Assume small PCs are a latest factor? Assume once more.

10 Tiny PCs of the 1980s

In as we speak’s world of tablets, slim MacBooks, and extremely succesful wi-fi pocket computer systems (aka “smartphones”), tiny is typical. In reality, it is what we have come to count on from shopper computing merchandise. Yearly, know-how pushes corporations to introduce ever smaller, ever lighter computer systems that may some day develop into so small that we could inhale them accidentally.

By extension, the additional you peek again into laptop historical past, the larger you might count on computer systems to get. In spite of everything, computer systems much less highly effective than my pinky finger as soon as stuffed up an entire room, proper? That could be true, however because it seems, older would not at all times imply bigger.

Astounding advances in laptop built-in circuit design within the 1970s opened up all types of avenues to laptop miniaturization that spawned the primary golden age of tiny PCs within the early-mid 1980s. That development continued all through the last decade, with most compact PCs evolving from low-cost desktop fashions to higher-end transportable models.

Within the gallery under, we’ll see 10 such machines that pushed the boundaries of laptop dimension within the 1980s. Once you’re achieved studying, be at liberty to say any I neglected (and sure, I didn’t embody each single tiny 1980’s machine) within the feedback under.

(This story was initially printed on Sept. four, 2011.)

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  • Sinclair ZX80 (1980)


    Sinclair ZX80 (1980)

    The Sinclair ZX80 is certainly one of many smallest totally purposeful desktop PCs of all time. With dimensions of 6.5 by eight.5 by 1.5 inches and a weight of a mere 12 ounces, one may simply mistake this tiny British laptop for a futuristic Star Trek prop. Its miniscule dimension may solely be matched by its miniscule value: $200 within the US, which was unprecedented on the time.

    Just a few drawbacks accompanied the ZX80’s tiny dimension, nevertheless, together with a cramped membrane keyboard, no coloration video assist, no sound, and just one kilobyte of reminiscence. However these sacrifices appeared utterly affordable to the mother and father of numerous UK children who discovered to program on this mighty mite.

    (Images: Steven Stengel /

  • Atari Portfolio (1989)


    Atari Portfolio (1989)

    Close to the tip of the last decade, Atari launched the world’s smallest IBM PC-compatible laptop, the Atari Portfolio, measuring in regards to the dimension of a VHS cassette when closed. At its coronary heart lay an Intel 80C88 CPU at four.92MHz and a built-in MS-DOS 2.11-compatible OS in ROM referred to as DIP-DOS. Customers saved applications on detachable battery-backed reminiscence playing cards.

    Across the similar time because the Portfolio, a small firm referred to as Poqet Laptop Company launched an identical compact IBM PC clone referred to as the Poqet PC, which additionally deserves point out. Neither one stormed the market, however each presaged what was to return in pocket PCs.

    (Photograph: Atari)

  • Epson HX-20 (1981)


    Epson HX-20 (1981)

    Epson, now a preferred printer producer, as soon as designed and offered its personal PCs. In 1981, the corporate launched what many take into account to be the world’s first laptop computer laptop, the HX-20.

    Epson threw in every part however the kitchen sink when designing its transportable laptop; the HX-20 included a 120-by-32-pixel LCD display screen, a built-in microcassette drive for information storage, a full-stroke keyboard, and even a tiny dot-matrix printer—all powered by rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries.

    With a size and width roughly equal to a sheet of letter dimension paper, a thickness of just one.75 inches, and a weight of simply three.5 kilos, the compact HX-20 shocked many within the trade at a time when monstrous 20- to 50-pound desktop laptop techniques dominated most corners of the market.

    (Photograph: Epson)

  • RadioShack TRS-80 Pocket Computer (1980)


    RadioShack TRS-80 Pocket Laptop (1980)

    In 1980, RadioShack launched the world’s first hand-held transportable PC, the TRS-80 Pocket Computer. It included a 24-character LCD show, a full QWERTY keyboard, and the BASIC programming language in ROM. This 6-ounce laptop contained 1.5 kilobytes of RAM and ran off three AA batteries. Sharp, the corporate who designed the pocket laptop for RadioShack, launched an almost equivalent gadget in Japan, the PC-1211, the identical 12 months. For extra, take a look at The Golden Age of TRS-80: A Look Back at RadioShack Computers.

    In case you are questioning, sure, that is Isaac Asimov’s hand holding the Pocket Laptop.

