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This article was published on July 23, 2012


    First portable computer: 55 pounds and cost more than a car

    First portable computer: 55 pounds and cost more than a car
    Drew Olanoff
    Story by

    Drew Olanoff

    Drew Olanoff was The Next Web's West Coast Editor. He coined the phrase "Social Good" and invented the "donation by action" model for onlin Drew Olanoff was The Next Web's West Coast Editor. He coined the phrase "Social Good" and invented the "donation by action" model for online charitable movements. He founded #BlameDrewsCancer. You can follow him on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, or email [email protected]

    I don’t know about you, but I’d be absolutely lost without my MacBook Air. The laptop is so light that I forget that it’s in my bag most of the time. Within seconds, I can have the thing out on my lap, tethered to my phone, and can hit up the Interwebs at will. That’s portability.

    What did the first commercially available portable computer have going for it? Well, it was super light at a whopping 55 pounds. It also cost $19,975, more than some cars do these days.

    Take a quick gander, then I’ll tell you about what this baby had inside:

    Yep, that’s a “laptop”. Kind of. Here’s the full details on the IBM Portable PC, model number 5100:

    First introduced: September, 1975
    CPU: IBM proprietary, 1.9MHz
    RAM: 16K, 64K max
    Display: 5″ monochrome monitor 64 X 16 text
    Storage: Internal 200K tape (DC300)
    Ports: tape / printer I/O port
    OS: APL and/or BASIC

    When you check out the Wikipedia page for the IBM 5100, here’s what it says:

    A single integrated unit provided the keyboard, five-inch CRT display, tape drive, processor, several hundred kilobytes of read only memory containing system software, and up to 64 KB of random access memory. It was the size of a small suitcase, weighed about 55 lb (25 kg), and could be transported in an optional carrying case, hence the “portable” designation.

    So it was the size of a small suitcase? Yeah, how’s that for portable? If you ever find yourself complaining about how clunky and big your gadgets are, remember this guy lugging around the $20k “ultra portable” IBM 5100: