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A laptop computer or simply laptop (also notebook computer or notebook) is a small mobile personal computer, which usually weighs 2.2-12 pounds (1-6 kilograms), depending on size, materials and other factors.
While the terms laptop and notebook are often used interchangeably, "laptop" is the older term, introduced in 1983 with the Gavilan SC. "Notebook computer" is a later coinage, which was used to differentiate smaller devices such as those of the NEC UltraLite and Compaq LTE series in 1989, which were, in contrast to previous laptops, the approximate size of an A4 paper sheet. The terms are imprecise: due to heat and other issues, many laptops are inappropriate for use on one's lap, and most notebooks are not the size of typical A4 paper notebook. Although some older portable computers, such as the Macintosh Portable and certain Zenith TurbosPort models, were sometimes described as "laptops", their size and weight were too great for this category.
Laptops usually run on a single battery or from an external AC/DC adapter which can charge the battery while also supplying power to the computer itself.
As personal computers, laptops are capable of the same tasks as a desktop PC, although they are typically less powerful for the same price. They contain components that are similar to their desktop counterparts and perform the same functions, but are miniaturized and optimized for mobile use and efficient power consumption. Laptops usually have liquid crystal displays and most of them use different memory modules for their random access memory (RAM), for instance, SO-DIMM in lieu of the larger DIMMs. In addition to a built-in keyboard, they may utilize a touchpad (also known as a trackpad) or a pointing stick for input, though an external keyboard or mouse can usually be attached.
Terms sometimes used for subtypes of laptop computers include:
- Laptops with screens typically less than 12 inches diagonally and a weight of less than 1.7kg. Their keyboards are usually not full-size. Their primary audience is usually business travelers, who need small, light laptops. Ultraportables are often very expensive, have extended battery and/or battery life, house power-saving CPUs and almost always have integrated graphics.
- Laptops usually weighing in between 1.8kg and 2.8kg with a screen size of between 12 and 14 inches diagonally.
- Medium-sized laptops
- These usually have screens of 15 - 15.4 inches diagonally and a weight of around 3-3.5kg. They usually sacrifice a little computing power for smaller dimensions and longer battery life, although the length and width are usually determined by the screen size.
- Desktop replacement computers
- Powerful laptops meant to be mainly used in a fixed location and infrequently carried out due to their weight and size; the latter provides more space for powerful components and a big screen, usually measuring 15 inches or more. Desktop replacements tend to have limited battery life, rarely exceeding three hours, because the hardware is not optimized for efficient power usage.
- School Programs
- Many schools have taken in laptop based programs in which every student receives a laptop for school use only. An operating system or other program is installed to limit the student's access to perform administrative tasks such as hardware or software installation, or operating system modifications. Students are generally permitted to use these systems to take notes, write papers, and perform other school-related activities.
Before laptop/notebook computers were technically feasible, similar ideas had been proposed, most notably Alan Kay's Dynabook concept, developed at Xerox PARC in the early 1970s.
The first commercially available portable computer was the Osborne 1 in 1981, which used the CP/M operating system. Although it was large and heavy compared to today's laptops, with a tiny CRT monitor, it had a near-revolutionary impact on business, as professionals were able to take their computer and data with them for the first time. This and other "luggables" were inspired by what was probably the first portable computer, the Xerox NoteTaker, again developed at Xerox PARC, in 1976; however, only ten prototypes were built. The Osborne was about the size of a portable sewing machine, and importantly could be carried on a commercial aircraft. However, it was not possible to run the Osborne on batteries; it had to be plugged in.
A more enduring success was the Compaq Portable, the first product from Compaq, introduced in 1983, by which time the IBM Personal Computer had become the standard platform. Although scarcely more portable than the Osborne machines, and also requiring AC power to run, it ran MS-DOS and was the first true IBM clone (IBM's own later Portable Computer, which arrived in 1984, was notably less IBM PC-compatible than the Compaq).
