Hewlett-Packard HP 110 “The Portable” Laptop PC

The HP 110
Source: HP, 1984

Hewlett-Packard did not have broad success with portables until it introduced the HP 110 laptop. Some HP literature referred to the 110 as simply “The Portable”. It offered good performance in a small but practical package. At nine pounds, it was one of the more petite laptops of the time.

The HP 110 came with a built-in software suite including communications software
Source: HP, 1984

The HP 110 had a software suite in ROM that included a graphical user interface, word processor, and the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet program. It also had a terminal emulation program, through which users could share files with other computers. HP claimed that this enabled “a new kind of computing in which programs and data are always present, wherever The Portable is carried.”

HP 110 owners could share files with the IBM PC
Source: HP, 1984

A portable, battery-powered Thinkjet printer and HP 9114A 3.5-inch floppy disk drive were available as options. The HP 9114A was notable as HP claimed it was the first that could read and write from both sides of the disk, effectively doubling capacity.

HP 110 Plus with Thinkjet printer and HP 9114A disk drive
Source: HP, 1986

In 1985, a Plus version of the 110 was introduced with greater RAM and ROM capacity and improved graphics resolution.

Introduced: May 1984
Original Retail Price: $2,995
Base Configuration: 5.44MHz 80C86, MS-DOS 2.01, 272K RAM, 384K ROM, monochrome LCD, integral keyboard, RS-232C and HP-IL ports, Lotus 1-2-3 and MemoMaker in ROM, carrying case, internal modem, owner’s and software manuals, AC adapter, lead-acid batteries, battery charger
Video: 16-line x 80-column text, 480 x 128 graphics
Size/Weight: 13 x 10 x 3 inches, 9 lbs.
Important Options: HP 911A 3.5-inch external floppy disk drive, HP 2225B printer, leather carrying case


Zoom Telephonics Zoom/Modem PC

The first decade or so of the PC saw hundreds of peripheral and add-on vendors compete for sales among a rapidly growing user base. The modem market was particularly crowded. To succeed, modem manufacturers had to keep improving performance and adding features while keeping prices low.

Zoom Telephonics (not to be confused with Zoom, the video conferencing company) first began producing modems in 1983. Three years later, the Zoom/Modem PC was a market leader in terms of price and performance. It was an internal, Hayes-compatible modem that came with its own Zoom/Disk communications software package.

Zoom/Modem PC
Source: Zoom Telephonics, 1986

In 1999, Zoom Telephonics bought modem pioneer Hayes. The company merged with Minim in 2020, but still sells home networking products under the Zoom brand.

Consumer Electronics Show

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was an important venue to introduce new computer technology throughout the 1980s and to today. I believe this image shows the main entrance to the 1982 or 1983 winter event, typically held in January in Las Vegas. If you look at the Panasonic booth in the photo, it shows what I think is a JR-200U microcomputer, which was introduced in 1982.

Consumer Electronics Show circa 1982
Source: Unknown

Advanced Logic Research ALR 386/220 PC

ALR was a mid-tier producer of high-performance PCs. Its ALR 386/220 was an example if how it approached the business market. Based on a 20MHz 80386 CPU, the system ranked among the best performers in its class at a more affordable price. It could be configured as either a network server or a workstations for applications such as CAD or desktop publishing.

ALR 386/220
Source: Advanced Logic Research, 1987

The ALR 386/220 came in four models that primarily offered different memory and storage configurations.

About ten years after the 386/220 was introduced, ALR merged with Gateway 2000 in 1997, which made the combined company the twelfth largest PC server vendor worldwide.

Introduced: 1987
Model: ALR 386/220 Model 10
Original Retail Price: $2,495
Base Configuration: 20MHz 80386 CPU, MS-DOS, 2 8-bit ISA slots, 4 16-bit ISA slots, 2 32-bit ISA slots, 1MB RAM, 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, keyboard/keypad, serial and parallel ports, 200W power supply,  clock/calendar
Important Options: 80287 or 80387 coprocessor

