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

Toshiba T6400 Series Laptop PCs

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, laptop and notebook PC vendors made a habit of saying their designs were “no compromise.” It’s a meaningless phrase; if you build the computer you set out to build, then you made no compromises. The intent was to make potential buyers think that the laptop was equal to a desktop model in every way. That was never true.

Source: Toshiba, 1992

Toshiba took the hype one step further by claiming its T6400 series laptop was “the first 486 color portable computer better than a desktop.” Toshiba did make some great laptops and notebooks during that era and was a clear market leader.

Source: Toshiba, 1992

The T6400 line was impressive. It was fast, had great color graphics, good storage options, and a full detachable keyboard. At 12 pounds, it was small enough to fit in a briefcase. (Remember those?)

Source: Toshiba, 1992

Four models of the T6400 were available, two of which used a 25MHz 80486SX processor and two that used a 33MHz 80486DX processor. For each processor option you had a choice of TFT color or gas plasma display.

Introduced: January 20, 1992
Original Retail Price: $5,699 (T6400SX), $8,449 (T6400SXC), $6,999 (T6400DX, $9,749 (T6400DXC)
Base Configuration: 25MHz 80486SX (T6400SX and T6400SXC), 33MHz 80486DX (T6400DX and T6400DXC), 4MB RAM (20MB max), 120MB or 200MB hard drive, 1.44MB 3.5-inch floppy drive, 1 full-sized IBM-compatible expansion slot, 101-key detachable keyboard, 10.4-inch TFT color or gas plasma display, MS-DOS 5.0
Video: Super VGA
Size/Weight: 15.4w x 10.5d x 3.3h inches (gas plasma), 15.4w x 10.5d x 3.3h inches (TFT color); 11.7 lbs. (gas plasma), 12.9 lbs. (TFT color)
Important Options: 2400bps modem, external tape drive, external 5.25-inch floppy drive, Microsoft OS/2, fabric or leather carrying case

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