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Thirty Years of Clamshell Computing

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the form-factor dept.

Portables 135

harrymcc writes "2012 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Grid Compass 1101, the first portable computer with a briefcase-like case with a keyboard on one side of the interior, a flat screen on the other, and a hinge in the middle--the 'clamshell' design that eventually became standard for all portable PCs. It's proven to be a remarkably useful and durable design, and only with the advent of the iPad has it faced serious competition."

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Ten years of FIRST POST (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40665333)

Sometimes I question my priorities in life.

How can we forget (1)

arcite (661011) | about 2 years ago | (#40665447)

The great iBook G3 from 1999 AKA 'the toilet seat'.

Re:How can we forget (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40665491)

The great iBook G3 from 1999 AKA 'the toilet seat'.

Exactly, which is evidence that Apple innovated the clamshell design into existence. The lawsuits will begin shortly. Thanks for the reminder, iCitizen!

Re:How can we forget (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#40665617)

Wow it really does look like the two halves of a toilet seat:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBook#iBook_G3_.28.22Clamshell.22.29 [wikipedia.org]

Re:How can we forget (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | about 2 years ago | (#40665635)

The perfect gift for your author friend, to which you keep referring to as "the crap writer".

Re:How can we forget (1)

bbelt16ag (744938) | about 2 years ago | (#40665659)

i want one when do the come out j/k?

Re:How can we forget (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40665761)

Real soon, I hope. I really have to go. BAD.

Model 100 (3)

ISoldat53 (977164) | about 2 years ago | (#40665347)

The Tandy Model 100 gave it competition way before the iPad.

Re:Model 100 (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 2 years ago | (#40665393)

For certain values of "competition", yes :) The Tandy seemed to be ahead of its time but unfortunately ahead of public demand.

http://www.old-computers.com/museum/hardware.asp?t=1&c=233&st=1 [old-computers.com]

Re:Model 100 (0, Troll)

kubernet3s (1954672) | about 2 years ago | (#40665515)

Well yeah, and the design of the iPad has all the efficiency and productivity enhancing qualities of a rhino having noisy diarrheain the middle of one's office cubicle. If 60 wpm counts as "competition" to you, you don't really need a computer, do you?

Re:Model 100 (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#40665857)

You linked to the TRS-80 which, according to ars technica, was the #1 selling computer of its time (1977,78,79). Mainly because it was in Radio Shack where many hobbyists shopped.

Re:Model 100 (2)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 2 years ago | (#40665919)

You are right that the TRS-80 was a popular system in the space it was in. I had a Model I and a Model IV, so I know I enjoyed the Tandy brand. Don't confuse market leadership with having a mature market.

If you went to an office, you didn't see a Tandy (or other computer) at every workstation and most families didn't have a computer at home. By the time computers really started to hit the mainstream, Tandy had flamed out and became a distant memory. I even had a 1000 Series, but it would be my last... too proprietary, too locked in and worst of all, it didn't play Doom :)

Re:Model 100 (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 2 years ago | (#40665537)

And, as the article says – not a clam shell.

IIRC the Tandy Model 100 was the last piece of software personally coded by Bill Gates.

Re:Model 100 (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#40665625)

The 200 was released in 1984 and was a clamshell, that's probably what is confusing the guy.

I suppose if you wanna get really picky and demand clamshell with LCD as opposed to plasma then the model 200 wins.

Re:Model 100 (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | about 2 years ago | (#40666631)

The TRS-80 Model 200 always wins. I know, I just bought one, and it is a very impressive piece of hardware even today.
I also have a Model 100.

Re:Model 100 (1)

s73v3r (963317) | about 2 years ago | (#40665597)

The Tandy Model 100 gave it competition way before the iPad.

No. The Tandy Model 100 did exist before the iPad, but it was nowhere near as popular as the iPad.

Competition doesn't just mean that alternatives exist. They also have to be popular enough to matter.

Re:Model 100 (2)

tqk (413719) | about 2 years ago | (#40667619)

Competition doesn't just mean that alternatives exist. They also have to be popular enough to matter.

