Milestone-Nomination:Toshiba T1100, a pioneering contribution to the development of laptop PC, 1985

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Docket Number: 2011-07

Proposal Link:,_a_pioneering_contribution_to_the_development_of_laptop_PC,_1985

In the space below the line, please enter your proposed citation in English, with title and text. Text absolutely limited to 70 words; 60 is preferable for aesthetic reasons. NOTE: The IEEE History Committee shall have final determination on the wording of the citation

The Toshiba T1100, an IBM PC compatible laptop computer that shipped in 1985, made an invaluable contribution to the development of the laptop PC and portable personal computers. With the T1100, Toshiba demonstrated and promoted the emergence and importance of true portability for PCs running packaged software, with the result that T1100 won acceptance not only among PC experts but by the business community.

Please also include references and full citations, and include supporting material in an electronic format (GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC) which can be made available on the IEEE History Center’s Web site to historians, scholars, students, and interested members of the public. All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. If you are including images or photographs as part of the supporting material, it is necessary that you list the copyright owner.

In the space below the line, please describe the historic significance of this work: its importance to the evolution of electrical and computer engineering and science and its importance to regional/national/international development.

Today, people can carry and use portable PCs wherever they go, and access and use the same environment as at home or in the office. However, in the mid 1980s, although personal computing won increasingly wide acceptance with the Apple II in 1977 and the IBM PC1 in 1981, it was still limited to a fixed desktop environment.

The 1980s saw the emergence of portable computers. As the IBM PC penetrated the world market and established a de facto standard for desktop PCs, some companies developed smaller computers. Among them were Compaq’s 1982 “Portable I”, a suitcase-sized computer that weighed 12.5kg.; Seiko’s 1982 “HX-20/HC-20”[2], which weighed 1.6kg.; and NEC’s 1983 “PC8201A”, which weighed in at about 1.7 kg. There were two approaches to portable computers. One focused on size and on small, easily carried PCs. They were designed with dedicated architecture and their software and data formats were incompatible with those of other PCs; people could not use them for data brought from the office, or had to convert that data to match the smaller computers. The other approach was to try to build portable IBM PC compatible machines, designed for the same environment as the IBM PC in the office. However, because of technical difficulties, such as lack of suitable display or the need to develop a chip set to fit a portable machine, these pioneering machines were all crippled in some way and could not support full compatibility with the IBM PC.

In April 1985, T1100 was released as a laptop personal computer that was fully compatible with the IBM PC. The design target of T1100 was “anywhere, anytime, anyone”

In the early 1980s, prior to the IBM PC, personal computers were, like mainframe computers, mainly tools for computer experts. Using computers required special knowledge of system architecture, programming and the like. The IBM PC had started to change this situation in the office, but personal computers were still big, expensive things that had to be set up on a dedicated desk. Back then, most people had to move to the PC desk when they wanted to use the PC. In other words, the office of the ’80s was a PC-centric environment to which people had to adapt themselves. The T1100 was designed to break these chains.

The T1100 was fully IBM PC compatible. That meant that users had access to widely available software at their desk, with no need to write programs themselves or to buy different software for dedicated portable computer architecture. But in developing the T1100, Toshiba met a big problem.

The original IBM desktop PC had a 5.25 inch floppy disk drive as default. All software for IBM PCs was shipped on 5.25 inch floppy disks. But Toshiba wanted to install a 3.5 inch floppy disk drive on T1100, to support its portability. At that time, the 3.5 inch floppy disk was a brand new product, and no software venders wanted to ship their products on an unfamiliar disk for a system that had minimal market share. Toshiba thought that releasing software on 3.5 inch floppy disk was essential as a means to expand business to users who could not write their own programs. People from Toshiba made repeated visits to software venders and finally won their agreement to release software on 3.5 inch floppy disks.

Beyond this, Toshiba did product promotions to show potential users that a portable PC allowed them to continue to work even when away from the office. All they needed was a T1100 and the package software they used in the office. Promotions by other makers targeted experts and focused on the advantages offered by their hardware and software specifications. Toshiba’s different and more appealing promotions opened the eyes of business users who were not PC experts and really expanded the portable PC market.

After shipping of T1100, Toshiba researched market opinions on the T1100. Some people admired its portability but others wanted a faster PC and more storage. Toshiba responded in January 1986 with the release of two more laptops in addition to the battery-powered T1100: the T2100 and T3100. The T2100 had an i8086 CPU, two 3.5-inch floppy drives and a plasma display. The T3100 had an i80286 CPU and 10 megabyte hard disk drive along with the 3.5-inch floppy disk drive. Both required AC power, but PC Week magazine saw this as no problem as it recognized that there was an AC- powered portable PC market. Byte Magazine called the T3100 the “King of Laptops”. With this line-up, Toshiba won about a 40% share of the 130K portable PC shipped in Europe in 1987 (source: Dataquest European Personal Computer Industry Service, July 1988).

The emergence and growth of the portable PC market also established a significant parts market for portable PCs: by 2008, the market for LCD displays smaller than 17 inches was $15B, for HDD 2.5-inches and smaller $19B, and for lithium-ion batteries for mobile equipment $12B. (sources: Fuji-Chimera Research Institute, Inc. for displays and HDD; CMC Publishing Co., Ltd. for batteries).

In 2009, sales of portable PCs exceeded those of desktops, and the market had a value of $150B.

What features or characteristics set this work apart from similar achievements?

In 1984, Toshiba started development of real hand held computer which was compatible with IBM PC and could be used anywhere without bothering AC power supply. IBM PCs, those days, were designed to be used on desk and parts used them were designed without consideration of portability.
Toshiba engineers developed compact size parts. A few Gate Arrays was designed with same functions which were supported with a great number of ICs for desk top IBM PCs. Toshiba selected CMOS technologies for these Gate Arrays even most of ICs those days were designed with NMOS technology. With these solutions, T1100 realized not only compaction and light weight of 4kg, but also low power consumption.
In addition, new LCD and 3.5 inches floppy disc drive were developed for achieving highest density implementations ever before, to support same function of desk top PCs with smaller size devices.
Toshiba also developed rechargeable NiCad batteries from the ground. With reduced power consumption of the Gate Arrays, it achieved 8 hours battery life. One more important technology which enabled this long battery life was charge/discharge mechanism and its controlling driver software which were not yet available for IBM PC machines. Considering mobile environment, Toshiba selected Clam-shell system for T1100. This style is suitable for portable PC to guard LDC and keyboard. Toshiba developed new hinge and FPC (Flexible printed circuits) cable with light and enough durability and endurance.

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