Model: ALR 386/220 Model 40
Original Retail Price: $4,485
Base Configuration: 20MHz 80386 CPU, MS-DOS, 2 8-bit ISA slots, 4 16-bit ISA slots, 2 32-bit ISA slots, 2MB RAM, 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, 40MB hard disk drive, keyboard/keypad, serial and parallel ports, 200W power supply, clock/calendar, EMS and EEMS software
Important Options: 80287 or 80387 coprocessor , tower case

Model: ALR 386/220 Model 80
Original Retail Price: $5,185
Base Configuration: 20MHz 80386 CPU, MS-DOS, 2 8-bit ISA slots, 4 16-bit ISA slots, 2 32-bit ISA slots, 2MB RAM, 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, 70MB hard disk drive, keyboard/keypad, serial and parallel ports, 200W power supply, clock/calendar, EMS and EEMS software
Important Options: 80287 or 80387 coprocessor, tower case

Model: ALR 386/220 Model 130
Original Retail Price: $7,794
Base Configuration: 20MHz 80386 CPU, MS-DOS, 2 8-bit ISA slots, 4 16-bit ISA slots, 2 32-bit ISA slots, 2MB RAM, 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, 130MB hard disk drive, keyboard/keypad, serial and parallel ports, 200W power supply, clock/calendar, EMS and EEMS software
Important Options: 80287 or 80387 coprocessortower case

3R Computers Avatar TC100 Universal Terminal Converter

The 3R Avatar TC100 series was a dual-processor system used with a dumb terminal to give it full workstation capabilities–hence the reason it is called a terminal converter. It used both a Z80 and 8088-2 CPUs so it could run both CP/M and MS-DOS applications.

3R Computers Avatar TC100
Source: 3R Comptuers, 1983

The company offered an enhanced model, the Avatar TC110, which had a parallel port and 5MB hard drive. A TC 3278 modal was intended for use with only the IBM 3278 or 3178 terminals. The company is also known as RRR Computers.

Introduced: 1983
Original Retail Price: $2,195
Base Configuration: Z80A and 8088-2 CPUs, 128K RAM (256K max), 2 RS-232C ports, 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, clock/calendar, 85W power supply
Size/Weight: 7.25H x 12.25W x 12.75D inches, 20 lbs.
Important Options: parallel interface; second floppy disk drive; 5MB, 10MB, or 20MB hard disk drive

RAIR Business Computer

In the early 1980s, many established businesses wanted to get into the business computer market. The fastest way to do that was to contract with an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to brand its designs as their own.

RAIR Business Computer
Source: RAIR Computer, 1983

RAIR Computer was one of the lesser known OEMs. Its Business Computer was typical of the multi-user, multi-processor designs of the day. The processors were an 8-bit 8085 and a 16-bit 8088.

RAIR Business Computer
Source: RAIR Computer, 1983

A selection of operating systems (MP/M, CP/M, or PC-DOS) gave its OEM customers flexibility, as the Business Computer could be sold in single- or multi-user configurations. A high-resolution color display and the ability to daisy-chain up to four additional Winchester drives were also big selling factors.

Introduced: October 1983
Original OEM price: $9,750
Base Configuration: 8085 and 8088 CPUs, 256K RAM (1MB max), 19MB hard drive, 1MB floppy drive, 4 RS-422 and 2 RS-232 ports, color monitor, 83-key keyboard, printer, CP/M-80/86 and MP/M-80/86, BASIC, COBOL, Pascal, business software suite
Video: 80 characters x 25 lines, 8 colors
Important options: up to 4 additional 19MB hard drives, tape backup, PC-DOS

IBM Personal Computer XT

The PC XT (eXtended Technology), Model 5160, was IBM’s encore to the original PC. It used the same 4.77MHz 8088 CPU as its predecessor but offered incremental improvements such as more expansion bus slots, greater mass storage capabilities, better screen resolution, and MS-DOS 2.0.

Source: IBM, 1983

IBM also offered new options for the PC, including an expansion unit that housed additional storage in a matching cabinet to the computer.

IBM PC XT with Model 002 Expansion Unit
Source: IBM, 1983

IBM later offered a version of the PC XT that would run its mainframe applications. The Personal Computer XT/370 used the Virtual Machine/Personal Computer (VM/PC) control program that provided compatibility with the Virtual Machine/Conversational Monitor System (VM/CMS) mainframe program.

