A laptop is a computer which is easy to carry around. A modern laptop is self-contained, with a screen, keyboard and pointing device (like a touchpad), plus usually, speakers, a microphone and a camera. This is all powered by a built-in rechargeable battery, however, the user can also plug the laptop in, to use it and recharge the battery at the same time. Also, most other external devices can be attached if required. The laptop screen folds down over the keyboard, along a hinge, for carrying.
Laptops have advantages such as:
- People can carry them anywhere, such as between home and office or school.
- They can be used in a smaller space than a desktop computer.
Disadvantages of portable computers include:
- Their price is higher
- They usually have low technical specifications
- They are often slower than desktop computers with complex tasks like gaming, video editing or graphic design.
- They're easily stolen
- They can be used in a car, resulting in distracted driving
- They travel frequently, so are more likely to be damaged
- They're more difficult and expensive to repair.
The portable microcomputer, called the Portal, from the French company R2E Micral CCMC, officially appeared in September 1980 at the SICOB show in Paris. The Portal had a keyboard with 58 alphanumeric keys and 11 numeric keys (separate blocks), a 32-character LED screen, a floppy disk drive, a printer and a 220V power supply. It weighed 12 kg (26 pounds) and its dimensions were 45 cm × 45 cm × 15 cm (18 in x 18 in x 6 in). It had no hinge and its operating system was Prolog.
Some historians, however, count as the first "true" portable the Osborne 1. It was created in 1981 by Adam Osborne who was also a former book publisher. He was the founder of Osborne Computer. His portable computer weighed 11 kg (24 pounds) and had a five-inch (13 cm) screen, a serial port and two floppy disk drives. Several programs were included with the Osborne 1. Customers could also buy a 1-hour battery pack.
GRiD Systems Corporation helped improve Osborne's design, resulting in the GriD Compass with a fold-down display that covered the keyboard. GRiD owned patents for this "Clamshell" design which is used in almost all modern laptop designs. GRiD's computer was one fifth the weight of any other computer used at that time, however, it required mains power, because it had no battery. In 1982, GRiD Systems began to make many GriD Compass laptops, which were mostly sold to the Military of the United States or NASA, who used the laptop in its Space Shuttle program, in the 1980s.
Also in 1982, two computer designers from Microsoft, Kazuhiko Nishi and Bill Gates, discussed a new portable computer. The main thing about the computer was the new LCD technology. The prototype of the new laptop was presented to Radio Shack. Radio Shack agreed to start making the computer. A year later the company launched its TRS-80 Model 100, which was a computer that looked pretty much like the laptops that we know today. In 1986 the company created its improved version called TRS Model 200. The following two years saw the appearance of a laptop PC from Compaq Computers and the first notebook-style laptop from NEC called NEC UltraLite.
The year 1989 was quite successful for laptop producers. First, there was Apple Computer that developed its first portable computer called Macintosh Portable the evolution of which turned it into PowerBook. Then a company named Zenith Data Systems introduced its Zenith MinisPort – a portable computer weighing 6 pounds (2.5 kg). Finally, there was Compaq Computers, who released the Compaq LTE.
In 2005, an organisation called One Laptop Per Child started trying to improve education using cheap laptops.
The development of laptops is continuing, with various upgrades and additional functions added, including touch screens, while they continued to get smaller and lighter. Notebook or netbook computers are small laptops with screens of about 10 inches (25cm) or less. However, after 2010, people bought fewer laptops because of the popularity of tablet computers, which are even more portable.
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