1988 vs. 2008: A tech retrospective

Think the iPhone is pricey? The cool cell phone of 1988 cost $4382 in today's dollars. A 150MB hard drive? $8755. Take a trip with us down memory lane, and you'll never whine about the price of a gadget again.

Laptop PCs

1988: Toshiba T1200H

Price: $4098 ($7182 adjusted for inflation)

CPU: 4.77-/9.54-MHz Intel 80C86

RAM: 1MB

Storage: 20MB hard drive, 720KB floppy drive

Display: 9.4-inch supertwist LCD

Weight: 14 pounds (including modem, charger, and case)

Battery life: 2 hours

2008: Lenovo ThinkPad X61

Price: $1724

CPU: 2-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300

RAM: 2GB

Storage: 160GB HD, PC Card slot, SD Card slot, external CD/DVD recorder

Display: 12.1-inch 1024-by-768 LCD, 16.7 million colors

Weight: 3.6 pounds (6.1 pounds including adapter, ultrabase, and DVD burner)

Battery life: 6 hours

Laptops in Toshiba's T1200 series ranked among the most popular of their day, combining very good portability, performance, and value, and were warmly recommended in many reviews, including PC World's. Of course the definition of a "laptop" is different now, and a model that weighed 14 pounds including essential accessories such as a modem and charger would be a nonstarter — or a desktop — today.

That said, LCD laptops represented a major advance in size and weight over the CRT suitcase models that Compaq pioneered. The T1200H was doubly impressive for its 20MB hard drive — a major expense and weight in those days. Adding a 2400-baud modem would cost you another $400 or so.

How have things changed? Well, to start with, you could fit three ThinkPad X61 laptops into the same space that the Toshiba occupied, and you could run any one of those ThinkPads three times longer and many times faster than the T1200H could go. And if you did buy three ThinkPads, you still wouldn't have spent as much as you did on the Toshiba in 1988.

The future trend in portables is to get smaller and thinner, thanks to shrinking component sizes. But you can go only so low with a full-size screen and keyboard, so look for fold-up screens and keyboards that eliminate these size constraints.

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Becky Waring

PC World
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