The NEC UltraLite defined the modern notebook on its release in 1988.

A notebook computer or notebook was historically a laptop whose length and width approximate that of letter paper (8.5 by 11 inches or 220 by 280 millimetres).[a]

The term notebook was coined to describe slab-like portable computers that had a letter-paper footprint, such as Epson's HX-20 and Tandy's TRS-80 Model 100 of the early 1980s. The popularity of this form factor waned in the middle of the decade, as larger, clamshell-style laptops offered far more capability. In 1988, NEC's UltraLite defined a new category of notebook: it achieved IBM PC compatibility, making it technically as versatile as the largest laptops, while occupying a letter-paper footprint in a clamshell case. A handful of computer manufacturers followed suit with their own notebooks, including Compaq, whose successful LTE achieved full feature parity with laptops and spurred many others to produce their own notebooks. By 1991, the notebook industry was in full swing.

Notebooks and laptops occupied distinct market segments into the mid-1990s, but customer preference for larger screens led to notebooks converging with laptops in the late 1990s. Since the early 2000s, the terms laptop and notebook are used interchangeably, irrespective of physical dimensions, with laptop being the more common term in English-speaking territories.

Etymology

The Epson HX-20 from 1982 was the first portable computer to be called a "notebook".

The terms laptop and notebook both trace their origins to the early 1980s, coined to describe portable computers in a size class smaller than the contemporary mainstream units (so-called "luggables") but larger than pocket computers.[2][3] The etymologist William Safire traced the origin of laptop to some time before 1984;[4] the earliest attestation of laptop found by the Oxford English Dictionary dates to 1983.[5] The word is modeled after the term desktop, as in desktop computer.[4] Notebook, meanwhile, emerged earlier in 1982[6] to describe Epson's HX-20 portable, whose dimensions roughly correspond to a letter-sized pad of paper.[3][7]: 9 [8]

History

In the mid-1980s, notebooks and laptops came to represent differing form factors of portable computer in the technology press, with notebooks possessing simplified hardware and a slab-like appearance with exposed keyboard (typified by the HX-20 and the TRS-80 Model 100); and laptops possessing more advanced hardware and a clamshell case to protect the keyboard.[9][10] These early notebooks were all but discontinued by 1987, with laptops gaining favor due to their increased versatility.[10]

The Sharp PC-4641, a laptop released in the same month as the UltraLite. Larger laptops continued to be marketed alongside notebooks for several years.

By this point, however, laptops were gaining hardware features faster than the industry could miniaturize their parts, leading to very heavy laptops—some upwards of 20 pounds (9.1 kg).[11]: 16 [12] In October 1988, NEC released the UltraLite, the first notebook-sized clamshell laptop compatible with the IBM PC. The term notebook was promptly revived by journalists to describe the new class of laptop that the UltraLite had invented.[11]: 16 [13] Competitors soon came out with competing models, and while initial entries like the UltraLite made concessions in terms of data storage compatibility,[14][b] Compaq's LTE line of notebooks in 1989 was the first to have full feature parity with the heaviest laptops of the time and jumpstarted the industry for these new notebooks, with scores of other manufacturers announcing their own notebooks.[15][16] In direct response to Compaq,[17]: 59 [18]: 75  both Apple and IBM, top players in the computer industry, made their hotly anticipated entries in the notebook market in 1991, respectively, with the PowerBook and the PS/2 Note (a predecessor to the ThinkPad).[19][20] Under the aegis of the Industrial Technology Research Institute, dozens of Taiwanese computer manufacturers formed a consortium to mass manufacture notebook computers starting in 1991. These Taiwanese notebook computers soon flooded the West, bringing the cost of notebooks down on the low end of the market.[21][22]

Laptops and notebooks continued to occupy discrete market segments into the mid-1990s, with unit sales tracked separately by research firms such as Dataquest.[23][24] Notebooks were seen as having a footprint exactly that of or smaller than letter paper (8.5 by 11 inches or 22 by 28 centimetres),[a] while laptops were larger.[24] This distinction was considered important to business buyers, whose attaché cases often had a compartment exactly that size.[25] An additional distinction was weight, with 8 pounds (3.6 kg) a loose upper limit for what journalists would consider a "notebook" in the press.[26] Aside from size and weight considerations, notebooks were also seen as more sleek and stylish than the bulkier laptops.[27] Compared to notebooks, however, laptops saw quicker improvements in processing speed and memory; featured better upgradability; and were less easy to steal.[28] In addition, the earliest notebooks had monochrome-only LCDs, whereas laptops had color LCDs since 1989 (with NEC's ProSpeed CSX).[29][30] Others still preferred laptops for their keyboards, which featured fuller-sized layouts and often superior build quality; journalists evaluated the keyboard poorly in most early notebooks.[31][32]

