The Evolution of the Panasonic Toughbook: 20 Years of Rugged Computers

 
 
By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2016-10-03
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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    1 - The Evolution of the Panasonic Toughbook: 20 Years of Rugged Computers
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    The Evolution of the Panasonic Toughbook: 20 Years of Rugged Computers

    In 20 years of producing ruggedized portable computers, Panasonic has evolved its original brief-case-like model CF-25 to a lineup that now includes tablets and 2-in-1s.
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    2 - 1994: The CF-41 Notebook That Inspired Toughbooks
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    1994: The CF-41 Notebook That Inspired Toughbooks

    In 1994, before the Toughbook line was even officially unveiled in 1996, Panasonic added a CD-ROM drive to its CF-41 notebook, which the company claims was the first such drive in a notebook. The machine led directly to the creation of the future Toughbook models two years later. The CF-41, which featured an Intel i486DX2 50MHz CPU, a 680MB hard drive and a 10.4-inch TFT display, was also notable for its use of magnesium alloy in its construction.
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    3 - 1996: The First Toughbook: The CF-25
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    1996: The First Toughbook: The CF-25

    The first rugged Toughbook, the CF-25, hit the market in 1996 with the ability to withstand falls from up to 27 inches without damage, while also resisting dust, dirt and humidity. The machine featured an Intel Pentium 133MHz CPU, a 1.35GB hard drive, a 10.4-inch TFT display and Microsoft Windows 95.
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    4 - 1999: The Toughbook CF-27
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    1999: The Toughbook CF-27

    In 1999, the Toughbook CF-27 debuted, packing a 266MHz Intel Pentium CPU with MMX technology, a 4GB hard drive, a 12.1-inch display and Microsoft Windows NT 4.0. The CF-27 also included built-in GSM and WAN connectivity to allow mobile workers to communicate from remote locations. The devices featured touch screens and hard drives that were surrounded by gel and foam blocks to isolate and protect them from serious shocks.
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    5 - 2001: The Toughbook CF-07
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    2001: The Toughbook CF-07

    The Toughbook CF-07 was born in 2001 as the company's first rugged tablet, though it was still called a Toughbook. The CF-07 was composed of a mini PC with a stand-alone wireless touch-screen display that could communicate together up to about 164 feet away. Highlights of the tablet were a 300MHz Intel Mobile Pentium III CPU, a 20GB hard drive and Microsoft Windows 2000.
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    6 - 2003: The Toughbook CF-29
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    2003: The Toughbook CF-29

    In 2003, the Toughbook CF-29 was introduced, complete with a built-in handle and vibration and shock resistance. The CF-29 featured a 1.2GHz Intel Pentium M CPU, a 40GB hard drive, a 13.3-inch XGA touch-screen display and Microsoft Windows XP Professional.
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    7 - 2008: The Toughbook CF-U1
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    2008: The Toughbook CF-U1

    Billed as a rugged "ultra-mobile" PC, the Toughbook CF-U1 arrived in 2008 with a Windows Vista Business operating system and a host of integrated features such as a barcode scanner, a fingerprint reader, a camera and hot-swap batteries, all aimed at helping mobile field workers do their jobs. Also featured was a 1.33GHz Intel Atom CPU, 16GB of flash storage, a 5.6-inch WSVGA TFT touch-screen display and an accompanying stylus.
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    8 - 2009: The Toughbook CF-H1
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    2009: The Toughbook CF-H1

    The CF-H1 was what Panasonic called a "Mobile Clinical Assistant" for use by medical workers. The machine had no exterior seams so it could be easily wiped clean and disinfected with standard medical cleaning liquids. The CF-H1 featured a 1.86GHz Intel Atom CPU, an 80GB hard drive and a 10.4-inch XGA touch-screen display, and it ran Windows Vista Business.
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    9 - 2012: The Toughpad FZ-A1
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    2012: The Toughpad FZ-A1

    By 2012, as tablets were taking the market by storm, Panasonic introduced its first Toughpad tablet model, the Toughpad FZ-A1. The ruggedized machine featured a 1.20GHz Marvell dual-core CPU, 16GB of flash storage, Android 4.0, satellite GPS and a digital compass, and a 10.1-inch touch screen. The tablet was drop resistant to 5.9 feet and met MIL-STD 810G standards for resistance to dirt, dust, moisture and temperature extremes.
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    10 - 2015: The Toughbook CF-54
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    2015: The Toughbook CF-54

    Built as a semi-rugged notebook with an integrated carrying handle, magnesium on all four sides and a spill-proof inner surface, the CF-54 was aimed as a tough laptop for business professionals. The machine featured a 2.4GHz Intel Core i5 CPU, a quick-release 500GB hard drive or 256GB SSD, Windows 10 Pro, 11 hours of battery life and a sunlight-viewable touch-screen display that could be operated using gloves.
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    11 - 2016: The Toughbook CF-20
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    2016: The Toughbook CF-20

    The CF-20 is a rugged fully detachable notebook and tablet two-in-one hybrid machine that can be positioned in six different modes for various tasks. The machine features an Intel Core m5-6Y57 CPU, a 256GB SSD, a 10.1-inch WUXGA touch-screen display and Microsoft Windows 10 Pro.
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    12 - 2016: The Toughpad FZ-N1 Handheld
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    2016: The Toughpad FZ-N1 Handheld

    Also in 2016, the Toughpad FZ-N1 was launched as a rugged Android 5.1 handheld with a 4.7-inch display, a 2.3GHz Qualcomm quad-core CPU, 2GB of memory, 4G LTE connectivity and a 3,200mAh Li-ion battery. The FZ-N1 essentially is a handheld that combines a smartphone with a tablet and a rear-facing barcode reader. 
 

Since Panasonic launched its first Toughbook ruggedized portable computer in 1996, the line has come a long way, from the first clunky brief-case-like model CF-25 to a lineup that now includes Toughpad tablets, two-in-one detachables and more. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the machines, Panasonic created an online timeline that marks key models and features, and is sponsoring a special online contest that seeks entries from Toughbook owners who have been using their machines since the start. The contest's prize is an all-expenses-paid, four-night trip for two to Japan—the birthplace of the Toughbook—where the winner will tour the Toughbook factory in Kobe in May 2017. Toughbooks became popular largely due to their ability to survive in tough environmental conditions doled out by businesses. The machines are built to stand up in wet conditions in factories or outdoor workplaces, while withstanding serious drops and bumps when used by workers in oil and gas exploration, mining, trucking and other industries. Peruse this eWEEK slide show for highlights of 20 years of Toughbooks.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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