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16 laptops that changed computing

Models that inspired the machines we use today

Since 1968, when a designer at Xerox PARC conceived of the first prototype laptop - the Dynabook - the computer industry has witnessed a breathtaking succession of innovations in mobile computing.

This year, for the first time, laptop sales will exceed desktop sales, according to market research firm iSuppli.

We've taken a look back at the biggest technology breakthroughs in the evolution of laptop computers since geeks first dreamed of taking their beloved desktops with them wherever they wanted to go.

The Dynabook

This device mock-up is widely considered to be the inspiration for the modern portable computer. Conceived by Alan Kay in 1968 at Xerox PARC, the device was envisioned as "a personal computer for children of all ages".

Kay wanted to create a thin, portable device that had a display whose size approximated that of a real page (Kay figured he would need a screen with 1 million pixels to accomplish this). Unfortunately, the technology required to produce such a device didn't emerge until fairly recently - and even today the Dynabook as envisioned by Kay has not become a reality.

Photo credit: Dynabook IEEE Computer Society

Portable Teletype

The computers of 40 years ago filled entire rooms and yet had less computing power than today's smartphones. But the dream of portable computing was already alive.

In March 1968, you couldn't carry a computer around with you - but you could take your Teletype interface, thanks to the Teletype Corporation's KSR-33.

This little number dented the scales, but it let users connect to a Teletype machine - a device for sending typed messages from one location to another - far from their home base. You can watch (and listen to) a KSR-33 terminal at work in this YouTube clip.

Photo credit: Portable Teletype John Davin

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NEXT PAGE: Osborne1

  1. These devices have helped shape the way we used laptops today
  2. Osborne1
  3. The IBM PC Convertible
  4. The PowerBook 100
  5. The reveolution that was the touch pad
  6. The rugged laptop
  7. The built-in camera
  8. Netbooks

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