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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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Crock23A (1124275)
      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 couchslug (175151)

        "I wonder if it is still around. I'd like to give Ubuntu a try on it."

        Damn Small Linux would be a better fit for that hardware.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Wouldn't say flimsy. I can't count the number of times I've dropped, spilled soda on, or accidentally wedge other items into, my Asus EEE 701 and been surprised when it still booted up fine.

    • Not the first netbook... since it was expensive as hell.

      Yep. This is like people claiming that CDTVs were the first convergence of games consoles, TV, optical disc players, stereo/surround sound, and front room hi-fi entertainment centres. Aside from that not being true, it was underpowered so that it didn't have the appeal of later devices, it was marketed poorly in a world that wasn't ready (it would have needed to be marketed better). The result is that it was just a cheap console version of an amiga

      • by SeinJunkie (751833) <seinjunkie@gmail.com> on Sunday May 10, 2009 @10:34AM (#27896497) Homepage

        Aside from that not being true, it was underpowered so that it didn't have the appeal of later devices, it was marketed poorly in a world that wasn't ready (it would have needed to be marketed better).

        Right. In the book "Myths of Innovation [amazon.com]," the author (Scott Berkun) discusses how there is no such thing as a product being ahead of its time (which is what it seems this /. article summary is basically touting). You can't have a great idea in isolation and expect the market to come to you. Part of the invention process is how will your audience accept the product? Aside from patent trolling, the marketplace doesn't allow for financial success in a walled garden.

        Berkun also cites many examples and non-examples of famous inventors like Edison not actually being the first to invent something (such as the light bulb), but really being the best one to bring it to the audience. He also demonstrates how you wouldn't be able to bring a modern invention such as the netbook and take it back in time to be as successful as it has been for us. The infrastructure wouldn't be there and the public mindset would have no reference point or paradigm to go from.

        • 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.

          • The problem was, we couldn't build something like that, at that price, back then.

            We couldn't build something like that at any price back then.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by ceoyoyo (59147)

              1996 wasn't that long ago. Most of the essential bits were available, if not common then. The article itself is about a subnotebook with many of the essential features of a netbook.

          • The bit about the netbook was from me, not the book, FWIW.

            The viability of the netbook in the mid-90s is academic, and it's hard to make a comparison to the sub-notebooks, because they are such different things: their target audience is wholly different as well as the product. The /. article summary asserts the netbook craze started in 1996, which would seem to be just false. While the subnotebook was "received" perhaps in the same sense that the New Coke formula was, more traditional options seemed to reig

            • by ceoyoyo (59147)

              The whole concept of something being "ahead of its time" is that, though the concept is good, the market isn't there either because the technology is reliable enough, cheap enough, or the infrastructure isn't in place.

              The guy might have some good points in his book, but that one doesn't seem to be one of them. From your description he's basically arguing that there's no such thing as a A because the situation is always... the very definition of A.

              Depending on your concept of a "netbook," yeah, maybe the id

              • Products that are ahead of their time do not fail because they lack convincing enough marketing, but because they lack some innovative element, either your own, or someone else's.

                Right. You might be considering this to be picking nits with our idioms (I did when I first read it), but he's basically saying that ideas that are missing even just one proper element are really not well fleshed out. Relatedly, we've all talked to people who are confident that they had the idea for something that is now popular while insisting they would be rich had they materialized it. To me, this is the same out that "ahead of its time" gives to folks.

                You should be able to read the relevant section of t [google.com]

        • by CAIMLAS (41445)

          Products can't be ahead of their time, granted. But ideas can: ideas are transitive and have value beyond their initial implementations.

          The people who made the Eee didn't revolutionize anything but the cost of the device. There were several - many - examples of similar devices (many of which were implemented in a technically superior-for-their-day fashion).

      • by mdwh2 (535323)

        This is like people claiming that CDTVs were the first convergence of games consoles, TV, optical disc players, stereo/surround sound, and front room hi-fi entertainment centres. ... that the playstation 2 etc. really started to make that market.

        It's also just like people claiming that Playstations 2 did it first.

