30 years anniversary of the first mass produced portable computer COMPAQ Grid Compass 1011

Grid Notebook Big screen logo

Today it is considered the modern laptop (portable computers) are turning 30 years old. The notebook grandparent is a COMPAQGRiD Compass 1011 – a “mobile computer” with a electroluminescent display (ELD) screen supporting resolution of 320×240 pixels. The screen allowed the user to use the computer console in a text resolution of 80×24 chars. This portable high-tech gadget was equipped with magnesium alloy case, an Inten 8086 CPU (XT processor) at 8Mhz (like my old desktop pravetz pc 😉 ), 340 kilobyte (internal non-removable magnetic bubble memory and even a 1,200 bit/s modem!

COMPAQ Grid Compass considered first laptop / notebook on earthy 30 anniversary of the portable computer

The machine was uniquely compatible for its time as one could easily attach devices such as floppy 5.25 inch drives and external (10 Meg) hard disk via IEEE-488 I/O compatible protocol called GPiB (General Purpose instrumental Bus).

First mass prdocued portable computer laptop grid COMPAQ 11011 back side input peripherals

The laptop had also unique small weight of only 5 kg and a rechargable batteries with a power unit (like modern laptops) connectable to a normal (110/220 V) room plug.

First notebook in World ever the COMPAQ grid Compass 1101,br />
The machine was bundled with an own specificly written OS GRiD-OS. GRID-OS could only run a specialized software so this made the application available a bit limited.
Shortly after market introduction because of the incompitablity of GRID-OS, grid was shipped with MS-DOS v. 2.0.
This primitive laptop computer was developed for serve mainly the needs of business users and military purposes (NASA, U.S. military) etc.

GRID was even used on Space Shuttles during 1980 – 1990s.
The price of the machine in April 1982 when GriD Compass was introduced was the shockingly high – $8150 dollars.

The machine hardware design is quite elegant as you can see on below pic:

 COMPAQ grid laptop 1101 bubbles internal memory

As a computer history geek, I’ve researched further on GRID Compass and found a nice 1:30 hour video telling in detailed presentation retelling the history.

Shortly after COMPAQ’s Grid Compass 1011’s introduction, many other companies started producing similar sized computers; one example for this was the Epson HX-20 notebook. 30 years later, probably around 70% of citizens on the globe owns a laptop or some kind of portable computer device (smartphone, tablet, ultra-book etc.).

Most of computer users owning a desktop nowdays, owns a laptop too for mobility reasons. Interestengly even 30 years later the laptop as we know it is still in a shape (form) very similar to its original predecessor. Today the notebook sales are starting to be overshadowed by tablets and ultra-books (for second quarter laptop sales raised 5% but if compared with 2011, the sales rise is lesser 1.8% – according to data provided by Digital Research agency). There are estimations done by (Forrester Research) pointing until the end of year 2015, sales of notebook substitute portable devices will exceed the overall sales of notebooks. It is manifested today the market dynamics are changing in favour of tabets and the so called next generation laptopsULTRA-BOOKS. It is a mass hype and a marketing lie that Ultra-Books are somehow different from laptops. The difference between a classical laptop and Ultra-Books is the thinner size, less weight and often longer battery use time. Actually Ultra-Books are copying the design concept of Mac MacBook Air trying to resell under a lound name.
Even if in future Ipads, Android tablets, Ultra-Books or whatever kind of mambo-jambo portable devices flood the market, laptops will still be heavily used in future by programmers, office workers, company employees and any person who is in need to do a lot of regular text editting, email use and work with corporative apps. Hence we will see a COMPAC Grid Compass 1011 notebook likes to be dominant until end of the decade.

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6 Responses to “30 years anniversary of the first mass produced portable computer COMPAQ Grid Compass 1011”

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    Something strange from today’s point of view is GRiD Compass didn’t have a handling case or some kind of included carrying bad. Also it lacked battery, so it can only work while plugged in to an electricity network. People who use it criticize it for getting too hot; sometimes almost burning hot. COMPAQ was offering also many peripheral extending devices to their pre-historical laptop. It was also possible that many GriDs are connected via a network together. A special server GriD computer was required in order to be able to connect GriDs together (GRiD Server 1701 – based on the Intel 80186). Later in 1988 GriD was offered with an battery. GRiD 1530 from 1988 was the world’s first battery powered Intel 80386DX Laptop.

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