Tuesday, January 15, 2008

MacBook Air - Almost as Thin as a Sinclair ZX80

I just watched the photos and text from today's keynote at MacWorld. Steve Jobs unveiled the MacBook Air, described as the world's thinnest notebook computer. I suddenly recalled being at a computer graphics user group at UCSC, circa 1982.

One of the hobbyists in that group had a Sinclair ZX80, a kit computer from the UK that was notable as the first personal computer available for under £100. The thing that makes me think of that early PC in relation to Apple's new notebook is that the ZX80 was even smaller and thinner than a MacBook Air. We usually think of early PC's as chunky monstrosities like the Osborne 1 or the Commodore PET that nonetheless cost over $1500.

It's interesting to recall that more than 25 years ago, the $100 portable computer was a reality, though with far less computing power than a modern alarm clock.

3 comments:

Matt Chaput said...

I think you're misremembering. Go to wikipedia and look at the ZX80 and ZX81 -- they're both quite thick. They were awfully cheap, though :)

Bill Karwin said...

Well, I looked at the picture in Wikipedia before I made my post. It looked exactly how I remembered it. It had a membrane keyboard, which made that part of the ZX80 so thin that it actually felt quite flimsy. But you're right, the riser behind the keyboard was thicker.

Anonymous said...

That brings back memories; I had a Spectrum, which was a ZX80/81 update that had colour output and more RAM (up to a massive 48k !)

One thing that made the ZX computers thin was that they didn't have a display or onboard storage - you had to hook them up to a TV and a cassette recorder for that.