 x 600 pixels, but also has a native character mode of 25 80 character lines. With the RAMDisk, the Geneva had 64KB of storage. The SSD I installed in my Acer is 64GB, or roughly 1,000,000 times as large.
Of course the Acer netbook is also smaller and lighter and has, for my money, a much better keyboard. Yeah, things have changed a lot, but it’s still the same basic idea. The best computers are small, light, and travel with you.
In case you hadn’t guessed.