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View Full Version : Toshiba's history a little squewed?



barythrin
October 13th, 2009, 03:22 PM
So I was googling around to try and remember what model of Toshiba (and pretty darn sure it was a Toshiba and can almost remember the face of the user manual) laptop was my first. Mostly out of curiosity so I searched around a bit and came to Toshiba's history site.. this was cool except .. wtf?.. what's this timeline blabbing about? They think they had the first laptop computer? .. they think they had the first color laptop? First laptop with a CDROM?!.. um.. "But our passion for innovation is hardly new. In fact, it dates back a couple centuries," ok wait a sec.

Does anyone here know if Toshiba actually had any firsts like this? I mean maybe they're calling it a Laptop on purpose instead of portable (Osborne) or first color (Commodore SX-64) but even the first laptop sounds wrong.. wasn't that a Grid clamshell computer?.

I'm a bit astonished although I can't claim to know everything but it seems like quite a stretch or can someone calm me down? lol http://laptops.toshiba.com/about/history-of-innovation#

Chuck(G)
October 13th, 2009, 03:33 PM
I still think of the DG/One (1984) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_General-One) as the first modern laptop.

The Grid Compass 1101 (1982) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grid_Compass) is the first laptop, if you overlook the need to be plugged into an AC outlet.

Hey, the experts don't write that stuff! It comes out of the PR department.

nigwil
October 13th, 2009, 05:12 PM
"first laptop" if we agree "laptop" refers to our current notion of "clamshell" or "flip form factor" (flip form is the term the wikipedia article uses), although I think clamshell is closer to what GRiD patented (and made money off of licensing).

I prefer the definition of a laptop to include battery usage, otherwise it is merely portable. So I would be inclined to give the nod to one of the early Epson's (PX-4 or HX-20?) as the first laptop.

modem7
October 14th, 2009, 01:34 AM
Just marketing/PR spin.
Clarification appears to be at http://www.geekzone.co.nz/content.asp?contentid=4395
There, one sees things like "first mass-market laptop" and "first successfully marketed" (I wonder who's definition of mass-market and successfully-marketed was used).
And note the use of "PC" which no doubt meant "IBM PC family clone".

saundby
October 16th, 2009, 01:45 AM
I've still got my Toshiba 2150CDT. It was the first laptop with a CD-ROM in the chassis, as opposed to being an external plug-in unit.

I remember seeing the DG/One shortly after its release. It was the first laptop with an 80x24 or 25 character display. It was on a table at a WESCON. I looked at it several times and wondered "why don't they turn it on?" Finally, on another pass I decided to get down on my knees next to the table and try out the keyboard, on or not. I hoped showing interest would get one of the salesdroids over to switch it on.

When I got right down in front of it, I could just barely see that there were, in fact, characters on the screen. It was on! I played with it and found that it was also set to the best contrast at that level. If you were positioned just right, you could see faint characters. At that point I went back to wanting an HP110 with its sub-sized, but high contrast,display...

olePigeon
October 16th, 2009, 09:51 AM
Being an Apple nerd, I know that the PowerBook was one of the first laptops with the palm rest and centered keyboard. Certainly set the style for a lot of future laptops.

Unknown_K
October 16th, 2009, 08:48 PM
Thinkpads were nice also, I think the 760CD I have was one of the first multimedia models (captures external video and sound with built in mpeg).

EvanK
October 20th, 2009, 10:32 AM
Toshiba's was the first that I know of with a 286 chip, but .... so what? Lots of perfectly good chips existed before that. In other words, Toshiba is full of shit.

Regarding the Grid Compass 1100/1101, I think if you ask 100 people, 99 would say a laptop isn't a laptop if it requires tethered power.

As for whether a laptop MUST be a clamshell design, that's open for debate. There are two ways of looking at it:

1. In the early 1980s, non-clamshell laptops were most often called "briefcase computers" (guess who those were marketed toward?) and later just "lap computers" -- the term "laptop" wasn't printed anywhere until 1984, at least not that I can find. If anyone can point me to an earlier reference, not merely assumption/claim/speculation, then I'd like to see it.

2. In academic history circles, there's the concept of "Whiggism" which means, "The mistake of applying modern conditions to historic events." Thus, it's incorrect to define a 1982 laptop-like computer by the standards of 2009 laptops. (For example, consider "desktop" vs. "PC". Lots of desktops existed between 1977-1980, and most had their guts integrated with the keyboard assembly. Then in 1981 IBM began selling the desktop itself separate from the keyboard, and it's more-or-less been that way ever since then. Does that mean all the desktop microcomputers from 1977-1980 aren't "real" desktops just because of their form factor? Of course not. So again, MUST a laptop be a clamshell? I say no.)

Still, if we DO use the modern-for-old approach, then the first battery-powered, clamshell portable is ..... none of the computers mentioned above.

I know what * I * think is the first "real" laptop but I'm keeping that to myself until my book is published! ;)

billdeg
October 20th, 2009, 12:46 PM
is it the Road Runner?

