Vintage tech

Vintage tech: Xerox NoteTaker

Vintage techDeveloped by Xerox in 1978, the NoteTaker was arguably the first portable computer. The unit did not actually make it to commercial production. Only 10 prototypes were built. Still, the design and programming affected the design of the portable computers in the years to follow.

The team behind the NoteTaker included some of the greatest minds in technology – Adele Goldberg, Douglas Fairbairn, and Larry Tesler. The machine borrowed heavily from Alan Kay’s Dynabook concept which was developed in 1972, but was never commercially developed.

The unit’s technology was cutting-edge for its time. It included a small monochrome display monitor, a floppy disk drive and a mouse. A comparatively enormous 256 KB of RAM was available on the machine as well as an impressive 5 MHz Intel 8086 CPU.

One of the first Graphical User Interfaces was employed, the Smalltalk OS which was originally written for the Xerox Alto computer. The NoteTaker also boasted a analogue-to-digital converter with an eight input multiplexer on the input, and a two channel digital-to-analogue converter, interfaces—ethernet, EiA, and IEEE bus interface. It was – in the most literal sense of the term – portable, in that it could be lugged around in a case similar in size to a sewing kit. With its advanced technologies, it is likely that the NoteTaker would have hit a price point above $50,000.

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