The year 1991 saw the first notebooks with color displays,[33] as well as the emergence of subnotebooks, which occupy a size class in between notebooks and palmtop PCs.[34][35] By late 1992, the higher-end notebooks had run into the same miniaturization issues that laptops had encountered in the 1980s, with some notebooks weighing as much as 14 pounds (6.4 kg).[36]

Starting in 1997, screen sizes in notebook computers began increasing rapidly, fueled by consumer preference toward larger displays over compactness.[37] The emergence of LCD panels larger than 12.1 inches diagonally in early 1997 led to the breaking of the 8.5-by-11-inch size barrier.[38][39] By 1999, portable manufacturers had started integrating 13-, 14-, and even 15-inch LCD panels on their notebooks.[40] Ergonomic considerations, as well the integration of pointing devices such as touchpads, also necessitated increasing the size of laptops to accommodate a larger palm rest area. These developments led to the distinction between and laptops and notebooks becoming blurred by the early 2000s. In English-speaking territories, laptop is now the more common term to describe any clamshell portable computer—notebook-sized or otherwise—likely because of the lack of ambiguity with actual paper notebooks.[41]

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ a b In countries observing ISO 216, A4-sized paper (210 by 297 millimetres or 8.27 by 11.7 inches) was used as the benchmark for the dimensions of notebooks.[1]
  2. ^ For example, the UltraLite as shipped supported only proprietary solid-state RAM and ROM cartridges to exchange data, as opposed to the standard (for the time) floppy disk.[15]

