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Magee
1

Andrew Magee

Prof. Michael Spillman

TCOM 101

26 January 2009

The portable

PC
of 1989
was relatively uncommon and those that did exist left much to be
desired. These computers were not ordinarily in the hands of household consumers but in the hands of
“pro
-
sumers” like the demanding businessman or tech enthusiast. With the desktop PC domi
nating the
market, mobile computers were
seen as an
optional, and expensive,
accessory.

Almost twenty years
ago, these computers were
often

confined to spreadsheets, word processing, basic communication and
other standard computations. There was no Rolle
r Coaster Ty
coon, no iTunes music library
, no wireless
networking, and most notably, no internet as we know it today.

The portable computers of that time sported many new technologies that

we might not
consider today
.

A relatively high
-
end and cutting edg
e mobile computer in 1989 was the Apple
Macintosh Portable.
Unveiled

that fall
, the computer
weighed 16 pounds and was about a foot and a
half on each side.
Certainly not a laptop, Apple’s first mobile computer was designed to provide the
smallest compro
mise over the desktop models. Its battery could last an entire day
(Thompson 98) and it
was the first computer ever to use an active
-
matrix LCD (Thompson 99
, 100
)
, the most common type of
monitor today
. The computer featured a built
-
in handle to provide
an easy way to carry it around while
the integrated and re
-
locatable trackball pointing device
(Thompson 99
)
allowed for
use of the
Macintosh graphical user interface,
still an uncommon feature in computers of the time
, especially
portables
. Other new tec
hnologies included a “sleep” mode and a sof
tware
-
based battery level
notification system (Thompson 102)

Because of the early technology, creating a portable computer involved sacrificing

features
. A
laptop with a built
-
in 3.5inch floppy drive was uncommon

until Compaq’s new
LTE
machine in 1989.
The


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2

six pound machine cost upwards of $4,999 (McCarroll 73). Speaking of the company’s foray into the
portable computer market, it is stated that,
“Compaq is aiming at a hot new market: laptop sales are
expected t
o grow from 834,000 units this year [1989] to 2 million annually by 1993” (McCarroll 73)

Today’s mobile computing arena is much larger than it was in 1989 and beyond what many, if
not all, experts would have predicted. Gone is the “science of compromise”
(Nadeau 100) and
perspective that the laptop is merely
an accessory
.
Forget six digit sales.
Just recently the sale of
laptops has topped the sale of desktops; 38.6 million laptops compared to 38.5
million
desktops were
shipped in the

third quarter of 20
08 (Eddy).
It is incredible to consider the number of people that own a
portable
computer today.
Today’s l
aptops
have components
that

match the performance and
functionality of desktop computers

with relatively little difference in price
. Most important
ly, laptops
are now designed to

take advantage of the internet. With laptops common among home users and
wireless internet in many places, people can get online and read news and watch programming in a way
that was completely un
-
fathom
able in 1989. Lapto
p technology has advanced greatly in 19 years,
experiencing massive growth and new
-
found functionality. What used to be an aid to productivity is
now the center of personal entertainment and information. From the first grayscale LCD monitor
showcasing a
text document, we can now watch
full
-
length

movies streaming over the internet
(Cohen)
or synchronize data
wirelessly
between our cell phones and other mobile devices

(iSync)
. The capability
of modern laptops and other mobile solutions has created an
environment of connectivity, solutions,
information, and entertainment that was not possible in 1989.





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3

Works Cited

Cohen, Peter. "First Look: iTunes movie rentals."
Macworld
. 17 Jan. 2008. 24 Jan. 2009
<http://www.macworld.com/article/131663/2008/01/itune
srent.html>.


Eddy, Nathan. "Notebook Sales Outpace Desktop Sales."
eWeek.com
. 24 Dec. 2008. 24 Jan. 2009
<http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Midmarket/Notebook
-
Sales
-
Outpace
-
Desktop
-
Sales/>.


McCarroll, Thomas. "Just Squeaking Along."
Time
.

30 Oct. 1989, 134: 72, 7
3.


Nadeau, Michael. "Laptops Forever."
Byte
.

14: 100.


Thompson, Tom; Hayes, Frank. "The Portable and the Powerful."
Byte
.

14: 98
-
102.


"iSync."
Apple
. 25 Jan. 2009 <http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/isync/>.