        I can't say I've heard a common argument that the CDTV did things first (except in response to someone claiming something else did it first, at a later date - e.g., "Imacs were the first to drop fl

    • 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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MichaelSmith (789609)

        touch pad freaks out when they get too wet

        I take mine travelling so we can watch movies and transfer data between our cameras. The touchpad also freaks out when the laptop is run from a cheap in car power inverter, so I either take a small mouse or pull the power when I want to use the UI.

        Its a great little machine. I used it at my dad's place yesterday setting up his wifi. I had his new router plugged in and was testing the connection through to /. from the eee while he fiddled with the wifi configuration on his windows laptop. Now he wants one

    • The real first netbook was the Atari Portfolio from 1989....
      8088 based and running DOS.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atari_Portfolio [wikipedia.org]

    • by mdwh2 (535323)

      Yes, since the term "netbook" was only popularised with the advent of cheap devices, it's reasonable to consider it part of the definition.

      However, that's not necessarily a definition everyone agrees with - you also have to be careful of biasing the result (devices which are "first" will often have been released before a common term for the device became popular - precisely because they were first). So I think it's still interesting to ask "What was the first computer that was as small as today's netbooks,

      • by Molochi (555357)

        The market for a small notebook not specifically designed to be cheap still exists and they aren't marketed as netbooks. If you take "race to the bottom" out of the equation you're talking about a SubNotebook or an Ultraportable.

        Netbook is a marketing term to describe the reduced utilty you wind up with, when you design an Ulraportable with cost as your first concern.

    • by Arker (91948)
      I dont think the price should disqualify it (everything is more expensive at first and price drops over time and volume) but a real netbook uses flash ram for storage, not a hard drive, so I do agree with you in the end - not a netbook.
      • by wwwillem (253720)

        In 1998 I bought my Libretto 50CT, running Windows 95. I used it as my "one and only" compute platform during a four month 7200 km bicycle journey to keep up a website. By now that would be called a blog, just as that my Libretto would now be called a Netbook. Who cares.... The funny thing is the remark that a netbook is only a netbook when it has SSD. I fully agree with that, therefore this years netbooks are in my book simply low powered, cheap laptops.

        But my Libretto had a harddisk of just 780 MB, yep yo

        • by Arker (91948)
          Nice. I had a Toshiba for some years that was definitely NOT a netbook, this was back before most had heard of the net, and it was definitely bigger and heavier than an EeePC, plus no SSD. But it did have DOS burnt on ROM, 2mb ram part of which was configured for ramdisk by default, and a floppy drive. Lighter and longer battery life than models with a hard drive, so I do think of it as a sort of remote ancestor to the netbooks. And yes, the newer "netbooks" do seem to be more accurately called mini-noteb
  • 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 wjh31 (1372867)
      you said it, its more pda than netbook, since it doesnt have any means of accessing the internet, nor any browser software
      • by MROD (101561)

        Well, it would be tricky to have those seeing as:

        (a) The web hadn't been invented yet.

        and,

        (b) The Internet (as such) didn't exist, it was ARPAnet and restricted to research and US military sites (with a few places outside the USA, such as UCL, having a link).

        It did have a serial port, which meant that it COULD be used as a communications device, just as any other personal computer of its day.

  • define define define (Score:4, Interesting)

    by markdavis (642305) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @09:33AM (#27896133)

    Determining when "Netbooks" arrived completely depends on your definition of what a Netbook is. In my definition, the Libbreto was/is not a "Netbook". Everyone will argue over what makes something a "Netbook" or not. I prefer to base it on concepts and specs from what was FIRST called a Netbook (which were the original Asus EEE's):

    1) Physically small sub-notebook
    2) Modest processor (compared to low-end main-line)
    3) Smaller/lower res screen (smaller than typical sub-notebooks)
    4) Solid state hard drive (Flash-based, rugged, lower power)
    5) Runs Linux (no additional OS cost, better performance)
    6) Lower costs (compared to low-end main-line)
    7) Excellent battery life (compared to low-end main-line)

    Those are the 7 things that opened the market and created the concept of the "Netbook". I have been running many small, sub-notebooks for well over a decade (Sony, Dell, etc), yet, none of them combined the above elements. They were generally MUCH MORE expensive than other notebooks, had hard drives, forced MS Windows bundled, and mediocre battery life.