"Popular" is overrated. Just because you're popular doesn't mean you matter. It doesn't mean "good." Windows and Apple are popular. So were Hitler and Stalin.

Interesting, but inevitable (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40665367)

In 1972, EMS Synthi AKS was a briefcase with a keyboard on one side -- it just happened to have a synthesizer on the other side, instead of a computer. The clamshell design is a pretty obvious model to follow.

As my reward for this post, I would be happily accept a Synthi AKS. It seems fitting, you know?

Re:Interesting, but inevitable (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | about 2 years ago | (#40665689)

Re:Interesting, but inevitable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40665837)

Thanks! Although a physical, working one was what I was thinking of.

Miniturization of electronics (5, Interesting)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 2 years ago | (#40665369)

As electronics become smaller, the only pieces that must remain large are the input and output devices, so the clamshell makes the best use of space. The iPad's input device isn't meant for serious input... a keystroke here or a mouse click there. Typing a real paragraph is a pain the fingers.

Now what I am really looking forward to is when these computers can output directly to my retina :)

Re:Miniturization of electronics (1)

undefinedreference (2677063) | about 2 years ago | (#40665399)

...and input directly from my mind.

Re:Miniturization of electronics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40665449)

If they could input directly from your mind, why bother without output via retina? That's an analog connection..

Read vs. Write (5, Funny)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about 2 years ago | (#40665487)

If they could input directly from your mind, why bother without output via retina? That's an analog connection..

Presumably, reading minds is safer than writing minds.

Re:Read vs. Write (5, Interesting)

gman003 (1693318) | about 2 years ago | (#40665629)

Indeed.

You know what happens when someone forgets to check the bounds of their array and starts writing data to another process's memory?

Yeah. Imagine if that other process was your visual cortex.

Re:Read vs. Write (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | about 2 years ago | (#40665673)

Indeed.

You know what happens when someone forgets to check the bounds of their array and starts writing data to another process's memory?

Yeah. Imagine if that other process was your visual cortex.

One word springs immediately to mind: goatse.

Re:Read vs. Write (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40666769)

Ok, ok. We have tested that the mind-writing interface works. Can you please stop sending that image into my visual cortex?!

Re:Read vs. Write (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40667583)

What sprung (sprang?) to my mind was Ghost in the Shell anime series when they hack the cyborg eye implants of people. But whatever springs your sprang, I guess, heheheh!

Re:Read vs. Write (4, Insightful)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | about 2 years ago | (#40666237)

Indeed.

You know what happens when someone forgets to check the bounds of their array and starts writing data to another process's memory?

Yeah. Imagine if that other process was your visual cortex.

We used to have drugs for that.

Re:Read vs. Write (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40667409)

Always mount a scratch monkey...

Re:Read vs. Write (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40667599)

Larry Niven's book "The Ringworld Engineers" touches on this, in a way.

Re:Read vs. Write (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40666513)

Yeah, because a mind would be a terrible thing to waste.

Re:Read vs. Write (1)

Mister Whirly (964219) | about 2 years ago | (#40666621)

Indeed, the mind is a terrible thing to taste.

Re:Read vs. Write (2)

Yvan256 (722131) | about 2 years ago | (#40665705)

Government propaganda agencies beg to differ.

Re:Miniturization of electronics (1)

Antipater (2053064) | about 2 years ago | (#40665459)

Now what I am really looking forward to is when these computers can output directly to my retina :)

...and input directly from my mind.

What? That tech's existed since the '60s!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LSD [wikipedia.org]

Best use of space in clamshell? NOT (5, Interesting)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | about 2 years ago | (#40665787)

(..) so the clamshell makes the best use of space.

Considering today's power/heat constraints, I find the usual "CPU/GPU under keyboard" configuration illogical. Why not a CPU / GPU / RAM board behind the screen, with a large/thin (passive, if possible) cooling plate at the rear? Or draw air in near the hinges, let air out near the top of the screen (again, passive if possible). Those 2 cooling methods wouldn't bite each other... Then just battery, keyboard, hard disk and peripherals like DVD drive (if fitted) under the keyboard. A few serial connections like USB / SATA + power between the two halves. Likely would leave more space such that a larger battery is possible.