References

  1. ^ Hart, Norman; John Stapleton (2012). The CIM Marketing Dictionary. Taylor & Francis. p. 205. ISBN 9781136008344 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Reid, T. R. (October 10, 1988). "The Latest Wave in Personal Computers Is Small but Fast". The Washington Post: F28. Archived from the original on May 5, 2024.
  3. ^ a b Williams, Gregg (April 1982). "The First Byte-Sized Computer". Byte. 7 (4). McGraw-Hill: 104–105 – via the Internet Archive.
  4. ^ a b Safire, William (2011) [1993]. Quoth the Maven: More on Language from William Safire. Random House Publishing Group. p. 352. ISBN 9780307799746 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ "laptop, n. & adj". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. n.d. Archived from the original on May 5, 2024.
  6. ^ "notebook computer, n." Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. n.d. Archived from the original on May 5, 2024.
  7. ^ Needle, David (December 13, 1982). "Crowds converge on NE Computer Show". InfoWorld. 4 (49). IDG Publications: 1, 9–11 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ Needle, David (May 14, 1984). "Epson's PX-8 lap computer". InfoWorld. 6 (20). IDG Publications: 9 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ Editor (July 1986). "Cover Story". PC Magazine. 5 (13). Ziff-Davis: 8 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ a b Winter, Christine (April 24, 1988). "Lean to Laptops Appears to Be More Than Fitting". Chicago Tribune: 1 – via ProQuest.
  11. ^ a b Gookin, Dan (2005). Laptops for Dummies. Wiley. pp. 7–17. ISBN 9780764575556 – via Google Books.
  12. ^ Reid, T. R. (July 31, 1989). "Laptops and Workstations: Opposite Ends in a Crowded PC Market". The Washington Post: F22. Archived from the original on May 5, 2024. On the small side, computer makers are responding with alacrity to the complaints about the sheer heft of the PCs that now are sold under the label 'laptop'.
  13. ^ Carroll, Paul B. (October 5, 1988). "Laptop Computer Market Heats Up with New Models". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company: 1 – via ProQuest. ... thin enough to fit in an interoffice envelope, the NEC [UltraLite] even revived talk of 'notebook computers'.
  14. ^ Lewis, Peter H. (July 23, 1989). "Honey, They Shrunk the Computer". The New York Times: A11. Archived from the original on May 25, 2015.
  15. ^ a b Lewis, Peter H. (October 17, 1989). "Compaq Does It Again". The New York Times: C8. Archived from the original on October 19, 2023.
  16. ^ Bridges, Linda (March 1, 1999). "Making a Difference". eWeek. Ziff-Davis: 76 – via Gale.
  17. ^ Thomke, Stefan H. (2007). "Apple PowerBook: Design Quality and Time to Market". Managing Product and Service Department: Text and Cases. McGraw-Hill/Irwin. pp. 59–82. ISBN 9780073023014 – via the Internet Archive.
  18. ^ Dell, Deborah A. (2000). ThinkPad: A Different Shade of Blue. Sams Publishing. pp. 75–78. ISBN 9780672317569 – via the Internet Archive.
  19. ^ Siegmann, Ken (October 21, 1991). "Apple Finally Enters Notebook Market". San Francisco Chronicle: B1 – via ProQuest.
  20. ^ Staff writer (March 25, 1992). "I.B.M. Enters U.S. Notebook PC Market". The New York Times: D7. Archived from the original on May 26, 2015.
  21. ^ Sanderson, Susan Walsh; Mustafa Uzumeri (1997). Managing Product Families. McGraw-Hill. pp. 57–59. ISBN 9780256228977 – via the Internet Archive.
  22. ^ Hollis, Robert (January 27, 1991). "Little 'notebook' computers expected to hit market in a big way". The San Diego Union. Union-Tribune Publishing: I-1 – via ProQuest.
  23. ^ Haggett, Scott (November 3, 1992). "Computer makers turn laptop, notebook front into high-tech war zone". The Financial Post: L14 – via Newspapers.com.
  24. ^ a b Vowels, Andrew (March 1995). "Have computer, will travel". CMA. 69 (2). Society of Management Accountants of Canada: 16–19 – via ProQuest.
  25. ^ Greene, Martin (March 1992). "Traveling Desktops". Black Enterprise. 22 (8). Earl G. Graves Publishing: 39 – via ProQuest.
  26. ^ Staff writer (November 1994). "The Virtual Corporation". Canadian Business. 67 (11). Rogers Publishing: 97, 99 et seq. – via ProQuest.
  27. ^ Scheier, Robert L. (November 12, 1990). "Users opt for notebook PCs to avoid 'klutz' image". PC Week. 7 (45). Ziff-Davis: S9 et seq. – via Gale.
  28. ^ Perrault, Michael (July 9, 1993). "New line of shrinking computers gains acceptance". Denver Business Journal. 44 (43). American City Business Journals: 24 et seq. – via Gale.
  29. ^ Zuin, Daniela; Angela Annesley (April 24, 1991). "Portables". PC User (157). EMAP Media: 105 et seq. – via Gale.
  30. ^ Krohn, Nico (July 11, 1990). "Color LCDs Come of Age on Laptops". InfoWorld. 12 (24). IDG Publications: 1, 109 – via Google Books.
  31. ^ Suplee, Curt (April 2, 1991). "Laptops in One Sitting: The Ins and Outs, Turn-ons & Turnoffs in the Portables Field". The Washington Post: E5. Archived from the original on May 5, 2024.
  32. ^ Stewart, Doug (Fall 1992). "The Office to Go". Inc. 14 (12). Mansueto Ventures: 26 et seq. – via Gale.
  33. ^ Miyazawa, Masayuki (October 7, 1991). "World's first color notebook PC debuts". Newsbytes. The Washington Post Company – via Gale.
  34. ^ Boudette, Neal (November 4, 1991). "PC makers eye subnotebook market for 1992". PC Week. 8 (44). Ziff-Davis: 1 et seq. – via Gale.
  35. ^ Reid, T. R. (April 6, 1992). "Honey, They Shrunk the Computer—Again". The Washington Post: F18. Archived from the original on May 5, 2024.
  36. ^ McCormick, John (August 31, 1992). "Fast Notebook Computers". Government Computer News. 11 (18). 1105 Media: 77 et seq. – via Gale.
  37. ^ Striegler, Thomas D. (May 1997). "The Asian LCD Market". Solid State Technology. 40 (5). PennWell Publishing: 62 et seq. – via Gale.
  38. ^ April, Carolyn A. (December 16, 1996). "Big screens coming to little notebooks". InfoWorld. 18 (51). IDG Publications: 29 – via Google Books.
  39. ^ DiCarlo, Lisa (July 22, 1996). "Obstacles delay adoption of 13.3-inch notebook screen". PC Week. 13 (29). Ziff-Davis: 27 – via Gale. 'It violates a form factor', said Tuan Tran, product manager in Hewlett-Packard Co.'s mobile computing division, in Corvallis, Ore. 'The 12.1-inch screens fit into an 8.5-by-11-inch package. But this will fundamentally change the size of notebooks'.
  40. ^ Sims, Calvin (September 28, 1999). "Asia Fires Its Rounds in the Flat-Screen War". The New York Times: 1. Archived from the original on May 27, 2015.
  41. ^ Mueller, Scott (2004). Upgrading and Repairing Laptops. Que. p. 2. ISBN 9780789728005 – via Google Books.