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:

  1. Portable: It can be used both directly plugged to the electric supply or by means of an in-built rechargeable battery.
  2. Lightweight: It is small enough to be seated on a person’s lap and suitable for use while travelling.
  3. All-in-One: It integrates all components required to be fully operative as a computer: display, keyboard, storage drives, data ports, etc.
  4. Clam-Shell: It comes in a flip-form factor.
  5. 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.

Apyuste08:53, 25 June 2012

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.

[[User:|k.hsb]]23:43, 27 June 2012

Dear Advocate:

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.[1]

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) [2]

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”.

Thank you.

[1] “Portable & Handheld” (EPSON HC-88 & DATAGENERAL DG-1), ASCII Vol.9 #8 (P280-P285), August 1985, ASCII Corp.

[2] “PC-Compatible Laptop Computer”, Toshiba Review No. 157 (P26-P28), Autumn 1986, Toshiba Corp.


k.hsb05:28, 25 July 2012

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.

Apyuste15:13, 2 August 2012

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.

k.hsb05:07, 8 August 2012

Dear Apyuste-san;

Thank you very much for your suggestion.

Even T1100 passes the name of the first laptop PC to DG-1 and "IBM PC compatible" does not mean an assurance that package software worked on it, we still believe that T1100 which was followed by T/J-3100 is a pioneer which opened the door to laptop PC world which connect to personal/mobile devices, now have bigger market share than Desktop PCs.

Those days, main target of PCs were PC experts who had used desktop PCs which had located at special space for PCs. Toshiba tried to change this situation with T1100, called “revolution on desk” internally. Toshiba did promotion for T1100 that T1100 could be used on desk connected with monitor and could be brought off from desk side with packaged software which users could select, while other PC’s leaflets insists their technical specification. This promotion expanded market not only for PC experts but for non-expert of PCs. Toshiba had got 40% share in European personal computer market in 1987. (Dataquest European Personal Computer Industry Service, July 1988)

To enable Toshiba to do this promotion, Toshiba developed T1100 as a portable office tool, using many technologies, e.g. 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. Also Toshiba developed much software, e.g. power management technology which improved to the current “ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface”.

Following T1100, Toshiba developed laptop PCs <T/J-3100> and established new category “notebook PC” in 1989 (J-3100 SS001 / T1000e).

Do you think we could change our claim like “Pioneer of Laptop Personal Computer, T1100”?

k.hsb04:52, 30 August 2012

I have no doubt about the relevance of Toshiba T-1100 in the development of laptop personal computers. It could be, in fact, the most successful out of all of those early laptop personal computers. So, such a citation as you are suggesting can be very appropriate to my point of view.

I think, however, that the noun “pioneer” can only be used to refer a person, being more correct to use the adjective “pioneering” in order to mention new ways of doing things, which others later follow. For example, “Pioneering work in the field of…” or “Pioneering contribution to the development of...”.

What about the citation: “Toshiba T-1100, a pioneering contribution to the development of laptop personal computers”, to name your milestone? Of course, needless to say the exact wording is subject to final discussion of the IEEE History Committee.

Apyuste14:52, 2 September 2012

Dear Apyuste-san:

Thank you very much for your good suggestion. Sometimes, we, non-natives, faces troubles to find good wording.

Do you know what we should do next? Should we modify nomination page, e.g. citation, historic significance and else?

k.hsb07:30, 3 September 2012

Many thanks for your understanding and collaboration. I am going now to make a consultation to the Research Coordinator of the IEEE History Center to know about how to proceed next.

Apyuste09:08, 3 September 2012

I understand. Please let us know if there were something we should do. We hope we would hear good result.

k.hsb09:33, 3 September 2012

Please, proceed to change the citation of the Nomination and whatever other required information more directly through the GHN platform and let the Research Coordinator of the IEEE History Center know about the new proposed Milestone's name by opening a new thread in this "wiki-page".

Thank you very much and congratulations for the great job carried out. Very best regards.

The Advocate

Apyuste13:10, 4 September 2012

Dear Apyuste-san:

Thank you very much for your suggestion and suport.

We will change these information and inform it to the Reserch Coordinator.

Best Regards

k.hsb00:04, 5 September 2012

Dear Apyuset-san:

Thank you very much for your support.

We have updated the application for Nomination following the discussion and your suggestions.

Pleae let us know if you have any questions or suggestions.

Best regards,

K. Hsb

k.hsb00:33, 2 October 2012

Hello. New title and citation are now very much better. I will recommend the approval of this Milestone to the IEEE History Committee.

Many thanks for your understanding and for the great job carried out. Best regards,

Antonio Perez Yuste

Apyuste09:52, 2 October 2012

Dear Mr. Yuste.

Thank you very much for your support and suggestions.

Do you mean that our application has passed not only

"B.3. Nominations Awaiting Advocate Approval"

but also

"B.4. Nominations Approved by Advocates and Awaiting Finalized Citations Approval from Nominators"


Best regards,

K. Hasebe

k.hsb10:28, 2 October 2012

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.