Much better than packing heat-producing CPU/GPU right next to a heat-sensitive battery (+ a tiny blower to pull that heat out).

Re:Best use of space in clamshell? NOT (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#40665905)

What you're describing is basically an iPad but attached to a keyboard, drive, etc. As Bugs Bunny would say, "I like it."

Re:Best use of space in clamshell? NOT (4, Insightful)

Hamsterdan (815291) | about 2 years ago | (#40666009)

Weight distribution. If the lid is heavier than the base, it's too easy to have the laptop do a backwards flip. Besides, it would add thickness to the machine (but allow for a bigger battery)

Re:Best use of space in clamshell? NOT (1)

NalosLayor (958307) | about 2 years ago | (#40666115)

There's this pesky thing called physics that likes to get in the way: Namely, your device will be topheavy to the point of being unwieldy for non table use. The brilliance of the top containing only the screen is that it makes the thing balanced. I suppose you could put some additional stuff in the clamshell top. Ideally, the SSD, since it is a "low bandwidth" device (compared to a GPU or RAM) and requires only a few traces to be added to the cable running between the halves.

Re:Best use of space in clamshell? NOT (2)

shutdown -p now (807394) | about 2 years ago | (#40666413)

In other words, you want an Asus Transformer [asus.com] ?

(they will come in x86 and in larger sizes up to 14" later this year, for Win8)

Re:Best use of space in clamshell? NOT (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 2 years ago | (#40666889)

Considering today's power/heat constraints, I find the usual "CPU/GPU under keyboard" configuration illogical. Why not a CPU / GPU / RAM board behind the screen, with a large/thin (passive, if possible) cooling plate at the rear?

Because it's back-heavy and hard to balance. You see, engineers do think about these things when they design hardware.

Re:Miniturization of electronics (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 2 years ago | (#40665917)

Now what I am really looking forward to is when these computers can output directly to my retina :)

I have mixed feeling about this. It will be incredibly convenient and cool. But I also am realistic enough to realize we don't live in a utopian Star Trek world. The thought of loosing my vision because of a glitch is scary enough. But even worse, can you imagine if someone hacks such a system and you are forced to look at goatse, and no matter what you do you cannot turn your head or close your eyes to make it go away.

Re:Miniturization of electronics (1)

lgw (121541) | about 2 years ago | (#40666477)

But even worse, can you imagine if someone hacks such a system and you are forced to look at goatse, and no matter what you do you cannot turn your head or close your eyes to make it go away.

Ahh, so you remember the early days of Slashdot.

Re:Miniturization of electronics (1)

Tough Love (215404) | about 2 years ago | (#40665937)

As electronics become smaller, the only pieces that must remain large are the input and output devices, so the clamshell makes the best use of space.

Disagree. A separate Bluetooth keyboard saves much more space. The table case can double as a stable, adaptable support as with the Xoom portfolio case. Pointer alternatives are: 1) use the touchscreen (and wave your arms a lot and get fingerprints on the screen) 2) separate bluetooth touchpad 3) bloat up the bluetooth keyboard with an integrated touchpad 4) bluetooth mouse 5) USB mouse 6) Thinkpad style eraser head control (somebody should do that). In any case, the combination is all a lot more compact, lightweight and flexible than a clamshell. From here on, clamshell devices will shrink to exactly one category: desktop replacement. And to tell the truth, a clamshell is a poor replacement for a desktop because of the compromised keyboard and screen position.

Re:Miniturization of electronics (1)

schroedingers_hat (2449186) | about 2 years ago | (#40667157)

6) Thinkpad style eraser head control (somebody should do that).

The technical term is clit mouse. Nipple mouse is also acceptable.

