back to article Great and Good honour the designer of world's first laptop

The British designer of the world's first laptop has pipped Vivienne Westwood to win the 2010 Prince Philip Designer prize. Bill Moggridge was commissioned by John Ellenby, the founder of a Silicon Valley start-up called GRiD, to design a powerful computer with an electronic display. Moggridge came up with a physical …


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  1. Goat Jam

    Ahhh, those were the days

    I pine for the old days when innovation was king and anyone who had an idea could whack together a prototype and run with it. Geeks ruled and hacking abounded.

    These days PC developments have been repressed by the dead hand of corporate greed and suppressed by monopolist control.

    The hackers of the OSS community are the evolution of the Computer Clubs of the 70's and 80's and thank god they are still doing OK. For me, playing with Linux evokes some of the geeky fun that was common back then and it would be a shame if the likes of Microsoft are able to ever shut them down for good to suit their own bottom line.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Not sure I want the bad karma, but...

      This is part of what annoys me about Jobs, Gates, et al.

      They were all a part of the hacking community originally, and started their respective empires from it. Then, when it suited them, they switched to trying to prevent the same communities from getting involved in what they've created.

      I realise they each have their own visions, but I've always found their ire at the hacking/modding/OSS communities counterproductive and unnecessary (for everyone).

  2. David Haig

    Great machine

    Loved the GRiD - Magnesium alloy case with the interchangable PSU and battery pack which meant ,under mains power, you really could cook eggs on the flat surface behind the screen !

    It might have been heavy but it replaced one of the IBM luggables (sewing machine case) and we only gave it up when the Amstrad 386 portable arrived. Even then it was being used to control CCTV cameras right up until 1998 when I moved on.

  3. banjomike
    Thumb Up

    Wow, memories

    I used one of these. Magnesium case, no harddisk, no fan, therefore totally silent. A crowd gatherer like no other computer before or since.

    Unfortunately they were replaced by the GRIDcase and other with a appallingly unreliable metal cased external power supply which could be shoved into a metal-lined hole in the magnesium case where it would first overheat then fail. My company used to get replacement power supplies from GRiD Uk quite literally by the case full.

    Fun machine tho'.

  4. Timo

    Heavier than lead

    We had one of these in a van full of test equipment to collect data when we drove around to make improvements to the cellular networks. That thing took a beating for years. I just remember how impossibly heavy it was, with the thick magnesium case. Also got impossibly hot without overheating. And that was back in 1991.

    To collect location data we had that navigation system that used a compass and wheel sensors. It was long before GPS had been invented. Cannot remember the name of that. People thought we were with the FBI or something with all of those antennas and screens.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      The great thing about impossibly hot magnesium

      is that its weight rapidly becomes the least of your problems

    2. Marvin the Martian

      That's why they took it into space

      Weightless, eh?

  5. Anonymous Coward

    "NASA astronauts even took their GRiDs to space."

    I thought you needed mil-spec chips otherwise they fried as they went trough the Van Alien belt. No winder it was so expensive if it was mil spec.

    Penguin 'cos they can fly so high too.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      And so do people generally one stays way below those belts.

      Low Earth Orbit, right?

    2. Anonymous Coward


      ..this was the days when things tended to be massively over engineered. We an old Nortel Option 81 PBX huilt in 1756 that took a lightning strike up up one of it's lines. Fried several cards (yes one had melted), killed a PSU and chared some of the housing (these things are the size of a Van BTW), but the bloody thing kept working, all be it with a few dozen phones down.

      Don't make 'em like they used to.

    3. Edwin

      not mil-spec

      I think the requirements for space use are a little heaver - like radiation-hardening and truly extreme temperature differences.

    4. Robajob

      What exactly

      is a Van Alien belt?

      1. JaimieV
        Thumb Up

        It's like a Van Allen belt,

        but wearing deely-boppers and a water cooler on its head.

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Gene Cash Silver badge

    @Goat Jam

    Yeah, that's what happens when hardware becomes standardized & commodity. OTOH, it also becomes relatively cheap. Take a look at the price tag on the GRID and honestly tell me you want to go back to shelling out that much dosh for a computer.

    It's not corporate greed, it's consumer greed, bucko. And it's not monopolist, it's standard. You go out there, "whack together a prototype" and make a non-PC-compatible and tell me how much it sells.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You missed the point completely


  8. viet 1

    Object of lust

    When I was a kid, I remember seeing the first ads for this computer while I was struggling to pile up enough money for a desktop PC/XT clone, and literally feeling my jaw drop with envy in front of the pictures.

    "Buble memory" was hot tech in those times. Funny thing to see it brought back to life under the SSD guise today.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Luggable? I say portable

    My Alienware laptop has 5,5 Kg. I say it's ok to carry it it's not yet luggable. It's way better than my first Toshiba Laptop (7Kg) in the 90's. What is a bit hard though is when I carry an extra laptop in the same bag - only thing keeping me happy then is that no one will be able to steal the bag in a run-by attempt. The magic laptop bag weighs over 10 Kg and requires careful strong holding if one wants to lift it.

    Paris, because she could use an Alienware laptop to increase the cool factor.

  10. Graham Bartlett

    @AC, rad-hardening

    If you need it to work for long periods of time and you can't afford it to fail, then rad-hardening is pretty much compulsory, even at LEO. But if you only want to type up your lab notes, who cares? NASA astronauts have been using COTS laptops for non-critical computing for as long as laptops have been available.

  11. Framitz
    Thumb Up

    Been there, done that, seen it.

    I remember the Grid Compass. It was top of the line in it's day.

    They were the first portable computers we used on board air craft for various Air Force missions.

    1. The Infamous Grouse

      Military applications

      This also saw service with the Colonial Marine Corps, as a control console for UA571-C robot sentry guns. I seem to remember seeing that in a documentary or something a few years back.

  12. David Given

    Laptopos IN SPAAAAACE!

    The main thing you need to do to a computer when you take it into space is rejig all the ventilation. Most computers these days rely heavily on convection to take hot air away from the machine --- even a tiny amount makes a huge difference. In free fall there isn't any convection, and the hot air will just build up inside the computer getting hotter and hotter. Also, of course, you need a specialist power supply (no mains on the ISS).

    Here's an old but interesting article on the space station computer systems:

    Alien. Because, duh.

  13. kwhitefoot

    @David Given: Laptopos IN SPAAAAACE!

    Are you sure about convection and laptops? All the laptops I have had in recent years are utterly dependent on the CPU fan. One Thinkpad T42p fan has failed twice and without it the CPU temperature climbs to 90C within 20 minutes and soon after it shuts down. I suspect that with the fan the cooling would be fine whatever the orientation and whatever the acceleration (alright, as long as it is reasonably uniform and not so high that bits fall off).

    1. Matt_payne666


      All the hardcore toughbook line are totally fanless and suffer no overheat issues :) the joys of a solid magnisum case ;)

      oddly those are also availiable in various guises one of which being zone1 so useable in explosive gas environments, not sure on radiation though...

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