John Ellenby

John Ellenby
Corbridge, England, UK
Death date
Associated organizations
Grid Systems


John Ellenby was born in Corbridge, England, on January 9th, 1941, and first encountered mainframe computers at the London School of Economics studying economics. Ellenby worked for Ferranti and lectured at the University of Edinburgh before moving to Northern California in the early 1970s to work for Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center.

At Xerox PARC, Ellenby was instrumental in the development of the Alto II, a prototype desktop computer. Ellenby left Xerox in 1979 and formed Grid Systems. Employing industrial designer William Moggridge, Grid Systems developed a clamshell computer with an orange display called the Compass in 1982, considered by some to be the first successful clamshell laptop computer. Initially retailing for $8,150, the Compass found commercial success within various government agencies, including the White House, which made a purchase of $2,000,000.

Grid Systems was purchased by Tandy in 1988, and Ellenby formed Agilis, a tablet computer company, and GeoVector, which specialized in navigation and augmented reality.

Ellenby passed away on August 17th, 2016 in San Francisco.