Laptop innovatorBill Moggridge

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A British industrial designer, Moggridge designed the form factor of a new computer. At the time, “portable” computer meant sewing-machine-like “luggable” systems like the Osborne or Kaypro. But in 1979, Moggridge was working on a smaller computer, the Grid Compass, which took three years to get to market. He realized that it was small enough that he could fold the display over the keyboard: the clamshell design. “He came up with that particular form factor,” says Alex Bochannek of the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. — the design used for most laptop computers today. The Grid cost $8,150 …in 1982 (equivalent to $19,350 today). At that cost, it was mostly used by the military and NASA — the Space Shuttle Discovery used one to show astronauts their location, since the shuttle had no display included to show where they were (in relation to the “map”), among other tasks. Moggridge later became the director of the Smithsonian’s National Design Museum. He died September 8 from cancer, at 69.

Grid (or, as they spelled it: GRiD) computer on Space Shuttle Discovery in orbit on 18 June 1985; astronaut John Creighton is in the foreground.

From This is True for 9 September 2012