Laptopia! The World’s Weirdest Portable Computers

Twenty-one innovative, impractical, irresistable breakthroughs in mobile technology.

Posted by  | Monday, September 7, 2009


Laptop with swivel screenPivot and swivel mechanism for laptop display

Patent filed July 11th, 1992

Maybe it’s unfair to include this design in a gallery of weird laptops–it swivels like a desktop monitor in a way that was both clever and useful. Zeos sold this design as the Freestyle in the early 1990s; I don’t know how successful it was, but I’m guessing it wasn’t a huge hit, since it didn’t last long. Perhaps its reputation was hurt by a faulty floating-point coprocessor that caused it to get math wrong.



Slides: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

49 Comments For This Post

  1. thepeng Says:

    I'm not sure what the little stick the guy is holding in slide 8 is, but I want it. All laptops should come with little stick peripherals from this day forward.

  2. BrianF Says:

    I imagine most of the labeled items in slide 8 are stink lines.

  3. LESprinkle Says:

    #13 looks like my first Nokia phone, the 6820.

  4. Grant Tedaldi Says:

    Left out the Canon NoteJet series of the 1990s which were Canon Laptops (similar to the Innova Book Line) with built in Canon Notejet printers and available scanner cartridges. interesting machines but at a terribly expensive price point at the time.

  5. Barc Says:

    Ergonomic Laptop & Keyboard.

    The number 6 is on the wrong side. Yes, I know that’s how MS does/did it on their early split boards. Those are wrong, too. At least, if you were taught as I was. The right index finger is supposed to type it.

  6. Nameless Says:

    #10, the Zeos Freestyle with screen on a swivel hinge, is hardly weird.

    It’s basically a convertible Tablet PC, which are far more prevalent on the market than the pure, keyboard-less slates that you may be thinking of when you hear the term “Tablet PC”.

    Especially odd since you seem to know of early Tablet PC efforts like the AST PenExec.

  7. Quzar Says:

    On slide six, the link to the Zeos wikipedia article is used twice, and the link to 'picoprojector' is left out.

  8. Alex Says:

    the stick in number 8 is coming to market soon. sony is making it for their ps3. though there is still no official name for it. It has accelermeters and is traced by a cammera

  9. Mad Tony Says:

    #8 in use with US military techs. Eyeball HUD very useful when upside down in tank with both hand pulling wires

  10. g1smd Says:

    I HATE the navigation on this site.

    I really do NOT want to have to click twenty-freakin-three times just to read one article that should comfortably fit on probably 4 or 5 pages – just so you can impress your advertisers with a grandiose number of ‘page impressions’ per visitor.

    Additionally, you’re totally screwing your site crawlability. To Google et. al, page 23 appears as being 23 clicks (levels down) from the article index. You don’t even have an index page that deep-links directly to the individual sub-page by name.

    FFS it’s 2009, 1997.

  11. just some dude Says:

    #2 is a rack mounted slide out workstation.

  12. leadingfocus Says:

    #14 Appears military-intended. The ability to self-contain a corded phone and mouse with a slotted cubby space would come in really handy for all sorts of contractors.

    And while we’re at it, I agree, the navigation on this website needs an update. There is a real need for it to act more modern than the decades-old patents we’re laughing and boggling at.

  13. Ponteaus Says:

    Number 9 isn’t as crazy as you may think. Check out these “ergonomic” keyboards:
    Kinesis Freestyle Ascent (http://www.kinesis-ergo.com/images/solo-ascent-90_512x390.jpg)
    SafeType (http://www.safetype.com/) – this one actually has side view mirrors (!!!) so you can see the keys

  14. Michael Robb Says:

    Overhead projectors are still in use. In my college, they are integrated into the ceiling of every lecture and meeting room. The screen is electrically operated, and there are connectors for the audio and video-out of the laptops. The main use is to be able to provide tutorials for applications, Powerpoint presentations for lectures and papers. Hardly anyone uses acetate sheets with handwritten text and drawings.

