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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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  • by AdamInParadise (257888) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @09:26AM (#27896089) Homepage

    ... since it was expensive as hell. Small notebooks have existed for a long time. The novelty of the Asus EEEPC was that it was cheap (and flimsy): it demonstrated that there was an untapped market for this kind of computers.

  • by smoatigah (1520351) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @09:35AM (#27896151)
    Completely. We always have had subnotebooks, ever since they could make parts small enough. The big thing which made netbooks popular was the fact that you could pick one up for a couple hundred bucks and not worry about throwing it in your bag. Totally useless article if you ask me.
  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @09:48AM (#27896237) Homepage

    8) Internal wireless networking.

    After all, it is a Netbook. Anything PCMCIA, or dongles hanging out of USB ports, totally kills portability.

  • Tandy Model 100 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by speedtux (1307149) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @09:54AM (#27896261)

    The "netbook craze" started with the EEE PC. There was no "craze" before then because small laptops were expensive.

    If there was anything like the netbook craze before, it may have been the Tandy Model 100, a small, lightweight, inexpensive computer with built-in modem that's popular even today with writers. In fact, I think a netbook in that form factor (flat, screen and keyboard open, AA battery powered) would still be nice.

    http://oldcomputers.net/trs100.html [oldcomputers.net]

  • Re:Tandy Model 100 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @10:04AM (#27896323)

    In fact, I think a netbook in that form factor (flat, screen and keyboard open, AA battery powered) would still be nice.

    I agree, but I think there will be more people complaining then not. For example while I prefer things to be powered with batteries that aren't rechargeable (because when I'm traveling, its trivial to buy a pack of AA batteries, while hard to be near a power source for any extended length of time that is the correct voltage) but a lot of people will look at that as a flaw. There isn't going to be a way to make the screen really... work, unless you have it be more like E-ink, glare is just too much of an issue, just look at the Nintendo Game Boy. Then there is the keyboard issue. Its going to be hard to make a lasting keyboard that is A) Cheap B) Doesn't get junk in between the keys and C) Has room for a trackpad. I can see this being a great product, but I can't see it being popular with the masses like the Tandy 100 was.

  • by Tenebrious1 (530949) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @10:40AM (#27896555) Homepage
    Yes, there certainly was a "craze". You just missed it because you're weren't living where it happened. The small notebooks have always been popular in Japan but never really caught on in the US. Americans could only buy them through import sites at twice the price, so mostly we just looked at the pictures, read the specs, and sent letters to the manufacturers begging them to bring those models to the US. It was fantastic walking around Akihabara, seeing machines that you only saw pop up as brief descriptions in US magazines. Beautiful machines that never made it to the US shores. Nowadays, with the web, it's all to easy to see the pictures and look up specs, but back then, we only had mere glimpses. So yes, there was a craze. But because the machines were never exported, that craze never made it to the US.
  • by MrNaz (730548) * on Sunday May 10, 2009 @10:58AM (#27896741) Homepage

    Aah the old media statistics game. It goes a little something like this:

    1. Decide what conclusion you want to arrive at.
    2. Find a few random facts.
    3. Redefine your assumptions so the facts suit your previously decided upon conclusion.

    Given a population willing to swallow this BS, why should the modern media concern itself with trivialities like truth and objectivity?

  • Re:Tandy Model 100 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fermion (181285) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @11:03AM (#27896765) Homepage Journal
    Absolutely. The enabling technology for the netbook craze was not only small processors, but also widespread wireless internet connections with web and email. Given this, dating the netbook to 1996 is a bit early, as the wireless connections were not widely available until nearer to 2000. The idea of such computers is to provide relatively full range of functionality in a small device.

    Prior to this we have other small computers, not all cheap. The newton had a PCMCIA slot that could connect it to a network, allowing it to do everything that an average computer user might do. In the previous time frame, Tandy owned the market, with the model 100 and 200. Since the internet did not exist yet in the current form, there was little need for networking on these machines. They provided full functionality for the average user. Even the Tandy pc-6 was a contender in this catagory.

  • Started? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @11:16AM (#27896855) Homepage Journal
    You could qualify it as netbook, but probably what really started the craze was the XO, the idea of a $100 notebook for every child. It had most of the attributes that make it a not so bad idea, price, long battery life, wifi, etc.
  • Re:HELLO EVERYBODY (Score:0, Insightful)

    by JockTroll (996521) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @11:24AM (#27896909)

    Cagati addosso, stronzetto.

  • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @11:49AM (#27897089)

    Sounds like he's being a bit pedantic on whether the "product" was ahead of its time or the "idea" was ahead of its time.

    As for not being able to take something like a netbook back in time, nonsense. Take one of our netbooks back to 1996 and tell someone who just bought a subnotebook that they can have this little computer with better specs for a tenth the price (a fifth the price of ANY computer) and it's going to be a big hit. The problem was, we couldn't build something like that, at that price, back then.

  • Re:Tandy Model 100 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @07:14PM (#27900339) Homepage Journal

    If there was anything like the netbook craze before, it may have been the Tandy Model 100, a small, lightweight, inexpensive computer with built-in modem that's popular even today with writers. In fact, I think a netbook in that form factor (flat, screen and keyboard open, AA battery powered) would still be nice.

    I reckon I could build one of those around an atmel microcontroller. LCD display modules are very cheap now. The keyboard could probably be hacked up pretty easily.

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