Not my first portable PC (4, Interesting)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#40665523)

The first one I got to see and use was this. Most of the space was used-up by the 1541 floppy drive, which was a monster (as big as the computer itself):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodore_SX-64 [wikipedia.org]

Re:Not my first portable PC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40666063)

The 1541 was probably the only disk drive ever to have a controller CPU that was slightly faster than the CPU of the main computer.

Re:Not my first portable PC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40666389)

It's even worse than that. Commodore made floppy drives called the 8250 and 8050 that had *two* 6502s running off two phases of a clock signal. So really, the drives had twice as much CPU power as the computer ... Bizarre. And then there's the 1581 with a 2MHz 6502.

Bullshit. Osborne 1 was first. (1, Interesting)

eggstasy (458692) | about 2 years ago | (#40665525)

"First commercially successful portable computer" according to the almighty wiki, launched in 1981.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osborne_1 [wikipedia.org]

Re:Bullshit. Osborne 1 was first. (1)

BradleyUffner (103496) | about 2 years ago | (#40665603)

"First commercially successful portable computer" according to the almighty wiki, launched in 1981.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osborne_1 [wikipedia.org]

"...the first portable computer with a briefcase-like case with a keyboard on one side of the interior, a flat screen on the other, and a hinge in the middle..."
The osborne doesn't fit this definition. From the wikipedia pictures I don't see the hinge joining the keyboard to the rest of the system.

Re:Bullshit. Osborne 1 was first. (1)

Bacon Bits (926911) | about 2 years ago | (#40665709)

That's a luggable, not a clamshell.

Re:Bullshit. Osborne 1 was first. (1)

Nadaka (224565) | about 2 years ago | (#40665939)

There are some strange asymmetrical looking clams out there.

Its got a hinge. Its got a screen on one side of the hinge, and a keyboard on the other.

Re:Bullshit. Osborne 1 was first. (1)

gorzek (647352) | about 2 years ago | (#40666397)

Yep. I've got one of those, myself, but it's a Compaq "Ultra Portable." Similar design, although the screen is on the left side rather than in the middle.

Re:Bullshit. Osborne 1 was first. (1)

trampel (464001) | about 2 years ago | (#40665997)

Wouldn't that be the IBM 5100 [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Bullshit. Osborne 1 was first. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40666511)

Nope -- it weighed 55lbs. A number of /modern/ references call it "portable" but as one points out, "self-contained" is a better term.

It weighs twice as much as the contemporary IBM Selectric typewriter, and trust me none of us ever called those portable either. Anything that requires a two-arm heft to get out to the car may be "portable" but is not "a portable".

The Ossy OTHO was a deliberate portable. It has a sewing-machine-style case with a handle, so you could haul it with you through the airport, and then stuff it under the your airline seat.

(Still have my Ossy. Interesting machine, often overrated, and yeah, nothing like the GRID which came out a year later. That thing was highly advanced. Ossy was merely, very briefly, clever and useful.)

Hope technology makes new form factors possible (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 2 years ago | (#40665547)

I'd like to see someone come up with a viable tablet/laptop hybrid. Either with swiveling screen that can be closed with the keyboard hidden or exposed. Maybe even a detachable full keyboard. I think it's been done before, but now that tablets are more successful, there's probably more of a market. Maybe gambling with laptop form factors is higher risk that with cell phones, but it would be great to see the same level of experimentation.

Re:Hope technology makes new form factors possible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40665661)

Have you missed recent tech news?

http://www.engadget.com/2012/06/18/microsoft-tablet-announced/

Re:Hope technology makes new form factors possible (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | about 2 years ago | (#40665875)

Forget recent tech news, Asus has had a tablet with dockable full keyboard for more than a year:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASUS_Eee_Pad_Transformer [wikipedia.org]

And swivel-screen touchscreens have been around forever. Dell has one:
http://www.geeky-gadgets.com/dell-inspiron-duo-hybrid-windows-7-tablet-and-netbook-15-09-2010/ [geeky-gadgets.com]
As do HP:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HP_Pavilion_TX1000_Series_Tablet_PC [wikipedia.org]

Re:Hope technology makes new form factors possible (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#40666655)

Have you missed recent tech news?

http://www.engadget.com/2012/06/18/microsoft-tablet-announced/

He mentioned the word 'viable'.

