The Grid Compass introduced the clamshell design where the screen closes flat onto the keyboard – and is credited as the first laptop computer.

Going into space

The 1101 was created by British-born designer Bill Moggridge in 1979 and went on sale in 1982 and ended up being used on Nasa’s space shuttle missions from 1985 into the 1990s – thanks to its rugged and portable design. It weighed in at around 10lbs – light for the time.

The computer’s case was made from a magnesium alloy and featured an Intel 8086 processor, plus a 6-inch 320 x 240 pixel electroluminescent display, 340kb of onboard memory and even a 1,2000bit/s modem. It measured around 9.75 x 11.5 x 15 inches (24.77 x 29.21 x  38.1cm).

It ran its own operating system originally and required mains power to work (110/220 V) – unlike today’s portable lithium-battery powered laptops.

External hard drives and floppy disk drives could be connected.

Marketed at executives, used by the military

The Grid Compass cost $8,150 (£5,164.44) when it first went on sale in 1982. Initially marketed at executives with money to splash, it proved popular with the military.

It was even rumoured to have formed part of the US president’s so-called football at one time, the briefcase that goes with the president and carries everything needed to order a nuclear strike.

The designer

Bill Moggridge’s name appears on the clamshell patent, although the rights were assigned to Grid. He died at the age of 69 in September 2012 following a battle with cancer. He was the director of the Cooper Hewitt national design museum in New York. Here’s a video tribute to him posted onto YouTube by the museum.

Sources: Wikipedia.com, Science Musuem, history-computer.com, cnet.com, Cooper Hewitt museum, oldcomputers.net, computerhistory.orgYouTube.com, computerworlduk.com

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