It’s been 30 years since the first popular, portable computer with a clamshell case was released. That means the Grid Compass had a built-in keyboard and display, and you could fold the screen over the keys to close the computer up like a book.
Time Techland’s Harry McCracken takes a walk down memory lane, looking at some of the ways clamshell computers have changed (and haven’t) over the past three decades.
Today’s laptops are thinner, lighter, cheaper, and get better battery life than their early cousins. They also feature integrated pointing devices, and some have touchscreens as well. But the basic format hasn’t changed much: Keyboard, screen, and hinge.
Clamshell notebooks aren’t the only game in mobile computing anymore. Tablets, smartphones, and even wearable computers are all starting to fill some of the needs originally served by laptops.
But many iPad users still pair Bluetooth keyboards with their tablets to make them a little more laptop-like, and one of the most popular lines of Android tablets is the Asus Transformer Pad family — with an optional keyboard docking station.
What’s one of the key things setting Microsoft’s upcoming Surface tablets apart from the iPad, Google Nexus 7, and other modern tablets? A case with a built-in keyboard.
While tablet and smartphone sales continue to rise, it’s clear that there’s still demand for a basic clamshell/laptop-style device with a screen and keyboard. There aren’t many combinations that are better for entering large amounts of text — unless you’re cool with using voice recognition and talking to yourself in public.
What do you think? Are clamshell computers here to stay, or are you ready to move on?