EvanK
October 20th, 2009, 01:38 PM
is it the Road Runner?

Nope. My answer isn't that simple.

billdeg
October 20th, 2009, 01:44 PM
What battery powered "clam shell" came before the Road Runner?

billdeg
October 20th, 2009, 01:45 PM
nevermind, I know which one you're thinking of.

Chuck(G)
October 20th, 2009, 04:08 PM
I don't consider either the Sharp PC-5000 or the Gavilan to be a "modern" laptop. The screens are too small (less than 25 lines).

EvanK
October 20th, 2009, 08:53 PM
I don't consider either the Sharp PC-5000 or the Gavilan to be a "modern" laptop. The screens are too small (less than 25 lines).

So, it's only a "modern" laptop if it has a 17-inch widescreen?

Put another way .... of course it's not "modern" .... these are vintage computers we're discussing. :rolleyes:

Chuck(G)
October 20th, 2009, 09:19 PM
So, it's only a "modern" laptop if it has a 17-inch widescreen?

Put another way .... of course it's not "modern" .... these are vintage computers we're discussing.

We're talking about the term "laptop" as it's now interpreted. The Grid Compass was disqualified because it needed AC power (although I believe there was an external battery option for it).

So, "clamshell" got tacked on as qualifying something to be a laptop. So that let's out the HX-20s and Model 100s and Visual Commuters.

And I'm saying that a "laptop" also should include a full-sized (i.e. something capable of displaying at least an MDA/CGA's screen worth of text) screen, which neither the Gavilan nor the PC 5000 has, but every laptop made in the last 20 years has.

As far as I'm aware, the DG/One was the first machine to meet all of those requirements. It has everything that one would recognize as being a laptop today.

EvanK
October 20th, 2009, 09:31 PM
I'm saying that a "laptop" also should include a full-sized (i.e. something capable of displaying at least an MDA/CGA's screen worth of text) screen ... everything that one would recognize as being a laptop today.

Screen size is merely a technical specification, not a major feature. A small screen is related to a DG/One screen just as a DG/One screen is related to a 2009 MacBook screen. Who are you/I/anyone to draw the line at an arbitrary specification number?

Anyway, "first" is interesting trivia, but what's important are the "who/what/why/how" aspects of "early".

EvanK
October 20th, 2009, 09:36 PM
By the way .... Barythrin, don't you have spell check? "Squewed?" Geez ....

Ole Juul
October 20th, 2009, 11:49 PM
By the way .... Barythrin, don't you have spell check? "Squewed?" Geez ....
I looked it up and you can get a 10 pack of stickers here (http://bumperstickers.cafepress.com/item/squewed-sticker-oval-10-pk/360378659). :p

barythrin
October 21st, 2009, 12:16 PM
Bah! Who needs spell cheek anyway?! Yeah ;-) I noticed right as I clicked submit that for some reason Firefox didn't check the title text for errors for whatever reason (guess it was doing something else and not paying attention).

So to throw a little more gas on the fire, Evan's post disagreed with clam shell being a requirement if you're trying to guess his answer prior to publication.

I definitely agree though, modern technology shouldn't be applied to a term in vintage technology. Otherwise you'd be seeking a device with a cd-rom (arguably not vintage), integrated mouse, etc. I'd agree I wouldn't be satisfied with a portable terminal or calculator as the answer though.

I thought (and I'll admit I'm ignorant of a lot of computer history as being too young to understand/own it at the time other than common publications I read) the first laptop/notebook would have been the hx-20 due to it's portable nature, built-in screen, and battery power.

I do agree with Chuck though, I would like to see/know the first pc-compatible laptop (runs standard software without modification, portable power supply and usable on a bus or on the go.)

Chuck(G)
October 21st, 2009, 01:13 PM
Screen size is merely a technical specification, not a major feature. A small screen is related to a DG/One screen just as a DG/One screen is related to a 2009 MacBook screen. Who are you/I/anyone to draw the line at an arbitrary specification number?

I propose a simple Turing-esque test. Take an 8 year old kid and show them a Gavilan and ask what they see. Then take a DG/One and repeat the experiment. Lather, rinse, repeat until you get a good samplng.

My prediction is that a far greater number of children will identify the DG/One as a "laptop".

Technically, a TRS-80 Mod 100 or an Epson HX-20 is also a "laptop". My Smith-Corona PWP7000LT even qualifies as a "clamshell laptop", although I doubt that anyone would identify it as such (It's got batteries, a floppy drive and a fold-up LCD display as well as a serial port. The CPU is an 8051, but it can even run a spreadsheet or transfer files with Xmodem).

My point was not about screen size per se, but that it was "full size"; i.e. it showed the same number of characters or pixels that the CGA display of the same time would have done. The Gavilan and Sharp were "peephole" sized displays. Fire up a copy of Microsoft Word or Lotus 1-2-3 and see how useful it is on that type of display.

