Compaq portables have been with us for a long time. The very first one was created back in 1982. It was not released until 1983. If you carried it around, it would have been good exercise. It weighed from 28 up to 34 pounds. Compare that with those netbooks today that weigh a pound and a half! Read on to find out more on the Compaq Portable computer here in this quick article.
The first computer to bear the name of “Compaq Portable” is nothing like you would imagine it today. It came with a padded case, a keyboard that looked like it belonged on a personal computer and an amber screen that could hardly support graphics. The exterior color was the same as the other beige colored computers of the day. The Compaq Portable was a successful clone of IBM computers. The machine may have been portable, but the idea was more of a “luggable” device, not one to slip into a backpack. Because of its size, looks and a side handle, many people called it the “sewing machine” computer.
The internals of the Compaq Portable computer were not that different from others of its day. This machine came out in 1983 with an Intel 8088 microprocessor. It was running at a respectable 4.77 megahertz. It was accompanied by 128 kilobytes of random access memory ( RAM ). On the front of the Compaq, depending on the model, were two vertically installed floppy disk drives. They were 5.25 inches in size and could hold 360 kilobytes information each. The Compaq Portable “plus” had one 5.25 inch floppy drive and a ten megabyte hard disk. Some models came with a tape drive that added 20 to 40 megabytes of storage to the mix.
The Compaq company used an ingenious trick to clone computers. They copied the IBM Basic Input Out System ( BIOS ). It was not copied byte for byte, but the IBM BIOS was the basis for the Compaq Portable BIOS. As the story goes, Compaq use two sets of programmers. One group had access to the IBM BIOS source code. A second group who had no access and were apprentice coders. The first group of coders would write what the Compaq Portable BIOS should do using the IBM code for an example. They gave these instructions to the second group of coders who then took the notes and actually wrote the BIOS code for Compaq. The result was a computer that was compatible with IBM computers as good as a “cloned” model that used IBM code inside. The Compaq Portable was the first clone that could run all of the software of a regular IBM computer. The sneaky strategy ended the hardware monopoly that IBM held until that time.
Thanks to the Compaq Portable, the Compaq company earned over $111 million dollars in one year. This turned out to be a record sales year for first-year businesses in the United States. There were more than 53,000 units of this computer sold during 1983. That was not a bad deal, since each computer was around $3000 dollars for a typical configuration.
Obviously, with so many Compaq Portables sold they are not very rare. For portable computer collectors though they are a must have. They are somewhat difficult to find in excellent condition as they were “lugged” around quite a bit when used. Many times the keyboard cord is worn or frayed on these units. In good working condition you should be able to find one for under $75.00. With a carrying case and other accessories a little more.