The First Portable Computer Weighed 55 Pounds and Cost $19,975
Thanks to the silicon chip most of the gadgets we now use are small and truly portable, but have you considered what things looked like before things got so small. Well that chunky thing to your right is the first portable computer—laptop for short.
It wasn’t cheap and it wasn’t very manageable. The IBM 5100 weighed about 55 pounds and cost $19,975—more than the price of most cars today. The sales pitch for this monster back in the day was particularly appealing: “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.”
When you consider that computers were massive back then, that sales pitch must have appealed to a lot of people who wanted to take their computer around with them. Even at the steep price of $19,975, IBM managed to shift quite a lot of them.
Silicon chips and a ton of other advances later, people are walking around with portable computers that are so light you sometimes forget it’s in your bag. Today you can get a laptop that is the same dimensions as the one you bought years ago but extremely lighter. Now that’s progress.