What a laptop personal computer is and precedence of Toshiba T-1100
This Milestone-Nomination claims Toshiba T-1100 computer as the first laptop personal computer. The underlined part of this statement is, for sure, the key issue here. So, before going ahead, it is first needed giving an answer to next questions:
- What a “laptop computer” is?
- What a “personal computer” is?
In according to Webster Dictionary, a laptop computer is a computer of a size and a design that makes operation and use on one’s lap convenient. Oxford Dictionary, for its part, comes into the portability issue when says that a laptop computer is a computer that is portable and suitable for use while travelling.
In case of looking up the term in a technical dictionary, a more precise definition can be found. So is it with the TechDictionary.com, for which a laptop computer is a computer that is small enough to fit in a person's lap, weighs less than eight pounds, usually has a flat screen and LCD display, and is powered by a rechargeable battery. Something similar can be found in the Network Dictionary, by Javvin Technologies (ISBN: 978-1-60267-000-6, 2007), for which a laptop computer is that one that usually runs on batteries, but also from an adapter which also charge the battery using mains electricity. And, it goes on by saying that laptops contain components that are similar to those in their desktop counterparts in order to perform the same functions, but are miniaturized and optimized for mobile use and efficient power consumption.
In referring the “personal computer” term, Webster Dictionary says that it is a general purpose computer equipped with a microprocessor and designed to run especially commercial software (as a word processor or Internet browser) for an individual user. Oxford Dictionary is, in this case, quite more laconic, just by saying that it is a computer designed for use by one person at a time.
For its part, much more precise is, once again, the Network Dictionary, by Javvin Technologies (ISBN: 978-1-60267-000-6, 2007), when referring the Personal Computer (PC) as a term commonly used to describe an “IBM-compatible” personal computer in contrast to an Apple Macintosh computer. It adds, further on, that PCs all are based on the microprocessor technology that enable manufacturers to put and entire CPU on one chip, and adds that they are commonly used for word processing, accounting, desktop publishing, and for running spreadsheet and database management applications and play games.
A more sensitive fact is that one related with the form factor. To become a laptop computer it is not necessary, of course, to have a design based on a flip-form factor, although it has been an indelible feature in laptop computers from the very beginning.
By making use of all those definitions, a profile about what a “laptop personal computer” is, can be now more precisely drawn. So, to the evaluation of this milestone proposal, a “laptop personal computer” will be considered as a computer that matches next five requirements:
- Portable: It can be used both directly plugged to the electric supply or by means of an in-built rechargeable battery.
- Lightweight: It is small enough to be seated on a person’s lap and suitable for use while travelling.
- All-in-One: It integrates all components required to be fully operative as a computer: display, keyboard, storage drives, data ports, etc.
- Clam-Shell: It comes in a flip-form factor.
- IBM-PC Compatible: It runs an operative system fully compatible with IBM-PC computers and is able to execute some office tools such as: word processor, spreadsheet application, drawing package, etc.
According to data provided in the Toshiba T-1100 computer brochure, this model is a very compact, clam-shell, very light (9 pounds) IBM-PC compatible computer, with high-resolution bit-mapped graphics on a 25-line LCD, internal 3.5-inch floppy disk drive, 83-character keyboard, and up 8 hours’ running under rechargeable battery power.
As can be seen, this description perfectly matches the aforesaid requirements in order for the Toshiba T-1100 to be considered as a “laptop personal computer”, so the sensitive question now is whether this computer was, in fact, the first of its class.
By reading the information included with the nomination, it is missed a more detailed discussion about the state of the art of portable computers at the time the Toshiba T-1100 was released, and a more profound comparison of this computer with previously launched ones, in order to demonstrate that Toshiba T-1100 really was the very first laptop personal computer in the history of computing.
So, my recommendation as and advocate for this milestone would be to set forth the scope of nomination beyond the information presently included, and carry out an investigation about the issues previously referred.
Thank you very much, Advocate.
Yes. T1100 is a Potable, Lightweight, All-in-One, Clam-Shell IBM-PC Compatible machine. The concept of T1100 was a computer enabling users to bring out same computing environment in office or home, at anytime, to anywhere even without AC power supply.
It needed to be IBM-PC Compatible because widely spread computers in office or home those days were IBM-PC. Data conversion was required if users tried to bring out computers running dedicated OS.
We believe that a flip-form factor is important to install a 25 line full display and a keyboard onto a small size mobile device which supporting same computing environment with a desktop computer and CRT. A non-flip-form device may become twice size or have only a few lines display. Also flip-form design provides display and keyboard protection capability to mobile devices.
We are summarizing additional information. Please forgive us taking time for a while.
We are sorry for our late reply.
Thank you for your comment that we need to demonstrate that Toshiba T1100 really was the very first laptop personal computer in the history of computing.
At the first, we would add a connotative meaning to your definition of “laptop personal computer” that “laptop personal computer” is a computer which can be used in anywhere, at anytime, by anyone.
1980s was incunabulum of portable computers. (List of early Laptops) Portable computers which released before “T1100” are listed in the chart. We are sorry but there are some blank columns which we could not find data.
Of course, early machines were not IBM PC Compatible. Because the first IBM PC 5150 was released in 1981, and established its market position in the following a few years. CP/M or other dedicated OS was used on these early compact machines.
The famous IBM PC compatible portable machine was Compaq Portable. Much software for IBM PC can be used on it. But it required AC power, so it was transportable but not really portable to be used anywhere.
PC-5000 (Sharp) and Encore (Osbone Computer) and some others had smaller screen than IBM PC.
