Hey Tablet Skeptics: Here's Some Hilarious Old-Timey Anti-Notebook PC Rants

Hey Tablet Skeptics: Here's Some Hilarious Old-Timey Anti-Notebook PC Rants

Summary: Even as recently as a decade ago, there were techwatchers declaring that laptop computers would never be able to do real work like a desktop PC. Ironic, then, that so many still remain skeptical about the potential of tablets.


There were many objections to my blog yesterday in support of market researcher Canalys's move to reclassify tablets as full-fledged PCs. Some were very thoughtful, I can't deny that.

But faster than we realize, I think these objections to the concept of tablets=PCs may feel as antiquated as Bill Gates' "640K ought to be enough for anybody." or "There is no reason for anyone to have a computer in his home."

Or, more relevantly, these rants against portable computers (yes, that's what they called them back in the day) that I culled below (mostly from the awesome Classic Computer Magazine Archive)):


"If you've got more money than good sense, you may want to try a portable computer: laptop, notebook, whatever. My advice? Forget it; they make terrible game machines. My objections? 1. Lousy ergonomics [cramped keyboards and nonstandard location of arrow keys, for example]. 2. No way to attach a joystick without an external parallel port adaptor]. 3. Without an expansion slot there is no external sound capability. 4. The display is, of necessity, small and usually monochrome [unless you're willing to spend a ton of money for color). And 5. Slow doesn't begin to cover it. Dollar for dollar, you get about twice as much performance from a desktop."

- From PC Pilot, The Complete Guide to Computer Aviation, by Scott Smith, 1994

"That doesn't mean that it can be used for graphics, however. The active area of the display is only 0.8 high, hardly enough for any kind of detailed plot. Nor is it--or any of the notebook computers--much good for screen-oriented games. Even spreadsheets are a bit of a problem--your window on the entire sheet is very small. The most ideal applications for a notebook computer are light word processing and communications. Although the small display is a bit of a problem, it can be largely overcome with scrolling...Unfortunately, most notebook computers are not, as yet, capable of true word processing."

- From Creative Computing, January 1984.

"Laptops have less-than-ideal screens. Your friends may start calling you 'Squint Eastwood' behind your back."

- From Compute!, August 1991.


"Nope, we'll never get one of these to fit inside someone's house. And why would you want to?"

Courtesy of Computer History Museum

"I'd hear the whispers in the hallway: 'If the Good Lord had intended Adam and Eve to have portable computers, He wouldn't have given them an Apple.'"

- From Memoirs of an Osborne by David Nimmons.

"While 'regular' desktop PC systems have always been and likely always will be the way that most people buy PCs, notebook PCs (also called laptops) have become very popular in recent years. At first they were almost exclusively the province of big business 'high rollers' due to their very high cost. Now the cost of some notebooks PCs has come down dramatically, and they have really entered the mainstream. Many people use a notebook as their only PC today, and for some they offer advantages that make them very worthwhile. However, notebooks also represent a trap that far too many people fall into."

- From a PCGuide.com article ostensibly last updated in 2001(!).


Of course, it's only fair to include some choice quotes from the other side - writers a tad too optimistic about laptop/notebook/portable computers.

"By 1990 no computer bigger than the Apple Macintosh will be selling well."

- From Creative Computing, November 1984.

"Roach (Chairman of Tandy Corp./Radio Shack, maker of the first popular notebook PC, the Tandy 1000) also admits an admiration for the HP Portable and thinks that 'all machines may be basically portable sometimes in the near future.'"

- From Creative Computing, November 1984.

Topics: ÜberTech, Tablets, Smartphones, Samsung, Mobility, Laptops, iPad, Hardware, Google, Android

Eric Lai

About Eric Lai

I have tracked technology for more than 15 years, as an award-winning journalist and now as in-house thought leader on the mobile enterprise for SAP. Follow me here at ÜberMobile as well as my even less-filtered musings on Twitter @ericylai

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  • RE: Hey Tablet Skeptics: Here's Some Hilarious Old-Timey Anti-Notebook PC Rants

    Classic stuff, in 10 years they will be doing this with tablet & smartphone comments!
  • Always in motion is the future

    And with luck and some ARM servers, the present will be in motion too.
  • So many things seem humorous or perplexing

    when taken out of context, whether by accident or design. This includes things you and I - or any Joe Blow leaning against a lamp pole - might say.

    Even more queer is how often such things tend to get repeated <i>ad nauseum</i>, invariably taking on a life of their own, and irrespective of their accuracy.

    Call it the jaded story of recorded history, bound firmly to human connivance, to include 180 degree spin, often upon whim. ;)
    • RE: Hey Tablet Skeptics: Here's Some Hilarious Old-Timey Anti-Notebook PC Rants

      @klumper: that's "ad nauseam" , regardless how many times it's been misspelled and repeated with the spelling you used.
      cheers ;-)
      • Case in point

        [i]that's "ad nauseam" [/i]

        and perfect proof. :( Doh!
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  • RE: Hey Tablet Skeptics: Here's Some Hilarious Old-Timey Anti-Notebook PC Rants

    lol. And when tablets start being sold for about 1/2 the price they are today, I'll be picking one up at that time too.