    Take a Netbook, add more memory, add MS Windows, replace the flash drive with a hard drive, jack the price up 33-50%, and it is still a Netbook? Not to me- it is just a sub-notebook at that point.

    • 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.

      • by dave420 (699308)
        Net != Portability. They were made to simply jack in to a network when needed. 1997 wasn't a big year for wireless or 3G.
    • Sounds like the netBook [wikipedia.org] was the first Netbook according to your definition then. It can run Linux, although it shipped with Symbian (no additional OS cost and better performance still hold, however, since Symbian was owned by Psion at the time).
      • by bhtooefr (649901)

        Although the Psion Series 7/netBook was rather expensive, especially compared to low-end mainstream laptops of the time.

    • by jo42 (227475)

      Definition of "Netbook": "Toy laptop" or "Toy notebook" - pick one.

    • by salesgeek (263995) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @12:13PM (#27897301) Homepage

      Pretty much nailed the Libretto, except the flash drive and Wifi, which in '97 was largely non-existent. Calling the Libretto the forerunner to today's netbooks is accurate. Having owned a Libretto, it immediately came to mind when I first saw what we are calling netbooks.

      So far as your standards, the Libretto met them all, save one, which basically didn't exist:

      #4) solid state drive. Didn't exist then, and doesn't sell well vs. a hard drive now.

      The Libretto would get checks across the board on everything else. Even it's base price of $1,295 with a passive color screen was very cheap back then.

      • by WillAdams (45638)

        you said:
        >#4) solid state drive. Didn't exist then, and doesn't sell well vs. a hard drive now.

        Well, there were a number of even earlier laptops which had solid-state persistent storage:

          - GRiD Compass (also the later GRiD Case) --- ~768Kb of Bubble memory
          - NEC Ultralight - 1 or 2MB of RAM w/ battery backing

        William
        (who owned a GRiDCase III plus and an NEC Ultralite 2MB model)

    • Many versions of the EEEPC fail 4 and 5, so I'm struggling to realize how you can criticize the Libretto for failing 4, 5 and 6.
      • by markdavis (642305)

        You are correct that many of the more recent EEE's fail #4 and #5, and thus are not Netbooks at all, they are just sub-notebooks. But I was never "criticizing" the Libretto. It was what it was. I liked it, too. I have always loved small machines and have used lots of them.

    • by Gordonjcp (186804)

      1) Physically small sub-notebook

      It's the size of a VHS tape (if you can remember what those were

      2) Modest processor (compared to low-end main-line)

      Even in 1997, the Pentium 90 was pretty modest. Pentium II in the mid-300s weren't uncommon in laptops by then

      3) Smaller/lower res screen (smaller than typical sub-notebooks)

      640x480 screen (very clear and readable too) compared to typically 800x600 or even 1024x768 on high-end machines

      4) Solid state hard drive (Flash-based, rugged, lower power)

      Wasn't invented

      • by markdavis (642305)

        So, a horse and buggy is an automobile? Well, they didn't have engines back then. But it got one from point A to point B. It seated multiple people. Etc...

        Going backwards in time and calling a Libretto a "Netbook" is just about as silly. It didn't have wireless networking, didn't come loaded with Linux, and didn't have solid state storage... dismissing those is throwing away much of the whole concept of a Netbook.

        My point was (and still is), that Asus essentially invented the term, and applied it to a

  • I saw one of those for sale at a computer faire quite a few years ago. I was tempted to buy it for the novelty, but I was young and poor at the time.

    Now I have an eee 901.

  • by mc1138 (718275) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @09:39AM (#27896171) Homepage
    Twenty minutes of work time and ten hours of charging time!
    • Annnnd this is funny why? The poster obviously has never used one of these. I was mucking about with one a few weeks ago and the damn thing lasted for over 4 hours! Hell I'm sure that battery in it was over 5 years old too. Damn slick machine.
  • by sootman (158191) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @09:40AM (#27896187) Homepage Journal

    I had one for a while. Got it from a friend, then gave it to my dad after barely using it for 6 months. But it was definitely neat. The coolest thing about it (at the time) was being that small but running a full OS, not Palm or CE or anything, and with a real CPU. Mine had a P75, 4 GB hard drive, and dual-booted Win98 and RedHat 7. The former owner was a network admin who carried it around and used the serial port to talk to routers. Having a hardware fetish, I bought it from him when he no longer needed it but I found that, as neat as it was, I really didn't have much use for it. (Before wireless Internet was everywhere, having a notebook on hand wasn't that useful unless you were a writer or traveling to places that had network jacks.) So I gave it to my dad so he'd have something small to take to LUG meetings. One thing--it was definitely a conversation-starter. If you pulled it out in a public place you'd have questions from everyone around you.

