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The Compaq Portable Computer Print E-mail


The Compaq portable computer was the first computer made by Compaq and was the first computer that was one hundred percent IBM PC compatible. This is important because after Compaq came out with the computer other companies such as HP, GRiD, Packard Bell and others were able to come out with their own versions of a pc clone, which helped start the computer boom in the mid 1980s.

The computer was to be portable and easy to transport however, the computer weighs about 30 pounds and resembles a suitcase, which made it hard to handle but it was still better than the alternative, which was carrying the computer, monitor and keyboard separately.

In order for Compaq to make a computer that was completely compatible to the IBM PC they had to have a bios (firmware that controls the computer) that functioned exactly as the one IBM used. The only way to do this was to copy the bios, which IBM had published the source code for so anyone could look at it but due to copyright laws it could not be used by any other company. A company called Phoenix solved Compaq’s problem. Phoenix formed two groups, one was made of engineers that were expert programmers and a second group that had never seen the source code to the IBM bios which if they had to could go to court and prove they have no prior knowledge about the source code for the bios. The first group took the bios apart and made very detailed notes listing what the IBM bios did but never listed how the bios did it. After the first group was done the second group took the notes and wrote a bios that functioned exactly as the IBM bios did therefore making a bios that was one hundred percent compatible with the IBM bios and since it was not copied it did not violate any copyright laws. Compaq was the first company to use the Phoenix bios to make an IBM pc clone.


Key Dates: Announced November 1982
Released March 1983
Original Price with one floppy drive: $3000
Original Price with two floppy drives: $3590

The first version came with:
Memory: 128K ram expandable to 256K, expandable to 640K via IBM PC bus cards
Disk Drive one double density 5 1/4" 360K floppy disk drive
CPU: Intel 8088, 4.77 MHz
Operating System: Microsoft MS-DOS Most recent version of MS-DOS that will run is Dos 3.2
Display: Internal 9" monochrome (green) monitor 25 X 80 text
Ports: 2 parallel, 1 serial

It was possible to add a second internal 5 1/4" 360KB diskette drive and shortly after introduction, it was possible to add a ten-megabyte hard drive instead of having a second floppy drive. The computer also had the option of adding an external monitor and had a composite connector to make it possible to plug the computer into a TV.