    For what a tablet does today, and for what they charge for the product, I think most people's priorities are messed up. Notebooks only started outselling standard PCs a couple of years ago...when you get pretty good value for the money.

    Enjoy your $500 - $900 tablets. I'll be enjoying mine at $200 or less, and be none the worse for it...except having a lot more money in my pockets.
    • RE: Hey Tablet Skeptics: Here's Some Hilarious Old-Timey Anti-Notebook PC Rants

      @unbound55 : could you sign the release form for quoting you in 5+ years? That way, you can't sue us for calling you a conservative, aka like Ken Olsen (R.I.P. 1926-2011)
  • RE: Hey Tablet Skeptics: Here's Some Hilarious Old-Timey Anti-Notebook PC Rants

    We look back at statements like these and laugh, true. When looking at first generation electronics of almost any type, we find that: 1-these statements are more accurate than not (especially in relation to the laptop/notebooks); and 2-it is the frivolous buyers that make these industries develop. I have no doubt that the tablets pc's may eventually rule the portable pc world, but as of right now, it is still not cost/work effective. The answer is timing. Until USB, notebooks were near worthless, but now you can't find a classroom without one. All I suggest is to use what is well known before you jump on the bandwagon because apple says it's sleek and cool.
    • RE: Hey Tablet Skeptics: Here's Some Hilarious Old-Timey Anti-Notebook PC Rants

      @klumper @grey.guardian @unbound55 don't fully agree with y'all, but +1 for your comments, nevertheless!
  • Funny but not untrue.

    Although these comments quoted were quite good when looking at a modern laptop, they made allot of sense in context. Such as "The active area of the display is only 0.8 high, hardly enough for any kind of detailed plot." He wasn't saying a viable screen will never be available, just that it was not very useful as is. Also i think that "Dollar for dollar, you get about twice as much performance from a desktop." Is still correct today.
    • RE: Hey Tablet Skeptics: Here's Some Hilarious Old-Timey Anti-Notebook PC Rants

      @torall I've got to agree. I mean, look at "The complete guide to computer aviation," 1994, and the comments made. Laptops WEREN'T good for gaming then (and, until you get into some of the specialty/more expensive ones, generally aren't now - and I'm talking actual games, not talking facebook games.) Or search on that Teleram T 3000 where the .8 inch screen is.

      I'm not seeing the "hilarity," I'm seeing appropriate criticism of the devices for the time. This is not "I foresee a global market for perhaps three computers" (from memory.)
  • RE: Hey Tablet Skeptics: Here's Some Hilarious Old-Timey Anti-Notebook PC Rants

    I may just be missing the point, but the majority of these quotes were correct in the context they were originally spoken. Few of them were even forecasts for the future of notebook/portable pc's. And quote about current tablet tech are just as accurate. They're over priced, e-peen boosters right now. When they can do all the things a standard media laptop can do and for a price LESS than current media notebooks, then I'll be only too happy to invest in one. Frankly, most notebooks -still- do not offer a great function/price ratio when compared to the trusty desktop. I am skeptical that we will see a tablet with that kind of utility anytime very soon with a price tag most average consumers can spend.
  • And some anti-Mac comments from '84 or '85

    To start with, my ex and I got an IBM-PC in '83 when they first came out. As I had just dropped out of CompSci during my sophomore year [I had just come from keypunching my homework assignment - in Fortran - on to a deck or so of Hollerith cards (remember them?) and inroute to the University Computer Center, I tripped and spilled them...], I was the family geek. For better or worse....<br><br>We were faced with the decision to get the PC-2 (with 2 5-1/4" floppy drives and a plug in the back to hook up a standard cassette drive for off-line storage) for about $6000 (with an internal 512 baud modem and a whopping 64 MB of RAM and a dot matrix printer!) or for about $1K more, we could get the XT model, with 1 floppy drive and a 20MB Hard Drive. So she sez to me, "Jim, since we're going to have to get a loan anyway, why don't we just get the XT?" And of course, I replied, "A 20MB Hard Drive?!? We'd *never* need that much memory!" Yeah, right!<br><br>Later on, after we had both lost our jobs in the '85 Oil Patch crash, she (being a computer artist on the Genigraphics) told me that we need a couple of Macs, a laser printer and some desktop publishing software, etc, and we could make money. That time, I merely said "Yes, ma'am..."<br><br>And then came the anti-Mac rants:<br> "Black on White screens? What's wrong with black or green screens?"<br> "A graphic interface?!? Hah! "Computing for the functionally illiterate!" "<br> "Made by Apple? Just another toy computer to play games on."<br><br>And so it went.... <br><br>But while I somewhat agree with the comments about the tablet, for the guys in the field - sales reps and the like - tablets do have the virtue of a smaller footprint (or perhaps "hand (or lap) print" would be a better term) than laptops. :shrug: <br><br>All I know for certain, is that my ex, who has just become the publisher/editor of her Senior Housing Apt. Newsletter is convinced that an iPad would be a major advantage for her - both over a laptop or her iPhone, for editorial meetings and interviews.
    Jim Kirk
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