    (Photograph: RadioShack)

  • Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100 (1983)


    Radio Shack TRS-80 Mannequin 100 (1983)

    Shortly after Epson launched its aforementioned HX-20 laptop computer laptop, different corporations joined the transportable laptop act. Japanese firm Kyocera designed the Kyocera 85, a small transportable PC with a relatively giant LCD show for the time. RadioShack licensed the design and offered it within the U.S. because the TRS-80 Model 100, seen right here.

    The Mannequin 100 packed a tremendous keyboard for its dimension and ran for a lot of hours on solely 4 AA batteries. Each of these options, and a built-in 300 baud modem, made it a favourite for journalists on the go. Some Mannequin 100 customers nonetheless swear by their machines to this day.

    The machine additionally holds a useful place in historical past as a result of its built-in ROM software program comprises a few of the final industrial programming Invoice Gates ever did himself.

    (Photograph: RadioShack)

  • Sinclair ZX81 / Timex-Sinclair 1000 (1981-82)


    Sinclair ZX81 / Timex-Sinclair 1000 (1981-82)

    In 1981, Sinclair Analysis lowered the chip depend and the worth of its well-received ZX80 laptop and launched the consequence, which may simply be confused for a doorstop. The ZX81, was the world’s first private laptop out there for below $100 within the US.

    The next 12 months, watchmaker Timex teamed up with Sinclair to market the ZX81 extra extensively in america. The consequence was the Timex Sinclair 1000, which retained a lot of the options of the ZX81 however doubled the system RAM to 2 kilobytes. The TS 1000 beared limitations much like these of the ZX80, however at a mere $99.95, few consumers misplaced any sleep over them.

    (Photograph: Timex-Sinclair)

  • Seiko UC-2000 (1984)


    Seiko UC-2000 (1984)

    The Seiko UC-2000 was the world’s first wristwatch PC. As a standalone watch, the UC-2000 served largely as a knowledge show gadget. To program the gadget, Seiko offered a particular keyboard that used the watch’s show like a pc terminal for BASIC programming and extra.

    Try this site for extra particulars on Seiko’s superb line of laptop watches, in addition to our roundup of Ultra-Nerdy Watches of Yore.


  • Radio Shack TRS-80 MC-10 (1983)


    Radio Shack TRS-80 MC-10 (1983)

    Following the success of ultra-low value computer systems just like the Timex Sinclair 1000 within the US, RadioShack dove head first into the low finish of the PC market with its TRS-80 MC-10. Barely bigger than the TS 1000, the MC 10 packed 4 kilobytes of RAM, coloration graphics, and even sound capabilities. At $120, it was the world’s most cost-effective color-capable PC on the time of its launch.

    Shortly after the MC-10’s debut, way more succesful PCs (together with the TRS-80 Color Computer) rapidly got here down in value. These low-cost midrange residence PCs rendered the ultra-low-end PC market, with its extraordinarily limited-use computer systems, largely irrelevant within the US.

    (Photograph: RadioShack)

  • Texas Instruments Compact Computer 40 (1983)


    Texas Devices Compact Laptop 40 (1983)

    Very like RadioShack and Epson earlier than it, Texas Devices launched its personal transportable, battery-powered, LCD-based PC in 1983. The Compact Computer 40 shipped with six to 18 kilobytes of RAM and with BASIC in ROM. It additionally included a cartridge slot for program growth and will run for over 200 hours (!) on a set of 4 AA batteries. The unreliability of its proprietary tape drive restricted its enchantment to shoppers, and the machine by no means took off.

    (Photograph: Steven Stengel /

  • Sinclair ZX Spectrum (1982)


    Sinclair ZX Spectrum (1982)

    Final, however not least, we drop in on the diminutive Sinclair ZX Spectrum, an immensely necessary machine in UK laptop tradition. This unabashedly British follow-up to the ZX81 offered over 5 million models worldwide in eight completely different fashions whereas inspiring numerous worldwide clones.

    The ZX Spectrum packed a three.5MHz Z80 CPU, 16Okay of RAM, coloration graphics, and built-in BASIC. It was low in value for a succesful British laptop on the time (125 Kilos Sterling at launch), although its compact 9.2 by 5.6 by 1.2-inch dimension (at 1.25 kilos) made it extra best for younger palms than these of adults.

    Curiously, the ZX Spectrum by no means took off within the US attributable to intense competitors from US residence laptop corporations like Commodore, Atari, and Texas Instruments— and in addition attributable to a botched American model of the Spectrum referred to as the Timex Sinclair 2068. However that is one other story for an additional time.

    (Photograph: Invoice Bertram / Wikipedia)