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Soon, the official term netbook will be a remnant of the past   as will ridiculous celebrity baby names, hopefully. Constantly improving tablet computers give us new ways to be more mobile in our work and social lives than ever before. But don't mourn the netbook's passing just yet. But if and when you do, take a few minutes to consider the history of these small laptops and how they have improved technology.

 

 

The history of netbook computers goes back almost 30 years. If netbooks are just clamshell computers that can run a full operating system on battery power and are smaller than traditional laptops, the first of these devices were manufactured in the '80s and '90s. Even Apple had its hands in the pot with the PowerBook Duos. But even before that, companies like Britain's Psion and even Atari were paving the way to new mobile technologies.

Atari Portfolio
Who knew that the company that gave us one of the most fun gaming systems also made the world's first palmtop? The Pocket PC as it was first named had an Intel 80C88 with MS-DOS and a CPU speed of 4.9MHz. The OS and other applications were on an eight-line monochrome LCD that had a resolution of 240 x 64 pixels. The system, introduced in June 1989, ran on three AA batteries, and there was a button cell to keep the RAM alive when you swapped the batteries out.

The gadget was popular enough to be included in the movie "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." For $400, it could have been yours.

Poqet PC
The original Poqet PC, introduced in September 1989, had the same CPU has the Portfolio did, but clocked higher speeds at 11.9MHz. It had 512KB of memory and an extra storage slot for PCMCIA flash cards. The screen was also a step up from the Portfolio, with 640 x 200 pixels in graphics mode. The system ran MS-DOS 3.3. You could even upgrade the system   2MB of RAM and two serial ports. Yes, this was a real thing, and people were really excited about it. So excited, in fact, that people were willing to fork out $2,000 for this mobile PC. Modern-day, high-end gaming laptops cost as much as these netbooks.

HP 95LX
Before HP began storming the world with PCs, you could find its name littered all over calculators. As one of the world's biggest calculator manufacturers, Hewlett-Packard joined in the pocket computers race. April 1991 brought with it the release of the 95LX. This pocket computer had a 5.4MHz Intel V20 CPU. It ran MS-DOS 3.22 and had 1MB ROM.

The 95LX also came with a basic text editor, a calendar and software that would beam files back and forth through the device's infrared port. Also running on a pair of AA batteries, the monochrome 248 x 128 LCD screen gave you a 40 x 16 array of characters, and it only cost $700.

HP Jornada 820
Running Microsoft's Window CE OS, the Jornada from HP made its debut in 1998. The 820 had a 190MHz Intel StrongARM processor and 16MB of RAM. The 8.2-inch color display (yes, finally) had an 840 x 480 resolution and a built-in modem. There were also infrared links and CompactFlash card storage. In 2002, HP discontinued the Jornada line when the company merged with Compaq. This sub-notebook machine cost just $900 at the time of its release.

Psion netBook Series 7
In 1999, Psion released its netBook and Series 7 machines   compact PCs finally aimed at consumers instead of developers and businesses. Both of these devices had 640 x 480 color resolution touchscreen and StrongARM chip running at 190MHz in the netBook and 133MHz in the Series 7.

Psion put its own operating system in the devices, which came with personal info management, productivity and programming tools. Psion later released its upgraded netBook PRO in 2003, but it was discontinued shortly after. You could buy Psion's netBook for around $800, and the company was an advocate in persuading Intel to start design on its netbooks in 2009.

The rest is soon to be history. Although netbooks are quickly fading into the past, we are seeing improvements to 10- and 11-inch laptops such as touchscreens with greater resolution and CPUs that are more powerful. The term netbook won't be around in the years to come, but these mini computers were a stepping-stones leading toward the mobile technology in both the laptops and tablets that we have today.

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