EvanK
October 21st, 2009, 08:40 PM
So to throw a little more gas on the fire, Evan's post

Me, start trouble? :D


I definitely agree though, modern technology shouldn't be applied to a term in vintage technology. Otherwise you'd be seeking a device with a cd-rom (arguably not vintage), integrated mouse, etc.

Precisely.

One could argue that a Ford Model T (or whatever) was the "first modern car" but there's always someone who disagrees with the definitions of "first" and/or "modern". The important questions are, "Which cars defined the industry, which failed, what were the reasons, etc.?"


I'd agree I wouldn't be satisfied with a portable terminal or calculator as the answer though.

I agree with your agreement!


hx-20 due to it's portable nature, built-in screen, and battery power.

"Popular" and "pioneering" are different things. Epson, Grid, etc. were popular early laptops* but they weren't the only ones .... several others were more obscure but equally interesting. ( * I'm using the term "laptops" loosely because, as I explained earlier in this thread, the period-appropriate term is "briefcase computers" for the flat designs and simply "portables" for the clamshells; the suitcase computers were usually called "transportables". I'm not sure which was the first computer company to use the word laptop in any official capacity, although that wouldn't prove anything .... there were lots of small four-door trucks before some marketing schmo conjured the term "S.U.V." and lots of handheld digital organizers before Apple came up with "P.D.A." .... stupid terms to describe existing categories are not inventions!)


pc-compatible laptop (runs standard software

Now it's got to be PC-compatible? Yeesh! Tough crowd. :)

I've seen a few (once again: some being popular models, others less so) that are supposedly "IBM-compatible" .... details to be determined.

EvanK
October 22nd, 2009, 02:09 PM
PS - This thread should be in the handhelds/portables section.

barythrin
October 22nd, 2009, 02:23 PM
PS - This thread should be in the handhelds/portables section.

lol.. the *hijacked* thread would be in the portables section ;-) This was more me questioning Toshiba publishing their personal opinion of computer history. But yes, they did start by throwing me off with the whole "first laptop" (T1000) thing.

Securix
October 22nd, 2009, 04:17 PM
First laptop computer? Vintage? Completely portable, no tethering?

2175

Chuck(G)
October 22nd, 2009, 06:35 PM
http://i14.photobucket.com/albums/a323/BeesGoneWild/Croceaclamshell2.jpg

...but we said "clamshell"...

Securix
October 22nd, 2009, 11:25 PM
That made me laugh for real!

Well, ok, so then another interesting but seldom remembered portable computer was the Athena I, which came out in late 1982, a little bit after the GRiD Compass and before the DG One, and whose features somewhat mimic those of today's laptops.

It weighed in at 15lbs, had a semi-clamshell design (the 4-line LCD screen flipped up to reveal the keyboard), ran a ROM-based CP/M, had dual Z80-compatiible NEC NSC-800 processors, and quite possibly was also the first "laptop" with a solid state RAM drive instead of a floppy drive, which you could order configured from 128k to 1MB. Plus it ran on battery as well as AC. It could run up to 2 hours on battery, and even featured a "standby mode" that could keep it alive up to 6 hours.

And a decently configured model was only $3,950.

It was even availalble with a "docking station" that included an actual floppy drive and also recharged the battery.

It came out later than the GRiD, but if I recall the GRiD wasn't battery powered, plus I think it started around $8,000.

An article for the Athena can be found here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=_C8EAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PA4&ots=1iceeVCPN4&dq=athena%20portable%20computer%20cp%2Fm&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q=athena%20portable%20computer%20cp/m&f=false

Scroll down to page 4 of the article for a picture of the Athena I.

There was also another portable called the Gavilan that came out in mid-1983, which looked a lot more refined than the Athena, and had a printer bolted to the back.

Chuck(G)
October 23rd, 2009, 11:56 AM
It helps to put the mood of Silicon Valley in perspective back then. I recall being asked to lunch about 1982 by a couple of guys who wanted to get me interested in their latest venture.

Out of his Samsonite case, one pulled a remarkably small computer--the "deck" was barely large enough to hold the keyboard keys. The display looked impressive at least in size--it covered nearly the entire lid.

Of course, it was a mock-up.

These guys were going to make a portable that was barely larger than today's netbooks (and be battery powered yet). I started asking them questions about how they were going to solve the practical engineering aspects and they had no real answers. Apparently, they hadn't calculated how large a battery it was going to take to run the thing, much less how they were going to shrink the "guts". I thanked them for lunch and politely declined. AFAIK, their venture never got off the ground.

So it wasn't that no one had thought of the idea of a compact full-funtion laptop; it was just that there were few who had managed to overcome the practical aspects of making one.

Anyone remember the VC conferences put on by EAC at Pebble Beach in the 80's? Lots of strange ideas there...

LewreumE73
November 3rd, 2009, 10:03 AM
Backup history is on by default.
I havent used it much bause I have a Perforce depot for my projects
It has been handy for the in between check ins questions

gb