Grid Compass

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Not to be confused with Grid compass.
Grid Compass
Astronaut John Creighton posing with a Grid Compass aboard a Space Shuttle Discovery mission in 1985.
Developer Bill Moggridge[1]
Manufacturer Grid
Type Portable computer
Release date April 1982 (1982-04)
Introductory price US$8150[1]
Operating system CCOS (Compass Computer Operating System), optionally MS-DOS 2
CPU Intel 8086
Memory 340 KB magnetic bubble[2]
Display 320 × 240
Connectivity 19-pin "serial", Telephone line+Audio 1,200 bit/s modem, GPIB[2]
Successor Grid GridCase 3

The Grid Compass (written GRiD by its manufacturer GRiD Systems Corporation) was one of the first laptop computers when the initial model was introduced in April 1982 (the model 1101[a]). The computer was designed by British industrial designer Bill Moggridge in 1979, and first sold three years later.


The design used a clamshell case (where the screen folds flat to the rest of the computer when closed), which was made from a magnesium alloy. The computer featured an Intel 8086 processor, a 320 × 240-pixel electroluminescent display, 340-kilobyte magnetic bubble memory, and a 1,200 bit/s modem. Devices such as hard drives and floppy drives could be connected via the IEEE-488 I/O (also known as the GPIB or General Purpose Instrumentation Bus). This port made it possible to connect multiple devices to the addressable device bus. It weighed 5 kg (11 lb). The power input is ~110/220 V AC, 47–66 Hz, 75 W.

The Compass ran its own operating system, GRiD-OS. Its specialized software and high price (US$8,000–$10,000) meant that it was limited to specialized applications. The main buyer was the U.S. government. NASA used it on the Space Shuttle during the early 1980s, as it was both powerful and lightweight. The military Special Forces also purchased the machine, as it could be used by paratroopers in combat.

Along with the Gavilan SC and Sharp PC-5000 released the following year, the GRiD Compass established much of the basic design of subsequent laptop computers, although the laptop concept itself owed much to the Dynabook project developed at Xerox PARC from the late 1960s. The Compass company subsequently earned significant returns on its patent rights as its innovations became commonplace.

The portable Osborne 1 computer sold at around the same time as the GRiD, was more affordable and more popular, and ran the popular CP/M operating system. But, unlike the Compass, the Osborne was not a laptop and lacked the Compass's refinement and small size.

The Compass's manufacturer, Grid Systems Corp., was acquired by Tandy Corporation (RadioShack) in 1988.

Popular culture[edit]

On December 17, 1983, fictional character Murray Bozinsky was shown using a Grid Compass 1101 in the American television program Riptide (Season 1, Episode 3: “Somebody's Killing the Great Geeks of America”).

John Travolta's character uses one in the 1985 film Perfect.


  1. ^ The model 1100 did not exist, except in marketing materials; the released machine was the model 1101.[3]


  1. ^ a b "World's first laptop. Osborne 1 GRiD Compass 1101". The Longest list of the longest stuff at the longest domain name at long last. Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  2. ^ a b Dave. "Old computers". Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  3. ^ "Pioneering the Laptop – The GRiD Compass", YouTube, Google .

External links[edit]