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 over desktop computers, such as:
- They can be carried anywhere, such as between home and office or school.
- They usually have a built-in webcam, microphone and speakers, making video calls much easier.
- They can be used in a smaller spaces.
- They can easily be locked away securely, making them harder to steal.
Disadvantages of portable computers include:
- They're normally more expensive.
- They usually have low technical specifications.
- They're 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.
The first "laptop-sized notebook computer" was the Epson HX-20, released in July 1982. It had a four-line, liquid crystal display (LCD) screen, a rechargeable battery, and a receipt-size printer, in a 1.6 kg (3.5 lb) body, the size of an A4 notebook. It was described as a "laptop" and "notebook" computer in its patent.
The first computer to use the "clamshell" design which is used in almost all modern laptop designs, was the GRiD Systems Corporation's GriD Compass, released in April 1982. This computer was one fifth the weight of any other computer used at that time, however, it required mains power, because it had no battery. Despite this, they were very popular with the Military of the United States amd 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, worked on a new portable computer. The prototype was presented to Radio Shack, who agreed to start making it. It was launched in 1983, as the TRS-80 Model 100, which had an eight-line LCD screen. In 1986, the improved version, called TRS Model 200, was released, which had a much larger, fold-down LCD screen, and looked pretty much like the laptops that we know today.
The next few 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 the Macintosh Portable, the evolution of which turned it into the 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.
The development of laptops is continuing, with various upgrades and additional functions added, including variouspointing devices and disk drives, colour screens and touch screens;all while the devices tended to get smaller and lighter. Notebook or netbook computers are small laptops with screens of about 10 inches (25cm) or less, but no disk drives. Despite these advances, after 2010, people bought fewer laptops because of the popularity of tablet computers, which are even more portable.
In 2005, an organisation called One Laptop Per Child started trying to improve education using cheap laptops.
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