Thread history

Time User Activity Comment
No results

I apologize for not being familiar with the protocol related to discussions about Milestone-Nomination talk: the first laptop personal computer, 1984-1986. I just happened on this web page as a result of a search in Google for something else and I recognized it was a subject about which I have some knowledge, and I might be able to clarify some false impressions left by some comments on the web page.

I was involved in the development and support of the Data General One computer which preceded the Toshiba T-1100 by about seven months, and I thought that I could add something to the discussion.

I could say a lot about the Data General One, but it might be more persuasive if I simply attach the cover and an article printed in Byte magazine volume 9, number 12 which was released in October of 1984. (The production version of the Data General One was released on September 20, 1984.)

The article describes the Data General One as “A 10-pound battery-powered portable that’s fully compatible with the IBM PC,” and that is precisely what it was. It was unlike anything else available for quite some time after its release because it had a screen with the same aspect ratio as the monitor used with an IBM PC. That meant that text and graphics appeared the same as they would on an IBM PC. Other laptops developed in the near term after the Data General One had an aspect ratio that distorted the text and images because they compressed the screen in the vertical axis. In other words, if you drew a round gear using Autocad, it would look like a round gear only on the Data General One. On all the others, it looked like an oval gear.

There were a couple of hardware issues noted in the article that existed with the system at launch, but those were corrected very quickly. But I especially want to address the issue of software availability on 3.5 inch diskettes. I managed a group of seven prople who supported all of the software available for the Data General One. We had a large lab filled with hundreds of software titles. There was not a single popular package that was not available on 3.5 inch diskettes for the Data General One. Every title from Lotus (such as 1-2-3 and Symphony), Microsoft (Word and GW Basic, etc.), Peachtree Software (Peachtext 5000, etc.), MicroPro (Wordstar, Wordstar Pro, etc.), pfs (file, report, graph), ThinkTank, Overhead Express, TKSolver, Sargon, SubLOGIC (Flight Simulator, Pinball), RBase, dBase, WordPerfect, and Autocad were all available (and those are just the software I still have in my bookcase). I cannot think of a single software package of note that was not available on 3.5 inch diskettes and supported by my group.

Initially, the LCD screen was pretty dim, but fully usable. I have the full WordPerfect source text of a two volume text book totalling 602 pages, still stored on three of those 3.5 inch diskettes made on a Data General One. As the LCD technology improved, it was incorporated into the Data General One; and the screen continually improved. I think (but I’m not positive) that the last screen used was gold with blue pixels.

I will attempt to attach the following to the web page: (1) Byte magazine cover and article in PDF file, (2) Data General photograph of the completed system in JPG file (I think this was taken some time after the release because the screen color on the original was more of a grey color), (3) a plaque awarded to those of us who participated in the project in PDF file. In the event that I cannot attach the files, I have placed them on my web site with the following links: (1) (4.1 MB) (2) (99KB) (3) (229 KB)

If I successfully attach the files to the web page, I will delete them from my own web site.

Thank You. Jim Reece, 11 September 2012