Re:Hope technology makes new form factors possible (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 2 years ago | (#40665733)

Re:Hope technology makes new form factors possible (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 2 years ago | (#40666021)

I had a competitor to one of those and... no, it really didn't work out so well. Microsoft's Tablet PC initiative was nice on paper, but what it proved was that you couldn't just build the hardware, the apps had to take advantage of it, too. The tablet you linked to, for example, probably didn't have a touch screen. If it did, it didn't work very well because the UI just plain wasn't designed for it. You wouldn't, for example, resize windows with it.

It was okay for what it was, but it doesn't do what the original poster is asking it to do. In my opinion, it really cannot be done until the software is built specifically for it.

Transformer: tablets in disguise (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#40665921)

I'd like to see someone come up with a viable tablet/laptop hybrid. Either with swiveling screen that can be closed with the keyboard hidden or exposed. Maybe even a detachable full keyboard.

You must have missed every Slashdot story about the "Transformer" tablets by ASUS, which is designed to plug into a keyboard/battery unit that looks like the bottom half of a laptop.

Re:Hope technology makes new form factors possible (1)

Nadaka (224565) | about 2 years ago | (#40665989)

I had a dell tablet computer that was that. a laptop with a swivel screen. It was back in the magnetic stylus days around 2005-2006 instead of generic touchscreen.

Oh. and your detachable full keyboard idea? Check out the Asus Transformer line. I am really looking forwards to the Transformer Infinity.

Re:Hope technology makes new form factors possible (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 2 years ago | (#40667571)

I think you mean the 'resistive touchscreen' as opposed to the'capacitive touchscreen' that is common now. The resistive touchscreens need the stylus.

I have an Android tablet that I bought about a year ago that has a resistive touchscreen and a stylus. I bought it to 'check out' android cheaply without needing to buy a cellphone. It's nowhere near as nice as my new capacitive touchscreen tablet. But it was cheap at the time.

Also first coveted computer (4, Interesting)

fermion (181285) | about 2 years ago | (#40665575)

Everyone who knew about a Grid wanted on. It was the first piece of computer industrial design I knew about. OTH it really wasn't a clamshell. it was a pop up screen, like the tandy 200, released two years later. I would say the Tandy 200 is the first useful affordable laptop computer. Both were integrated systems with custom OS. It is interesting to note that we are returning to metal enclosures for high end computers, or those that want to look like it.

Unlike the Tandy, the grid computer only ran on line current. Compared to other portable computers the innovation in this machine was the flat display and internal expandability and storage. The expense of the screen was significant. Note that first Apple Mac was also a portable computer, but used a CRT.

In any case most of the computers through the 80's were not laptops, and we did not get reliable clamshells until 1990's.

Sorry, but iPad is *not* a challenger. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40665605)

Anyone who does anything productive an iPad ends up buying a case and a bluetooth keyboard, ending up with exactly the same overall use case as a clamshell laptop. The only advantage with the iPad is that the keyboard is optional, but for those of us who do a lot of work that "optional" part is a hassle and thus I always end up just using my laptop anyway. Anyone who claims they can be productive for long periods of typing with the terrible iPad on-screen keyboard is probably lying.

Re:Sorry, but iPad is *not* a challenger. (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 2 years ago | (#40665819)

Anyone who does anything productive an iPad ends up buying a case and a bluetooth keyboard, ending up with exactly the same overall use case as a clamshell laptop.

Well.. not exactly. You're absolutely right that during the moments they're actually using a BT keyboard on the iPad that they are effectively replicating a clamshell design, but to even the most hardcore KB user, the iPad's independence of these peripherals still makes it very valuable. Laptops want to be able to do what the iPad does and as time goes by we're going to see more and more attempts at it.

