My first laptop computer

Columbia_vp_system_1Anyone who has read my published stuff for any length of time at all knows I am extremely passionate about mobile technology.  I have been trying, using and lugging mobile devices around for more time than I care to admit.  It is this obsession with mobile tech that led me to come up with my tag line that you see in the banner on this web site (and my signature on many discussion forums)- "..using mobile devices since they weighed 30 lbs".  I get a lot of responses from people who think that line is funny but let me tell you it’s the truth.  A brief email exchange today with Bill O’Brien of (he’s the one who is not Alice) got me thinking about it so I felt it time to ‘fess up about the tag line.

That tag line refers to my very first laptop computer- the Columbia Data Products VP.  This beauty was 30 pounds of pure steel and silicon and the first luggable computer that was an IBM PC clone.  It is rumored that Columbia got flack from IBM for cloning their PC and it was this trouble that caused the upstart Compaq to make sure they had a complete "clean room" reverse engineering of the IBM so their ROM would stand up in a legal fight.  The Columbia is long gone- I don’t even remember what happened to it but for two years I carried that beast back and forth once a month between Caracas, Venezuela (where I was working at the time) and Houston, Texas in the US.  This behemoth was huge and since it was too fragile to be checked as luggage it had to go into the overhead compartment on each flight.  Had we ever had the overhead door open during a flight I guarantee you someone would have been killed when the VP came flying out!

The VP had a 5" green CRT screen that was text only, of course.  And not one, but TWO floppy drives for storage.  And the storage area above the floppy drives was a benefit few other computers of that era offered.  All in all the VP worked flawlessly as an IBM clone and I never had a lick of trouble with it.  It was a real workhorse and despite the sad specs I got a lot of work out of that puppy.  It is also the most likely reason for my eventually having two back surgeries later in life.  But it was mobile, and it was a computer, and it worked.  I remember the fun trying to run Ashton Tate’s Framework on the VP.  Framework was the s/w that integrated office apps (word processor, spreadsheet, etc.) into a windowing GUI-like environment under DOS.  Wow, those were true pioneer days.

So, as you can see, I have really have been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 lbs.


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