  15. Deenox Says:

    Some computers are strange in their design, but I dare to imagine that our future computer will be even more bizarre. thank you

  16. Deekoo Says:

    The swiveling screen (#10) is in use on OLPCs and is rather nice (especially since in the OLPC version, you can flip it all the way around and lock it down to have a gameconsole-like tablet.)

    Also, second the complaints about the godsawful navigation. It’s physically painful, and poorly implemented. Or perhaps that’s an implementation success – if reading your site hurts, people are more likely to click away, thus enabling you to reach high clickthrough rates without having to resort to low-grade content to drive visitors away?

  17. morphoyle Says:

    @nameless –
    Apple invented the tablet. How dare you imply otherwise?

  18. morphoyle Says:

    A few with actual pictures might have been nice. Patent searches are largely a waste of time. We want to see actual pictures. Not drawings of devices that the patent holders probably never intended to create anyways. Boring.

  19. somethingnew Says:

    The 3 hole punch notebook you like so much would just require an ipad case with a 3 hold punched tab hanging off the side, maybe even just little retractable rings. get on it entrepreneurs.

  20. chaucolai Says:

    Is it only me that’s reminded of the HP Touchsmart Mini or whatever it’s called – in fact, most tablet computers, including the Latitude and everything – when looking at #10?

    I agree, this should be on one page.

  21. Alan Brown Says:

    IIRC #8 was intended as a wearable computer for use while servicing equipment. The idea being to throw up overlays of what was being worked on in order to speed up fault finding, etc.

    Versions of this are still being used by divers (usually a chording keyboard is attached to the leg for text entry) doing underwater servicing and reef surveys among other things.

  22. Karim Hosein Says:

    The problem with SafeType is the constant holding of the lower arms straight out with no support. It will cause fatigue of the biceps.

    The best one I saw was a home-made model where a Dvorak keyboard was split with each piece attached to the side of the chair. The hands would be hanging comfortably at the sides, palms facing the body, no pronation, nothing. The inventor of this keyboard design was starting to suffer from RSI when he got the idea.

    He should patent it ;-)

  23. Karim Hosein Says:

    But many of these designs never made it to even prototype stage. he did give links to actual pictures of some that did but what of the collection of those that did not?

    That is why we have an imagination ;-)

  24. Brian Gislason Says:

    #10 was never intended to be used as a tablet. The screen on the Freestyle cannot rotate 180 degrees and then foldback upon the chassis. It had a short life due to it's design and construction quality. It simply had a high failure rate. ZEOS had introduced better models designed with Sanyo around that time and it was dropped after diligently trying to keep it going. Zeos went on to make some pretty neat laptops. Check out the ZEOS Pocket pc and the Transport (released by Micron post merger). Yes, by the way, I used to work there.

  25. SevenT2 Says:

    Is there any particular reason why the person who wrote these slides keeps comparing them to Apple products…? You know.. there are other laptops around.

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    #14 Appears military-intended. The ability to self-contain a corded phone and mouse with a slotted cubby space would come in really handy for all sorts of contractors.

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    Maybe it’s unfair to include this design in a gallery of weird laptops–it swivels like a desktop monitor in a way that was both clever and useful. Zeos sold this design as the Freestyle in the early 1990s; I don’t know how successful it was, but I’m guessing it wasn’t a huge hit, since it didn’t last long.Suchmaschinenoptmierung

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  35. Deendid Says:

    the stick in number 8 is coming to market soon. sony is making it for their ps3. though there is still no official name for it. It has accelermeters and is traced by a cammera
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    I really do NOT want to have to click twenty-freakin-three times just to read one article that should comfortably fit on probably 4 or 5 pages – just so you can impress your diminished value with a grandiose number of 'page impressions' per visitor. Additionally, you're totally screwing your site crawlability. To Google et. al, page 23 appears as being 23 clicks (levels down) from the article index. You don't even have an index page with angry birds online that deep-links directly to the individual sub-page by name.

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  48. john Says:

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