Re: (2)

davide marney (231845) | about 2 years ago | (#40666351)

The very first time I saw an on-screen keyboard, I knew it would never be more than a low-throughput device. I rooted for other screen-based input solutions, but Apple never let them be used as the default interface. Some of them actually worked quite well: I was able to get to 50wpm using the IBM SHARK [ibm.com] input method with an afternoon's practice.

Re:Sorry, but iPad is *not* a challenger. (1)

undefinedreference (2677063) | about 2 years ago | (#40667163)

Not entirely. The touch interface on an iPad is distinctly superior to keyboard/trackpad/touchscreen/mouse interfaces on laptops. iOS is one of very few operating systems that makes a touchscreen a viable input method.

Instead of a standard laptop or dedicated tablet (or the utter crap they sell as convertible tablets), I'd rather tote a reasonably-rugged convertible laptop/tablet with the same form factor as an ultrabook and an excellent touch screen interface. The only existing manufacturer that could do this well is a company that would never consider the potential of incorporating a physical keyboard into a tablet (nor allowing proper peripherals). Oh well.

Re:Sorry, but iPad is *not* a challenger. (1)

undefinedreference (2677063) | about 2 years ago | (#40667191)

I meant "on-screen keyboard" in the second sentence, not a physical keyboard.

Re:Sorry, but iPad is *not* a challenger. (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | about 2 years ago | (#40667381)

I have an ASUS transformer, it is in fact better than an iPad in every way

And more then 20 years since the first tablet. (1)

Kenja (541830) | about 2 years ago | (#40665611)

Pen Computing was around in the mid 1980s and Microsoft Windows for Pens was released in 1991. Much like 3D movies are not new ( I have a VHS copy of the 1950s classic "Cat Women of the Moon in 3D" around someplace), the iPad is not a new idea even if it is nifty.

Re:And more then 20 years since the first tablet. (1)

DrVxD (184537) | about 2 years ago | (#40665849)

Windows for Pens was released in 1991

Or:
1991: Windows for Pen Is Released

Re:And more then 20 years since the first tablet. (1)

catmistake (814204) | about 2 years ago | (#40667567)

iPad is not a new idea

The Springboard was new, as well as its penless touch-based interface design... nothing before iPhone was even remotely like it. Tablet computing wasn't new, but Apple's offering is still notable for these changes in interface design, changing the landscape of all tablet computing henceforth.

Best clamshell ever: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40665645)

Apple eMate, bitches.

Form follows function and requirements (1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about 2 years ago | (#40665647)

The form makes sense. For a portable computer usable for typing you've got a few requirements:

  • You have to have a keyboard and screen.
  • The screen needs to have a working position around 90-135 degrees "up" from the plane of the keyboard. That's so the keyboard can be flat (preferred typing position) while the screen's at roughly a right angle to the line of vision.
  • When not in use you want the surface of the screen covered in some way, to prevent scratching or damage.
  • Any connection between the keyboard and screen portions needs to be physically robust (not prone to breakage) and provide a good path for reliable electrical connections.

When you combine the two, a hinged clamshell design's the simplest one that satisfies the requirements. The twistable ones for convertible tablets isn't as physically tough as a simple hinge, and the electrical connection's more complex with more chance of breakage or glitches. Single-piece tablets either lack a keyboard or have a poor angle on either the screen or the keyboard, plus they expose the entire screen to damage and have to be physically large to provide the surface area for both the screen and keyboard in a single housing. Wireless keyboards alleviate some of those problems, but now you've got two pieces to keep track of and keep recharged and potentially get lost.

Given all that, I don't see the basic clamshell design fading any time soon. Certainly not as long as we need a portable device we can type significant amounts of text on.

Takes me back. (1)

WillAdams (45638) | about 2 years ago | (#40665653)

Had a GRiDcase III plus once upon a time, bought new in 1985 for $8,150, cash --- should've bought stock instead. Oh well, easy come, easy go. It and the NeXT Cube I had later were the nicest machines I ever used.

