A history of portable computing – 1982 to 1986

With a bias to the rugged portable side




Grid Compass, Commodore 64, Sinclair ZX-Spectrum

The first rugged portable - Grid Compass


Philips factory in Germany creates the world’s first compact disc

EA, Adobe and LucasArts are all formed.



Grid compass page at oldcomputers.net


Commodore 64 - the best selling home computer of its time

Sinclair ZX Spectrum - with 'dead flesh' keyboard

So we finally get to a rugged portable computer!  The Grid compass was the first ‘clamshell’ computer, with the keyboard protecting the display when not in use.  It was made of die-cast Magnesium Alloy and still looks good today (with the exception of the screen).  


Historic videos – 1982


TRS-80 Model-100, Apple Lisa, IBM PC-XT 

TRS80-model 100 handheld computer

1983 – Handheld portable PC

Sally Ride becomes the first American woman in space

Richard Noble sets a new land speed record of 633.468 mph, driving Thrust 2 


Ars Technical writer discusses the Model 100

Apple LISA (named after Steve Job’s daughter)

IBM-XT with CGA and an ISA slot




The IBM 5110 Model 1 is a computer designed for direct use by the user for solving problems. The 5110 Model 1 has a display screen, a combined alphameric and numeric keyboard, a tape unit, switches, and indicator lights. The 5110 Model 2 is identical to Model 1 except that it has no built-in tape unit. The display screen and indicator lights communicate information to the user, and the keyboard and switches allow the user to control the operations the system will perform.

The display screen can display 16 lines of data at a time, with up to 64 characters in each line. Input data (information supplied by the user) as well as output data (processed information) is displayed. The bottom line contains status information. The number in the lower right (NNNNN) indicates the number of character positions (bytes) in storage available to the user.

Historic videos – 1983


TRS-80 Model 200, Casio FA20, Apple Mac

Portable computer from 1984 - TRS80 model 200

Apple Mac advert from 1984

Clearly the most influential machine of 1984 was the Apple MAC.  Great advert in the super-bowl too!

The CASIO FA20 I owned briefly – pretty horrible to actually use.

The TRS-80 Model 200 had a clamshell design and a usable keyboard.  Great for playing text adventure games on!


Osborne 3, Bondwell, Zenith Z171

Osborne 3 portable - nothing like as good looking as the first one!


Live Aid concerts organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure raised over $125 million in relief money for Africa




Osborne clone? Actully made by Vadem and sold by Zenit, Osborne and others

Bondwell - manufactured by Toshiba maybe?

The Osborne 3 and the Zenith Z171 were both actually manufactured by Vadem, and were probably resold under some other brand names.

The Bondwell is probably made by Toshiba!  Bondwell caught my eye as they were based in Fremont, CA which is where my first job in the USA was.  





Apple IIGS, IBM Convertible. Compaq Portable-II

Apple IIGS


Mike Tyson becomes the youngest Heavyweight Champion in history





IBM Convertible PC Portable computer

Compaq Portable II

Apple released the Apple IIGS – ‘G’ stood for graphics, and ‘S’ stood for sound.  This was the 10th anniversary machine for Apple and included the “Woz” signature on the front.

The IBM convertible was a little ahead of its time – you really could remove the display and use it with a CRT.

The Compaq portable II was a smaller version of the Compaq portable, but was still big and heavy, and needed mains power.  They also used John Cleese in their TV commercial, so there’s that.



1977-1981 .  1982-1986