Another significant machine announced in 1981, although first sold widely in 1983, was the Epson HX-20. A simple handheld computer, it featured a full-transit 68-key keyboard, rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries, a small (120 x 32-pixel) dot-matrix LCD display with 4 lines of text, 20 characters per line text mode, a 24 column dot matrix printer, a Microsoft BASIC interpreter, and 16 kB of RAM (expandable to 32 kB).
However, arguably the first true laptop was the GRiD Compass 1101, designed by Bill Moggridge in 1979-1980, and released in 1982. Enclosed in a magnesium case, it introduced the now familiar clamshell design, in which the flat display folded shut against the keyboard. The computer could be run from batteries, and was equipped with a 320×200-pixel plasma display and 384 kilobyte bubble memory. It was not IBM-compatible, and its high price (US$ 8-10,000) limited it to specialized applications. However, it was used heavily by the U.S. military, and by NASA on the Space Shuttle during the 1980s. The GRiD's manufacturer subsequently earned significant returns on its patent rights as its innovations became commonplace. GRiD Systems Corp. was later bought by Tandy (RadioShack).
Two other noteworthy early laptops were the Sharp PC-5000 and the Gavilan SC, announced in 1983 but first sold in 1984. The Gavilan was notably the first computer to be marketed as a "laptop". It was also equipped with a pioneering touchpad-like pointing device, installed on a panel above the keyboard. Like the GRiD Compass, the Gavilan and the Sharp were housed in clamshell cases, but they were partly IBM-compatible, although primarily running their own system software. Both had LCD displays, and could connect to optional external printers.
The year 1983 also saw the launch of what was probably the biggest-selling early laptop, the Kyocera Kyotronic 85, which owed much to the design of the previous Epson HX-20. Although it was at first a slow seller in Japan, it was quickly licensed by Tandy Corporation, Olivetti, and NEC, which saw its potential and marketed it respectively as TRS-80 Model 100 line (or Tandy 100), Olivetti M-10, NEC PC-8201. The machines ran on standard AA batteries. The Tandy's built-in programs, including a BASIC interpreter, a text editor, and a terminal program, were supplied by Microsoft, and are thought to have been written in part by Bill Gates himself. The computer was not a clamshell, but provided a tiltable 8×40-character LCD screen above a full-travel keyboard. With its internal modem, it was a highly portable communications terminal. Due to its portability, good battery life (and ease of replacement), reliability (it had no moving parts), and low price (as little as US$ 300), the model was highly regarded, becoming a favorite among journalists. It weighed less than 2 kg with dimensions of 30 × 21.5 × 4.5 cm (12 × 8.5 × 1.75 inches). Initial specifications included 8 kilobyte of RAM (expandable to 24 kB) and a 3 MHz processor. The machine was in fact about the size of a paper notebook, but the term had yet to come into use and it was generally described as a "portable" computer.
Among the first commercial IBM-compatible laptops were the IBM PC Convertible, introduced in 1986, and two Toshiba models, the T1000 and T1200, introduced in 1987. Although limited floppy-based DOS machines, with the operating system stored in read-only memory, the Toshiba models were small and light enough to be carried in a backpack, and could be run off lead-acid batteries. These also introduced the now-standard "resume" feature to DOS-based machines: the computer could be paused between sessions, without having to be restarted each time.
Another early laptop was the Dulmont Magnum, made in Australia and launched internationally in 1984. See http://www.old-computers.com/museum/doc.asp?c=764 .
The first laptops successful on a large scale came in large part due to a Request For Proposal (RFP) by the U.S. Air Force in 1987. This contract would eventually lead to the purchase of over 200,000 laptops. Competition to supply this contract was fiercely contested and the major PC companies of the time; IBM, Toshiba, Compaq, NEC, and Zenith Data Systems (ZDS), rushed to develop laptops in an attempt to win this deal. ZDS, which had earlier won a landmark deal with the IRS for its Z-171, was awarded this contract for its SupersPort series. The SupersPort series was originally launched with an Intel 8086 processor, dual floppy disk drives, a backlit, blue and white STN LCD screen, and a NiCD battery pack. Later models featured an Intel 80286 processor and a 20MB hard disk drive. On the strength of this deal, ZDS became the world's largest laptop supplier in 1987 and 1988.
