GRiDPad
Released:October 1989
Price:US$2,370
Weight:4.5 lbs / 2 kg
CPU:Intel 80C86 @ 10MHz
RAM:1MB internal
Display:10-inch LCD; 80 x 24 text
640 x 400 graphics
Ports:RS-232, keyboard
Storage:Two RAM card slots
OS:MS-DOS 3.3 built in




GRiD had always made leading-edge computers, and the GRiDPad is no exception - it is considered the world's first tablet computer - first released in 1989.

GRiD's first product was released seven years earlier in 1982 - the GRiD Compass 1101 - possibly the world's first really useful laptop computer.

The GRiDPad was partly designed by Jeff Hawkins while working at GRiD, after he developed and patented his own handwriting-recognition software interface called "PalmPrint", which allowed a computer to recognize and interpret human printing and writing.

In 1992 he left GRiD and founded his own company - Palm - where in 1996 they released the Palm Pilot, and continued to develop dozens of other very successful "Personal Data Assistants" or PDAs - a term actually coined by Apple's John Sculley for their own PDA - the Apple Newton - which was released in 1993.

The GRiDPad has the Microsoft MS-DOS 3.3 operating system built-in, so it is instantly available when you turn the system on and boots-up in just a few seconds.

There are no floppy drives - but there are two memory card slots which support removable 256K and 512K flash memory cards. Files and data can be transfered to and from another MS-DOS computer via the RS-232 serial port and the built-in LapLink software, or via an optional internal modem.

The included and attached stylus is the default method of interaction. The on-screen touch keyboard eliminates the need for a real keyboard, although an optional external keyboard can be plugged-in to the connection on the side if so desired.

You can see a copy of this original GRiDPad specifications (300K PDF file) - oddly, the display is upside-down in this early document.


An earlier attempt at the perfect portable computer was the Linus Technologies' Write-Top from two years earlier in 1987. It also ran MS-DOS 3.30, and had a stylus and touchscreen, but weighed twice as much, and was much less wieldy than the GRiDPAd.

Mildly successful, Grid officials said that 10,000 GridPads were sold in 1990. While the original 1989 GRiDPad had no built-in harddrive and the reflective LCD was less than optimal, the GRiDPad was quickly upgraded to included a built-in 2.5-inch ATA 20MB hard drive, 2MB of RAM, a cheaper NEC V20 CPU, and a much needed backlight for the LCD screen. The price also increased to $3,750.


This is the later version - the GRiDPad 1910 - with built-in 20MB hard drive.


Related Links

  • GRiD-UK
  • GRidPad 1910 from computinghistory.org.uk
  • Jeff Hawkins Oral History from The Computerworld Honors Program


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