The GRiD Compass 1100 remained in history as the first laptop computer, being used by business executives and by NASA on its Space Shuttles. So how did this computer gain its prestige?
Designed in 1979 by a British industrial designer, Bill Moggridge, the computer began selling only in 1982. The device was constantly improved, once new requirements were needed by its users. Running on an internal magnetic bubble memory (340 KB), the computer featured an Intel 8086 processor, a 320×200 screen (later enlarged to 320×240 pixels) and a full stroke 57 keys keyboard.
Before switching to MS-DOS, the original GRiD 1101 ran on its own GRiD operating system. The suite included: GRiDManager (communication and utility functions), GRiDPrint (text files), GRiDWrite (full-screen text editor), GRiDPlan (electronic worksheets), GRiDFile (database facilities), GRiDPlot (converts data to graphs), GRiDBASIC (programming language).
With its very high-tech, flat-black, die-cast magnesium-alloy case and ELD display, the computer established much of the basic design of subsequent laptop computers. Furthermore, no other system packed so much speed and power in a small case and none had such a unique, large and easy-to-read screen. However, all these features led to a high price ($8150), the GRiD compass 1101 being also one of the most expensive personal computers you could buy.
Its advanced functionalities and sleek design contributed to its usage by many institutions such as the US government, the US military (especially on naval vessels and for paratroopers) and is remembered for being used by NASA on its 1980’s Space Shuttles.