Other things to look forward to:

  - anniversary of the ThinkPad announcement --- everyone should get and read _ThinkPad: A Different Shade of Blue_ by Deborah A. Dell --- fascinating insight into the creation of the ThinkPad

  - anniversary of the NCR-3125 --- the first successful (for low values of ``success'') pen computer --- _Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure_ by Jerry Kaplan covers this well.

We seem to've missed the TRS-80 PC-1 25th anniversary though.... http://oldcomputers.net/trs80pc1.html [oldcomputers.net]

William

*eyeroll* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40665655)

only with the advent of the iPad has it faced serious competition.

Because the iPad was the first tablet device. -.-

Re:*eyeroll* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40665825)

No one is claiming the iPad was the first tablet device. Jeez, all you got to do is read and understand

Even tablets benefit with keyboards. (1)

ad454 (325846) | about 2 years ago | (#40665701)

With the removable zagmate bluetooth keyboard, iWorks office suite, omnigraffle, iOS mail + calendar + contacts, kindle reader for reading pdf's, and cdyia mobile terminal + openssh, my iPad3 has become a serious and portable work device. (The retina display is really beneficial to me.)

My biggest issue with the iPod is that the gcc tool chain is no longer available for native development with ios 5.*, as was possible in ios 4.*. :-(

Re:Even tablets benefit with keyboards. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40667587)

kindle reader for reading pdf's

Nothing compares to GoodReader [apple.com]

Didn't get it. (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 2 years ago | (#40665729)

In 1989 we looked into an SBIR for the military and it would run on a ruggedized Toshiba, which was like $10,000. Like a Compaq but you could tumble it around on the ground.

Re:Didn't get it. (1)

sconeu (64226) | about 2 years ago | (#40665927)

Was that the LCU (AN/GYK-37)?

Re:Didn't get it. (2)

Moheeheeko (1682914) | about 2 years ago | (#40665993)

You could tumble a Compaq and have it work just like it did beforehand as well.

Prefer the TRS-80 Model 100 (1)

tekrat (242117) | about 2 years ago | (#40665749)

How many Grid Compasses are still in use today? The TRS-80 Model 100 is a remarkably robust design that continues to be the preferred choice for writers "in the field" where access to electricity is limited -- a keyboard, an LCD screen, a full-travel keyboard, and it can run for months on 4 AA batteries -- only the Alphasmarts outclassed it for pure writing enjoyment and durability.

Re:Prefer the TRS-80 Model 100 (1)

DrVxD (184537) | about 2 years ago | (#40665897)

Many, many years ago, I worked on an embedded single board system for monitoring traffic signals. We used the Model 100 to do site visits to update firmware/run diagnostics etc. I've moved on, as have the monitoring systems - but the service guys there are still using the same Model 100s to do the same job. It's proven to be a remarkably reliable machine.

Re:Prefer the TRS-80 Model 100 (1)

phaggood (690955) | about 2 years ago | (#40666385)

It should be fairly straight-forward enough to put a Raspberry Pi and an 80x20 LCD plus keyboard into a small case w/ keyboard, touchpad and battery approximating the form of a Model 100 but speedier and with LOADS more storage space.

Re:Prefer the TRS-80 Model 100 (1)

phaggood (690955) | about 2 years ago | (#40666405)

Re:Prefer the TRS-80 Model 100 (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 2 years ago | (#40667629)

But that's a shame. I hope the Model 100 wasn't working when it was gutted. That's probably the only way to kill one.

It isn't that impressive to gut a Model 100 and just use it's keyboard. The resultant machine still needs to be connected to a big display the way that one is done.

What ever happened to Clio? (1)

dacut (243842) | about 2 years ago | (#40665803)

My main beef with the clamshell design is it's difficult to use from your average economy seat on an airplane. If you have the keyboard at a comfortable typing distance, the screen has to tilt forward to not hit the seat in front of you. Getting it to a proper angle means pulling the keyboard uncomfortably close to your body.

