Grid Compass

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Grid Compass
Astronaut John Creighton posing with a Grid Compass aboard a Space Shuttle Discovery mission in 1985.
DeveloperDesigned by Bill Moggridge[1]
ManufacturerGRiD Systems Corp.
TypePortable computer
Release dateApril 1982 (1982-04)
Introductory priceUS$8,150 (equivalent to $24,710 in 2022)[2]
Operating systemCCOS (Compass Computer Operating System), optionally MS-DOS 2
CPUIntel 8086
Memory340 KB magnetic bubble[3]
Display320 × 240
Connectivity19-pin "serial", Telephone line+Audio 1,200 bit/s modem, GPIB[3]
SuccessorGrid GRiDCASE 2

The Grid Compass (written GRiD by its manufacturer GRiD Systems Corporation) is one of the first laptop computers.


Development began in 1979, and the main buyer was the U.S. government. NASA used it on the Space Shuttle during the early 1980s, as it was powerful, lightweight, and compact. The military Special Forces also purchased the machine, as it could be used by paratroopers in combat.[4]

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 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 initial model, the 1101, was introduced in April 1982;[5] The 1100 model designation were never released commercially, but featured in some pre-release marketing material.[6][7] The computer was designed by British industrial designer Bill Moggridge.


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 1200 bit/s modem. Devices such as hard drives and floppy drives could be connected via the IEEE-488 I/O (also known as GPIB or General Purpose Interface 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.

Compass II[edit]

GRiD Compass II 1129
GRiD Compass II onboard the VC-137

The Compass II was released in 1984; known as 1121, 1129, 1131 and 1139 models.


  1. ^ Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. "GRiD Compass Laptop Computer Prototype, 1981". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  2. ^ "World's first laptop. Osborne 1 GRiD Compass 1101". The Longest list of the longest stuff at the longest domain name at long last. Archived from the original on 2016-12-03. Retrieved 2009-05-19.
  3. ^ a b Dave. "Old computers". Retrieved 2009-05-19.
  4. ^ didyouknowwebsite (2020-06-14). "The Space Age Best Inventions We use Today". Did You Know?. Retrieved 2020-06-14.
  5. ^ "GRiD Compass 1101".
  6. ^ "GRiD Compass". 2017-04-05. Retrieved 2021-07-30.
  7. ^ "Pioneering the Laptop – The GRiD Compass", YouTube, Google, archived from the original on 2021-12-21.

External links[edit]