Laptop computer history

Updated: 07/13/2023 by Computer Hope


IBM 5100

The first portable computer was the IBM 5100, released in September 1975. It weighed 55-pounds, which was much lighter and more portable than any other computer to date. While not truly a laptop by today's standards, it paved the way for developing truly portable computers, i.e., laptops.


Alan Kay created the idea of the laptop in 1976 while working at Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), calling it the Dynabook. He helped develop a prototype of his Dynabook, which was officially named the Xerox Note Taker.


Bill Moggridge designed the GRiD Compass in 1979, the most portable computer at the time and the closest example of a laptop computer. NASA used the GRiD Compass in its space shuttle program in the early 1980s.


Developed by Adam Osborne in April 1981, the Osborne I was the first truly portable computer and was recognized as the first true laptop computer. It weighed 24½-pounds and had a 5" display.

Epson released the Epson HX-20 in 1981. It was the first portable computer with a built-in printer.


Radio Shack released the TRS-80 Model 100 portable computer in the United States in 1983. It featured an LCD (liquid-crystal display), one of the first portable computers with that feature. The TRS-80 Model 100 was originally manufactured by Kyocera and sold in Japan, but later the rights were sold to Radio Shack.


Commodore released the Commodore SX-64 in 1984, the first portable computer to feature a full-color display screen. It weighed about 20-pounds and sold for $995.


IBM released its first laptop, the PC Convertible, in 1986. It weighed 12-pounds, making it the first laptop under 15-pounds.


The U.S. Air Force issued an RFP (request for proposal), leading to the purchase of over 200,000 laptops. The contract for the manufacturing and purchase of these laptops was awarded to Zenith Data Systems. The Air Force's purchase of so many laptops helped pave the way for the popularity of laptop computers.

Hewlett-Packard released the Vectra Portable CS laptop in 1987. It was one of the first laptops to feature a 3 ½" floppy disk drive capable of using 1.44 MB diskettes.


Compaq logo

Compaq released its first laptop computer in 1988, the Compaq SLT/286. It was the first battery-powered laptop to feature VGA (video graphics adapter) and an internal hard drive.


Apple logo

Apple released its first laptop, the Macintosh Portable, in September 1989. Costing $6500 at release, it did not sell well and was not a popular laptop.

NEC released the NEC UltraLite in 1989, considered to be the first notebook style laptop, weighing less than 5-pounds.


After the flop of its Macintosh Portable laptop, Apple re-worked its laptop concept and released the PowerBook line of laptops in October 1991.


IBM started selling its first ThinkPad laptop models, the 300, 700, and 700C, in October 1992.

Microsoft and Intel worked together to develop and release APM (advanced power management) specification for laptop computers.

Olivetti developed and released the first laptops featuring a touchpad in 1992.


Considered as the first 2-in-1 laptop, the Compaq Concerto was released in 1993, featuring a detachable wired keyboard and stylus.


IBM released the ThinkPad 775CD in 1994, the first laptop to feature an integrated CD-ROM (compact disc read-only memory) drive.


The first laptop to feature an Intel Pentium processor, the Gateway Solo 2100, was released in 1996.

IBM released the RS/6000 860 laptop in 1996, the first laptop to feature a built-in webcam, with a $12,000 price tag.


Toshiba released the first laptop in its popular Portege line, the Portege 300CT, in 1997.


Toshiba released the Toshiba Portege 2000 in 2002, the thinnest laptop to be developed at only ¾ of an inch at the thickest part. It also featured the first 1.8-inch hard drive in a laptop.


Apple announced its new PowerBook G4 laptop, the first laptop with a 17-inch screen, 802.11g Wi-Fi, and a backlit keyboard.

Toshiba released the Toshiba Portege M100 in 2003, which was the first laptop to feature a slim DVD (digital versatile disc) drive.


Apple began using Intel processors in its laptops in 2006.

Apple released its first MacBook Pro laptop in January 2006, featuring a 15-inch screen.


ASUS released the Eee PC 701 in October 2007, which was the first netbook to be available. It featured a 7" screen, an Intel Celeron-M processor, and a 4 GB SDHC storage disk.


Apple released its first MacBook Air laptop in January 2008, touting it as the thinnest available laptop.

HP (Hewlett-Packard) released its new TouchSmart tx2 laptop, the first 2-in-1 laptop with multi-touch capabilities, allowing for use of a stylus or multiple fingers for input.


Acer and Samsung announce the release of its first Chromebook models at the Google I/O conference in May 2011.


In January 2023, Samsung announced they were beginning to manufacture the first OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screens for laptops, in sizes of 13 inches and 16 inches. The OLED screens feature touch screen capabilities, 3K resolution, and up to a 120 Hz refresh rate.

Computer History