1988 vs. 2008: A Tech Retrospective

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Laptop PCs

The Toshiba T1200H.
1988: Toshiba T1200H

  • Price: $4098 ($7182 adjusted for inflation)
  • CPU: 4.77-/9.54-MHz Intel 80C86
  • RAM: 1MB
  • Storage: 20MB hard drive, 720KB floppy drive
  • Display: 9.4-inch supertwist LCD
  • Weight: 14 pounds (including modem, charger, and case)
  • Battery life: 2 hours

The Lenovo ThinkPad X61.
2008: Lenovo ThinkPad X61

  • Price: $1724
  • CPU: 2-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Storage: 160GB HD, PC Card slot, SD Card slot, external CD/DVD recorder
  • Display: 12.1-inch 1024-by-768 LCD, 16.7 million colors
  • Weight: 3.6 pounds (6.1 pounds including adapter, ultrabase, and DVD burner)
  • Battery life: 6 hours

Laptops in Toshiba's T1200 series ranked among the most popular of their day, combining very good portability, performance, and value, and were warmly recommended in many reviews, including PC World's. Of course the definition of a "laptop" is different now, and a model that weighed 14 pounds including essential accessories such as a modem and charger would be a nonstarter--or a desktop--today.

That said, LCD laptops represented a major advance in size and weight over the CRT suitcase models that Compaq pioneered. The T1200H was doubly impressive for its 20MB hard drive--a major expense and weight in those days. Adding a 2400-baud modem would cost you another $400 or so.

How have things changed? Well, to start with, you could fit three ThinkPad X61 laptops into the same space that the Toshiba occupied, and you could run any one of those ThinkPads three times longer and many times faster than the T1200H could go. And if you did buy three ThinkPads, you still wouldn't have spent as much as you did on the Toshiba in 1988.

The future trend in portables is to get smaller and thinner, thanks to shrinking component sizes. But you can go only so low with a full-size screen and keyboard, so look for fold-up screens and keyboards that eliminate these size constraints.

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