    • it was definitely a conversation-starter. If you pulled it out in a public place you'd have questions from everyone around you.

      You'd also have to be handsome too.

      I'm short, fat, ugly, and I carry an Eee 901 white. Nobody has ever approached me.

      I wonder if I paste pink flowers on it ...

    • We did some development for the DoD on some of these things (running NT4).

      Very nice platform.

  • 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]

  • I bought one of these back in 1996 via an importer for ~$1600. It was about the size of a VHS tape. I liked the side-mounted eraser head mouse, but the keyboard was almost too small for touch typing. It was much nicer than the competing IBM model, which (if I remember correctly) had a side-talkin phone built in.

    Sold it a few months later for $3000. Good times.

  • I once used a Libretto 100CT. It's very small even by today's netbook standards. The trackpoint is placed in a very weird spot. But the portability rocked.

    Another interesting "proto-netbook" machines I have seen are Fujitsu B110 Lifebook, the Sharp Mebius line (I still have a Japanese version of it laying around - it was fantastic to use, but now I've moved to a HP TC1100 because the headphone jack broke) and more recently Sharp Muramasa. The latter one is more or less equivalent to a good quality modern ne

  • We all have our own idea of what a netbook is/was.

  • by warlock (14079) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @09:47AM (#27896231) Homepage

    A Libretto 100CT in fact, with the widescreen 7.1" TFT display (800x480), Intel Pentium 166Mhz MMX overclocked to 233Mhz, 32MB RAM upgraded to 64MB (couldn't handle more) and a 2.1GB HD which I replaced with a 20GB one. I later added a 802.11b WiFi and made quite a good web surfing machine with FreeBSD + Netscape and Firefox later on...

    I've been using it regularly until 2004 and then on and off until 2006 or so. It's resting in a box down at the basement now.

    Having used a small machine like that is what made me immune to the netbook craze while everybody around me thinks they're so cool and useful and have been buying small cheap machines and finding out how particularly useless they are...

    IMNSHO they're too small to be useful for most kinds of real work and to big to carry around or surf while, say in bed - I'm much better off now with a regular laptop that I can get real work done and an iPhone that I can surf the web casually wherever I may be.

    • by imp (7585)

      I had a Libretto 50CT, which pre-dated the 70CT. I loved the size (it was almost exactly the same size as a VCR tape) for portability. Had a slow Pentium processor in it. I dropped mine and the warrantee couldn't fix it so it was replaced by a Sony that I didn't like as much.

      The keyboard was small, and kinda hard to type on. But I got used to it. I did a lot of development on FreeBSD PC Card and CardBus stacks on that little box. I do miss it, except when I need to see a lot of data on the screen. Th

    • Mmmmm I think I had a similar experience with something that killed netbooks. Just allot later. Had a Fujitsu P7120. That thing is what netbooks today wish they could be. Such a shame Centrino was a bust. Today I just use my Fujitsu S3050D. Such a nice & light machine. Certainly a trade-off ditching a traditional keyboard though. Worth it too!
  • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Darkness404 (1287218)

      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 i

    • Yeah, the Trash 80 is a good contender. It could be argued that [low] price is one of the defining features of a netbook.

      Other contenders...
      History of Laptop Computers [about.com]

    • 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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fermion (181285)
      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 ne

      • by bhtooefr (649901)

        The Model 100 definitely counts as the first "net"book, IMO.

        Onboard hardware to connect to the main method of networking personal computers at the time, low cost, low power, very portable.

    • by kyoorius (16808)

      I still have my POQET PC, which runs off 2 AA batteries and is smaller than the TRS100.

