The More Things Change

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.

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