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Portables Hardware

The Laptop, Circa 1968 120

Posted by timothy
from the some-turtles-have-nice-shells dept.
Harry writes "In 1968, computers tended to occupy entire rooms, and were therefore hard to take with you. But Computerworld reports on Anderson Jacobson's 75-pound Teletype-terminal-in-a-case, an early attempt to let folks compute from anywhere. (Well, anywhere they had power and access to a telephone for the Teletype's acoustic coupler.) Wheels were optional."
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The Laptop, Circa 1968

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  • Once upon a time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @04:41PM (#28582427) Journal
    Once I was talking to my grandpa about old computers, and I mentioned that my C64 had a slow 300 baud modem. He used to work on these mainframes, and he came right back and said, "the first modem I had was 9 baud." The article doesn't say how fast their modem is, but from the picture 9 baud is about right.

    Just for comparison, 300 baud is so slow that you can read the text faster than it downloads. That teletype is honestly not the most convenient device.
  • Re:Aristotle (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @04:41PM (#28582435)
    ...Or they didn't move as much. I don't think this was carried around in the way that a laptop was but rather this was (for the time) a lighter alternative to a desktop, similar to the mini-PCs today like the Mac Mini.
  • by alewar (784204) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @05:19PM (#28582629)
    For me anything bigger than 13' isn't portable, but "transportable".
  • Re:Once upon a time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by a2wflc (705508) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @05:20PM (#28582637)

    I'd trade my current 6MB connection and today's web sites, email, blogs, etc for the 300 baud modem I had in the 70s/80s and the BBSs, news groups, talk/chat, and useful information on the other end.

    People knew how to put lots of information in a few sentences or at most a couple of paragraphs. I may have seen the info show up slowly, 1 character at a time, but after 30-60 seconds I had what I want. Now I have megabytes show up in seconds, but it may take minutes to find the useful information (if useful information is even there)

  • by theodp (442580) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @05:35PM (#28582721)

    TI Silent 700 Ad [computerhistory.org]: See how much progress was made in 8 years? :-)

  • by hoarier (1545701) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @05:53PM (#28582817)

    For me anything bigger than 13' isn't portable, but "transportable".

    Thirteen feet?! Sheesh, for me anything bigger than 13 feet isn't "transportable" but bloody enormous.

    Incidentally, the fact about 2009 that might have most surprised by short-trousered self circa 1968 is the ubiquity of inches. It's not just the Burmese, the Liberians aind the Youessians who're talking about "13 inch screens", "1200 dpi" and so forth these days. it's (for example) Yodobashi Camera hawking consumer durables to people in Tokyo. Can we please go back to the 1968 future of SI?

  • by veryoldgeek (1591389) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @05:55PM (#28582825)
    ...or something very similar. I got my start in computing 40 years ago on a "portable" Teletype with an acoustic coupler, dialed into a GE timesharing system from home. The teletype had a tape punch/reader, so I could write programs off-line. I believe the modem ran at about 110 baud. I programmed in BASIC--the real Kemeny and Kurtz variety, not the stripped-down variety that showed up 10 years later on the first personal computers. (Yes, I'm a bit above the median age for slashdot readers.)
  • Dynabook (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jipn4 (1367823) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @06:33PM (#28583015)

    Alan Kay imagined the Dynabook in 1968. Have a look here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynabook [wikipedia.org]

    It was to be programmed in Smalltalk, which Kay created over the next few years.

    Smalltalk what Objective-C and Cocoa were modeled on. However, even Smalltalk-80 (as in 1980) was more advanced in many ways than Objective-C and Cocoa are in 2009.

  • I used one of those (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @06:54PM (#28583077) Homepage

    We had one of those at Sperry Vickers (Troy, Michigan) in 1971, with the acoustic coupler in the wooden case. Even then, it was on the way out; we were moving to Uniscope CRT terminals and UNIVAC DCT 300 printers, connected to a UNIVAC 1108 computer.

    Power was supplied to the modem as 120 VAC over otherwise-unused pins in the DB-25 connector from the Teletype Model 33 ASR.

    Things were really clunky back then. We still had a full set of mechanical Remington Rand 90-column card gear, programmed by wiring up "connection boxes", mechanical plugboards which used flexible cables like bike brake cables to transmit data from input to output. That, too, was on the way out, but it was still used for a few jobs.

  • by Sanat (702) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @09:04PM (#28583693)

    I cut my teeth back in 1962 on the D17-C computer used by Autonetics in the Minuteman I missile system.

    My task was to optically aim the missile by using the North star (Polaris) to transfer azimuths to a collimated light beam... and also to program the computer both to operate in flight and to indicate where the different targets were located in the world. The on board computer would then figure out the shortest path from the launch tube to the target.

  • Re:Once upon a time (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lpress (707742) <lpress@csudh.edu> on Sunday July 05, 2009 @01:51AM (#28584683) Homepage
    > The article doesn't say how fast their modem is

    It was 10 characters or 110 bits per second. You could read a lot faster than it could print and it only did upper case.

    The Teletype was fully mechanical, so you could really understand how it worked and even repair it yourself. They sold cool, reasonably priced tool kits and parts were available.

    Anderson Jacobson just packaged a standard Teletype with an accoustical coupler in a huge fiberglass case with casters. I had one of those and got four fixed units on stands to install in the public library in Venice, CA. Teletypes were common timesharing terminals -- we had a room full of them at SDC that were tied into the Q-32 timesharing system.

    Larry

  • by Radio_active_cgb (839041) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @04:46AM (#28585183)
    I'm not certain, but the Silent 700 may have been a terminal my dad brought home from work once or twice a week for about a year. At 300 baud, it was a good deal faster than the 110 baud "ticker tape" terminal we had been using previously.
    The silent 700 was very light, comparatively fast, and extremely quiet. For comparison, todays inkjet printers are just about as quiet. I was greatly impressed.
    To set the stage:
    As a 12 year old, I was used to working on model 33 teletypes as a member of a boy scout explorer post (post 599?) (GE/Honeywell in Phoenix, Arizona, about 1972). Punched cards were still common, but there were a few electronic 9600 baud terminals around and required special connections to the mainframes we were using. (Even at 12, I was a nerd, but there wasn't a name for people like us then.)
    The ticker tape machine printed text onto a carbonless 1/2 inch tall tape in a long, single line of text. (Think of a single line display.) It worked by having a hammer strike a spinning drum with type characters on its surface. It worked, but there was no possibility for formatted text spanning multiple lines (though you could cut the tape into pieces and scotch tape the pieces to form a page....), and it was extremely noisy.

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