ZDS partnered with Tottori Sanyo in the design and manufacturing of these laptops. This relationship is notable because it was the first deal between a major brand and an Asian OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer). At the time, Compaq, IBM, Toshiba, NEC, etc. all designed and manufactured their own machines. However, after the success of the ZDS offering other relationships, like Compaq and Citizen, soon followed. At this time the quality of Japanese engineering and manufacturing in conjunction with the strength of the dollar relative to the yen (typically about 130 Yen = $1) drove most brands to suppliers in Japan. Companies such as Sanyo, Tottori Sanyo, Citizen, and Casio were all heavily involved in this business as OEMs. However, by the mid-1990s a weakening dollar and the rising viability of Taiwanese OEMs such as Acer, Quanta, Compal, Twinhead, and Chicony lead the supply base to rapidly shift from Japan to Taiwan. Additionally, brands which were more nimble and relied less on internal engineering such as Gateway, Dell and Micron began to rise quickly to leadership positions. Combinations such as Dell/Compal and Gateway/Quanta eventually became powerhouse partnerships and greatly contributed to the prominence of Taiwanese OEMs as the center of PC manufacturing from about 1995 onward.
Another notable computer was the Cambridge Z88, designed by Clive Sinclair, introduced in 1988. About the size of an A4 sheet of paper as well, it ran on standard batteries, and contained basic spreadsheet, word processing, and communications programs. It anticipated the future miniaturization of the portable computer; and, as a ROM-based machine with a small display, can — like the TRS-80 Model 100 — also be seen as a forerunner of the personal digital assistant.
By the end of the 1980s, laptop computers were becoming popular among business people. The NEC_UltraLite, released in mid-1989, was perhaps the first notebook computer, weighing just over 2 kg; in lieu of a floppy or hard drive, it contained a 2 megabyte RAM drive, but this reduced its utility as well as its size. The first notebook computers to include hard drives were those of the Compaq LTE series, introduced toward the end of that year. Truly the size of a notebook, they also featured grayscale backlit displays with CGA resolution.
The first Apple Computer machine designed to be used on the go was the 1989 Macintosh Portable (although an LCD screen had been an option for the transportable Apple IIc in 1984). Actually a "luggable", the Mac Portable was praised for its clear active matrix display and long battery life, but was a poor seller due to its bulk. In the absence of a true Apple laptop, several compatible machines such as the Outbound Laptop were available for Mac users; however, for copyright reasons, the user had to supply a set of Mac ROMs, which usually meant having to buy a new or used Macintosh as well.
The Apple PowerBook series, introduced in October 1991, pioneered changes that are now de facto standards on laptops, such as the placement of the keyboard, room for palm rest, and the inclusion of a built-in pointing device (a trackball). The following year, IBM released its Thinkpad 700C, featuring a similar design (though with a distinctive red TrackPoint pointing device).
Later PowerBooks introduced the first 256-color displays (PowerBook 165c, 1993), and first true touchpad, first 16-bit sound recording, and first built-in Ethernet network adapter (PowerBook 500, 1994).
The summer of 1995 was a significant turning point in the history of notebook computing. In August of that year Microsoft introduced Windows_95. It was the first time that Microsoft had placed much of the power management control in the operating system. Prior to this point each brand used custom BIOS, drivers and in some cases, ASICs, to optimize the battery life of its machines. This move by Microsoft was controversial in the eyes of notebook designers because it greatly reduced their ability to innovate; however, it did serve its role in simplifying and stabilizing certain aspects of notebook design. Windows 95 also ushered in the importance of the CD-ROM in mobile computing and initiated the shift to the Intel Pentium processor as the base platform for notebooks. The Gateway Solo was the first notebook introduced with a Pentium processor and a CD-ROM. By also featuring a removable hard disk drive and floppy drive it was the first three-spindle (optical, floppy, and hard disk drive) notebook computer. The Gateway Solo was extremely successful within the consumer segment of the market. In roughly the same time period the Dell Latitude, Toshiba Satellite, and IBM Thinkpad were reaching great success with Pentium-based two-spindle (hard disk and floppy disk drive) systems directed toward the corporate market.
