Category Archives: IBM

IBM 5100: The World’s First Portable Computer Will Shock You

The IBM 5100 was considered at the time to be the world’s first portable computer. Weighing in at 50 lbs, the machine would have most likely cut off the circulation to your legs after an hour so of use, but this machine was the father of the modern day laptop.

Let’s look at some specs, shall we? 

The monitor (if you can call it that!) was only 5.5 inches, about the size of a small tablet of today. The kicker is that it could only handle 16 lines of text!  No hard drive on this baby either. It used a 1/4 inch magnetic “tape” to store its data.

If you are old enough to remember the old IBM typewriters that adorned every office in America, you will know the size of the portable computer.  It was debuted to the public in September of 1975 at a cost of….wait for it….$8995! Now every engineer and statistician in America could bring their computer along with them on the road. No need for a large room to store a mainframe! 

This beauty came in 12 different models, starting at 16k (yes, K!) and working its way up to 64K of main storage capacity.  All the bells and whistles in the super duper 5100 would set you back almost $20 Grand! ($19,975 to be exact). The 5100 was available with either APL or BASIC — or both — programming languages.

If you think a 50-pound laptop is bad, consider that not more than a decade earlier, an IBM computer with similar capabilities would have filled a small bedroom and weighed about 1000 lbs! So next time you complain about lugging that laptop around, or having to shell out $1000 for your next machine, consider just how far we have come!

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