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The breakthrough for laptops came in 1983

When the first personal computer arrived, people were in awe. Suddenly they had a computer as powerful as a huge mainframe that could sit on their desk, or in their home. It was an amazing feeling. Little did those people know, however, that something even more remarkable was soon to happen – they’d be able to pick that computer up and carry it with them.

The first laptops were not so much portable as they were ‘luggable’ – you could get them from one place to another, but only just, and you probably wouldn’t want one on your lap, which was why they weren’t know as laptops yet. These computers were quite common in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

The real breakthrough for laptops came in 1983. This was the year when the first PC-compatible laptop, the Compaq Portable, was released and also the year when the term ‘laptop’ was first coined by the makers of the Gavilan SC, the first such computer to run on batteries alone. The first real commercial breakthrough, the TRS-80 Model 100 (Tandy 100), came that same year, thanks to its low price.

Since then, laptops have had a considerable presence in the PC market. IBM started cranking out laptops from 1986, and Toshiba followed in 1987. By 1989, Apple was making the first portable Macs.

In 1991, Apple’s Powerbook introduced the laptop layout that is universal today – the keyboard at the top, mouse trackball at the bottom, with room to rest your wrists. The design was quickly copied by IBM for its ThinkPad range, and then by other laptop manufacturers after that.

Since then, improvements have been mostly incremental, but two things stand out. The introduction of Windows 95 in 1995 made laptop power management much simpler, allowing them to standby and hibernate in a standardised manner. The addition of lithium batteries has also been a turning point, allowing laptops to hold a much longer charge than they used to be able to.

About the Author: John Gibb is the owner of Laptop resources
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