With the much ballyhooed Microsoft Tablet PC initiative, we should take a moment to reflect on the computers of GRiD Computer Systems. In 1982, this UK firm was contracted by the military to produce a tough, portable computer. Dispensing with the then popular luggable sewing machine format made popular by Compaq and Osborne, GRiD came up with the notebook computer and the now universal clamshell design, (i.e., the monitor closes overtop the keyboard). It released the world's first clamshell notebook called the GRiD 1100 Compass, based on the 8086 chip. NASA selected the Compass because of its rugged design. So, the Compass also has the distinction of being the first PC in space.

What most people really remember GRiD for, however, are its two tablet PCs. Its first was released in 1989. The GRiDPad 1900 was based on an 8088 processor. It had no keyboard. All input was via pen. It had an elementary hand writing recognition system as well. Most applications had to be tailored specifically for the 1900, with a point-and-select interface. This was 1989 mind you, long before Windows 3.1. The GRiDPad 1900 was pretty much for specific, specialized tasks like meter reading, courier delivery, etc.

In 1992, GRiD released another tablet PC called the GRiD 2260 Convertible. This version now had better software/application support in the form of the Windows for Pen Computing operating system. It used a 386 processor in its base model or a 486 processor in its pricier configuration. The GRiD 2260 also had an attached keyboard that swung on hinges and could be clipped around back.

By the mid-90s GRiD got out of the business portable line and began concentrating on portable PCs for military use in the field.

Other interesting firsts for GRiD:
  • 1984 -The GRiDCASE 12xx computers were the first notebooks to have built in hard drives.
  • 1990- The GRiDCASE 1550sx is the first portable to have a built in pointing device.

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