The Vadem Clio [wikipedia.org] had an interesting design where the screen was mounted in the middle on arms that attached to the back. Thus, it could hover over the keyboard and still tilt back. I never got a chance to see or use one, but I had hopes this design would alleviate the airplane seat problem. Alas, it seems to have disappeared from the market, and the patents for this design are either not being licensed out or nobody wants to take this risk.

Dvorak calls the type a "half-clamshell" (1)

michaelmalak (91262) | about 2 years ago | (#40665951)

Dvorak called [dvorak.org] a similar-looking 1982 computer a "half-clamshell". Also, until just now, I had always assumed that the term "clamshell" was coined in Whoopi Goldberg's 1986 movie but a search [nytimes.com] in New York Times archives for "clamshell AND computer" turned up hits from 1983. So I can't blast Time Magazine for an anachronism.

Dvorak half right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40666743)

Dvorak called [dvorak.org] a similar-looking 1982 computer a "half-clamshell".

Wait, so Dvorak was actually half right about something?!

That must have been the high point of his career.

OP, Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40666033)

Did you just seriously claim that 30 years of notebooks are in competition with a fucking tablet?

1101 (base 2) = 13 (base 10) (1)

DaveAtFraud (460127) | about 2 years ago | (#40666081)

Any bets some marketing droid went to engineering and asked for some string of ones and zeroes that looked compuerish? And some smart-a$$ engineer came back with 1101 knowing it was 13 and also knowing that the marketing droid would never figure that out?

Cheers,
Dave

Keyboard placement (1)

alispguru (72689) | about 2 years ago | (#40666255)

Was Apple really the first to place the keys at the top of the open clamshell, and the pointing device on the lower half under your thumbs? I used a couple of PC notebooks before getting access to a Powerbook, and remember thinking "now this makes *&^%$#@! sense".

Re:Keyboard placement (1)

catmistake (814204) | about 2 years ago | (#40667635)

Was Apple really the first to place the keys at the top of the open clamshell, and the pointing device on the lower half under your thumbs?

Yes, it is known. Subsequently, every other laptop manufacturer came up with and utilized this design... all on their own, apparently.

I had a Grid Compass, nice for its day. (1)

tkrotchko (124118) | about 2 years ago | (#40666363)

I used it for half a year, my company got me one to go around the country and do training on a new system we developed. It was connected to an overhead projector converter, where I could show the text on a projected screen.

For its day, it was a wonderful computer, it was tough, and it wowed people.

It was, however, very heavy for its size, and despite its look, it had no battery. It always had to be plugged in.

The display was far more usable than anything else at the time, it was extremely sharp, but as I recall, it was limited to text.

The Poqet PC (1)

davide marney (231845) | about 2 years ago | (#40666419)

For three years, I used a Poqet PC [wikipedia.org] running Forefront's Framework Office Suite [wikipedia.org] . A PC you could fit into a coat pocket. Ran for a full week on 2 AA batteries. Had the best outliner I've ever used, even to this day. A fabulously productive platform.

The 30k laptop (1)

Snotnose (212196) | about 2 years ago | (#40666519)

Back in the day we made an avionics tester with a Grid laptop controlling it. Suckers sold like hotcakes. About 6 months later a sales droid did a follow up sales visit and found all the avionics testers in a corner. Seems the bigwigs all wanted laptops, but they weren't allowed to buy them. 30k avionics testers, on the other hand....

/ remind me again why the guv'mint spends so much?

Zenith Z 181 - still the best keyboard on a laptop (1)

knarf (34928) | about 2 years ago | (#40667601)

My first laptop was a Zenith Z-181 [thecomputerarchive.com] which I got for cheap (unlike this one [ebay.com] , what are they thinking...) at one of those computer dump markets which used to be held quite often back then. The thing still works, but it is currently in storage for lack of usable floppies (it has two 720K 3.5" 'flip-up' drives), time and interest. Its dark-blue-on-light-blue screen (or the other way around if that was preferred) felt strangely familiar, coming from a Commodore 64. Even though it has been surpassed in almost every sense by later portable machines, I have yet to use a laptop with a better keyboard. And yes, that does include all those Thinkpads which I've acquired over the years.

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