Screen Test

Other important innovations appeared in the Eighties that were to contribute to the way laptops are built today. The first touchpad arrived in 1984 along with the Gavilan SC, and the very first IBM-compatible portable in 1983 – the Compaq Portable – but these were just tentative first steps. The big advances were yet to materialise.

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The laptop wouldn’t be what it is today without the development of certain key technologies. The screen, battery and storage, power saving components and PC compatibility all needed to improve, but were still in their infancy throughout the Eighties.

Screens, for instance, remained stubbornly grey, apart from the occasional exception, until the early Nineties. The Apple Macintosh portable (1989), for instance, was one of the first to feature an active matrix 640 x 400 screen, which eradicated the horrible blurring that most other portable computer screens were afflicted with. The Commodore SX-64, a luggable version of the company’s popular desktop Commodore 64 computer, was the first to feature a colour screen – a tiny five inch CRT. And a few other machines opted for sharper, monochrome plasma screens –Toshiba’s T3200 featured a bright orange 740 x 400 resolution panel in 1987 – though these weren’t popular due to the amount of power they consumed.
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The Macintosh Portable employed one of the earliest examples of an active matrix screen - it was still monochrome though.
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Two technologies then arrived that turned the world of portable computing on its head. First, colour STN (super twisted nematic) and DSTN (dual scan super twist nematic) screens brought colour to the laptop. But the technology was still far from ideal. Anyone who remembers the early days of laptops with DSTN or STN screens will remember blurring, ghosting, streaking, poor visibility in bright light … and a headache at the end of a day working with them. Despite the flaws, machines with these passive matrix screens continued to be sold into the mid-nineties because of their low cost and minimal power consumption.
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Today we take full colour active matrix TFT screens like this for granted.
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Then, in around 1992/3, the laptop got its big screen breakthrough. This was the year when the very first full-colour active matrix TFT screens began to appear, the forerunners of today’s glorious widescreen displays. Toshiba’s T3400CT was launched, sporting a 256-colour 7.4in screen. Fujitsu produced the FMV-433N with a 10.4in colour TFT panel. And the very first IBM Thinkpad appeared at this time, also with a 10.4in colour screen, kicking off a brand that is still going strong today.

At last laptop owners could begin to experience life in full colour, without having to put up with a psychedelic experience on screen. The modern laptop was born.

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