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Trends in Laptop Design

Russell James is Operations Manager at BJ Associates of San Antonio. They are an authorized service center for Toshiba and Sony systems. They are the laptop specialist and also handle system builds and parts for desktops. They can take care of any IBM compatible hardware or software problem that you have. You can e-mail him at or visit them on the Web at .

I remember the hottest laptop on the market when I first came to work for BJ Associates was a Toshiba 400CDT. It had a Pentium 75 processor which delivered unheard of speed in the 486 world that we lived in at the time. It came with 8MB of ram and was upgradeable to an unheard of 40MB total. A massive 770MB hard drive and a modular Quad-Speed CD-ROM were standard. It also came with a serial infrared port that could be used to transfer files between two machines or an organizer. A huge 10.4 inch color active matrix screen was the best looking screen that we had ever seen and you had 16.7 million colors at a resolution of 640 X 480. We thought this was the laptop computer to end all when it came out, especially since it came with the option to install the latest and greatest operating system that Microsoft had ever produced, Windows 95. It has been about 8 years and you can buy this laptop on EBAY for about $50.

The laptops of today have gotten smaller and faster than we could have ever imagined. The Mobile Intel Pentium 4 processor is available in a 3.06 GHz. That would be 3006 MHz for those of us who need help comparing the speed to the old 75 MHz. These processors can handle up to 2GB of ram. The hard drives have gotten to the 80GB size. Again this would be 8000 MB for those comparing to the old 770MB drives. You have Wireless technology that is slipping into the 54MB range as well as Blue Tooth and Ethernet cards built into most of the laptops on the market. You can even get some of the systems with a Gigabit adapter, 1000mbit compared to the add-on 10mbit Ethernet PC cards that we installed back in the old days. And all of this power in a 6 pound package.

Technology has snuck up on us and it is scary to think about what could be around the corner for us. We were all excited when the 28,800 modems came out and then 56k put most of us over the edge. Now I cannot stand to use anything short of cable or DSL. You can also connect without the wires by using your cell phone with your laptop. You will have to live without the broadband speed, but it is getting to a respectable speed. The real estate people love the cell phone connection because they seem to live out of their cars. Or at least the good ones do. This is the ultimate in independence.

Wireless technology, which was only a dream a few years ago, has moved forward at a remarkable pace. The hardware and software really seem to mesh well together and the prices have come down to the point that most of the customers that have us install a home network will add on wireless. You can buy a 4 port router with wireless today for what the same router without wireless was costing a year ago. And the prices will only go down further as the technology continues to improve.

Everything we computer guys need is on the Internet. We used to horde files and drivers that we had found on our server because we didn't know if we would be able to find them again. Now with broadband, Google and companies with much improved online support, there is no need to store the files unless you want the most common items burned on CDs. Why waste my time storing and keeping the files in order when the manufacturers are doing it for us for the most part? Now the question is going to be, where we are going to be 5 years from now. If things continue the way they have the last five years we are in for some amazing advances. There is no way that things can increase at the rate they have in the past. We would have processors running at speeds approaching 100GHz. Memory would run on a bus, probably something new, approaching 20,000 MHz. And the prices for these 3GHz dinosaur of a computer that are out now would be about $50 if we were lucky.

I think that there is a lot of technology that is yet to be discovered. There are devices in wide use now that have the phone as well as the organizer and e-mail capabilities built-in. This type of device, along with some sort of heads up display and in the air keyboard are not so far in the future. With voice technology that actually works, you could see people with their laptop in there pocket where the Palm Pilot used to be. Whatever the mind can conceive, man can achieve. It is only a matter of time.

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