In 1984, Data General released “Data General One (DG-1)” which hardware was a portable and compatible with IBM PC. But we cannot say it IBM PC compatible. It required external 5.25” FDD to run some important programs for IBM PC. Because “DG-1” had built-in 3.5” Floppy Disc Drive (FDD) and the original IBM PCs had 5.25” FDD when DG-1 was released. Most of key software, like Lotus 1-2-3 was supplied on 5.25” FD with copy protection. So users can not use them on DG-1 without external 5.25” FDD. Also, they say display of DG-1 had not enough contrast to be used in brighter or darker place. It was not be used in anywhere.
The Toshiba’s concept for “T1100” was that it can be used in anywhere, at anytime, by anyone. So Toshiba developed “T1100” after many tests to select best compornents for a mobile device which fit to our concept. (High-Density Packaging Technologies including developing GA ”Gate Array ICs” which makes compact and low power consumption, High-contrast LCD, rechargeable battery and NMOS dynamic memory which makes cheaper to down the price to level for users to by “T1100” personally) 
In Japan, there are a famous “Senryu”, a short witty epigrammatic poem in Japan, “パソコンはソフトがなければただの箱” (Personal Computer. It is just a box if without software).
This Senryu was made after the release of “T1100”, but Toshiba has knew that software had been very important for computer. During engineers had been developing “T1100” in Japan, Mr. Atsutoshi Nishida who led the project at the time and is now Chairman of the Board of Director, Toshiba, visited developers which had been supplying key software for IBM PC which widely used in the world to ask release their software on 3.5” floppy disc. It was not easy negotiation, but finally it was succeeded and some key software, e.g. Lotus’s 1-2-3, Ashton-Tate’s dBase II and Microsoft Corp.'s Flight Simulator, were released in 3.5” FD. ("Developing Toshiba's first laptop" by IT World, April 20, 2005)
So, we believe that T1100 was the first laptop personal computer which establish real environment for users to use computers in anywhere, at anytime and by anyone.
So we would like to nominate “T1100” as “the first laptop computer”.
 “Portable & Handheld” (EPSON HC-88 & DATAGENERAL DG-1), ASCII Vol.9 #8 (P280-P285), August 1985, ASCII Corp.
 “PC-Compatible Laptop Computer”, Toshiba Review No. 157 (P26-P28), Autumn 1986, Toshiba Corp.
First of all, congratulations for the investigation carried out about the state of the art of portable computers at the time Toshiba T-1100 was released. In my opinion, it is a very detailed study that must call our attention to be careful with the claim of this Milestone.
From the information provided, it seems that there were different portable computers before Toshiba T-1100 that deserve to be considered as “laptop computers”, although none of them could be considered “personal computers”, it is defended.
The “personal” concept is a very sensitive factor, indeed, to the aim of this Milestone. Eighties was still an age when IBM-compatibility did not always mean an assurance that all software developed for IBM PC would work in other compatible computers. For instance, in k.hsb’s post is said that DG-1 computer (Data General) is not IBM PC compatible because it came with a built-in 3.5’’ Floppy Disc Drive, when most of key IBM PC software at that time was supplied on 5.25’’ Floppy Discs. So users can not use that software on DG-1 without an external 5.25’’ Floppy Disc Drive. In my opinion, this is not a clear reason to reject a computer as IBM PC compatible. As well as, it is not an enough reason, in my understanding, to have a smaller screen than IBM PC for a computer not to be considered a “true” IBM PC compatible, as it is held in case of PC-5000 (Sharp) and Encore (Osborne), or not to have a built-in Floppy Disc Drive, as it happens in case of Dulmont Magnum (Dulmison). By the way, this last one had a built-in 256 Kb CMOS RAM memory, which could be allocated as a memory disc drive and used to store files like a conventional disk.
Taking again the five requirements of a portable computer to become considered a laptop personal computer shown in my last post, the first four of them have relation with the “laptop” concept, but only the fifth has to do with the “personal” concept. The “anywhere-anytime-anyone” paradigm used to defend the precedence of Toshiba T-1100 has much more to do with the “laptop” concept, so putting it forward to defend the precedence of Toshiba T-1100 could be an argument for the IEEE History Committee to reject the Milestone as it is claimed. So, my recommendation as Milestone’s advocate would be to change the claim and the citation of the Milestone by not using the word “first”.
Just a final remark, characteristics of Toshiba T-1100 in the list of Early Laptops are not coincident with the original brochure. In according to this one, size of Toshiba T-1100 was 311 x 305 x 66 mm, instead of 310 x 300 x 67 mm, it weighted 4.10 Kg., instead of 4.00 Kg., and the resolution of the display was 640 x 200 pixels, instead of 640 x 420 pixels.
Thank you for your comment and advice, Apyuste-san.
We will reconsider the claim and citation. Please forgive us to take a slight time for it.
And we should apologize for our mistakes. You are right. I copied these data from our memo, but it was different from the data in catalog. I do not know the reason but we would like to correct them.
size: 31.1 x 6.6 x 30.5 cm weight: 4.1 kg display: 640 x 200 pixels
Thank you very much.
Having read the detailed analyses of what defines a laptop computer, this seems a convincing case for a Milestone. Before I read the details of the proposed 'definitions' I would have thought of some other portable computers - for example Compaq and Osborne. However, with all the constraints incorporated in the definitions, it does seem that the T1100 deserves the Milestone. Because the definitions in use might not be widely known, maybe this needs consideration in choosing the words of the final citation.