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Evolution of Laptops

Evolution of Laptops

by Gayatri Talla

Laptops have become essential for every profession to work. The use of desktops is declining in large enterprises as well. Even students prefer laptops to multi-part desktops.  Personal computers becoming portable made life easier for the whole working population. The COVID-19 pandemic made it even more essential to have one in every household, reducing the use of laptops to eight people out of every ten around the world.

How it came into existence and how it evolved over the years to be used every day by millions of people, we shall see in this article.

IBM 5100

IBM 5100 - MfK Bern.jpg

One of the first portable personal computers to be launched was the IBM 5100 in 1975. It had a printer-like appearance and weighed about 24 kg; it came with a 5-inch display screen, 64k RAM, and was powered by a 1.9 MHz processor. Although it wasn’t light, it was more portable than computers themselves. The IBM 5100 marked a strong foothold for the evolution of portable PCs.

Osborne 1

Osborne 1

The 1980s brought us the laptop model that could be closed and carried on trips like a suitcase. In fact, it was considered the first portable laptop computer to be sold at $1,800. The features of the machine were special because it was the first to have 2 floppy drives inbuilt, it was backed by a 4MHz processor and 64KB of RAM. It also had a 5-inch display screen and weighed 25 pounds.

Grid Compass

Grid Compass

The Grid Compass was released in 1982, and the design of opening and closing the device like a notebook set a standard for modern laptops. The machine featured an Intel 8086 processor with a 320×240 display and weighed around 5 kg. Although it was thick and ugly looking, it was ridiculously overpriced at $8,000 and was sold in a quantity rarely used by the US government.

NEC UltraLite

In 1988, Japan’s NEC was introduced as a really compact laptop of its time. It was actually something people could carry in their bags as it weighed hardly 2 kg; which was quite impressive for the 1980s. It was powered by NEC’s own V30 processor, with 9.5MHz, 64K of RAM, and up to 2 MB of storage. This UltraLite’s starting price was around $4,000. If the design were slimmer, it could easily be passable as a laptop from the 2000s.

Apple, Macintosh Portable & Apple PowerBook

Apple Macintosh

In 1989, Apple released its first portable personal computer with a 9.8-inch 640×400 black and white display screen and a storage capacity of 40 MB. It was considered Apple’s worst product ever as the storage could save only a dozen photos at most; it was also deemed ugly with its white outer covering and weight of about 7.2 kg. 

After the failure of its first model, Apple revised its concepts and published the PowerBook in 1991. The industry took a double-take at the look and feel of the laptop model they created. It was compact in dark grey cases, and the alignment of the screen, keypad, and pointer was what took the cake; as it was similar to modern designs.

IBM ThinkPad 700C

IBM ThinkPad 700C.jpg

In 1992, IBM released the ThinkPad 700C, which was considered an important stepping stone in computer technology. The laptop featured a 10.4 inch colored LCD display with dimensions of 640 x 480 and folded completely in half, with one side having the screen and the keypad on the other. It was powered by Intel’s 486SLC processor running at 25 MHz, had 4 MB of RAM, and had a 120 MB hard drive. In addition, the model was rather famous for having a trackpoint that helped maneuver the mouse on the screen. According to IBM, the ThinkPad 700C battery ran for 4 hours on a single charge.


Dell ruled the early 2000s computer market. It was so popular that someone or other had to have the Dell computer. By this point in the timeline, the laptop design had thinned and become lighter as it evolved to the stage where the display screen widened towards the edges of the device. It came with a shiny silver cover too, which was a plus for the sale.

Lenovo Yoga Series

Lenovo yoga series

The Lenovo company invented the model Yoga 13 in 2012. It was the first modern hybrid laptop with the advantage of the Windows 8 touch interface. The Yoga was a reference to the different positions it could stand in; the standard mode, tablet mode, laptop mode, and also the tent mode were its famous features. 

In 2016, the company launched the YogaBook, which digitized the keyboard and allowed the user to draw as well as the type and write in the same area. In its 2018 version, the additional feature was E-Ink, which allowed more drawing surfaces and custom entry layouts depending on the applications. It was a great help for readers because it allowed for longer battery life. 


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