Compaq Portable is an early portable computer which was one of the
IBM PC compatible systems. It was Compaq Computer
Corporation's first product, to be followed by others in the Compaq
portable series and later
Compaq Deskpro series.
7 External links
Compaq Portable was announced in November 1982 and first shipped
in March 1983, priced at US $2,995 (equivalent to $7,400 in
2017) with a single half-height 5¼" 360 kB diskette drive or
$3,590 for dual diskette drives. The 28 lb (13 kg) Compaq
Portable folded up into a luggable case the size of a portable sewing
The computer was an early all-in-one, becoming available two years
after the CP/M-based
Osborne 1 and Kaypro II, in the same year as the
MS-DOS-based (but not entirely
IBM PC compatible) Dynalogic Hyperion,
and a year before the Commodore SX-64. Its design was influenced by
that of the Xerox NoteTaker, a prototype computer developed at Xerox
PARC in 1976.
IBM responded to the
Compaq Portable with the IBM Portable, developed
because its sales force needed a comparable computer to sell against
Compaq sold 53,000 units in the first year with a total of $111
million in revenue, an American Business record. In the second year
revenue hit $329 million setting an industry record. Third year
revenue was at $503.9 million, another US business record.
Compaq Portable has basically the same hardware as an IBM PC,
transplanted into a luggable case (specifically designed to fit as
carry-on luggage on an airplane), with Compaq's
BIOS instead of
IBM's. All Portables shipped with 128k of RAM and 1-2 double-sided
double-density 320k disk drives.
The machine uses a unique hybrid of the IBM MDA and CGA which supports
the latter's graphics modes, but contains both cards' text fonts in
ROM. When using the internal monochrome monitor the 9x14 font is
used, and the 8x8 one when an external monitor is used (the user
switches between internal and external monitors by pressing
Ctrl+Alt+>). The user can use both IBM video standards, for
graphics capabilities and high-resolution text. With a larger external
monitor, the graphics hardware is also used in the original Compaq
Deskpro desktop computer.
Front of the suitcase, with connectors for parallel and CGA port
Rear of the suitcase, with AC power input
Bottom of the suitcase with removable keyboard; stand is
Keyboard removed, computer ready for use
Running WordPerfect 5.0.
Compaq's efforts were possible because IBM had used mostly
off-the-shelf parts for the PC and published full technical
documentation for it, and because
Microsoft had kept the right to
MS-DOS to other computer manufacturers. The only difficulty
was the BIOS, because it contained IBM's copyrighted code. Compaq
solved this problem by producing a clean room workalike that performed
all documented functions of the
IBM PC BIOS, but was completely
written from scratch.
Although numerous other companies soon also began selling PC
compatibles, few matched Compaq's remarkable achievement of
essentially-complete software compatibility with the
IBM PC (typically
reaching "95% compatibility" at best) until
Phoenix Technologies and
others began selling similarly reverse-engineered BIOSs on the open
The first Portables used Compaq DOS 1.13, essentially identical to PC
DOS 1.10 except for having a standalone BASIC that did not require the
IBM PC's ROM Cassette BASIC, but this was superseded in a few months
by DOS 2.00 which added hard disk support and other advanced features.
Aside from using DOS 1.x, the initial Portables are similar to the
16k-64k models of the
IBM PC in that the
BIOS was limited to 544k of
RAM and did not support expansion ROMs, thus making them unable to use
EGA/VGA cards, hard disks, or similar hardware. After DOS 2.x and the
IBM XT came out, Compaq upgraded the BIOS. Although the Portable was
not offered with a factory hard disk, users commonly installed them.
BYTE wrote, after testing a prototype, that the
Compaq Portable "looks
like a sure winner" because of its portability, cost, and high degree
of compatibility with the IBM PC. Its reviewer tested
IBM PC DOS,
CP/M-86, WordStar, Supercalc, and several other software packages, and
found that all worked except one game.
PC Magazine also rated the
Compaq Portable very highly for compatibility, reporting that all
tested applications ran. It praised the "rugged" hardware design and
sharp display, and concluded that it was "certainly worth
consideration by anyone seeking to run
IBM PC software without an IBM
This machine was the first of a series of
Compaq Portable machines.
^ a b c "Compaq I Portable computer". www.oldcomputers.net. Retrieved
25 July 2016.
^ a b c Dahmke, Mark (January 1983). "The Compaq Portable". BYTE.
pp. 30–36. Retrieved 27 July 2013.
^ Rosenberg, Ronald (1984-02-28). "Doubts Raised About PCjr". The
^ Alsop, Stewart (1994-01-31). "A public Windows pane to make
compatibility clearer". InfoWorld. p. 102. Retrieved February 28,
^ Sandler, Corey (June 1983). "Compaq: Have Computer Will Travel". PC
Magazine. p. 186. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Compaq Portable.
Old Computers - Compaq Portable
CED in the History of Media Technology - Compaq Portable
Obsolete Computer Museum - Compaq Portable