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Portables Hardware

A Look Back At the World's First Netbook 143

Posted by Soulskill
from the paperweight-before-its-time dept.
Not-A-Microsoft-Fan writes with this excerpt from The Coffee Desk: "Netbooks are making huge waves within the hardware and software industries today, but not many would believe that the whole Netbook craze actually started back around 1996 with the Toshiba Libretto 70CT. Termed technically as a subnotebook because of its small dimensions, the computer is the first that fits all of the qualifications of being what we would term a netbook today, due in part to its built-in Infrared and PCMCIA hardware, and its (albeit early) web browsing software. The hardware includes the two (potentially) wireless PCMCIA and infrared network connections, Windows 95 OSR 2 with Internet Explorer 2.0, a whole 16MB of RAM and a 120Mhz Intel Pentium processor (we're flying now!)."
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A Look Back At the World's First Netbook

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  • What about... (Score:4, Informative)

    by anss123 (985305) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @09:28AM (#27896107)
    Those Sinclair machines of the eighties: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge_Z88 [wikipedia.org]

    Does not fold, but is small light and battery powered. Probably more PDA like though.
  • by Crock23A (1124275) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @09:40AM (#27896189)
    Agreed. We had one of those libretto's at work and it was definitely not cheap. The novelty of it was amazing though. At some point we tried to load XP on it but it just choked. Windows 2000 installed fairly well though. I wonder if it is still around. I'd like to give Ubuntu a try on it.
  • by yanyan (302849) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @09:45AM (#27896211)

    I thought this was the first Netbook:

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

  • by Anthony_Cargile (1336739) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @10:24AM (#27896439) Homepage
    Pictures and the Mother's day rush killed our 2Mbps cable bandwidth; here's a "mirror":

    Netbooks are making huge waves within the hardware and software industries today, but not many would believe that the whole Netbook craze actually started back around 1996 with the Toshiba Libretto 70CT. Termed technically as a subnotebook because of its small dimensions (given below), the computer is the first that fits all of the qualifications of being what we would call a Netbook today, due in part to its built-in Infrared and PCMCIA hardware, and itâ(TM)s (albeit early) web browsing software. The First Netbook Computer

    The First Netbook Computer

    The hardware includes the two (potentially) wireless PCMCIA and Infrared network connections, Windows 95 OSR 2 with Internet Explorer 2.0, a whole 16MB of RAM and a 120Mhz Intel Pentium processor (weâ(TM)re flying now!).

    A further look at the hardware reveals even more Netbook-ish hardware/software trends (and pictures below), given todayâ(TM)s standards for Netbook qualifications.

    The Libretto (70CT) was certainly not the first small (8â) form factor laptop produced in the early 90â(TM)s, but it was the first to be considered a Netbook given todayâ(TM)s standards because of itâ(TM)s PCMCIA and Infrared connections, used for wireless network connectivity and possibly even via a phone card. The inclusion of Internet Explorer 2.0 within the software also contributes to its ability to be officially termed a âoeNetbookâ (more on this below).

    The hardware includes an 8â wide, 5â deep and almost 1.5â form factor containing a whopping 16MB of RAM, a 120Mhz Intel Pentium processor (with added MMX technology!) and a whole 30-45 minutes of battery life.

    The software running on the âoeNetbookâ is Windows 95 OSR2, with Included Internet Explorer 2.0 and the Windows 95 Plus! pack of software. The mouse is the nub/nipple/clit mouse, given the lack of trackpad hardware and the only alternative being the bulky ball-based mice of the time, and the actual mouse buttons are mounted on the back.

    I donâ(TM)t consider Internet Explorer 2.0 being the most supported browser for web-based applications (hell, I donâ(TM)t even support 6 or 7), and 16MB doesnâ(TM)t sound like a whole lot of RAM for storing a large web page and JavaScript into memory along with the operating system, but around the year 1996 this laptop/subnotebook/netbook would meet all the requirements given its environment to be called a Netbook as we would today.

    Other hardware besides what was listed above includes a (HiFi?) 1/4â sound port on the back, a mono speaker on the front above the mouse, and a proprietary docking port on the bottom.

    The Pentium MMX and bulky battery connector doesnâ(TM)t exactly make this ACPI-lacking portable the most environmentally-friendly book of all time, but it is certain that it must have gotten the job done in its time.

    The screen was a very low-resolution (640Ã--480) 5â LCD screen, leaving enough room on the front for the mouse, speaker, power button, and all-too-important logos of Intel and Toshiba.

    While I write this largely with humorous intent, it is worth noting the satire I intend to make of the industryâ(TM)s buzzwords for modern products that sometimes have been out for quite a while, e.g. cloud computing versus clustering/distributed applications and âoehigh-speed Internetâ versus what a T1/ATM connection was over decade ago.

    Also, something patent trolls working for Toshiba might wish to investigate are the 22 patents listed on the bottom of the Libretto model (pictured below). What these patents cover and how many modern netbooks/subnotebooks violate these are unknown to me, although Iâ(TM)m sure you could find a few with the right research as these patents were approved less than 25 years ago.

    Picture Gallery

    These (possibly slow-loading) pictures display several features of the computer, displaying as many of its features as possible (and probably killing our bandwidth): (and indeed they did)
  • by fantomas (94850) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @10:45AM (#27896607)

    I have to stand up for the Asus Eee PCs and speak about my experiences in their defence. I bought 30 x 701s a year and a half ago for a university project working with 11-14 year old school children. They've since been issued to a total of approximately 330 students across 12 different classes, taken out on field trips, and issued for home use. Only one has broken so far, a student dropped it onto a tarmac road while walking and carrying it in her hand, so that's about a metre or so drop. It broke the corner of the screen casing but apart from that was fine, we could pull the data off it and give her a spare to carry on with. We now use it as a test machine back in the lab, it works fine but we don't really want to issue it to students.

    A few have started to show scratches on the casing, and that's been it so far. They work ok in light rain, though the touch pad freaks out when they get too wet, we've found for field trips the solution is to get transparent plastic bags and slide them over the laptops and then they are fine (we use our geology department's rock sample bags, thanks guys!).

    So I'd say they are reasonably robust given these kind of conditions.

  • by dido (9125) <dido@@@imperium...ph> on Sunday May 10, 2009 @11:37AM (#27896993)

    Well, close enough. It was a Toshiba Libretto 30, which my mother bought for me in Korea in 1996. It was a pretty neat little gadget, a full-blown PC that was good enough (jumping through some hoops that involved use of a Zip drive IIRC, but heck I was in college back then and had loads of free time) for me to install Red Hat Linux 5.0 and do much of my college work on (primarily LaTeX documents, as a host system for MC68HC11 embedded system development, and a bit of Netscape 2.0). It was not much larger than a typical VHS cassette, and as such was very convenient. It had slightly lower specs than the 70CT mentioned in the article (66 MHz Pentium and only 8 megs of RAM IIRC), but that was plenty of power for what I used to do back then. The remarkable thing was that it was only a little less powerful than the desktop I had back then, and the only reason why I didn't ditch my desktop for it was the tiny keyboard and the display which was limited to 640x480x32. It was also very expensive, way beyond the price points of full-sized laptops with comparable specs.

  • by jsimon12 (207119) <tzzhc4NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Sunday May 10, 2009 @05:42PM (#27899739) Homepage

    I had a Libretto then and actually still the same one today (I use it as a OBD for my car). I ought the Libretto because my HP 200LX was dated and not the best system to get on the net with (though you could). Toshiba Librettos were built solid, did the job and were small and light as hell. Great for traveling when you needed just a little access on occasion (do that these days with my smart phone).

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