As technology improved during the 1990s, the usefulness and popularity of laptops increased. Correspondingly prices went down. Several developments specific to laptops were quickly implemented, improving usability and performance. Among them were:
- Improved battery technology. The heavy lead-acid batteries were replaced with lighter and more efficient technologies, first nickel cadmium or NiCD, then nickel metal hydride (NiMH) and then lithium ion battery and lithium polymer.
- Power-saving processors. While laptops in 1991 were limited to the 80286 processor because of the energy demands of the more powerful 80386, the introduction of the Intel 386SL processor, designed for the specific power needs of laptops, marked the point at which laptop needs were included in CPU design. The 386SL integrated a 386SX core with a memory controller and this was paired with an I/O chip to create the SL chipset. It was more integrated than any previous solution although its cost was higher. It was heavily adopted by the major notebook brands of the time. Intel followed this with the 486SL chipset which used the same architecture. However, Intel had to abandon this design approach as it introduced its Pentium series. Early versions of the mobile Pentium required TAB mounting (also used in LCD manufacturing) and this initially limited the number of companies capable of supplying notebooks. However, Intel did eventually migrate to more standard chip packaging. One limitation of notebooks has always been the difficulty in upgrading the processor which is a common attribute of desktops. Intel did try to solve this problem with the introduction of the MMC for mobile computing. The MMC was a standard module upon which the CPU and external cache memory could sit. It gave the notebook buyer the potential to upgrade his CPU at a later date, eased the manufacturing process some, and was also used in some cases to skirt U.S. import duties as the CPU could be added to the chassis after it arrived in the U.S. Intel stuck with MMC for a few generations but ultimately could not maintain the appropriate speed and data integrity to the memory subsystem through the MMC connector.
- Improved liquid crystal displays, in particular active-matrix TFT (Thin-Film Transistor) LCD technology. Early laptop screens were black and white, blue and white, or grayscale, STN (Super Twist Nematic) passive-matrix LCDs prone to heavy shadows, ghosting and blurry movement (some portable computer screens were sharper monochrome plasma displays, but these drew too much current to be powered by batteries). Color STN screens were used for some time although their viewing quality was poor. By about 1991 , two new color LCD technologies hit the mainstream market in a big way; Dual STN and TFT. The Dual STN screens solved many of the viewing problems of STN at a very affordable price and the TFT screens offered excellent viewing quality although initially at a steep price. DSTN continued to offer a significant cost advantage over TFT until the mid-90s before the cost delta dropped to the point that DSTN was no longer used in notebooks. Improvements in production technology meant displays became larger, sharper, had higher native resolutions, faster response time and could display color with great accuracy, making them an acceptable substitute for a traditional CRT monitor.
- Improved hard disk technology. Early laptops and portables had only floppy disk drives. As thin, high-capacity hard disk drives with higher reliability and shock resistance and lower power consumption became available, users could store their work on laptop computers and take it with them. The 3.5" HDD was created initially as a response to the needs of notebook designers that needed smaller, lower power consumption products. As pressure to continue to shrink the notebook size even further, the 2.5" HDD was introduced.
- Improved connectivity. Internal modems and standard serial, parallel, and PS/2 ports on IBM PC-compatible laptops made it easier to work away from home; the addition of network adapters and, from 1997, USB, as well as, from 1999, Wi-Fi, made laptops as easy to use with peripherals as a desktop computer.
- Most modern laptops feature 12 inch (304.8 mm) or larger active matrix displays with resolutions of 1024×768-pixels and above, and have a PC Card expansion bay for expansion cards (formerly PCMCIA). Internal hard disks are physically smaller –2.5 inch (63.5 mm)– compared to the standard desktop 3.5 inch (88.9 mm) drive, and usually have lower performance and power consumption. Video and sound chips are usually integrated. This tends to limit the use of laptops for gaming and entertainment, two fields which have constantly escalating hardware demands. However, higher end laptops can come with dedicated graphics processors, such as the Dell Inspiron E1505 and E1705, which can be bought with an ATI Mobility Radeon X1300 or similar. These mobile graphics processors tend to have less performance than their desktop counterparts, but this is because they have been optimized for lower power usage.
