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A Look Back At The First Commercial For A Portable Computer

by Sean P. Aune | March 22, 2010

I bet you think you’re so cool with your netbook don’t you?  “Oh, look at me carrying around my little two-pound computer with all this memory and RAM, running my Windows 7!  I’m so cool!”  You wanna know what makes you cool?  Carrying around a “portable” computer that doubles as your workout for the day!

Back in 1975, IBM came out with a “portable computer” that would ease so many aspects of your life as the video demonstrates.  And, by the way, “portable” is qualified as weighing “only 50 pounds.”  I use 45 pound dumbbells when I work out at home, true it’s one in each hand, but the idea of my “portable computer” weighing slightly more than that frightens me.

ibm5100adThis monster of a computer came in various models that included memory options of 16 KB, 32 KB, 48 KB or 64 KB.  It had a five-inch CRT monitor built-in, a magnetic tape, options for BASIC and APL interpreters and it could be hooked to an external television set/monitor, but that would remove the “portability” of the device, which is sure to be the whole reason you bought this device.

So how much would this cost you in 1975?  Well, not even figuring in inflation, these things were expensive by any standard.  How do prices between $8,975 and $19,975 hit you?  That price today would make you fall over, but in 1975 dollars you were talking a small fortune.

And if you think of those prices, then look back at the commercial, you start laughing even harder.  It wasn’t just the poor fashion choices or the mutton chops, but the idea that a cattle rancher was dropping that sort of money on a device that will help them make a choice about feed options?  As someone who lives in a farming community … yeah, that isn’t happening.

While it’s fun to look back at something like this and laugh, I am sure people in 2045 looking back at computer commercials from 2010 will laugh about pricing, specs, weight and the fact we didn’t have them built into our brains.  So time will always make things look quaint and hysterical, so we have to remember that someday people will do the same to us.

… all, that said I have watched this video like six times now and can’t stop laughing.  “… it weighs about 50-lbs …”


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Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...


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