Hewlett-Packard HP 110 “The Portable” Laptop PC

The HP 110
Source: HP, 1984

Hewlett-Packard did not have broad success with portables until it introduced the HP 110 laptop. Some HP literature referred to the 110 as simply “The Portable”. It offered good performance in a small but practical package. At nine pounds, it was one of the more petite laptops of the time.

The HP 110 came with a built-in software suite including communications software
Source: HP, 1984

The HP 110 had a software suite in ROM that included a graphical user interface, word processor, and the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet program. It also had a terminal emulation program, through which users could share files with other computers. HP claimed that this enabled “a new kind of computing in which programs and data are always present, wherever The Portable is carried.”

HP 110 owners could share files with the IBM PC
Source: HP, 1984

A portable, battery-powered Thinkjet printer and HP 9114A 3.5-inch floppy disk drive were available as options. The HP 9114A was notable as HP claimed it was the first that could read and write from both sides of the disk, effectively doubling capacity.

HP 110 Plus with Thinkjet printer and HP 9114A disk drive
Source: HP, 1986

In 1985, a Plus version of the 110 was introduced with greater RAM and ROM capacity and improved graphics resolution.

Introduced: May 1984
Original Retail Price: $2,995
Base Configuration: 5.44MHz 80C86, MS-DOS 2.01, 272K RAM, 384K ROM, monochrome LCD, integral keyboard, RS-232C and HP-IL ports, Lotus 1-2-3 and MemoMaker in ROM, carrying case, internal modem, owner’s and software manuals, AC adapter, lead-acid batteries, battery charger
Video: 16-line x 80-column text, 480 x 128 graphics
Size/Weight: 13 x 10 x 3 inches, 9 lbs.
Important Options: HP 911A 3.5-inch external floppy disk drive, HP 2225B printer, leather carrying case

Computer Transceiver Systems Execuport XL

The Execuport was a hybrid CP/M, MS-DOS system. You could start with the base Z80 model running CP/M and later upgrade to an 8086 or 80186 processor for MS-DOS compatibility. Many if not most of the CP/M system manufacturers took a similar approach at the time as a hedge against the growing dominance of MS-DOS.

Execuport XL
Source: Computer Transceiver Systems, 1983

The base Z80 model was called the Execuport XL, and the 8086/80186 model was the Execuport XL+. The XL+ could also run CP/M as well as several multi-user operating systems. Both models shared the same physical configuration with a built-in monitor in a reddish brown case. One unusual feature was the 132-character-wide screen. Most systems of the era offered 80-column screens.

Computer Transceiver Systems had earlier produced Execuport-branded portable terminals. The company launched in the late 1960s as a manufacturer of computer peripherals.

Introduced: 1983
Original Retail Price: $2,495 to $3,195
Base Configuration: 4MHz Z80A CPU, CP/M 2.2, 80K RAM (512K max), two 5.25-inch floppy disk drives, monitor port, integral monochrome CRT, keyboard/keypad, two RS-232 and one parallel port
Video: 25-line x 132-column text, 960 x 288 graphics
Size/Weight: 18.12 x 15.62 x 6.5 inches, 28 lbs.
Important Options: 8MHz 8086 or 6MHz 80186 coprocessor, MS-DOS 2.11, 10MB hard disk drive, modem, portable printer

Compaq Deskpro

The Compaq Portable in 1982 marked the company’s entry into the PC market. The system targeted a niche ignored by IBM: portable PCs. Compaq quickly established itself the leader in that category.

With the Deskpro desktop PC a little less than two years later, Compaq took on IBM right in its own wheelhouse. The Deskpro line was an immediate success and became a top alternative to PC in the business market. Compaq sold the Deskpro line until 2001, making it one of the longest-running computer models ever.

Source: Compaq, 1984

While some manufacturers of PC compatibles competed with IBM mainly on price, Compaq positioned the Deskpro as a premium brand and sold it on its reliability and range of options. The Deskpro initially was available in four models (Model 1 through Model 4, as shown in the photo above) with variations on monitor size, storage capacity, and memory.

Introduced: June 1984
Original Retail Price: $2,495 to $7,195
Base Configuration: 7.14MHz 8086 CPU, MS-DOS 2.11, six ISA slots, 128K RAM (640K max), 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, 12-inch monochrome Dual Mode Monitor, RF modulator, composite and RGB video ports, keyboard/keypad, parallel and serial ports
Video: 25-line x 80-column text, 720 x 350 graphics
Size/Weight: 5 x 19 x 16 inches, 40 lbs.
Important Options: Unix, 10- or 30MB hard disk drive, tape backup drive

Stearns Desktop Computer

The IBM PC inspired a wave of PC compatibles not long after its launch in 1981. The term “PC compatible,” however, was subjective. Few systems offered complete PC compatibility at the software and hardware level.

The Stearns Desktop Computer was one of those systems. It had an ISA expansion slot like the IBM PC, but only add-on cards from Stearns would work in it. It’s not clear why, but the company claimed that the Stearns was 2.5 times faster than the IBM PC. If true, they might have tweaked the bus design for better throughput.

Another curious claim was that the Stearns was “the first stand-alone desktop computer specifically designed not only to perform high quality data and word processing, but also to provide full internal and external communications and networking capabilities.” That vague claim describes a lot of computers of the era.

What they might have meant by that claim is the fact that Stearns sold the system as a single-user system, but it could be configured for a five-user networked setup where every system on the network functioned as a standalone computer. This differs from most other multi-user systems that used diskless workstations as nodes that were dependent on the main computer for storage.

The Stearns was one of the better looking PCs. The company did not last long despite its claims of having sold 110 systems in its first month of operation.

Introduced: May 1983
Original Retail Price: $2,945 to $5,650
Base Configuration: 8MHz 8086 CPU, MS-DOS 1.25, ISA slot, four proprietary expansion slots, 128K RAM (896K max), 16K ROM, 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, 12-inch monochrome monitor, keyboard/keypad, RS-232C port, owner’s and MS-DOS manuals
Video: 25-line x 80-column text
Size/Weight: 5.5 x 21.7 x 15.7 inches, 33 lbs.
Important Options: Concurrent CP/M, second 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, 5- to 20MB hard disk drive, 15-inch monochrome monitor, CGA card, parallel port