Whatever Happened to the Laptop Computer? New York Times – 30 Years Ago

So much to enjoy in this article from the New York Times almost 30 years ago on the demise of the laptop computer. (not just the telephone number to contact companies and the nostalgia of companies like Tandy.)

An interesting lesson in what happens when new technology is introduced into the mass market. It is also fun to think about all the innovations and companies that have emerged over the years that make life with a laptop so much more practical now.

WHATEVER happened to the laptop computer? Two years ago, on my flight to Las Vegas for Comdex, the annual microcomputer trade show, every second or third passenger pulled out a portable, ostensibly to work, but more likely to demonstrate an ability to keep up with the latest fad. Last year, only a couple of these computers could be seen on the fold-down trays. This year, every one of them had been replaced by the more traditional mixed drink or beer.” New York Times

With a laptop and software running at something like $6,000 at the time, it isn’t a surprise that they weren’t such a mainstream phenomenon.

“The limitations come from what people actually do with computers, as opposed to what the marketers expect them to do. On the whole, people don’t want to lug a computer with them to the beach or on a train to while away hours they would rather spend reading the sports or business section of the newspaper. Somehow, the microcomputer industry has assumed that everyone would love to have a keyboard grafted on as an extension of their fingers. It just is not so.”

Reminded me of this picture of Peldi starting Balsamiq…

Peldi starts Balsamiq on the beach


(And on the subject of Peldi, we are looking forward to his talk at BoS Conference USA this year where he will be reassessing the things he thought he knew when he set out to work on Balsamiq with what he knows now).

Remember taking files back and forth from home to work?

“Yes, there are a lot of people who would like to be able to work on a computer at home. But would they really want to carry one back from the office with them? It would be much simpler to take home a few floppy disks tucked into an attache case. For the majority of consumers, a second computer for the home office is usually an inexpensive clone of the one at work. Not only is such an alternative more convenient, but it is more cost effective as well. In fact, one ends up with better technology.”

In conclusion:

“But the real future of the laptop computer will remain in the specialized niche markets. Because no matter how inexpensive the machines become, and no matter how sophisticated their software, I still can’t imagine the average user taking one along when going fishing.”

Read the full article here.

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