Ampere WS-1 Laptop

Source: Ampere, Inc., 1985

What does the Ampere’s WS-1 laptop and the Datsun 280Z sports car have in common? Both were designed by the same person: Kumeo Tamura. Technically, Tamura designed the case, which has an unusual clamshell design that resembles the wing of an airplane.

Source: Ampere, Inc., 1985

The case isn’t the only oddball part of the WS-1. Its 68000 CPU and VMEbus were unusual for a laptop at the time, and it featured an obscure multitasking operating system called BIG.DOS. Instead of bundling BASIC as the standard programming language, the WS-1 has APL.68000, a variant of APL. The machine was called the BIG.APL in early references. The system was sold in the U.S. through Work Space Computer of Torrance, California.

Source: Ampere, Inc., 1985

Introduced: November 1985
Original Retail Price: $1,995 to $2,995
Base Configuration: 8MHz HD68000 CPU; BIG.DOS; VMEbus slot; 64K RAM (512K max); 128K ROM; integral microcassette drive; monochrome LCD; integral keyboard; two RS-232C, parallel, and microphone/speaker ports; APL.68000; application suite, AC adapter, modem, battery pack
Video: 25-line x 80-column text, 480 x 128 graphics
Size/Weight: 13 x 11 x 3.6 inches, 9 lbs.
Important Options: external dual 3.5-inch floppy disk drives

IBM Portable Personal Computer Model 5155

The IBM Portable PC was not IBM’s first portable. That was the Model 5100 from 1975 (if you want to call a 50-pound computer “portable”). It was launched in response to the Compaq Portable, which was similar in appearance and was introduced more than a year earlier. Compaq had made inroads into IBM’s customer base with the portable and IBM had no answer.

Source: IBM 1984

Essentially an IBM PC/XT in a suitcase-like form factor, the Portable PC made a few trade-offs versus the desktop model. Most obvious were a smaller screen and three fewer expansion slots than the PC/XT’s eight. You could buy an external monitor and an expansion unit to compensate, but then you would have spent more money than if you had bought the PC/XT.

Quite a few of the original IBM Portable PCs survive today. They were popular and well built.

Introduced: March 1984
Original Retail Price: $2,795
Base Configuration: 4.77MHz 8088, PC-DOS 2.1, five ISA slots, 256K RAM (512K max), 40K ROM, 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, integral 9-inch monochrome CRT, keyboard/keypad, carrying case
Video: 25-line x 80-column text, CGA
Size/Weight: 20 x 17 x 8 inches, 30 lbs.
Important Options: Model 001 Expansion Unit; second 5.25-inch floppy disk drive; Color Display or Monochrome Display monitor; EGA card; serial, parallel, and game ports; Graphics or PC Compact Printer