The GRiD Compass — the first real laptop with a flat screen and folding clamshell construction — was made in 1982 by the GRiD Systems Corporation of Fremont, California, having been designed in 1979 by British inventor Bill Moggridge. Although the concept of so-called "portable computers" had been around for much longer, including Alan Kay's Dynabook tablet PC in 1968, they existed only as plans awaiting the requisite technologies for realization.Continue Reading
Other attempts during the 1980s to develop portable computers included the Osborne 1 and Compaq Portable, both of which were far too heavy and bulky to be easily carried. Although Moggridge's design was dependent on alternating current power like these other models, it was far more lightweight at just 5 pounds to their 25 to 30 pounds.
The GRiD Compass was also designed to be rugged, which, combined with its prohibitive retail price that reached $8,000, made it far better-suited to military use than that of wealthy business executives, who tended to prefer IBM computers.
Specifications of the first laptop included an electroluminescent display, an Intel 8086 processor and an external floppy disk drive that sat underneath.
In 1985, the GRiD Compass was instrumental in NASA's STS-51-G mission in space. In 1990, it was retired from production, although it remains a landmark invention to this day.Learn more about Computer History