See some of the first laptop computers: Clunky, slow & expensive tech everyone wanted

Some of the first laptop computers Clunky slow expensive tech

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Back in the late ’80s & early ’90s, we were happy to have these clunky, heavy laptops with tiny hard drives and huge price tags. Check ’em out!

The first laptop designed to be your first laptop (1987)

Sharp proudly announces the arrival of our laptop computer. We’ve named it the PC-4501. You’ll call it the ideal first laptop.

Because it packs the power of a full-size desktop in a convenient laptop bundle. It sports features like 256K dynamic RAM. 3-1/2″ floppy disk drive. Flip-up, easy-to-read Supertwist LCD display.

You’ll also get a laptop that’s IBM compatible, expandable to 640K RAM, and an optional second 3-1/2″ 720KB floppy disk drive. And, since it can run on batteries, it’s completely portable.

One more thing you’ll enjoy: a price that will pamper your wallet. For firsthand information on the new PC-4501, see your Sharp dealer.

Sharp laptop from 1987 - PC-4501

Vintage laptop and notebook computers from 1988

Vintage laptop and notebook computers from 1988

Toshiba: You can never be too powerful or too thin (1988)

As portable PCs go, ours may look a bit on the skinny side. But they’re by no means undernourished. After all, each 286 and 386 powered Toshiba portable has an easy-to-read gas plasma screen. Each is IBM-compatible. And each gives you a wide range of features you’d expect only from a desktop PC.

The T3100/20, for example, weighs a scant 15 pounds, yet has an abundance of power. It comes with an 80286 micro-processor and 640KB of RAM that’s extendable to 2.6MB. Plus, there’s a built-in 20MB hard disk.

Our T3200 has the advantages of a 12MHz 80286 microprocessor, an EGA display system, a 40MB hard disk and 1MB of RAM expandable to 4MB. Also, its two IBM-compatible internal expansion slots let you connect your PC to mainframes, LANs and more. But what’s even more impressive is how we managed to fit all this into a slim, 19-pound package.

Then there’s our T5100. As amazing as it seems, we managed to squeeze a 16MHz 80386 microprocessor into a slim package that weighs less than 15 pounds. To that we added an EGA display system and a 29

msec 40MB hard disk. As your thirst for power grows, its 2MB RAM can be upgraded to 4MB. And for a limited time, your T5100 purchase entitles you to buy the powerful Paradox 386 database software for only $299 (nearly 5600 off the retail price).

And rest assured that whichever Toshiba PC you choose, you’ll be getting the kind of power once reserved for cumbersome desktop computers. All of which proves you can maintain a position of great power without having to throw a lot of weight around.

Toshiba portable PCs from 1988 - T3100-20 T3200 T5100

COMPAQ SLT/286 laptop personal computer (1988)

Introducing the new COMPAQ SLT/286 Personal Computer. The first PC that puts true desktop performance in your lap.

Before now, choosing a laptop PC meant choosing what you could live without. A manageable size. Battery. Power. Speed. Screen quality. Full-size keys.

We’ve changed that, with the new COMPAQ SLT/286. It’s the first laptop from the company that set the standard in portable computing. And the first laptop to give you everything you want. Without compromise.

From its compact size to its high-performance components, you’ll see that your needs shaped our thinking.

First of all, we knew you wanted to wield a lot of power, without throwing around a lot of weight. The new COMPAQ SLT/286 weighs in at just 14 lb., with a space-saving footprint.

COMPAQ SLT286 laptop personal computer 1988

Creating a new high-performance PC this small was no small feat. It took a series of engineering breakthroughs to build a smaller laptop that delivers the performance of a desktop — on battery power.

The COMPAQ SLT/286 has VGA graphics with 640×480 resolution with eight shades of gray. New backlit screen technology produces text and graphics with higher contrast on a 10″ diagonal screen. So things are easy to read.

Flexibility is built in. You can choose a high-speed 40- or 20-MB fixed disk drive to complement the standard 3 V 2 ” 1.44-MB diskette drive. Plus easily expand the 640K of standard memory to 3.6 megabytes internally.

You’ll find our keyboard is just your type. It has full-size keys, spaced just like the keys on a desktop PC. The keyboard is removable, so it adjusts to the way you work. You get all 12 function keys and an embedded numeric keypad. Or if numbers are your life, add a separate numeric keypad as an option.

Other creature comforts are also on board. Like an optional internal 2400-baud modem. Room for two internal storage devices. Ports for a printer, external VGA monitor and other peripherals. 

