When searching on sites like eBay for a small, portable computer, shoppers will encounter such terms as "notebook," "netbook," and "ultrabook." It is important to be aware that these words do not have official definitions and may be used differently by individual sellers. However, when a computer is described as being a notebook, it is likely to have certain characteristics. Here is an overview of what to expect when shopping for notebook computers.
History of Notebooks
Laptop computers were first developed in the 1980s as an alternative to desktop computer systems. They were built with screens and keyboards that were attached by hinges and had batteries that allowed them to be used for a short time independently of power cables. Early laptops were manufactured by Compaq and Kaypro. While they were physically movable, they were too large to easily carry in a briefcase. Compaq introduced the LTE, the first laptop referred to as a notebook, in 1989. With dimensions of about 22 by 28 centimetres, the LTE received this designation because it was similar in size to a standard paper notebook. At around the same time, IBM produced the popular ThinkPad.
Shrinking Size of Computers
As laptop computers became compact enough to be tucked into a briefcase, consumers responded enthusiastically. Manufacturers competed with each other to produce the smallest possible machines. During the 1990s, Apple rolled out its PowerBook 2400c, a notebook computer that weighed less than 2 kilograms. The HP OmniBook and the Sony PCG 505 were also popular and were sold under new descriptive terms like "ultraportable" and "subnotebook." After 2000, the competition to shrink devices resulted in "netbooks," computers that sacrificed a certain amount of functionality in exchange for a smaller size. Meanwhile, fully-functioning laptops continued to shrink until almost all of them could be called "notebooks," and "laptop" no longer meant something different.
Laptops and Notebooks Merged
At this point, laptop computers are all small enough to be called notebooks, and manufacturers use the terms "laptop" and "notebook" interchangeably. Since the original development of notebooks, the universe of tablets has opened up for consumers who really want to opt for portability. "Notebook" now refers to almost any portable, fully-functioning computer. Generally, something called a notebook can be expected to have a full-sized keyboard, a complete operating system, and the capacity to play CDs or DVDs. It may weigh as much as 2.5 or 3 kilograms and have a screen up to 43 centimetres when measured diagonally. It will probably include Blu-ray capability, a Firewire port, ethernet, flashcard reader, webcam, built-in wi-fi, and more features.
Since there are so many smaller format mobile computing devices now available, the word "notebook" is most useful to those buyers who are interested in a larger-format, fully-functioning portable computer.