Tonydavies07:59, 30 July 2012

Thank you very much, Advocate.

k.hsb01:18, 1 August 2012

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) http://www.eslts.com/DG_One/DG_One_ByteMag9_12.pdf (4.1 MB) (2) http://www.eslts.com/DG_One/DG_One.jpg (99KB) (3) http://www.eslts.com/DG_One/DG_One_Plaque.pdf (229 KB)

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

Thank You. Jim Reece jimr@eslts.com, 11 September 2012

Dear Mr. Reece,

Many thanks for your contribution. I will forward it to the IEEE History Committee for its consideration when this Milestone be discussed. In order to upload your file to this platform, you have previously to register, then log in and finally enter the Attachments tab in the Milestone Nomination webpage or, alternatively, click on next URL:


Sincerely, Prof. Antonio Perez Yuste.

Apyuste09:01, 11 September 2012

Thank you for your assistance. I registered and was then able to upload files into this page. As a result I will delete the files from my own web site. Please note that the article from Byte magazine was a very large file and took a long time to download, so I compressed it to about 4% of its original size. That affected the quality, but reduced the download time very much. Also I converted the file containing the plaque to a jpg file, again that was to reduce its size.

I can provide photos of several software packages on 3.5 inch diskettes if anyone would like me to. I have most of the titles I mentioned in my original post.

Again, thank you for your assistance.

Jim Reece

JimReece15:49, 11 September 2012

I am uploading three additional pictures:

(1) a photo of DG_One Software that I still have. This is a photo of the top of my bookcase and includes a few of the software titles that were available on September 20, 1984. There were approximately twenty packages available on that day. Within a few weeks, hundreds of packages were available.

(2) The Lotus 1-2-3 User Guide Cover and Title page with 1984 copyright.

(3) a copy of the Lotus 1-2-3 “Slick” that was included in the Lotus 1-2-3 package for Data General One computers. Notice the 1984 copyright date near the bottom and the (upside down) statement “Compatible with the Data General OneTM Personal System.”

As mentioned by another contributor, it was difficult to get software vendors to actually state that their software would run on a specific computer—not because it was difficult to put their software on a 3.5 inch diskette, but because they had to run a full quality test of their software running on the system. That required a lot of their time and resources so Data General provided vendors with pre-production hardware, as well as assistance and support from a team of highly skilled Data General software developers to help them test and qualify their software. As a result of this testing, Lotus 1-2-3 explicitely named the IBM® Personal Computer, the XT(TM); the COMPAQ(TM) Portable Computer; and the Data General/One(TM) Personal System in their product literature as having been qualified as of September 20, 1984.

Jim Reece

JimReece15:54, 12 September 2012

Having read again the various discussion items about the Toshiba laptop, my conclusion is that it is not sustainable (in view of the features of the Dats General DG-1) to claim that Toshiba T-1100 was the first laptop. Of course, it is possible to construct a definition of lap-top computer which makes the T-1100 the first (for example, as stated, that Lotus software was not issued on a disc of the appropriate size to run on DG-1, etc. and copy-protection prevented it being transferred to a DG-1, though it could be run on Toshiba T-1100). However, that seems to require an 'artificial' definition of a lap-top computer that might have seemed reasonable at the time the T-1100 was introduced, but Milestones are intended to last for ever, and so the definition should also attempt to be one that would be valid in the long-term. I doubt that, even now, and surely not in future, many people would have even heard of Lotus software, and the distinction between 3.5 and 5.25 discs would be a forgotten feature. Although it was introduced far later (1991), one could ask the question, was the Apple Powerbook a lap-top computer? (it was developed to the MacBookPro by ~2006) - I think that anyone nowadays would easily conclude that it was a lap-top computer - but it did not use the IBM-PC operationg system, it used a Motorola processor, and did not run any of the standard IBM-PC compatible software. So any definition of a lap-top computer that is sustainable in the long term does, in my opinion, need to include such things as the Apple Powerbook. So, the conclusion that the Toshiba T-1100 was a significant and pioneering development remains true, but some care and thought is, I believe, still needed in order to accurately define what that significance was which made the Toshiba distinct and meriting a Milestone. Please note that I am NOT suggesting at all that it does not merit the Milestone status, only that care is needed to get the title and caption in the best and most sustainable form.

Tony Davies 25 Sep 2012

Tonydavies14:47, 25 September 2012


Thank you for your comment. Please note that, as I mentioned previously, Lotus 1-2-3 was in fact delivered on 3.5 inch diskettes for the DG-1 at the time the DG-1 was released in September, 1984 (see attachments "Lotus 1-2-3 Booklet cover and Title page.pdf" and "Lotus 1-2-3 insert.pdf" above). Almost all of the popular software titles of the time were available on 3.5 inch diskettes for the DG-1 either when the DG-1 was released or shortly thereafter (see my attachment "DG One Software.jpg" which shows a photograph of a few titles available in or around the time the DG-1 was released - all of them were on 3.5 inch diskettes for the DG-1 and were available before the Toshiba T-1100 was announced or released). In addition, the DG-1 had an optional 5.25 inch drive which could run IBM PC software on 5.25 inch diskettes.

Jim Reece October 1, 2012

JimReece01:23, 2 October 2012


Thanks for the additional information, I think that supports what I wrote, e.g. that the Milestone must not rely on a restrictive definition of a lap-top computer, which would not be shared in future by those seeing the milestone.

Tony Davies

2 October 2012

Tonydavies17:51, 2 October 2012