Source: IBM, 1983

Introduced: March 8, 1983
Original Retail Price: $4,995
Base Configuration: 4.77MHz 8088 CPU, PC-DOS 2.0, eight ISA slots, 128K RAM (640K max), 40K ROM, 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, keyboard/keypad, RS-232C port, BASIC, operations manual
Video: 25-line x 80-column text, 640 x 200 graphics
Size/Weight: 20 x 16 x 6 inches, 32 lbs.
Important Options: Model 002 Expansion Unit; second 5.25-inch floppy disk drive; 10MB hard disk drive; Color Display, Enhanced Color Display, or Monochrome Display monitor; EGA or CGA card; game port; PC Color, PC Compact, or Graphics Printer; technical reference; hardware maintenance and service manual

Ultravision Portable Video Arcade Game System

Ultravision tried to be a universal game/computer system. At its heart was a Z80-based computer capable of running both CP/M and Apple software. The built-in display was actually a color TV, and it came with two of what the company called “semi-commercial” controllers.

Ultravision game system
Source: Ultravision, 1983

Among the big claims Ultravision made were that it could achieve video resolution far greater than on a standard TV and that it was compatible with any personal computer. The company also suggested using the system with VCRs, cameras, and home surveillance systems.

The promises proved too much to deliver. The company disappeared shortly after announcing the game system at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 1983. Cost might have been a factor. The CES press release gave the retail price as $595.95, but later sources showed the price at nearly $1,000–a princely sum for a game system.

Microsoft Multi-Tool Word

Microsoft Word will be 40 years old in 2023. As it approaches middle age, let’s see what it looked like as a baby.

The first version was actually called Multi-Tool Word. It was first available for UNIX, quickly followed by the PC version in 1983. As the screen photos show, the user interface was primitive by today’s standards–heavily text and menu based.

Multi-Tool Word
Source: Microsoft, 1983

It’s biggest innovation at the time was the “what you see is what you get” approach, meaning the printed output matched what you saw on the screen. Today, we take this for granted, but in the early PC days it was common for the printer to have a different interpretation of a document than the monitor screen.

Micro-Tool Word
Source: Microsoft, 1983

Other features included an auto-formatting feature, which eliminated the need for manual reformatting, and a ruler at the top of the screen that allowed users to set margins and tabs. The press release announcing the PC version on May 2, 1983, mentions many features that are standard on today’s word processors. They include:

  • An auto-format feature, eliminating the need for manual reformatting
  • A ruler at the top of the screen that allowed users to set margins and tabs
  • An undo command
  • Advanced word-wrap capabilities
  • Style sheets

Micro Source/MicroStandard Technologies M6000P Portable Microcomputer

Some early microcomputer manufacturers saw a better chance for success by targeting the industrial and government markets. By designing systems to be more durable and better equipped at certain tasks, they avoided competing in the cut-throat business market. It didn’t hurt that industrial and government customers were willing to pay a premium.

Micro Source M600P
Source: Micro Source, 1982
MicroStandard M6000 with color CRT and hard drive
Source: MicroStandard Technologies, 1983

The M6000P was one example. It was originally sold under the Micro Source brand, but the company changed its name to MicroStandard Technologies sometime in 1983 and changed the basic configuration of the M6000P at the same time, dropping the “P” designation. A 10-slot card cage became standard, and an Intel 8088 CPU became optional. A color CRT option was also made available in place of the standard monochrome display. The M6000 was sold for industrial, scientific, and military applications. The company later sold a model aimed at the general business market, the M3000

Introduced: 1982
Original Retail Price: $3,900 to $5,100
Base Configuration: 4MHz Z80 CPU, CP/M 2.2, eight STD slots (four open), 64K RAM (512K max), 8K ROM, two 5.25-inch floppy disk drives, integral 9-inch monochrome CRT, keyboard/keypad, C-BASIC, application suite, carrying case
Video: 25-line x 80-column text
Size/Weight: 17 x 20 x 7 inches, 33.75 lbs.
Important Options: 4MHz 68000 coprocessor, Unix, 10- or 12-slot card cage, external 8-inch floppy disk drive, 10- to 40MB hard disk drive, color graphics card, color monitor, serial and parallel interfaces, modem, acoustic coupler, integral printer.