Top 10 List: Classic Laptops

By John Dvorak  |  Posted 2004-07-26 Print this article Print

Take a trip down Memory Lane as John Dvorak reminisces about his favorite laptops of days gone by. (PC Magazine)

Once in a while its good to remember the computer classics, in order to see how far weve come in making these devices more fun and more useful. Im going to illustrate the utility of this by citing what I believe are some of the great products of yesterday. Readers are invited to toss in other suggestions or weigh in with their own top 10 lists.

Ill begin with a list of what I believe to be the top 10 laptop or notebook computers. I am specifically referring to portable, battery-operated laptop/notebook computers. These criteria call for leaving out the famous GriD Computer of the early 1980s and various plug-in Toshiba machines, although those did influence future designs:

The Top 10 Classic Laptops

10. TRS-80 Model 100 (1983). This machine would be higher on the list if future computers had emulated its shape, but its influence on the market was unmistakable. It was probably the first machine to be used widely by professional writers. This was a small single-piece unit with an eight-line monochrome LCD. It was derived from the NEC-8201, which was not seriously marketed in the USA.

9. Toshiba T-1000 (1987). Listed for its popularity and price. A well-made monochrome unit that pushed in the lightweight (3.5kg) direction.

8. Zenith laptops. By todays standards, these laptops were heavy clunkers, but in their day they were stylish and trendy. They set the stage for todays clamshell designs. These machines dominated the scene in the late 1980s.

7. The first HP laptop (1984). This $3,000 unit was one of the most ambitious offerings ever produced by HP. Ahead of its time in every way, it also had Lotus 1-2-3 bundled into the ROM on the machine, making it very fast to work with. Curiously, this laptop/portable unit is no longer listed on HPs corporate-history timeline. One also has to note the HP-75 series (1982), which others consider as the first HP laptops. To check out the full list and read the entire PC Magazine story, click here. Check out eWEEK.coms Desktop & Notebook Center at for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.

John C. Dvorak is a contributing editor of PC Magazine, for which he has been writing two columns, including the popular Inside Track, since 1986. Dvorak has won eight national awards from the Computer Press Association, including Best Columnist and Best Column. Dvorak's work appears in several magazines and newspapers, including Boardwatch, Computer Shopper, and MicroTimes. He is the author of several books on computing including the popular Dvorak's Guide to Telecommunications. His radio show, 'Real Computing,' can be heard on National Public Radio. He is also the host of TechTV's 'Silicon Spin.'

For more on John C. Dvorak, go to


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