      Was too cheap to buy the serial interface cable, so I found the dimensions, etched a PCB connector, dialed into the university network and accessed the internet via Lynx browser. Does that make it a netbook? Actually it was more like a net-palmtop.

      http://www.digibarn.com/collections/systems/poqet-pc/index.html [digibarn.com]

      • Oh, man, I LOVED my POQET PC. I ran Framework [wikipedia.org], an integrated office suite that gave you a database, word processor/outliner, contact manager, and spreadhseet all in one, coordinated application space. My whole world was on that thing.

        Being able to run literally weeks off of 2 AA batteries was a stunner then and now. I looked for years for a replacement once they discontinued it, and not until last year did I see anything that I thought was its equal in portablity, price, and performance (the XO-1 from OL

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      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.

      • by speedtux (1307149)

        Yes, but I'm thinking more of an updated version of it: as thin as an Amazon DX, running Linux, with a nearly full-sized (if flat) membrane keyboard, a decent LCD screen, and maybe just a thicker tube at the top for holding the batteries. And all for a bit less money than an EEE PC.

    • http://www.neo-direct.com/Dana/ [neo-direct.com]

      Unfortunately, they don't seem to have been able to price their product reasonably. $450 might have been an acceptable price in 1997, five years before it came out, but it's just silly to charge that much for something that really ought to be cheap, almost throwaway, based on specs.

      • by speedtux (1307149)

        If they made that a lot thinner, made the screen a bit bigger, and put Linux on it, I think it would be OK, even at that price.

  • by danhm (762237)
    That's not when the netbook craze started! The craze is a recent event; that product predates it.
  • by saihung (19097)

    My 60CT wasn't a netbook for one very simple reason: no net. The thing didn't have built-in connectivity of any kind.

    • The thing didn't have built-in connectivity of any kind.

      It did have an IrDA interface. I used to connect to the Internet in cafes by sitting my Ericsson mobile phone behind my Libretto 50CT communicating via infrared.

  • Anyone else get tired of the snide remarks about the hardware? And the stupid "environmental" digs at the CPU? How come no one ever slams software for needing dual core 2GHz processors ... to browse the Web or take notes? How about writing software that can still run on 10+ year old hardware, wouldn't that be better for the environment than needing a world-wide oil-driven infrastructure to make the new CPUs and chips and plastic cases?

    Oh but no, that would need actual programmers (instead of drag and dropp

    • by RDW (41497)

      'How about writing software that can still run on 10+ year old hardware, wouldn't that be better for the environment than needing a world-wide oil-driven infrastructure to make the new CPUs and chips and plastic cases?'

      Software bloat it annoying, of course, but a lot of feature-rich 'netbook applications' already exist, if you don't insist on this year's release. I'm probably not the only one to have replaced an ageing P4 notebook with an Atom-based netbook, which in most respects is an upgrade over the ori

    • Good point. I bet there's a lot of "synthetic" bloat in modern software. There would not be need for nearly as beefy hardware if things were done properly. And we would save lots of power.

      I've been watching the Dillo [dillo.org] project for a couple of years. By design a very smart and light browser, although the web is developing so fast that the guys are having hard time implementing some of the essentials...

      2GHz should be the requirement for something like heavy mathematical computation, NOT web browsing.

    • Nice! Mod me down instead of debating the point! Thanks Slashbots! I dared defy the groupthink of the cult of programmers! Bad hardware!
  • by beadfulthings (975812) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @10:02AM (#27896311) Journal

    Mine is 1992 vintage and actually still works, though it is getting more difficult to move files between it and the newer stuff around here. Its chef virtue is that it weighs practically nothing and can be connected to its dock, which includes a floppy disk drive and place for a full-sized keyboard. Has a reasonably respectable 4mb of RAM and a whopping 80mb hard drive. I used it for years to write up notes. It's no good as a netbook because it can't use a browser compatible with most of today's Internet; it's got an early version of Mosaic on it.

    I actually replaced it just this past Christmas with an HP mini netbook. I'm relatively happy with it, but as with its predecessor, all I do with it is carry it around to write up notes.