The first laptop from the company that set the standard for portable PC’s. A small wonder. Compared to other laptops, the COMPAQ SLT/286 gives you more PC in less space. It simply works better.

Airplane tray table with COMPAQ SLT286 laptop personal computer 1988

Toshiba T3200SX notebook computer (1990)

At first glance, what you see is a sleek, 17.0-pound portable.

But looks can be deceiving. Because with a powerful 386SX microprocessor, 6 internal expansion slots and 5 built-in ports, our new T3200SX easily replaces desktop computers.

Which means it does everything a bulky desktop computer can do. Like networking, computer-aided design, databases or even complex spreadsheet analysis — anywhere you can plug into an AC outlet.

It has a built-in VGA gas plasma display system that lets you connect an external color monitor. And it can even accommodate an optional 101-key enhanced keyboard. So you can take advantage of today’s and tomorrow’s most powerful new 386 applications, wherever you think best.

The new Toshiba T3200SX. Take it. See how far you can go.

Vintage Toshiba T3200SX notebook computer from 1990

i80s: Apple Computer clothing and rainbow-logo retro merch from the eighties

Retro Radio Shack Tandy laptop computer

Retro Radio Shack Tandy laptop computers from 1990

Early laptops from 1991: Compaq LTE 286

You’re looking at the new Compaq LTE 386s/20 personal computer. The most powerful notebook PC on the planet.

Yes, it’s small, but look how big it is on the inside.

■ VGA displays razor-sharp graphics in 16 gray shades.

■ Stores up to 30,000 pages. The only notebook PC that offers a 60-mb fixed disk drive.

■ More than 3 hours’ battery life plus internal fast charge.

■ Add a desktop expansion base for more office capability.

■ Travel much? Our worldwide warranty assures service in over 60 countries.

■ The 20-mhz intel 386sx processor with cache sets your productivity on fire.

■ At a mere 7.5 lb. With battery, it travels light.

■ The 2-mb high-speed ram is expandable to 10 mb.

1990 Compaq LTE 386-20

Look back at 1987's Canon Cat word processor

Dell Computer laptop with a 60MB hard drive for $3,699

Dell’s first laptop  — the 16 MHz 386SX —was PC Magazine’s Editor’s Choice, and won PC Week’s Corporate Satisfaction Poll for 386SX laptop computers.

Now we’ve made a faster 20 MHz model, with a new higher contrast display. And it’s only $3,899. Which is a hefty $2,900 less than Compaq’s SLT.

Early laptops from 1991 - Dell

Apple’s Mac Portable

Early laptops from 1991 - Mac Portable


Early laptops from 1991 - Panasonic

Sharp PC-6220, TI Travelmate 2000, and Compuadd Companion (1991)

Early laptops from 1991 - Sharp PC-6220 - Travelmate 2000 - Compuadd Companion

Texas Instruments lightweight notebook with a 20MB hard drive & 1MB RAM

Early laptops from 1991 - Texas Instruments

Atari, Bally, Coleco & more: Computer video games (1977)

Toshiba T1000LE and T1200XE

Early laptops from 1991 - Toshiba T1000LE and T1200XE

TravelMate 3000 Notebook

Early laptops from 1991 - TravelMate 3000 Notebook

Zeos Notebook 286

Early laptops from 1991 - Zeos Notebook 286

Tandy 2810 HD

Old laptops from 1991 - Tandy 2810 HD

Epson 386SX Notebook Computer

Introducing the Epson 386SX Notebook Computer.

Until now, opting for a portable computer has removable 40MB or 20MB Conner® hard drives, typically meant settling for less computer. This 5.8 pound package even includes a rechargeable battery, plus room for such options as an internal modem and math coprocessor. And with its optional portable expansion unit, you gain two standard card slots and the ability to add a 120MB hard drive for true desktop expandability. By any measure of performance, the Epson NB3s

The new 5.8 pound Epson NB3s notebook changes all that. In a big way.

Inside this stunningly compact package lies the computing power equal to that of a 386SX desktop. With more than enough memory — up to 5MB of RAM — to run all the leading business applications, such as Windows 3.0.

The backlit LCD screen produces crystal-clear is a giant among notebooks. In fact, you could say it VGA graphics. And the NB3s comes with a standard is the perfect computer for the portable user who 3.5 inch floppy drive, plus the innovative choice of wants everything. Except compromise.

Vintage laptops from 1991 - Epson 386SX Notebook Computer

Take a look at how crazy expensive personal computers were back in the '80s, and how their features compare today

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