- There is a wide range of laptop specific processors available from Intel (Pentium M, Celeron, Intel Core and Intel Core 2) and from AMD (Athlon, Turion 64, and Sempron). Motorola and IBM developed and manufactured the chips for the former PowerPC-based Apple laptops (iBook and PowerBook). Generally, laptop processors are less powerful than their desktop counterparts, due to the need to save energy and reduce heat dissipation. However, the PowerPC G3 and G4 processor generations were able to offer almost the same performance as their desktop versions, limited mostly by other factors, such as the system bus bandwidth; recently, though, with the introduction of the G5s, they have been far outstripped. At one point, the Pismo G3, at up to 500 MHz, was faster than the fastest desktop G3 (then the B&W G3), which ran at 450 MHz.
Some parts for a modern laptop have no corresponding part in a desktop computer:
- Current models use lithium ion and more recently lithium polymer batteries, which have largely replaced the older nickel metal-hydride technology. Typical battery life for most laptops is two to five hours with light-duty use, but may drop to as little as one hour with intensive use. Batteries gradually deteriorate over time and eventually need to be replaced in one to five years, depending on the charging and discharging pattern.
- Docking stations became common laptop accessories in the early 1990s. They typically were quite large and offered 3.5" and 5.25" storage bays, one to three expansion slots (typically AT style), and a host of connectors. The mating between the laptop and docking station was typically through a large, high-speed, proprietary connector. The most common use was in a corporate computing environment were the company had standardized on a common network card and this same card was placed into the docking station. These stations were very large and quite expensive. As the need to additional storage and expansion slots became less critical because of the high integration inside the laptop itself, the emergence of the Port Replicator as a major accessory commenced. The Port Replicator was often a passive device that simply mated to the connectors on the back of the notebook and allowed the user to quickly connect their laptop so VGA, PS/2, RS-232, etc. devices were instantly attached. As higher speed ports like USB and Firewire became commonplace, the Port Replication was accomplished by a small cable connected to one of the USB 2.0 or Firewire ports on the notebooks. Wireless Port Replicators followed.
- Virtually all laptops can be powered from an external AC converter. This device typically adds half a kilogram (1 lb) to the overall "transport weight" of the equipment.
- A pointing stick or touchpad is used to control the position of the cursor on the screen. The pointing stick is usually a rubber dot that is located between the G, H and B keys on the laptop keyboard. To navigate the cursor, pressure is applied in the direction intended to move. The touchpad is touch-sensitive and the cursor can be navigated by moving the finger on the pad.
While there are accepted world standard of form factors for all the peripherals and add-in PC cards used in the desktop computers, there are still no world standard form factors for all the laptop computer used today, such as supply of electric voltage, layout of mother board, adapter used in connecting the hard disk, optical drive, LCD cable, keyboard and floppy drive to the main board. Every manufacturer created and used their own design in manufacturing the proprietary parts for their own brand of laptop. Parts used in laptop produced by a laptop manufacturer could not be used in others. Consumers ultimately pay for the additional cost that could have been saved if having the standard form factor for the laptop parts.
The name of the parts or the name of category used also differs from manufacturer to manufacturer, such system board used by IBM and motherboard used by Compaq, display cable, LCD cable, flexi-cable are the terms used by the general public refer to the cable connecting the LCD screen to the main board for transferring the digital signal. The cover around the keyboard where the palm is rested called palm rest by Dell, keyboard bezel by IBM, upper cpu cover by Compaq and top case sub assembly by Asus.
Summary all the differences there are 7 main categories consisting of 100 sub categories for all the spare part used in all laptop computers as organized by pchub, there are also 8 categories for parts, such as hard disk and optical drive manufactured by the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), which are the common parts that generally used in all the laptop.
