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RIP John Ellenby, Godfather of the Modern Laptop (nytimes.com) 33

John Ellenby managed the development of the Alto II before starting the company that built the world's first successful "clamshell" laptop. Slashdot reader fragMasterFlash quotes the New York Times: Ellenby, a British-born computer engineer who played a critical role in paving the way for the laptop computer, died on August 17 in San Francisco. He was 75... Mr. Ellenby's pioneering work came to fruition in the early 1980s, after he founded Grid Systems, a company in Mountain View, California. As chief executive, he assembled an engineering and design team that included the noted British-born industrial designer William Moggridge.

The team produced a clamshell computer with an orange electroluminescent flat-panel display that was introduced as the Compass. It went to market in 1982. The Compass is now widely acknowledged to have been far ahead of its time.

Back in the 1980s, NASA used them as backup navigational devices on the space shuttle -- one was recovered from the wreckage of the Space Shuttle Challenger -- and John Poindexter, America's national security advisor during the Reagan administration, described them as "built like an armored tank". Data storage cost $8,150 -- equivalent to $20,325 today.
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RIP John Ellenby, Godfather of the Modern Laptop

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    That was released the same year as the KAYPRO II which was billed as a "portable" computer in the day. Most of us would classify the KAYPRO more as "luggable" as it was the size of a large suitcase when closed up. The KAYPRO II was a very successful competitor to the Osborne to give you an idea of what was the norm for portable computing in 1982. Interestingly, the "II" in the name was for the number of disk drives it came with which made it a bit forward thinking since most machines were sold with tape dri

  • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Sunday August 28, 2016 @12:18PM (#52785189)

    The rechargeable battery for the built-in clock/calendar can be seen above with the 'bubbles'. It is glued down and soldered in, thus difficult to replace once it goes bad.

    Clearly they intentionally did that just so you'd have to buy a whole new laptop if ONE part went bad. I hate it when OEMs don't make anything replaceable.

  • as a UA 571-C Automated Sentry Gun target acquisition system.

  • .. the ultrabook "thinness" craze set in. Refreshing.
  • Oh yeah? Well I know the sister's bother's second cousin who was friends to the guy that drove the bus that the father of the original laptop rode to work!

  • The Army Had Some (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Toad-san ( 64810 ) on Sunday August 28, 2016 @08:11PM (#52786931)

    I was in the XVIII Corps Automation Management Office in '83-'84 when we bought at least one of these things. They were militarized models with a different, more dust-proof, with fewer electronic emissions. Worked fine: although the GriD-OS was different, it was just as usable as PC-DOS and MS-DOS. The orange screen was different too, but quite usable. (Note the upper-case "D" in "GriD" .. the company was quite insistent on that and would have their feelings hurt if you didn't type it that way in correspondence.)

    I seem to recall them costing about $5K back then, quite a bit of money, especially compared to the Apple II's we were using for other purposes. We even took one down to Grenada during the little expedition down there, where it promptly disappeared on its way back for trouble-shooting. (I'm still proud of my successful effort to track it down from Grenada to C-141 to "captured" Soviet truck cab to .. well, it ended up in the supply room of an infantry company in the 82d Airborne Division, where the first sergeant insisted he was just keeping it secure while he went on leave. Could be: he didn't take it home with him :-) I'd have called in El Cid if that had been the case, but as it was I accepted his explanation and just took the GriD back to the office.. Amazing what you can actually accomplish when you're a Special Forces sergeant major :-)

    Whole idea was to "automate the Corps" and its subordinate unit headquarters. Very interesting times, and we weren't spending much money or resources at all compared to some other agencies we heard about. We actually got more practical use from the networked Apple II's than we did from the stand-alone (but NOT portable: no batteries) Grids. All history now, ancient history at that, but interesting times indeed.

  • This is a obituary for my father and you tech twats are arguing about bullshit. Probably from a laptop. Shut the fuck up. Respect.

"God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh." - Voltaire