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Portables Hardware Technology

Thirty Years of Clamshell Computing 135

harrymcc writes "2012 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Grid Compass 1101, the first portable computer with a briefcase-like case with a keyboard on one side of the interior, a flat screen on the other, and a hinge in the middle--the 'clamshell' design that eventually became standard for all portable PCs. It's proven to be a remarkably useful and durable design, and only with the advent of the iPad has it faced serious competition."
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Thirty Years of Clamshell Computing

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  • by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Monday July 16, 2012 @02:51PM (#40665369) Journal

    As electronics become smaller, the only pieces that must remain large are the input and output devices, so the clamshell makes the best use of space. The iPad's input device isn't meant for serious input... a keystroke here or a mouse click there. Typing a real paragraph is a pain the fingers.

    Now what I am really looking forward to is when these computers can output directly to my retina :)

  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Monday July 16, 2012 @03:09PM (#40665523)

    The first one I got to see and use was this. Most of the space was used-up by the 1541 floppy drive, which was a monster (as big as the computer itself): []

  • by eggstasy ( 458692 ) on Monday July 16, 2012 @03:09PM (#40665525) Journal

    "First commercially successful portable computer" according to the almighty wiki, launched in 1981. []

  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Monday July 16, 2012 @03:14PM (#40665575) Homepage Journal
    Everyone who knew about a Grid wanted on. It was the first piece of computer industrial design I knew about. OTH it really wasn't a clamshell. it was a pop up screen, like the tandy 200, released two years later. I would say the Tandy 200 is the first useful affordable laptop computer. Both were integrated systems with custom OS. It is interesting to note that we are returning to metal enclosures for high end computers, or those that want to look like it.

    Unlike the Tandy, the grid computer only ran on line current. Compared to other portable computers the innovation in this machine was the flat display and internal expandability and storage. The expense of the screen was significant. Note that first Apple Mac was also a portable computer, but used a CRT.

    In any case most of the computers through the 80's were not laptops, and we did not get reliable clamshells until 1990's.

  • Re:Read vs. Write (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Monday July 16, 2012 @03:20PM (#40665629)


    You know what happens when someone forgets to check the bounds of their array and starts writing data to another process's memory?

    Yeah. Imagine if that other process was your visual cortex.

  • by Alwin Henseler ( 640539 ) on Monday July 16, 2012 @03:35PM (#40665787)

    (..) so the clamshell makes the best use of space.

    Considering today's power/heat constraints, I find the usual "CPU/GPU under keyboard" configuration illogical. Why not a CPU / GPU / RAM board behind the screen, with a large/thin (passive, if possible) cooling plate at the rear? Or draw air in near the hinges, let air out near the top of the screen (again, passive if possible). Those 2 cooling methods wouldn't bite each other... Then just battery, keyboard, hard disk and peripherals like DVD drive (if fitted) under the keyboard. A few serial connections like USB / SATA + power between the two halves. Likely would leave more space such that a larger battery is possible.

    Much better than packing heat-producing CPU/GPU right next to a heat-sensitive battery (+ a tiny blower to pull that heat out).

  • by Osgeld ( 1900440 ) on Monday July 16, 2012 @07:51PM (#40667911)

    no I have a dec laptop with a trackball in the now normal position, Its date of manufacture is 1990 which is the same year as the original Macintosh portable started coming with a backlight, and a year before the first powerbook. The original portable in 89-90 gave you a reflective screen (think gameboy) a full sized keyboard, a full sized trackball on the right of the keyboard, and ran off of lead acid batteries. It was a old clunky luggable about 6 years too late.

    The first powerbook came out in 91 and it came with the trackball built in, which makes since as you HAVE to have a mouse with a mac. My DEC clips onto the front with pogo pins that make the contact as an option. So while the powerbook was the first one with a built in pointing device, PC makers have been putting the trackball under the keyboard for years as an option

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"