Main categories for all the laptop spare parts.
Laptop Spare Part: »Adaptor / Battery »Fan / Hinge / CPU »LCD Related »Main/Key/ Board Related »Drive Related »Cover / Casing Related »Docking / Replicater
OEM Spare Part: »AC Adapter »DC Car Adapter »LCD »Fluorescent Tube »Optical Drive »Various jack »Floppy »Hard Disk 2.5"
Laptops' upgradeability is severely limited, both for technical and economic reasons. As of 2006, there is no industry-wide standard form factor for laptops. Each major laptop vendor pursues its own proprietary design and construction, with the result that laptops are difficult to upgrade and exhibit high repair costs. With few exceptions, laptop components can rarely be swapped between laptops of competing manufacturers, or even between laptops from the different product-lines of the same manufacturer. Standard feature peripherals (such as audio, video, USB, 1394, WiFi, Bluetooth) are generally integrated on the main PCB (motherboard), and thus upgrades often require using external ports, card slots, or wireless peripherals. Other components, such as RAM modules, hard drives, and batteries are typically user-upgradeable.
Many laptops have removable CPUs, although support for other CPUs is restricted to the specific models supported by the laptop motherboard. The socketed CPUs are perhaps for the manufacturer's convenience, rather than the end-user, as few manufacturers try new CPUs in last year's laptop model with an eye toward selling upgrades rather than new laptops. In many other laptops, the CPU is soldered and non-replaceable. 
Many laptops also include an internal MiniPCI slot, often occupied by a WiFi or Bluetooth card, but as with the CPU, the internal slot is often restricted in the range of cards that can be installed. The widespread adoption of USB mitigates I/O connectivity to a great degree, although the user must carry the USB peripheral as a separate item.
NVidia and ATI have proposed a standardized interface for laptop GPU upgrades (such as an MXM), but again, choices are limited compared to the desktop PCIe/AGP after-market.
For a given price range (and manufacturing base), laptop computational power has traditionally trailed that of desktops. This is largely due to most laptops sharing RAM between the program memory and the graphics adapter. By virtue of their usage goals, laptops prioritize energy efficiency and compactness over absolute performance. Desktop computers and their modular components are built to fit much larger standard enclosures, along with the expectation of AC line power. As such, energy efficiency and portability for desktops are secondary design goals compared to absolute performance.
For typical home (personal use) applications, where the computer spends the majority of its time sitting idle for the next user input, laptops of the thin-client type or larger, are generally fast enough to achieve the required performance. 3D gaming, multimedia (video) encoding and playback, and analysis-packages (database, math, engineering, financial, etc.) are areas where desktops still offer the casual user a compelling advantage.
With the advent of dual-core processors and perpendicular recording, laptops are beginning to close the performance gap with PCs. Intel's Core 2 line of processors is efficient enough to be used in portable computers, and many manufacturers such as Apple and Dell are building Core 2 based laptops. Also, many high end laptop computers feature mobility versions of graphics cards, eliminating the performance lossess associated with integrated graphics.
A study by State University of New York researchers says heat generated from laptops can significantly elevate the temperature of the scrotum, potentially putting sperm count at risk. The study, which included more than two dozen men ages 21 to 35, found that the sitting position required to balance a laptop can raise scrotum temperature by as much as 2.1°C. Heat from the laptop itself can raise the temperature by another 0.7°C, bringing the potential total increase to 2.8°C. Heating of the scrotum is known to cause temporary sterility in men.
Laptops are generally prized targets of theft, and theft of laptops can lead to more serious problems such as identity theft from stolen credit card numbers.
- Desktop computer
- Desktop replacement computer
- List of computer size categories
- Open design
- Personal computer
- Portable computer
- Tablet PC
- ^ As far as this distinction is concerned, the "thickness" ("vertical height") of the machine is disregarded; only its width and depth are considered
- ^ See TRS-80 Model 100 / 102 at old-computers.com
- ^ thus there is no practical way to update it on models which already feature the latest processor for their motherboard.
- ^ TuxMobil's page with a list of information and protection devices
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