  • by tick-tock-atona (1145909) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @10:14AM (#27896375)
    ... in fact, thecoffedesk.com is hosted on one of these! Also: http://thecoffeedesk.com.nyud.net/news/index.php/2009/05/09/the-worlds-first-netbook/ [nyud.net]
  • In my humble opinion, a netbook is a small, light, cheap computer designed primarily for low-level tasks: writing, web browsing, etc.

    A Sub-Notebook is what this is: Small and light, yes, but certainly not cheap. Examples of this would include the MacBook Air.

    Sub-Notebooks have been around pretty much since notebooks have been around (as demonstrated in some of the other comments in this thread). Netbooks are a recent phenomenon beginning with the EEE. Just my $0.02

    • I'm starting to think the netbook has lost its way, The ideal size in my opinion has a 9 inch screen excellent battery life and a modest relatively quick hard drive or solid state drive. Netboooks seem to be progressing to a small laptop with lousy battery life, too big and too limited by fitting too small a battery.

      There's a number of things that can improve the current crop, bigger batteries 7 or 8 hours from a charge when new should be a good minimum perhaps more like 10 hours.
      Some of the SSD drives ar

    • A Macbook Air is way too big to be a subnotebook. You can only try to call it that because notebooks have grown so large. I was working at an ISP in Japan in the late nineties and we actually had a Libretto (don't recall what model, but it was running Win 95-J OSR2, so probably the one referenced in the article). I found it too small to type comfortably on, but some people - even with larger fingers than mine - thought it was OK. I preferred our main "road computer," a Thinkpad 240 which they are probably s

  • The first with the portable DVD player form factor was the Fujitsu P1200. I consider this the first modern machine that fits into the netbook designation.

  • I would almost say (Score:4, Interesting)

    by falcon5768 (629591) <Falcon5768.comcast@net> on Sunday May 10, 2009 @10:36AM (#27896521) Journal
    The eMate from apple could be classified as a netbook, since it did have email and browsing capabilities and has even been hacked to use 802.11b these days on top of its cat-5 and modem abilities. It was after all a low power computer based off the Newton.
  • And with good reason. These things were a nightmare to support! I had to support two of them, and I think I'm going to need therapy now that their existence is known to me again...

  • On the road I used a computer called Twinhead Subnote running Windows 3.1, with a built in modem I could connect back to the office. Here is a photo http://tinyurl.com/pybl33 [tinyurl.com]
    • Cool ...

      Can I load Trumpet Winsock Dialer and Netscape 2.0 on it?

      I don't mind Telix or Procomm Plus too ...

      • Sorry, that was a joke. On rereading it I realized it sounded offensive. Sorry about that.

        Your Twinhead Subnote is cool. Really.

  • _MY_ first netbook was an IBM PC110, which I actually still have. It's now running Windows 98SE from a 1 GB CF card.

  • 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.
  • by dido (9125) <dido@impe r i u m .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.

  • About a decade+ ago, a friend of mine in college gave me a Gateway Handbook [wikipedia.org] and I still own it to this day. I upgraded the RAM to 24mb and put in a 1GB hard drive in it and whatever Linux distro I had around at the time. It was definitely usable when I was in college to take notes on, but using as a daily application for my life is where it failed; 802.11b was *just* emerging and playing Doom on it during class quickly tired. It's comical to see how laptop industry flops back on itself (much how fashion
  • by Anonymous Coward

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atari_Portfolio

  • by jsimon12 (207119) <tzzhc4@ y a h o o . 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).

  • the 30CT a 486DX version was originally only an Asian release. The Libretto50CT was a P1 version running at 150mhz (if memory is correct) This version had sound where the 30ct did not. Size was identical to the size of a vhs cassette case. If anyone out there thinks typing on an early EeePC is hard you had nothing on the Libretto's. Great system, Rock solid, Loved mine.
  • As much as I despise Sony, I have to say that I did enjoy my Picturebook C1X that I was given for work in the late 90s, that definitely counts as a netbook. I remember it was the first device I'd ever used with builtin wifi. It looked cool and worked decently. On the down side, the battery life on the machine was atrocious, its motherboard fried three days before the warranty was up (which would have cost $2200 to replace, and the machine cost $2500 to buy), and the hard drive died shortly after I got th

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