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When laptops stopped being draggable: 30 years ago Apple took a step forward with its PowerBook

The real future of the laptop will remain in niche markets. Because no matter how cheap these machines are, or how sophisticated their software is, I can’t imagine the ordinary user taking use with him when he goes fishing. “

Trying to guess the future often goes wrong. This is what journalist Erik Sandberg-Diment did in The New York Times in 1985, although certainly back then laptops were more draggable than anything else. The market began to change soon after, and 30 years ago Apple introduced its first PowerBooks and demonstrated (like other manufacturers) that notebooks could make sense to many more people.

Compaq showed the way, Apple followed it its way

On October 21, 1991 Apple launched its PowerBook 100, 140 and 170, and with them it made a singular leap in a market that at that time was absolutely focused on desktop PCs. Laptops existed, but their designs and features were far from the current ones, and they were usually clunky, expensive, and very low-performance equipment compared to desktop computers.

Steven Sinofsky, the former Microsoft executive who led the development of Windows 8, recently recounted how Apple was riding the crest of the wave in desktops in 1990-1991: Macs had a 13% share worldwide — today they are around 16% according to figures from StatCounter GlobalStats— but hardly any laptops were sold: “they were low powered and very expensive ($ 5,000 1990 dollars)“The prediction made by that NYT reporter seemed certainly feasible.

But things started to change in the late 80s. Compaq revolutionized everything with its 1989 LTE ​​family, with equipment like the LTE / 286 that weighed just 3.5 kg and represented a leap forward for the industry.

Lte
Lte

Source: Wikipedia.

That team whose battery lasted two or three hours, as Sinfosky said, was a success among Microsoft’s own employees: Steve “Ballmer used to carry 3 or 4 batteries and used them up on long plane trips to Europe. Yes, 10 kg of PC “.

The problem for those teams was more the MS-DOS proposal, which did not have power management systems and which could not be easily connected to networks either. Not only that: if you look at the image you will quickly realize that those computers did not have a mouse / touchpad.

Track1
Track1

Microsoft ended up developing its own solution with a trackball that hung from one of the sides (horror) while IBM ended up creating its famous and legendary Trackpoint. When Compaq launched their LTE Apple tried to compete with their Apple Portable, true draggable monsters that were not very successful.

Portable
Portable

In Apple the batteries were put and they realized that the design was something fundamental to try to conquer that market. Unlike the traditional philosophy of taking your time, at Apple they accelerated to the maximum to try to come up with a substitute and a worthy alternative to Compaq’s proposal as soon as possible.

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The result was those teams that, for example, stood out with their trackpad located in the middle of a new area to rest the wrist. That trackpad “pushed” the keyboard up but he did creating that paradigm that is now the norm in laptops in which we are already used to finding large touchpads / trackpads.

Thinkpad 700
Thinkpad 700

That Apple effort – with a curious advertising campaign – would soon be accompanied by powerful rivals: IBM would launch its ThinkPad 700 —The first members of this legendary family— in 1992, and little by little the laptops would end up proving that they could be perfect companions in all kinds of scenarios.

Including, friend Erik, the one from take them on a fishing trip.