Grid Systems Corporation

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GRiD Systems Corporation
FatePurchased by Tandy Corporation
Founded1979; 41 years ago (1979)
FounderJohn Ellenby
Defunct1988 (1988)
United States
A woman using a GridCase 3 to access the PDQ cancer database in 1987

GRiD Systems Corporation was founded in January 1979 by John Ellenby,[1] who left his job at Xerox Parc and joined Glenn Edens, Dave Paulsen and Bill Moggridge to form one of Silicon Valley's first stealth companies. The company went public in March 1981. It was located at 47211 Lakeview Boulevard, Fremont, California, 94537.

The "GRiD" name with the unusual lowercase "i" in the middle was the result of discussion between John Ellenby, Glenn Edens and John Ellenby's wife, Gillian Ellenby, who pushed for the final choice. The lowercase "i" was a note of thanks to Intel for helping in the early days[2]

GRiD developed and released several pioneering ideas:[2]

  • First portable computer. Marketed almost exclusively to CEOs
  • The GRiD Compass 1100, the first clamshell laptop computer[3]
  • Patented the "clamshell" laptop design[4]
  • First portable to use non-volatile bubble-memory
  • GRiD-OS was a multi-tasking Text-based user interface or TUI and operating system
  • First use of electro-luminescent displays in a portable
  • First use of magnesium for the case
  • First use of the Intel 8086 and 8087 floating-point co-processor in a commercial product.
  • Pioneered the concept of a "bus" for connecting peripherals (using GPIB)
  • First computer that included a fully functional telephone and telephone handset
  • The first commercially available tablet-type portable computer was the GRiDPad,[5] released in September 1989. Its operating system was based on MS-DOS.
  • A GRiD Compass 1101 was the first laptop in space. Required special modification to add a fan to pull air through the case.[6] Subsequently a GRiD 1530 flew on STS-29 in March 1989.
  • called the 1982 GRiD Compass 1101 the "grand-daddy of all present-day laptop computers". It had 256k RAM, an 8086, 320x240 screen, and 384k of internal 'bubble memory' that held data with power off.[7]

In 1988, Tandy Corporation purchased GRiD.[8] AST Computer acquired the company, and was itself later acquired by Samsung.[citation needed]

Edens co-founded Waveform Corp and in 2003 joined the board of F5 Networks Inc.[9]

John Ellenby went on to co-found the companies Agilis and Augmented Reality pioneer GeoVector.


  1. ^ John Ellenby Biography Archived 2010-11-28 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b Email from Glenn Edens to Karen Tucker @
  3. ^ PERSONAL COMPUTERS; THE PORTABLES COME MARCHING IN, appeared in The New York Times, Published: July 6, 1982 [1]
  4. ^ USPTO-Portable Computer
  5. ^ The BYTE Awards: GRiD System's GRiDPad, BYTE Magazine, Vol 15. No 1, 1990-01-12, p. 285[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Laptops in space Archived 2009-05-30 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ access 2010 1 9
  8. ^ Tandy to Buy Grid Systems appeared in The New York Times, Published: Thursday, March 17, 1988
  9. ^ Business Wire 2003 Aug 13, access 2010 1 9

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