Today, there are so many different ‘featherweight’ laptops available, and most of them weigh under 5 pounds. With so many lightweight options available, it’s almost hard to believe that at one time portable computers were around 28 pounds—almost six times heavier. But at the time, it was revolutionary.
In November 1982, Compaq announced their Portable PC—one of the first machines of its kind. It changed the computer industry and paved the way for industry giants like Microsoft and Intel. This Tech Time Warp looks back at the Compaq Portable PC and how it paved the way for emerging technology.
Investing in reverse engineering
The Compaq Portable PC was the first ever 100-percent IBM-compatible computer, running software programs designed for the IBM PC. The company invested one million dollars to reverse engineer the IBM-BIOS (Basic Input / Output System) and rebuilt a new BIOS from scratch to avoid any copyright infringement. Their investment quickly paid off, and in the first year Compaq made $111 million—selling 53,000 units in the first 12 months.
Shortly after the release of the Compaq Portable PC, the inevitable IBM lawsuit came—and it was quickly dismissed. This quickly led other companies to release new IBM-compatible clones as well. Compaq remained in the lead and was one of the fastest start-ups in its time to hit the $100 million mark.
IBM soon released a portable PC of their own, but Compaq model was more compatible—eventually outselling IBM portable PCs 10 to 1 and snagging 83 percent of the personal computer market by 1996. In September 2001, Compaq merged with HP, and together they created a corporation worth $87 billion.